Monday, October 12, 2015

Seven Things to Know About Vera-Ellen

1. Vera-Ellen attended the Hessler Studio of Dancing in Cincinnati, Ohio. Other famous alumni include Doris Day and Tyrone Power. Harry Hessler and his wife operated the dancing school until sometime in the 1940s. The historic building is a residential home today.

2. Vera-Ellen and Rosemary Clooney, who famously played sisters in White Christmas, both grew up near Cincinnati. Vera-Ellen was raised in the Cincinnati suburb of Norwood, Ohio (making her a “Norwooder” as the locals say). Rosemary was from Maysville, Kentucky, located about an hour southeast of Cincy.

3. As a teenager in the 1930s, she won as one of the weekly performers on the national radio program Major Bowes Amateur Hour. She subsequently toured New York theaters, dancing for $50 a week. (Major Bowes Amateur Hour eventually moved to television and evolved into the classic Ted Mack and the Original Amateur Hour.)

On the set of White Christmas.
4. She made her Broadway debut in 1939 with a small part in the Jerome Kern-Oscar Hammerstein II musical Very Warm for May (which starred June Allyson). After Vera-Ellen appeared in three more Broadway musicals, including By Jupiter with Ray Bolger, Samuel Goldwyn signed her to a contract with MGM.

5. Although Vera-Ellen only made 14 films, she was paired with all the famous Hollywood dancers of her day: Fred Astaire (Three Little Words; The Belle of New York); Gene Kelly (On the Town); Donald O’Connor (Call Me Madam); and Danny Kaye (White Christmas and others). Her singing voice was usually dubbed (including her numbers in White Christmas).

6. She retired from performing at age 38 after appearing on television in The Dinah Shore Show in 1959. While married to her second husband, millionaire Victor Rothschild, Vera-Ellen gave birth to her only child in 1963. Sadly, daughter Victoria Ellen died from Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

7. After her divorce from Rothschild in 1966, Vera-Ellen kept a very low public profile. She allegedly gave a couple of interviews, one in the late 1970s and one shortly before her death. Vera-Ellen Westmeier Rohe died at age 60 in 1981 from ovarian cancer. Reference her famous name, she explained in an interview: “When Mother was expecting me, she had a dream that she would have a baby girl named Vera-Ellen. She even saw the hyphen in her dream. And so, though Daddy didn’t like it, that became my name.”


  1. Not to brlng the level down, but lt's assumed she was anorexlc, often wearlng a collar or choker to hide the effects.

    1. I omitted the anorexia, but it was just speculation. She did have a very tiny waist. Vera-Ellen favored chokers, but there are plenty of photos of her bare neck and it looks fine!

    2. 'Course photos can be retouched. But not her legacy, hopefully.

    3. Yes, she had a fine legacy. Wish she had made more films.

  2. A lot of people these days watch her in WHITE CHRISTMAS and wonder if she was anorexic, she was so thin. Haven't seen her in much else, but she was quite the dancer and a very attractive screen personality. Sorry to hear about her short life and the sad death of her child.

  3. Rick, I was so glad to see you do a post on Vera-Ellen. She was so charming and I loved watching her dance. Well done!

  4. Vera-Ellen is a favorite of mine. I think my favorite of her dance numbers is "Slaughter On 10th Avenue" with Gene Kelly. I also really love her with Danny Kaye in "The Best Things Happen When You're Dancing." She is a lovely woman dressed in a style that I really love. Nice piece, Rick.

  5. Lovely Vera-Ellen, one of the best female dancers in Hollywood , I love everyone of her movies especially Three Little Word and Belle of New York. I recall reading that a studio executive told her she was too fat in Three Little Girls In Blue and that was the begining of her battle with anorexia.