The following is from Delancyplace.com’s daily e-mail of March 6th (I’m catching up on my inbox). Emphasis mine –
In today’s excerpt, Delanceyplace favorite Alan Jay Lerner writes about the work ethic of great stars. The context is the preparation for his greatest hit, My Fair Lady, and Rex Harrison has voluntarily shown up before the rest of the cast to begin his rehearsals. This causes Lerner to reflect on another great star–Fred Astaire:
“[Right before we began rehearsals], while the rest of our future company was enjoying their Christmas in London, Rex arrived three days before the holidays to begin work in advance with Fritz [Loewe, Lerner's partner], Moss [Hart, the producer], and me.
“It was another example of something I found to be true throughout my professional life. Every genuinely great star with whom I have ever worked is a star not only because of talent and that indefinable substance, but because he works harder than anyone else, cares more than anyone else and his sense of perfection, which is deeper than anyone else’s, demands more of him.
“I remember when I was doing a film with Fred Astaire, it was nothing for him to work three or four days on two bars of music. One evening in the dark grey hours of dusk, I was walking across the deserted MGM lot when a small, weary figure with a towel around his neck suddenly appeared out of one of the giant cube sound stages. It was Fred. He came over to me, threw his arm around my shoulder and said: ‘Oh, Alan, why doesn’t someone tell me I cannot dance?’ The tormented illogic of his question made any answer insipid, and all I could do was walk with him in silence. Why doesn’t someone tell Fred Astaire he cannot dance? Because no one would ever ask that question but Fred Astaire. Which is why he is Fred Astaire.”
Alan Jay Lerner, The Street Where I Live, Da Capo, 1978, p. 89.