Adele Astaire

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Lady Charles Cavendish (September 10, 1896 – January 25, 1981),[1] better known as Adele Astaire, was an American dancer and entertainer. She was Fred Astaire's elder sister. Her birthdate was often given as 1897 or 1898, but the 1900 U.S. census showed her birth year as 1896.


Life and career

Adele was born Adele Marie Austerlitz in Omaha, Nebraska, the daughter of Johanna "Ann" (née Geilus), an American-born Lutheran of German descent, and Frederic "Fritz" Emanuel Austerlitz (September, 1868–1924), an Austrian Roman Catholic brewer of Jewish descent from Vienna. Adele became an Episcopalian, like her younger brother.

In 1905 Adele Astaire had a successful vaudeville act with her younger brother, Fred Astaire. They developed it into a celebrated adult career on Broadway and on the London stage. Adele was the bigger star of the two during their time performing together, and she was a special favorite of Great Britain's royalty.

On May 9, 1932, after a successful stint with Fred in the revue The Band Wagon (1931) on Broadway, Adele Astaire retired from the stage to marry Lord Charles Arthur Francis Cavendish (August 29, 1905–March 23, 1944), the second son of the 9th Duke of Devonshire,[2] and moved to Ireland, where they lived at Lismore Castle. She had three children, a daughter in 1933 and twin sons in 1935, each of whom died soon after birth. By this marriage she was properly styled Lady Charles Cavendish and would have been called Lady Charles in social circumstances.

On April 20, 1947, Adele Cavendish married her second husband, Col. Kingman Douglass, an American investment banker and Air Force officer who was an assistant director of the Central Intelligence Agency. He died in 1971.

After Fred Astaire's success in Hollywood, Adele gave serious consideration in 1935 to making a musical film there. She visited Hollywood and appeared in January 1936 on the Music Variety Show, but she admitted to feeling intimidated by her brother's reputation. During their partnership, Fred, whose perfectionism earned him the nickname "Moaning Minnie" from her, had always been the dominant creative force.

In 1937 Adele began filming in England with Jack Buchanan and Maurice Chevalier but withdrew after two days. She later recalled: "Oh boy, if my brother Fred sees this--I'm gone". There is no known film record of Adele performing (aside from a clip lasting a few seconds), but she made eight recordings, all duets with Fred.

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