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When their father suddenly lost his job, the family moved to New York City in January 1905 to launch the show business career of the children.They began training at the Alviene Master School of the Theatre and Academy of Cultural Arts.

Fred went on to achieve success on his own on Broadway and in London with Gay Divorce (later made into the film The Gay Divorcee) while considering offers from Hollywood.

Astaire's tap dancing was recognized by then as among the best.

For example, Robert Benchley wrote in 1930, "I don't think that I will plunge the nation into war by stating that Fred is the greatest tap-dancer in the world." After the close of Funny Face, the Astaires went to Hollywood for a screen test (now lost) at Paramount Pictures, but Paramount deemed them unsuitable for films.

Johanna planned a "brother and sister act", common in vaudeville at the time, for her two children.

Although Fred refused dance lessons at first, he easily mimicked his older sister's steps and took up piano, accordion, and clarinet.

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