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George Eastman Museum unveils rare screen test of Adele Astaire

May 09th, 2024

George Eastman Museum unveils rare screen test of Adele Astaire

Eighty-eight-year-old screen test is the only known footage of sister of Fred Astaire

Rochester, N.Y., May 8, 2024—To commemorate the 125th anniversary of the birth of American dancer, actor, singer, and choreographer Fred Astaire, the George Eastman Museum is pleased to announce the online publication of a unique piece of film history: a 1936 screen test of Astaire’s sister Adele, a Broadway legend in her own right. This is the only known footage of her acting and singing. Unseen for nearly ninety years, it will now be accessible to the public, going live at on Wednesday, May 8, 2024.

Adele Astaire, older sister to Fred Astaire, was a renowned star of the vaudeville and Broadway stages long before her brother’s rise to on-screen fame. Together, the siblings captivated audiences with their elegant stage performances and dance routines, but it was Adele who was originally regarded as the duo’s standout performer. Her retirement in 1932, to marry into the English aristocracy, left a gap in the world of the performing arts. Unlike her brother, Adele never had a career as a screen performer, which makes this test an invaluable and supremely rare record of her artistic prowess.

“It’s hard to believe now, but, back in the 1920s, Adele Astaire was the star of the family,” said Peter Bagrov, senior curator of the Moving Image Department. “There are many recordings of her voice, but, until now, there was no possibility to see her act and sing. This reel is a unique glimpse into her dynamic stage presence.”

The footage, filmed by producer David O. Selznick at the old Pathé studio in Culver City, includes a charming rendition of 'S Wonderful by George Gershwin, a song Adele Astaire introduced in the 1927 stage musical Funny Face, and would become one of Adele’s signature songs. Many of Gershwin’s most memorable hits were written specifically for Adele. 

The unearthing and preservation of this film were spearheaded by historian and researcher Catherine A. Surowiec, who discovered the existence of the test while researching Selznick’s papers at the Harry Ransom Center. She brought attention to the historic significance of this screen test to the Eastman Museum, where the film materials were already safely stored. 

This test is part of a broader collection of nearly 400 Selznick’s tests, including those for Gone with the Wind (1939), Rebecca (1940), and Spellbound (1945), many of which are yet to be preserved. Thanks to the meticulous work of the Eastman Museum’s Moving Image Department and the support of the Packard Humanities Institute, this precious piece of film history has been photochemically preserved and digitally restored to ensure its longevity and accessibility.

The screen test will be available for viewing on the Eastman Museum’s website starting May 8, providing film enthusiasts, historians, and fans a rare opportunity to witness a piece of the Astaires’ legacy, in time for Fred’s milestone birthday celebration. For additional details, please visit There, explore many of the films preserved by the Moving Image Department on the Museum’s Digitized Films Online webpage.

About the George Eastman Museum
Founded in 1947, the George Eastman Museum is the world’s oldest photography museum and one of the largest film archives in the United States, located on the historic Rochester estate of entrepreneur and philanthropist George Eastman, the pioneer of popular photography. Its holdings comprise more than 400,000 photographs, 31,000 motion picture films, the world’s preeminent collection of photographic and cinematographic technology, one of the leading libraries of books related to photography and cinema, and extensive holdings of documents and other objects related to George Eastman. As a research and teaching institution, the Eastman Museum has an active publishing program and, its L. Jeffrey Selznick School of Film Preservation’s graduate program (a collaboration with the University of Rochester) makes critical contributions to film preservation. For more information, visit and follow the George Eastman Museum account on Facebook, as well as the @eastmanmuseum accounts on Instagram, TikTok, and Threads.

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