Sixties pop starlet Petula Clark has claimed Hollywood actor and dancer Fred Astaire used cannabis when they worked together. The singer appeared in the film Finian’s Rainbow with Astaire in 1968, the height of the hippie scene and when social boundaries were broken down. Speaking on the BBC Radio 4 show The Reunion with fellow peers Sandie Shaw and Helen Shapiro, Petula revealed what working with the ageing artist was like. Presenter Sue MacGregor spoke about the Downtown singer’s move to the United States where she was offered a part in the film, directed by Francis Ford Coppola. Petula 79, laughed and said “there was a lot of Flower Power going on” before being asked if she and her co-stars were “smoking certain substances”. The shocked and jovial other guests gasped in horror at the admission from their long-time friend, who always held an image of a squeaky clean pop princess. “Not our Pet,” asked Sandi Shaw, who was almost axed from her 1967 performance at the Eurovision Song Contest because of a sex scandal involving a married man. The singer and songwriter scoffed amid mocking laughter: “Yes, all that stuff. Oh, please. And Fred Astaire, too.” The guests were stunned to hear the revelation that Astaire, who was one of the biggest stars of cinema and Broadway in the 20th century, used drugs. The late 1960s were and era of free love and experimentation with sex, drugs, music and film where society changed from a deferential culture to one of personal liberty. But the image of bad boy actors who lived life on the wild side was by then reserved to Marlon Brando, Robert Mitchum, Peter O’Toole and Oliver Reed.
Multi-talented Fred Astaire was seen as a gentleman and not a secret cannabis smoker, unlike Mitchum who was jailed for possession of marijuana in 1948. Petula summed up the feeling in California where she was filming Coppola’s musical adaptation of Finian’s Rainbow with Astaire and music hall favourite Tommy Steele. She said: “It was a wonderful experience. “A lot of good things were going on there. It was California in the late 60s and it was kind of great.” She was 35 years-old when she was cast in Finian’s Rainbow and earned a nomination for a Golden Globe in the Musical or Comedy category in 1969. Fred Astaire was born in Omaha, Nebraska in 1899 and his birth name was Frederick Austerlitz, having German Lutheran and Austrian Jewish parents. At six years old, Fred’s father lost his job and so enrolled his son and daughter Adele at the Alviene Master School of Theatre and Academy of Cultural Arts. The out-of-work and poor parent hoped they would begin a career in show business and Fred soon showed an incredible talent as an all-round performer. According to Hollywood legend, when Fred auditioned for RKO Pictures he told a casting director: “Can’t sing. Can’t act. Balding. Can dance a little.” After that one of the greatest screen duos of all time was born when the 34 year-old met Ginger Rogers and they made more than 15 films appearances together. Some of the classic films they starred during the ‘Golden Age of Cinema’ were The Gay Divorcee and Top Hat in 1935 and Swing Time in 1936. Finian’s Rainbow was the last musical Fred Astaire appeared in, aged 69, but he continued to act and starred in disaster classic The Towering Inferno in 1974. One of cinema’s first superstars died aged 88 in Los Angeles in 1987.
via : Telegraph
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