Chapter

“I play with the very best bands”

Todd Decker

in Music Makes Me

Published by University of California Press

Published in print June 2011 | ISBN: 9780520268883
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520950061 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1525/california/9780520268883.003.0004
“I play with the very best bands”

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This chapter surveys Fred Astaire's films through the lens of what industry types called the background, the general setting of a film that plays host to the story, characters, and, most crucially, song-and-dance routines. It examines the big decisions producers made: many reflect straightforward attempts to leverage popular music groups—dance bands—for the benefit of a given film product, and Astaire's tastes often seem to be driving the choices. Producers had real power in Hollywood. They made the key casting and story decisions, whether it was conceiving a film for Astaire or adjusting an existing script to his persona. Certain backgrounds allowed Astaire to move more freely, and the range of backgrounds within which he could comfortably dance was, unsurprisingly, somewhat limited. Astaire functioned best against a popular entertainment background. Quite often these backgrounds included jazz or dance bands and popular music contexts. The chapter divides Astaire's films into three more-or-less-discrete categories based on their backgrounds: theater, nightclubs, and non-showbusiness. As will be evident, jazz-friendly contexts dominate.

Keywords: Fred Astaire; backgrounds; films; Hollywood; popular music; jazz; theater; nightclubs; non-showbusiness; dance bands

Chapter.  6132 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: American Music

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