Politically, Astaire was a conservative and a lifelong Republican Party supporter. He never made his political views publicly known. Along with Bing Crosby, George Murphy, Ginger Rogers and others he was a charter (founding) member of the Hollywood Republican Committee. He was churchgoing, supportive of American military action and was dismissive of the more open sexiness of movies in the 1970s.
Always immaculately turned out, he and Cary Grant were called "the best-dressed actor[s] in American movies". Astaire remained a male fashion icon even into his later years, eschewing his trademark top hat, white tie and tails (for which he never really cared) in favor of a breezy casual style of tailored sports jackets, colored shirts, cravats and slacks—the latter usually held up by the idiosyncratic use of an old tie in place of a belt.
Astaire was married for the first time in 1933, to the 25-year-old Phyllis Potter. She was a Boston-born New York socialite and former wife of Eliphalet Nott Potter III (1906–1981). Astaire pursued her ardently for roughly two years, and despite the objections of his mother and sister. Phyllis's death from lung cancer, at the age of 46, ended 21 years of a blissful marriage and left Astaire devastated. Astaire attempted to drop out of the film “Daddy Long Legs”, offering to pay the production costs to date, but was persuaded to stay.
In addition to Phyllis Potter's son, Eliphalet IV (known as Peter), the Astaires had two children. Fred, Jr. (born January 1, 1936) appeared with his father in the movie “Midas Run”, but became a charter pilot and rancher instead of an actor. He married Gale in 1956. Ava Astaire McKenzie (born March 19, 1942; married Richard MacKenzie) remains actively involved in promoting her late father's heritage.
His friend, David Niven, described him as "a pixie—timid, always warm-hearted, with a penchant for schoolboy jokes." Astaire was a lifelong golf and Thoroughbred horse racing enthusiast. In 1946 his horse Triplicate won the prestigious Hollywood Gold Cup and San Juan Capistrano Handicap. He remained physically active well into his eighties. At age seventy-eight, he broke his left wrist while riding his grandson's skateboard.
On June 24, 1980, he was married again, to Robyn Smith, a jockey 45 years his junior, who rode for Alfred G. Vanderbilt II and was herself, on the cover of Sports Illustrated on July 31, 1972.
Astaire died from pneumonia on June 22, 1987. He was 88 years old. He was interred in the Oakwood Memorial Park Cemetery in Chatsworth, California. One last request of his was to thank his fans for their years of support.
Astaire's life has never been portrayed on film. He always refused permission for such portrayals, saying, "However much they offer me—and offers come in all the time—I shall not sell." Astaire's will included a clause requesting that no such portrayal ever take place; he commented, "It is there because I have no particular desire to have my life misinterpreted, which it would be."