An admiring look at Fred Astaire

Astaire the Man, the Dancer, by Bob Thomas, with comments by Fred Astaire. New York: St. Martin's Press. Illustrated. 340 pp. $18.95. Bob Thomas gives us an amiable look at one of the greatest performers to work in American film. From Astaire's days of dancing with his sister, Adele, to his legendary partnership with Ginger Rogers to his later work on TV, Mr. Thomas is thorough without being academic or gossipy.

In fact, the book's only real flaw is that there's not enough. Astaire doesn't like rehashing his old work, although the rest of the world can't seem to get enough of it. For many years Astaire avoided looking at his old films. But since he married Robyn Smith in 1980, a woman several years his junior who was unfamiliar with his work, they have been looking at the films together. For her, it's a chance to see why the world adores her husband. For him,it's an opportunity to see that he was pretty good after all.

Perhaps that's why ``Astaire the Man, the Dancer'' is such delightful reading. Astaire is a man who'd prefer to think about what he's doing next rather than simply rest on his laurels.

Daniel M. Kimmel is a frequent contributor to the Monitor.

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