Alfred Astaire


In keeping with this blog's policy of driving trivial topics into the ground and stomping down on them like a full trash can to get more in, we have even more evidence that the dashing face of Fred Astaire was under that very well-made Alfred E. Neuman mask. The above photo is of the great make-up artist John Chambers putting the finishing touches on his creation. It's from the 71st issue of Cinefex magazine and while the photo itself doesn't prove it was Fred, the article — for which Chambers was interviewed — said it was.

Also, oodles of folks who claim expertise at the style and grace of Mr. Astaire have weighed in to say no doubt about it, that's the guy…and a couple pointed out that the show was called An Evening with Fred Astaire and that NBC press photos of the time say it was Fred. Plus there's this from Tom Brown, who works over at Turner Classic Movies and is one of the reasons that channel is run like it's run by folks who know and love movies…

I forwarded the clip of Alfred E and Barrie Chase to one of Ms. Chase's good friends and fellow dancers, Christopher Riordan. Christopher also worked with Mr. Astaire and Barrie on the Hollywood Palace shows. He's an encyclopedia of dance history, and he confirms that it is Mr. Astaire.

I'm sorry this topic didn't come up back when I met Ms. Chase at one of those Hollywood Shows. I think we have sufficient proof now but it would be nice to add her testimony to the pile.

The thing that interests me most about this whole dance number is that it's from a show that ran November 4, 1959. Alfred had his first prominent appearance on the cover of MAD #30, the December 1956 issue which came out around October of that year. While the magazine was gaining sales steadily at the time, it wasn't that well-known at the time. It was selling around 300,000 copies an issue which wasn't that much and no generations had then grown up on it. Still, the face of Neuman had registered well enough that the folks behind Mr. Astaire's show knew it and figured enough of America would "get it."

This was a pretty big special and Fred Astaire was a pretty big star, especially when he was dancing. It was probably the first indicator of MAD breaking into the mainstream and impacting American popular culture.