Lady Charles Cavendish (September 10, 1896 – January 25, 1981), 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.
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.
Unlike her brother, Adele was extremely gregarious and took great delight in shocking friends and strangers alike.
Adele Astaire died of a stroke in Tucson, Arizona, aged 84. Built in 1905, the Gottlieb Storz Mansion in Omaha includes the "Adele and Fred Astaire Ballroom" on the top floor, which is the only memorial to their Omaha roots.
At the suggestion of Roddy McDowall, Astaire donated her papers and memorabilia—amounting to several trunks of material—to the Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center.
Adele Astaire is buried at Oakwood Memorial Park in Chatsworth in Los Angeles County.
1.^ "NNDB: Adele Astaire". Notable Names Database.
2.^ her brother-in-law Edward Cavendish died in unusual circumstances.
3.^ Mercedes de Acosta claimed to have a brief lesbian relationship with Adele, but, if true, it is believed that it was more of a bisexual 'fling' than her orientation, as no other reports of such relationships have ever surfaced.
4.^ According to the memoirs of Richard McKenzie (husband of Fred's daughter, Ava), Adele, aka Dellie, was playing Scrabble with her brother when he noticed that she had started a word with the letters C-U-N. He protested at what appeared to be an emerging vulgarity, though Adele later told Ava, "I could have been spelling anything! Like cunnilingus".
5.^ Wishart, D.J. (2004) Encyclopedia of the Great Plains University of Nebraska Pres. p 259.
6.^ Satchell, Tim (1987). Astaire - The biography. London: Hutchinson. pp. 226. ISBN 0-09-173736-2.
R. McKenzie: Turn Left at the Black Cow, Roberts Reinhardt Publishers 1997 (ISBN 1-57098-205-8)
John Mueller: Astaire Dancing - The Musical Films of Fred Astaire, Knopf 1985, (ISBN 0-394-51654-0)
The Astaire Family Papers, The Howard Gotleib Archival Research Center, Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts.