Saturday 18 June 2022

Fred and Adele

 I caught this cheery number on Radio 3 this morning. In a recording made in 1926, Fred Astaire and his sister Adele sing Gershwin's 'I'd Rather Charleston' (from Lady Be Good), with the composer enjoying himself at the piano. 
Adele (born Adele Marie Austerlitz) was hugely talented and, in their early days, a bigger star than Fred. In 1932, after 27 years performing with her brother, she gave up showbusiness to marry Lord Charles Cavendish, son of the Duke of Devonshire. She proposed to him over drinks in a speakeasy, and he said yes. When the time came to meet his family, she introduced herself by cartwheeling across the floor to where her new relatives stood waiting uneasily. Overcoming some initial resistance, she was welcomed into the family, married at Chatsworth, and set up home with the alcoholic Lord Charles at Lismore castle in Ireland. When war came, she worked tirelessly at the American Red Cross's canteen near Piccadilly Circus, writing and posting letters home for soldiers, manning the information desk, dancing with soldiers and helping them to shop for necessities. After Lord Charles drank himself to death, Adele married an American Colonel and lived happily ever after – well, more or less – remaining close to Fred throughout her long life. 
P.G. Wodehouse and Guy Bolton, both big fans of Adele, wrote after her premature retirement:

'Adele closed her career with a triumphant performance in The Band Wagon ... She then married the Duke of Devonshire's second son and retired to Lismore Castle, leaving a gap that can never be filled. Fred struggled on without her for a while, but finally threw in his hand in and disappeared. There is a rumour that he turned up in Hollywood. It was the best the poor chap could hope for after losing his brilliant sister.'

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