The New York response to the Astaires was enthusiastic, but in London it was ecstatic. British audiences had never seen anything like them. They associated the pair’s seemingly effortless skill and breezy humour with an idea of America at its best. Adele, in particular, had a frothy, satirical charm that threw British audiences and critics into paroxysms of delight. The country’s aristocratic society embraced them. Fred and Adele partied with Lord and Lady Mountbatten, the Duke of York and the Prince of Wales, with Fred picking up sartorial tips from the latter who also, Riley notes, may have picked up some from him. The future Edward VIII was impressed, for example, by the dancer’s extensive collection of colourful braces. Riley also chronicles their friendship with George Gershwin, which began in 1914, when Fred and Adele were not yet on Broadway and Gershwin was working as a song-plugger for $15 a week. Gershwin and Astaire had an immediate affinity.
more from Paula Marantz Cohen at the TLS here.