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Auction History Result

8s048 FRED ASTAIRE personality poster 1937 great portrait of the Hollywood RKO dancing legend!

Date Sold 8/19/2018
Sold For: Login or Register to see sold price.

An Original Vintage Theatrical Unfolded Personality Poster (measures 22" x 28" [56 x 71 cm]) (Learn More)

Fred Astaire was born Frederic Austerlitz Jr. in Omaha, Nebraska in 1899. He had a 2 1/2 years older sister, Adele, and they were a working class family, and when their mother saw their dancing talents at a very young age, she steered them into a sister/brother act, and they moved to New York in 1905, and started performing in vaudeville. By the early 1920s, they were regularly performing on Broadway and in London. In 1932, Adele married an English lord, and retired. Fred had been dancing with her for 27 years, but he paired with Claire Luce, and starred in the play Gay Divorce (which was later made into the movie The Gay Divorcee). This solo success got him a screen test at RKO (he had had one at Paramount with his sister in 1927, and they were not interested). Legend has it that the report on his screen test was "Can't sing. Can't act. Balding. Can dance a little.", but this is likely one of those irresistible urban legends, especially because he was cast in a supporting role in Dancing Lady, where he dances with Joan Crawford. He followed with another supporting role, in Flying Down to Rio, where he was paired with Ginger Rogers, and they stole the movie from star Dolores Del Rio. He did not want to become part of a team again, but their movies were so successful that they indeed made eight more together by 1939, and re-teamed for one last movie in 1949. There was a huge difference between the Astaire/Rogers dancing and that of the Busby Berkeley Warner Bros musicals, in that there was next-to-no camera cutting, simply showing the great dancers perform in almost a single take! In 1939 he split with Rogers and also left RKO, and made a series of movies with several different partners, including the hugely successful Holiday Inn, with Bing Crosby. In 1946, he announced that he was retiring, but when Gene Kelly was injured, he stepped into the lead of Easter Parade, and that was the end of his retiring! He made several very memorable MGM musicals in the 1950s, including The Band Wagon. In 1957 he again retired from dancing in movies, taking only straight dramatic roles in movies like On The Beach, and The Towering Inferno (nominated for the Best Supporting Actor Academy Award for this film), although he did do memorable TV specials with Barrie Chase in 1958 to 1960, and again in 1968. In 1980 he married Robyn Smith, a jockey who was 44 years younger than he was! He passed away in 1987, and since his passing (in 1987 at the age of 88) his widow has kept his films from being used commercially without major compensation, and even refused to allow clips to be shown at a tribute to Ginger Rogers, which is especially sad. Fred Astaire was an incomparable stage and movie dancer, and was a very charismatic actor as well. He had a career that spanned 76 years, all the more remarkable for someone who spent most of that time dancing! I highly recommend all of his movies!
If you know who did the art (if any), please let us know.
Important Added Info: Note that, as noted below, it appears that RKO made personality posters without the stars' names or the studio name, just the image of the stars. But since the only two from RKO our consignor ever owned is this one and one of Ginger Rogers, both dated 1937, so it is quite possible that they solely made these two (almost surely for "Shall We Dance", which Astaire & Rogers made in 1937), and that they did not make them for other stars (we can't say unless others from RKO would surface).

Note that starting in the very early 1910s (around 1912, when studios realized that people were more likely to go to a movie if it had a star they liked in it), studios created sets of special "personality" posters, which theaters that showed their movies could hang in their lobbies. These had a big advantage over posters for specific movies, because they could be used whenever a movie with that star was shown, which meant they could be used over and over! Because studios realized this, they made these posters on a high quality paper stock, sometimes with a "linen" texture, and sometimes with elaborate border designs, and almost always with great quality color printing. They almost always measured exactly 22" x 28", the same as "half-sheets" (which were then known as "displays", except that they were taller than they were wide, and that the images almost always had a "full bleed", meaning that there were no blank borders. They almost always showed a head and shoulders image of the star, and the image on these posters is often very close to actual life-size! They almost always have the name of the star and the studio they worked for at the bottom. Even though there were many sets of these from many studios over a period of approximately 30 years (they were rarely made after the early 1940s), very few survive, likely partially due to World War II paper drives, and partially due to the fact that they were never folded and the paper they were made of sometimes aged poorly. We at were just consigned a very special collection of 99 of these "personality" posters, which we are auctioning in separate auctions. They were collected starting in the mid 1980s, and the collector who assembled this collection tried to "upgrade" condition whenever possible over the years, so many of them are in excellent condition (sometimes likely the best surviving example), and on the ones where they are in lesser condition, it is because the collector never could find one in better condition! Now he has consigned them to us, and they will find new owners. If they were kept together, they would surely make an incredible display for the walls of any place where lots of people gather, like a museum, a restaurant, or any similar place. Of course, it is more likely that these will find many, many separate new homes, but we hope that they end up publicly displayed wherever they end up!

Note that RKO became a leading Hollywood studio in the very early 1930s, and was a top Hollywood studio throughout that decade and into the mid 1940s. They wanted to publicize their lineup of stars, and they created at least one set of personality posters to promote them, but those posters are incredibly rare, and unlike the similar ones from other studios, they do NOT have the names of the stars or studio on them (only images of the stars). These posters are extremely rare as it is likely few theaters ordered them, and fewer still saved them, and in addition, they could be easily torn, and if they were not stored carefully, they would become fragile, and it is likely many were damaged and discarded for that reason! Note that the high quality paper stock these posters were printed on does not always age very well, and can become fragile (usually resulting in chips around the edges of the poster). Because of their fragile nature and their age, we intend to send all of these personality posters in large flat packages, and never roll them into tubes (unless the buyer insists)! PLEASE DO NOT BID ON THIS POSTER, UNLESS YOU ARE WILLING TO PAY THE COST OF SHIPPING IT IN A LARGE FLAT PACKAGE!

Condition: good. The poster has stains, darkening, and a few tears around the edges, with some small pieces of tape on the back of some of the tears. It has a faint diagonal scuff mark running in Astaire's cheek and the background to the left of it, and some creases in the lower right of the image that appear to be a printing defect. In spite of the above, the poster displays pretty well, or certainly restoration can be performed.
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