Music Makes Me
Fred Astaire and Jazz
Publication Year: 2011
Published by: University of California Press
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Series Page, Title Page, Frontispiece, Copyright, Dedication, Quotes
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Fred Astaire fi lmed his fi rst dance solo in a Hollywood musical to the sound of a live jazz jam session. The occasion, a momentous one in hindsight, was by Hollywood standards a genuine jazz encounter. The date was 7 September 1933; the fi lm, Flying Down to Rio; the song, “Music Makes Me (Do the Things I Never Should Do).” The musical ...
Part one: Astaire among Others
Chapter 1: “ There’s a difference and Astaire is it”
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Fred Astaire was incomparable. There’s no more succinct way to de-scribe him or his career. He arrived in Hollywood an established Broad-way star and almost immediately became a legend, movie business jar-gon for an irreplaceable screen presence with indefi nable magic. It didn’t hurt that Astaire did something no one else was doing in any compara-...
Chapter 2: “I am a creator”
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Astaire wrote out his own autobiography in longhand at the end of the 1950s. Published in 1959, Steps in Time is a bland recitation of one suc-cess after another. Always an admittedly uninteresting interview subject, Astaire, when telling his own tale, was polite and distant. But the pub-lished book bears almost no resemblance to Astaire’s fi rst draft, which ...
Part two: Astaire at the Studios
Chapter 3: “I play with the very best bands”
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The New York Times reviewer for Broadway Melody of 1940 excused himself from the task of dealing with the plot. That wasn’t why he or Astaire’s audiences were there in the fi rst place. “It is always the sincerest form of sabotage to analyze the plot of a musical production, and in this case it might be doing an active disfavor to the reader himself, if thereby ...
Chapter 4: “Tell them to let it swing”
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The production of musical fi lms brought together two, normally sepa-rate studio departments: writers in the writing department conceived of the story and wrote the dialogue; composers, lyricists, dance directors, arrangers, and orchestrators loosely allied in an expanded music de-partment created the musical numbers. The archival traces left by these ...
Chapter 5: “Fixing up” tunes
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Writing and music department staffs at the Hollywood studios did not normally mix. Astaire worked closely with the musicians, and it is to their specialized task of making musical numbers that we now turn.Synchronized sound fi lms confronted studio music departments with a diverse set of creative and technical tasks demanding a division of re-...
Part three: Astaire in Jazz and Popular Music
Chapter 6: “Keep time with the time and with the times”
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Pop u lar music has almost always been dance music.1 The dance bands’ primary economic role was playing for dancing, and the fi lm musical— especially during the era of the band pix— reached out to dancers in par tic u lar. This chapter considers how Astaire’s fi lms bridged the gap between dancing couples on- screen and real social dancers moving to ...
Chapter 7: “Jazz means the blues”
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Charles Emge spent most of the 1940s on the Hollywood beat for Down Beat. Emge joined the Chicago- based publication when the Los Angeles– based Tempo was absorbed into Down Beat in 1940, and he introduced himself to a national readership in a self- deprecating manner that none-theless staked a claim to insider status as a musician. “I’m still a musi-...
Chapter 8: “Something that’ll send me”
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Astaire worked on a relatively small scale, trying always to stay within what he once called the “welcome limit.”1 But while he never showed an interest in making longer forms (such as dream ballets) or choreo-graphing groups of dancers, Astaire’s routines were more than minia-tures. As he told an interviewer in 1937, “Working out the actual steps ...
Chapter 9: “You play and I’ll dance”
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In 1935 Astaire gave an interview to The Chicago Defender, an African American newspaper with national reach. Like all black newspapers, the Defender followed entertainment news closely: it was an area where black individuals excelled on the national stage. Prominent use of black performers in “The Carioca” suggested to some in the African Ameri-...
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Jazz rec ords had a meaningful place in Astaire’s musical life. More than just a means to play drums with a big band at home or a shortcut to collaboration with his tele vi sion guest stars, jazz rec ords could goad Astaire on as a dance creator, as shown by his oft- told story of why he came out of retirement in 1948. Astaire announced his retirement in ...
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I am beholden to many libraries and librarians. My home library at Washington University in St. Louis— and the music librarian Brad Short and the Interlibrary Loan department in particular— were indispens-able. The archivists at the Wisconsin Historical Society in Madison and the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts were always help-...
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...© Copyright 2001 by The Estate of Irving Berlin, Robert Kimball, and Linda EmmetThis arrangement © Copyright 2010 by the Estate of Irving BerlinThis arrangement © Copyright 2010 by the Estate of Irving BerlinThis arrangement © Copyright 2010 by the Estate of Irving Berlin© 1940 (Renewed) Edwin Morris & Company, a division of MPL Music ...
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Page Count: 392
Publication Year: 2011