Most of these are from my collection and some images I found on the internets. Fred Astaire's last live performances - the production of "Gay Divorce" in London in November of 1933.
In 1932, Fred Astaire faced a career-altering dilemma. He and his sister, the beloved Adele Astaire had been a brother-and-sister act for almost three decades. They had starred in numerous shows on Broadway and in London (and on tour on both continents) and were at the very top of their acclaim and abilities when Adele decided to quit the business and marry Lord Cavendish, a peer she met at a swank party in London. Fred, not wanting to give up yet, decided to roll the dice and star in a show on his own. Cole Porter wrote a good score, including the haunting "Night and Day" but the show's book was weak. It was based on an old-style farce ("Why Mimi, you never told me you were married.... who's behind that door?") and, frankly, there was not one good singer in the cast. The New York critics were vicious, pointing out that the orchestra often overwhelmed the singers, including Fred, who had a thin but pleasant voice. His leading lady was the gorgeous Claire Luce (not to be mistaken with Claire BOOTH Luce, author of "The Women" and trollop extraordinaire). Claire had been a Follies Girl who went on to great acclaim as a dancer and sometimes singer in various reviews before she teamed up with Fred. Claire stayed on in London and starred in many shows. When she returned to New York, she starred as "Curly's Wife" and was killed by Broderick Crawford eight performances a week in the original production of "Of Mice and Men."
wow, your moniker is so appropriate! Moving on, here's one of the London reviews, which were much more generous (they REALLY loved Fred). Look at all the other familiar names in the third review.
Here's Claire. Love the eyebrows. Max Factor Pencil #3.
Here's Fred at that time. The man was sartorial perfection.
This is the photo used on the cover of the Playbill for the Broadway Production. Apparently, the photo was taken in '32 during the run of "The Bandwagon."
Here is the cover of the New York Production. Photo is flopped and touched up. (I know this because I have the photo itself, white paint, pencil and all).
And here's the London Playbill. Note the "Smoking Permitted" caption. (Inside it says "Smoking Permitted. Abdullahs by chioce!!" in every London playbill I've ever bought.) Must have been pretty hazy by final curtain!
Claud Alister plays Fred's twit friend as a British Twit, as opposed to the proto-gay versions in the American version. I prefer Edward Everett Horton's version. Eric Blore, who played the butler at the resort, reprised the role on film. Fred brought Blore, Luce and Eric Rhodes with him from Broadway, probably a sign of his uncertainty at that point. During the lull between the Broadway and London run, Fred ventured out to Hollywood to film a cameo in "Dancing Lady" and third shared lead in "Flying Down To Rio" with his old friend Ginger Rodgers (they had briefly dated when Fred choreographed a number for her). He still wasn't certain what to do next....
And then there was Ginger.
This is how we always remember them. (And Fred seems to have found a better wigmaker in Los Angeles).
But first, Fred had 180 more performances to get through with Claire.
Meanwhile, Teddy discovers women. The show had an unusual cast: Astaire, Luce, Blore, Rhodes, Alister and one or two other men and a chorus of 16 beautiful young girls.
Okay, here's Eric Blore as the droll Hotel Waiter and I forgot to mention Olive Blakeney in the role played on Broadway by Luella Gear. Every musical in the 20s and 30s seemed to have a woman of a certain age making outrageous and caustic remarks.
Claire Luce was great beauty of her time - personally glorified by Ziegfeld (although I'm convinced that process actually involved a bedroom just off the office through a secret door...) but by today's standards, half that nose would have to go!
I don't own one of these but I wish the heck I did. It's the rare alternative cover version of the Broadway playbill for "Gay Divorce" for the first few months when the show ran at the Ethel Barrymore. We all have copies of the program from the Shubert run in the winter/spring of 33.
Hard as it is to believe, this is a candid from the period of Claire Luce
I prefer her like this. Who does her nails?
Like the beat beat beat of the tom-tom When the jungle shadows fall Like the tick tick tock of the stately clock As it stands against the wall Like the drip drip drip of the raindrops When the summer shower is through So a voice within me keeps repeating You, you, you Night and day, you are the one Only you beneath the moon or under the sun Whether near to me, or far It's no matter darling where you are I think of you Day and night, night and day, why is it so That this longing for you follows wherever I go In the roaring traffic's boom In the silence of my lonely room I think of you Day and night, night and day Under the hide of me There's an oh such a hungry yearning burning inside of me And this torment won't be through Until you let me spend my life making love to you Day and night, night and day by Cole Porter
And speaking of stooges..... Here are the three dolt roles. Eric Blore was putting on a recieved English accent, Eric Rhodes has a British chap (I met him, nice guy, thick English accent) playing an Eye-talian ("Your wife is safe with Tonetti. He-a prefer spaghetti.") and Claud Allister played his role with a twee accent.
Here's a shot of Fred and his sister Adele Astaire from around the time of "Gay Divorce." The photo is actually an 11x14 that has been resized with white-out for a newspaper (it has all the pica sizes and stamps of the New York Journal American on the reverse.)
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