‘Looking for Fred Astaire’ explores a complicated Hollywood legend

Fred Astaire is one of the most famous dancers of all time, but many people don’t know his career dancing with Hollywood’s biggest starlets greatly frustrated and depressed him.

Now 30 years since his death, retired ballerina Darcey Bussell follows Astaire’s footsteps to discover more about his personal life, career and why he hated sharing the spotlight with his many famous dancing partners. In “Looking for Fred Astaire,” airing Monday, Dec. 17, at 8 p.m., Bussell goes in search of Fred and discovers a very different story from the one she expected.

For 30 years his sister, Adele, not Fred, was the star of their brother-sister song-and-dance act. When Adele left the act to get married, Fred was finally able to shine in his own right, only to find his ambitions for a solo career thwarted when he came to Hollywood.

In a journey that takes Bussell to Nebraska, New York, London and Los Angeles, Bussell marvels at Fred’s discipline as a dancer. As a teenager, Fred discovered tap dance in the heart of black Harlem, introducing African-American steps into his routine. Fred’s success with Ginger Rogers was so great that ever since the golden age of the 1930s, Hollywood has tried to repeat the magical Astaire-Rogers formula.

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