Poll question: What is the best Fred Astaire scene?

I am NOT really a fan of Fred Astaire movies, nor of that whole genre more generally. But the man could dance, captivatingly well, and the eyes will rivet. Like the wedding-guest in the Rime, when Fred is at his best, I cannot choose but to watch.
AND therefore, lest a beautiful swathe of American theatrical lore fall into the oubliette, I want younger Dopers to spend 13 minutes watching Mr. Astaire dance.

It’s done like a countdown of the “top 10 iconic Astaire scenes,” but between showing #2 and finally #1, a few honorable mentions are … well, mentioned.

At least two scenes were solos (dancing on the ceiling, and dozens of Astaires all at once which took 5 weeks to film). Ginger Rogers was in many or most of the scenes: I was disappointed not to see more of Fred Astaire’s favorite dancing partner, the lady born Margarita Carmen Cansino, who is also ranked by IMDB as the 2nd most glamorous actress ever.


When OJ hands him Jennifer Jones’s cat after JJ go splat.

“Can’t act. Can’t sing. Balding. Can dance a little,”

IMO, Ginger Rogers was a good dancer, but not a great dancer. Fred Astaire could make a hat rack into a dance partner and elevated most of his partners from good to great. His best dance partner, for my money, was Eleanor Powell, who was his peer in talent and work ethic (though not as good an actress as Rogers). The OP’s linked video has their big closing number from* Broadway Melody of 1940*, but my favorite is this more informal scene.

It’s the athleticism and apparent ease with which he does everything that make his movements so memorable to me.

I’m not a big fan of this genre either, but I can understand why audiences flocked to such movies during the Depression. What a wonderful form of escapism that must have been for them!


Astaire may have been the greatest but there were other dancers in the old days, e.g. James Cagney, or even Bob Hope. Astaire and Cagney were both born in 1899 and passed in their late 80’s. Bob Hope died in 2003 at the age of 100. Even Dick van Dyke is 93 years old now. Has an important entertainment genre almost completely vanished?

This golf-ball-hitting scene from 1938’s Carefree would be hard to beat:

He and Ginger do some out-of-the-ordinary acting in that one, too (unrequited-love stuff).

I’d add Gene Kelly, one of the few performers I’d actually sit through a musical to watch. Anyone who could dance with both Leslie Caron **and **Jerry the Mouse is at the top of his craft!

As for Fred, there are so many great routines of his, it’s hard to choose a favorite, but I’ll go with “Cheek to Cheek.” Can’t go wrong with a song written by Irving Berlin! :cool:

Thanks for that; I’d never seen it before. The athleticism of all those hoofers was astounding. It’s interesting that Astaire and Rogers could continue to convincingly act together in romantic roles while disliking each other intensely off-screen.

The hat rack dance from Royal Wedding.

Obviously it is extensively practiced and choreographed, but Astaire makes it look so spontaneous and playful. Pure fun.

Second place is the firecracker dance in Holiday Inn. A huge component of tap dance is rhythm, and Astaire underlines and reinforces the rhythm with a literal bang, or a lot of them. Lightness, grace, and explosions - what more could you ask?


I’ve always been fond of the “dance lesson” scene from Swing Time.. Astaire dances like a doofus in order spend extra time with Rogers; her boss fires her for not teaching him how to dance; and Astaire suddenly turns into Astaire, shocking both Rogers and boss.

The background music is Jerome Kern’s “Pick Yourself Up,” which builds beguilingly throughout as their dance routine intensifies. And the “Manhattan Moderne” set of the dance school is fun to look at. And that strange little cow paddock thing around the dance floor allows them an opportunity to do some very graceful leaps.

From ‘Follow the Fleet’ (my favorite Fred & Ginger movie) - I love ‘Let’s Face the Music and Dance’.

I think Steve Martin and Bernadette Peters (dancing to the song in front of a movie screen of Fred & Ginger, following their movements) did a wonderful job, in ‘Pennies From Heaven’ in the 80’s.

Starts at about 1:30.

This is my first choice. The fact that Ms. Mojo doesn’t even have it as an honorable mention is just ridiculous. Of course, a lot of people don’t like to talk about Holiday Inn because of the blackface Lincoln’s Birthday number. That shouldn’t keep Astaire’s brilliance from being mentioned.

The Firecracker Dance

I saw Bobby Van on TV talking about going to a Hollywood audition as a young man, considering himself a pretty good dancer. On the studio lot he saw Fred Astaire sauntering down a walkway and suddenly doing a some kind of quick tap step. He said a small nail on the ground flew out and ricocheted off a brick wall like it had been shot from a gun. Bobby then reconsidered his skill as a dancer.

I don’t really know how to rate my favorite from the video. I’ve seen the Puttin’ on the Ritz and the rotating room before in retrospectives, musicals usually don’t hold my attention though, I guess I’ll go with the Ritz.

Not really a classic scene, but I do recall seeing on YouTube a split screen, with him dancing the same routine in different costume - a sand dance, I think. The synchronization between the two versions is really unbelievable. Every move perfectly replicated on both screens at the exact same time.

One really funny number that hasn’t been mentioned yet (unless it’s on the top ten) is “Glorious Technicolor, Breathtaking Cinemascope, and Stereophonic Sound” from Silk Stockings. Another one from that movie worth mentioning is “Too Bad We Can’t Go Back to Moscow”. Not to mention all the great numbers with Cyd Charisse.

The Band Wagon (1953) - “The Girl Hunt Ballet” with Cyd Charisse:

An excerpt - "Girl Hunt Ballet" — Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse, 1953 - YouTube

Is that the early scene in Top Hat, where he wakes up Rogers with his tap dancing, and lulls her back to sleep with a sand dance? I love that scene because of “No Strings.”

Awesome. Steve Martin is so talented in SO many thing - comedy, acting, music, dancing, writing…

Back to Fred, the number with Cyd Charisse in Band Wagon - (surely her costume and hair had to influence the movie of ‘Chicago’ years later). He made it look so easy.

It’s I wanna Be A Dancin’ Man, from the 1952 The Belle of New York.