*Fred Astaire, (born May 10, 1899, Omaha, Nebraska, U.S.—died June 22, 1987, Los Angeles, California), American dancer of stage and motion pictures who is best known for a number of highly successful musical comedy films in which he starred with Ginger Rogers. He is regarded by many as the greatest popular-music dancer of all time.
In 1933 Astaire was paired with Ginger Rogers in the RKO Radio Pictures production Flying Down to Rio. They were a sensation, stealing the picture from stars Delores del Rio and Gene Raymond. Public demand compelled RKO to feature the pair in a classic series of starring vehicles throughout the 1930s, with The Gay Divorcee (1934), Top Hat (1935), and Swing Time (1936) often cited as the best of the lot. Although Astaire worked well with several leading ladies throughout his career, his partnership with Rogers had a special chemistry. Their respective elegance (Astaire) and earthiness (Rogers) rubbed off on one another, and it has often been said that he gave her class and she gave him sex appeal. Their dance routines, often in the midst of sumptuous Art Deco settings, were intricate tap or graceful ballroom numbers that served as sophisticated statements of romantic love. Only once—in Carefree (1938)—did Astaire and Rogers share an on-screen kiss, and then only in a dream sequence.
Astaire’s immensely popular dancing style appeared relaxed, light, effortless, and largely improvised. In reality, he was a hardworking perfectionist who tirelessly rehearsed routines for hours on end. Working in collaboration with legendary choreographer Hermes Pan for his films with Rogers, Astaire eschewed the then-popular Busby Berkeley approach to filmed musicals and its emphasis on special effects, surreal settings, and chorus girls in ever-changing kaleidoscope patterns. Instead, Astaire revolutionized the movie musical by simplifying it: solo dancers or couples were shot in full-figure, and dances were filmed with a minimum of edits and camera angles. He is regarded as a pioneer in the serious presentation of dance on film.
"Fred Astaire." Britannica Academic, Encyclopædia Britannica, 3 Jun. 2015. academic-eb-com.libdatabase.newpaltz.edu/levels/collegiate/article/Fred-Astaire/9960. Accessed 7 Mar. 2019.
*F. Scott Fitzgerald, (born September 24, 1896, St. Paul, Minnesota, U.S.—died December 21, 1940, Hollywood, California), American short-story writer and novelist famous for his depictions of the Jazz Age (the 1920s), his most brilliant novel being The Great Gatsby (1925). His private life, with his wife, Zelda, in both America and France, became almost as celebrated as his novels.
Fitzgerald was the only son of an unsuccessful, aristocratic father and an energetic, provincial mother. Half the time he thought of himself as the heir of his father’s tradition, which included the author of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” Francis Scott Key, after whom he was named, and half the time as “straight 1850 potato-famine Irish.” As a result he had typically ambivalent American feelings about American life, which seemed to him at once vulgar and dazzlingly promising.
He also had an intensely romantic imagination, what he once called “a heightened sensitivity to the promises of life,” and he charged into experience determined to realize those promises. At both St. Paul Academy (1908–10) and Newman School (1911–13) he tried too hard and made himself unpopular, but at Princeton he came close to realizing his dream of a brilliant success. He became a prominent figure in the literary life of the university and made lifelong friendships with Edmund Wilson and John Peale Bishop. He became a leading figure in the socially important Triangle Club, a dramatic society, and was elected to one of the leading clubs of the university; he fell in love with Ginevra King, one of the beauties of her generation. Then he lost Ginevra and flunked out of Princeton.
He returned to Princeton the next fall, but he had now lost all the positions he coveted, and in November 1917 he left to join the army. In July 1918, while he was stationed near Montgomery, Alabama, he met Zelda Sayre, the daughter of an Alabama Supreme Court judge. They fell deeply in love, and, as soon as he could, Fitzgerald headed for New York determined to achieve instant success and to marry Zelda. What he achieved was an advertising job at $90 a month. Zelda broke their engagement, and, after an epic drunk, Fitzgerald retired to St. Paul to rewrite for the second time a novel he had begun at Princeton. In the spring of 1920 it was published, he married Zelda, and riding in a taxi one afternoon between very tall buildings under a mauve and rosy sky; I began to bawl because I had everything I wanted and knew I would never be so happy again.
This Side of Paradise was a revelation of the new morality of the young; it made Fitzgerald famous. This fame opened to him magazines of literary prestige, such as Scribner’s, and high-paying popular ones, such as The Saturday Evening Post. This sudden prosperity made it possible for him and Zelda to play the roles they were so beautifully equipped for, and Ring Lardner called them the prince and princess of their generation. Though they loved these roles, they were frightened by them, too, as the ending of Fitzgerald’s second novel, The Beautiful and Damned (1922), shows. The Beautiful and Damned describes a handsome young man and his beautiful wife, who gradually degenerate into a shopworn middle age while they wait for the young man to inherit a large fortune. Ironically, they finally get it, when there is nothing of them left worth preserving.
To escape the life that they feared might bring them to this end, the Fitzgeralds (together with their daughter, Frances, called “Scottie,” born in 1921) moved in 1924 to the Riviera, where they found themselves a part of a group of American expatriates whose style was largely set by Gerald and Sara Murphy; Fitzgerald described this society in his last completed novel, Tender Is the Night, and modeled its hero on Gerald Murphy. Shortly after their arrival in France, Fitzgerald completed his most brilliant novel, The Great Gatsby (1925). All of his divided nature is in this novel, the naive Midwesterner afire with the possibilities of the “American Dream” in its hero, Jay Gatsby, and the compassionate Yale gentleman in its narrator, Nick Carraway. The Great Gatsby is the most profoundly American novel of its time; at its conclusion, Fitzgerald connects Gatsby’s dream, his “Platonic conception of himself,” with the dream of the discoverers of America. Some of Fitzgerald’s finest short stories appeared in All the Sad Young Men (1926), particularly “The Rich Boy” and “Absolution,” but it was not until eight years later that another novel appeared.
The next decade of the Fitzgeralds’ lives was disorderly and unhappy. Fitzgerald began to drink too much, and Zelda suddenly, ominously, began to practice ballet dancing night and day. In 1930 she had a mental breakdown and in 1932 another, from which she never fully recovered. Through the 1930s they fought to save their life together, and, when the battle was lost, Fitzgerald said, “I left my capacity for hoping on the little roads that led to Zelda’s sanitarium.” He did not finish his next novel, Tender Is the Night, until 1934. It is the story of a psychiatrist who marries one of his patients, who, as she slowly recovers, exhausts his vitality until he is, in Fitzgerald’s words, un homme épuisé (“a man used up”). This is Fitzgerald’s most moving book, though it was commercially unsuccessful.
With its failure and his despair over Zelda, Fitzgerald was close to becoming an incurable alcoholic. By 1937, however, he had come back far enough to become a scriptwriter in Hollywood, and there he met and fell in love with Sheilah Graham, a famous Hollywood gossip columnist. For the rest of his life—except for occasional drunken spells when he became bitter and violent—Fitzgerald lived quietly with her. (Occasionally he went east to visit Zelda or his daughter Scottie, who entered Vassar College in 1938.) In October 1939 he began a novel about Hollywood, The Last Tycoon. The career of its hero, Monroe Stahr, is based on that of the producer Irving Thalberg. This is Fitzgerald’s final attempt to create his dream of the promises of American life and of the kind of man who could realize them. In the intensity with which it is imagined and in the brilliance of its expression, it is the equal of anything Fitzgerald ever wrote, and it is typical of his luck that he died of a heart attack with his novel only half-finished. He was 44 years old.
"F. Scott Fitzgerald." Britannica Academic, Encyclopædia Britannica, 9 Feb. 2017. academic-eb-com.libdatabase.newpaltz.edu/levels/collegiate/article/F-Scott-Fitzgerald/34427. Accessed 7 Mar. 2019.
*Zelda Fitzgerald, née Zelda Sayre, (born July 24, 1900, Montgomery, Alabama, U.S.—died March 10, 1948, Asheville, North Carolina), American writer and artist, best known for personifying the carefree ideals of the 1920s flapper and for her tumultuous marriage to F. Scott Fitzgerald.
Zelda was the youngest daughter of Alabama Supreme Court Justice Anthony Dickinson Sayre and Minnie Buckner Machen Sayre. She was a high-spirited and wayward child, and as a teen, her lack of propriety—notably flirting, drinking, and smoking—raised the eyebrows of the genteel set in her hometown.
Following her high school graduation in 1918, Zelda met F. Scott Fitzgerald at a weekend country club dance. She was a regular at such social activities, and he was an officer stationed at nearby Camp Sheridan. Scott began a courtship, but Zelda was hesitant about his financial prospects and continued to court other suitors. When he published his first novel, This Side of Paradise, in March 1920, she finally agreed to marry him, and the two wed in New York on April 3. Zelda gave birth to their only child, Frances (“Scottie”) Fitzgerald, the following year.
This Side of Paradise was an immediatee success, and the couple became overnight celebrities. In rendering the youthful rebellion of the 1920s, Scott became known as the chronicler of the Jazz Age, and Zelda became an emblem of the 1920s liberated woman. They both indulged in an extravagent lifestyle, spending beyond their means on travel, parties, and liquor. In 1924 the Fitzgeralds moved to France, where they joined a group of American expatriates, led by Gerald and Sara Murphy, on the Riviera. There Scott finished his third novel, The Great Gatsby, in 1925. Although the book would later become a classic, its middling initial reception disappointed Scott. By the end of the decade, the Fitzgeralds’ already quarrelsome marriage had grown more agitated. Scott struggled to write his fourth novel, and Zelda sought creative outlets of her own, writing short stories for magazines, painting, swimming, and intensely practicing ballet, a hobby from her youth.
In 1930 Zelda had a mental breakdown and spent the next year in different European clinics. When she was released in 1931, the Fitzgeralds moved back to the United States. Zelda, however, had another breakdown in 1932 and entered Phipps Psychiatric Clinic in Baltimore, where she wrote her only novel, Save Me the Waltz (1932). The book was largely autobiographical, relating her side of the Fitzgeralds’ troubled marriage through the characters of Alabama Beggs and her painter husband, David Knight. Scott resented Zelda’s use of the same material he planned to use for his novel, and he blamed her medical bills for keeping him from finishing his own work. Save Me the Waltz, however, did not sell well, and Zelda turned to playwriting. Scandalabra, described as a “fantasy-farce,” was staged by a small theatre group in Baltimore in 1933, but its rambling banter only confused critics. Her next creative endeavour, painting, did not fare better, with a New York show in 1934 bringing ambivalent reviews.
Meanwhile, Scott finally published Tender Is the Night (1934), nearly 10 years after finishing his third novel. By this time, however, the Fitzgeralds were greatly in debt, Scott was struggling with alcoholism, and Zelda was in and out of health clinics. In 1936 Zelda entered Highland Hospital in Asheville, North Carolina, and in 1937 Scott moved to Hollywood to become a scriptwriter. He died of a heart attack there three years later at the age of 44. Zelda continued to paint and started a second novel, Caesar’s Things, but perished in a fire at Highland Hospital in 1948 before she could finish it. She never attained the creative success she eagerly sought, but she and Scott inspired numerous biographies, novels, movies, and TV series.
"Zelda Fitzgerald." Britannica Academic, Encyclopædia Britannica, 8 Feb. 2017. academic-eb-com.libdatabase.newpaltz.edu/levels/collegiate/article/Zelda-Fitzgerald/628705. Accessed 7 Mar. 2019.
*Mary Pickford, original name Gladys Mary Smith, (born April 9, 1893, Toronto, Ont., Can.—died May 28, 1979, Santa Monica, Calif., U.S.), Canadian-born U.S. motion-picture actress, “America’s sweetheart” of the silent screen, and one of the first film stars. At the height of her career, she was one of the richest and most famous women in the United States.
Gladys Mary Smith was the daughter of actors. Soon after the death of her father she began taking child’s roles in productions in which her mother was playing. She made her first stage appearance in a Toronto stock company at the age of five. At eight she went on tour, and within 10 years she was playing on Broadway. From 1906 the family adopted the name Pickford. She made her New York debut in David Belasco’s The Warrens of Virginia in December 1907. At age 14 she had already learned more of stagecraft than many older actors, and her winsome face, framed by a mass of golden curls, made her appeal virtually irresistible.
Pickford began working as a motion-picture extra at D.W. Griffith’s Biograph Studio, starring in his 1909 film The Lonely Villa. By 1913 she had turned permanently to the screen, rising to first rank with Adolph Zukor’s Famous Players Company. Her meteoric rise from an anonymous player to a star with her own production company (Mary Pickford Studios, created by Famous Players) was attributable not only to the phenomenal popularity of her films but also to her dedication to her craft and her meticulous care in creating quality entertainments. The ringleted ingenue with an expression of sweet sincerity and invincible innocence that she played in such silent films as Hearts Adrift (1914), Poor Little Rich Girl (1917), Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm (1917), and Johanna Enlists (1918) enthralled audiences everywhere. She was known at first as the “Biograph Girl with the Curls” and then as “Our Mary” when that much of her name was revealed; with the release of Tess of the Storm Country in 1914, she was firmly established as “America’s Sweetheart.” In 1917 First National Films paid her $350,000 for each of three films, including the very successful Daddy Long Legs (1919).
In 1919 Pickford took the lead in organizing the United Artists Corporation with Griffith, Charlie Chaplin, and Douglas Fairbanks. In 1920, after the dissolution of her first marriage (1911–19) to actor Owen Moore, she married Fairbanks (divorced 1935). Pickford’s popularity continued unabated in Pollyanna (1920), Little Lord Fauntleroy (1921), Little Annie Rooney (1925), My Best Girl (1927), Coquette (1929; her first talking picture, for which she won an Academy Award for best actress), The Taming of the Shrew (1929; her only film with Fairbanks), and Kiki (1931).
With Secrets (1933), her 194th film, Pickford retired from the screen. Thereafter she devoted herself to United Artists, of which she was first vice president from 1935 and for which she produced several films. She also wrote Why Not Try God (1934), The Demi-Widow (1935), and My Rendezvous with Life (1935), and in the 1930s she appeared on radio. In 1937 she married actor Charles (“Buddy”) Rogers. Her later years were spent on business and civic and charitable activities, and she eventually became a recluse at Pickfair, the lavish estate she had built with Fairbanks. Sunshine and Shadow, her autobiography, was published in 1955
"Mary Pickford." Britannica Academic, Encyclopædia Britannica, 2 Jan. 2013. academic-eb-com.libdatabase.newpaltz.edu/levels/collegiate/article/Mary-Pickford/59931. Accessed 7 Mar. 2019.
*Florenz Ziegfeld, Jr., byname Flo Ziegfeld, (born March 21, 1869, Chicago—died July 22, 1932, Hollywood), American theatrical producer who brought the revue to spectacular heights under the slogan “Glorifying the American Girl.”
During the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893, Ziegfeld managed Sandow, the strong man. In 1896 he turned to theatrical management. His promotion of a French beauty, Anna Held, with press releases about her milk baths brought her fame and set a pattern of star making through publicity. In 1907 he produced in New York City his first revue, The Follies of 1907, modeled on the Folies-Bergère of Paris but less risqué. The revue’s combination of seminudity, pageantry, and comedy was repeated successfully for 23 more years, until the advent of the Great Depression ended the annual spectacles. Four other editions appeared after his death, the last in 1957.
Among the stars developed by Ziegfeld were Marilyn Miller, Will Rogers, Leon Errol, Bert Williams, Fanny Brice, and Eddie Cantor. In addition to the Follies, Ziegfeld also produced the stage successes Sally (1920), Show Boat (1927), Rio Rita (1927), and Bitter Sweet (1929). Ziegfeld married Anna Held in 1897 and, after their divorce in 1913, the actress Billie Burke.
"Florenz Ziegfeld, Jr.." Britannica Academic, Encyclopædia Britannica, 14 Feb. 2008. academic-eb-com.libdatabase.newpaltz.edu/levels/collegiate/article/Florenz-Ziegfeld-Jr/78364. Accessed 7 Mar. 2019.