Apparently -- and I only have his word to take for it, but it seems reasonable -- Fred Astaire had never danced at an Oscar ceremony. (In fact, until 1975 he's never even been nominated for an Oscar.) But in 1970, Fred Astaire walked out onstage with Bob Hope -- appropriately, as an inside joke the audience was yet to be aware of, to the song, "I Won't Dance" -- to present the Academy Award for Best Documentary Short. After, as Oscar presenters are wont to do, Astaire and Hope began to quip about how Fred Astaire had never danced at the Academy Awards before. And in a few moments, at the age of 71, and to the utter delight of the theater (and no doubt those at home), that was about to change.
To offer a slight digression, I actually had the opportunity to meet Fred Astaire. And quite appropriately for our purposes here -- and memorably for me -- it was at the Academy Awards. In fact, all the better, it was at those very aforementioned 1975 Oscars when Fred Astaire was nominated for the first time, as Best Supporting Actor for The Towering Inferno. (How I get to the ceremony is too long and bizarre a story. The short version is that I was a kid, and a friend basically said, "You're a movie guy, you could get tickets to the Oscars." And so, I called up -- and got tickets to the Oscars.)
Anyway, as I think I've mentioned around here, I'm not much on getting autographs, especially just for the sake of it. But when there's a special reason for which an autograph carries meaning, I'll make an exception. And I figured that an autograph from Fred Astaire, on the official program for the Academy Awards, the year that he was nominated for his first ever -- and only -- Oscar...was a pretty valid "special reason."
I can't tell you what in the world we talked about. My recollection is that it was along the lines of something substantive, "Hello, Mr. Astaire, may I please have your autograph?" "Yes." "Thank you, I really enjoy your work." "Thank you."
It's the sort of witty repartee that George Bernard Shaw was so well-known for.
Anyway, here's the video. It's all sort of enjoyable to watch from a historical standpoint. But if you want to get just to the dancing, you can skip to the 2:21 mark.
Apparently, he will dance. Joyously. No matter how exhausted it might make him. But after all, the show must go on.
And you know, I really do enjoy his work.