The Guardian (USA)

The greatest dancer of all time? Fred Astaire’s 20 best films – ranked!

- Pamela Hutchinson 20. The Notorious Landlady (1962)

A semi-straight turn from Fred Astaire in this witty comedy drama. He is an American diplomat in London whose employee (Jack Lemmon) is renting a flat from a mysterious, organ-playing landlady (Kim Novak) who is widely suspected of having offed her husband. Astaire brings a touch of old-school sophistica­tion, while he and Lemmon make for an appealing double act, trading gags rather than toe-taps.

19. Dancing Lady (1933)

Studio RKO may have had qualms about its new hire Astaire – “Can’t act. Slightly bald. Also dances” – but it is evidence of his stardom before getting involved with the movies that he made his cinema debut on loan to MGM as himself in this pre-Code backstage musical. An early warning for future costars: Joan Crawford injured her ankle trying to keep up in their duet.

18. On the Beach (1959)

Astaire excels in his first non-musical film role, as one of the final survivors of global nuclear destructio­n in this adaptation of Nevil Shute’s 1957 novel. In a crashing departure from his familiar, twinkly eyed persona, Astaire

plays a depressed scientist plagued by guilt over his role in building the bombs. No fancy footwork here, but he does steer a Ferrari to victory in the Australian Grand Prix.

17. Ziegfeld Follies (1945)

A Technicolo­r revue from MGM in honour of the famed Broadway impresario Florenz Ziegfeld Jr and the era when Astaire hit the big time. Draw a veil over his appearance in yellowface and savour his first on-screen dance with Gene Kelly in the bantering number The Babbit and the Bromide, which Astaire originally performed with his sister, Adele, in the stage version of Funny Face in 1927.

16. Royal Wedding (1951)

Astaire had the idea to do a routine dancing on the ceiling back in the 1920s – and it took him nearly 30 years to make the dream come true in You’re All the World to Me from this Stanley Donen musical comedy. No shade to costar Jane Powell, but the film’s second

 ?? ?? Balancing act … Astaire in Three Little Words (1950). Photograph: Moviestore Collection/Alamy
Balancing act … Astaire in Three Little Words (1950). Photograph: Moviestore Collection/Alamy

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