Adele Astaire

Adele Astaire
Adele Astaire

1981 obituary from “The New York Times”:

Adele Marie Astaire, the pixieish dancer who captivated audiences in New York and London in many musical comedies of the 1920’s with her brother and dance partner, Fred, died yesterday in Phoenix at the age of 83. Members of the family said she had suffered a stroke on Jan. 6 and never recovered consciousness.

Miss Astaire had been beset by illness in recent years, according to, Kingman Douglass Jr. of Chicago, her stepson. ”But she had enormous recuperative powers,” he said, ”and soon would be up and in Marine-type English telling what she thought of the world.”

Miss Astaire had lived in Phoenix since her second husband, Kingman Douglass, died in 1971. She had spent summers until two years ago in Ireland, at the castle she shared with her first husband, the late Lord Charles Cavendish. Appeared in ‘Funny Face’   The diminutive, dark-haired comedian starred in 11 musicals with her brother, who is two years her junior. Among the more memorable were ”Funny Face,” ”Lady, Be Good,” ”The Band Wagon,” ”For Goodness’ Sake” – retitled ”Stop Flirting” in London – and ”Apple Blossoms.”

Miss Astaire left show business in 1932 to become the wife of Lord Cavendish, the second son of the ninth Duke of Devonshire. Their romance was something of an international sensation, as she kept putting off accepting Lord Charles’s proposal until she had one final hit show.   At the time of their engagement she was performing in Florenz Ziegfeld’s ”Smiles,” which received less than happy reviews when it opened in 1930. Although ”Smiles” was a dud, reviewers, such as Brooks Atkinson of The New York Times, singled out the Astaires for praise:

”Strictly speaking, the Astaires are dancers. But they have more than one string to their fiddle. With them, dancing is comedy of manners, very much in the current mode. Free of show-shop trickery, they plunge with spirit into the midst of the frolic. Once to the tune of ‘If I Were You, Love,’ with a squealing German band accompaniment, they give dancing all the mocking grace of improvisation with droll dance inflections and with comic changes of pace. Adele Astaire is also an impish comedian; she can give sad lines a gleam of infectious good-nature. Slender, agile and quickwitted, the Astaires are ideal for the American song-and-dance stage.” Left Stage and Her Brother

After ”The Band Wagon,” at the pinnacle of her career, she left the stage and her brother for Lismore Castle in County Waterford, Ireland, from which producers tried repeatedly to lure her. Mr. Astaire went on to greater fame on the screen with Ginger Rogers.

Fred said of his sister on her retirement, ”She was a great artist and inimitable, and the grandest sister anybody could have.” He had followed her into dancing. When he was 4 and she was 6, their parents sent him to her dance classes so he could keep her company, but he got interested.

The marriage of Lord and Lady Charles, though happy, was marked by tragedy. A daughter was born in 1933, and died the same day. Two years later, twin sons, who were born prematurely, died within hours of their births. She was to have no more children. Some time later, Lord Charles fell ill from a liver ailment that made him an invalid.

During World War II, at the urging of her husband, Miss Astaire worked at a famous Red Cross canteen in London, the Rainbow Corner, helping out at the information desk, dancing with G.I.’s and shopping and writing letters for them. To the letters she signed herself, ”Adele Astaire (Fred’s sister).” Married for Second Time

On March 23, 1944, Lord Charles died. Three years later, on April 28, 1947, Miss Astaire was married to Mr. Douglass, whom she had met at the Rainbow Corner. It was his second marriage. In 1950, he became assistant director of the Central Intelligence Agency, a post he held for two years before resuming his career in finance. He became a partner in Dillon Read & Company, retiring before his death in New York in 1971.

Adele Marie Austerlitz was born in Omaha, Neb., on Sept. 10, 1898, to Fredrick Austerlitz, a brewer from Vienna, and the former Ann Geilus, a native of Omaha. In 1904, the family moved to New York, where Adele and Fred, the only children, were enrolled in the Alviene School of Dance. Until then, they had been tutored by their mother.

The Astaires appeared in their first vaudeville show in New York in 1912, and had their first triumph on Broadway in 1917, with ”Over the Top” at the Winter Garden.

Besides her brother and stepson, Miss Astaire is survived by two other stepsons, Howard James Douglass of Chicago and William Angus Douglass of London.

Private services will be held in Phoenix and Beverly Hills, Calif.

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