The daughter of a Viennese brewer who settled in Omaha, Nebraska, Adele Astaire teamed with her younger brother, Fred, to form the greatest theatrical dance couple of the 1920s. Diminutive, witty, and possessed of a lyrical approach to dance that contrasted with the novelty and trick styles of her Broadway contemporaries, Adele graced five of the important musicals of the interwar years: "Funny Face," "Apple Blossoms," "Lady, Be Good," "The Band Wagon," and "For Goodness Sake." During the years of their partnership, Adele was generally reckoned the more talented of the team, because of her smart way with dialogue and her flirtatious charm. She was particularly celebrated in London.
Her retirement in 1932 to marry Lord Cavendish, second son of the Duke of Devonshire occurred when she was at the peak of her glory, starring in "The Band Wagon." It created an international sensation. Life in Lismore castle in Ireland through the 1930s mixed a fair portion of tragedy with love and luxury; three infant children died shortly after birth, her husband contracted liver disease and became an invalid. He would died in a fire at the castle in 1944 while she was in London working at the stage door canteen boosting troop morale. She resisted invitations to return to show business and married happily a second time to Kingman Douglass in 1947. David S. Shields/ALS