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.”

25 comments:

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

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    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!

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

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

      Delete
  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.

    ReplyDelete
  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!

    ReplyDelete
  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.

    ReplyDelete
  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.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Anorexic? Spare me! She wouldn't have such a full face & muscular/energetic frame!

    ReplyDelete
  7. It's widely accepted now that she was anorexic, but in the 50's it wasn't something that was widely names or discussed. Certainly in the 40's she was overweight, but in the 50's painfully thin. After her retirement and divorce some said her weight normalised, which also supports the eating disorder theory since the stresses of performing may well have contributed to that. Apparently her neck was affected by the anorexia, & I've often wondered if that's why her songs were always overdubbed in films, if anorexia had destroyed her ability to sing well.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's not widely accepted. Just like the ever growing plethora of conspiracy theories that infect just about everything that has ever happened in history, we have the speculation that this very thin, very athletic, very talented, very dynamic dancer was anorexic. If she was anorexic, she couldn't have done those athletic moves. It's true she wasn't much of a singer, but most folks aren't. When she did sing, it was more of a comedic performance, but she did sing on key (more or less). Check youtube for her duets with Chester Stratton.

      Delete
    2. Just because you don't accept it doesn't mean it wasn't true. And she absolutely could have danced while suffering from anorexia - many anorexics excercise madly. Sure, in the final stages of anorexia a person may lose muscle tone and strength, but one of the tragic things about eating disorders is a person's ability to hide it. Please don't talk authoritively about things you know nothing about.

      Delete
  8. I have often wondered if Jeanne Crain could have been anorexic. She was beautiful and talented and seems like she was sweet and decent too. But her extremely tiny waist and figure were just not normal... especially after having 7 children.

    ReplyDelete
  9. It was probably unusual for actresses NOT to have some kind of obsession with food since the pressure to be so thin was enormous. Vera was absolutely a fabulous dancer. No question about it. She brings so much pleasure still to people.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Ohio has had lots of talent make it in the movies, a veritable list of who's who, seems I find an Ohioan in film everytime I research these older movies. Glad I am a buckeye from Ohio.

    ReplyDelete
  11. She had an eating disorder because of her mothers odd food beliefs. She was brought up to have very very odd eating habits. Only eat certain foods.

    ReplyDelete
  12. Fantastic multi talented pretty lady. Nobody that moves like that is unhealthy. Hollywood should have afforded her more opportunities.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Her dancing ability was pure and talented. What a gem.

    ReplyDelete
  14. They simply don't seem to make them as gorgeous as her any more I found it almost impossible to take my eyes off her on screen.

    ReplyDelete
  15. One way to see what a great dancer she was was the simple fact that many of the dance number in, oh let's pick White Christmas are long single camera shots. In other words she's dancing full out without mistakes for really long periods. Everybody is for that matter but she really shines. As far as often dubbing her singing voice goes maybe her voice wasn't as great as her dancing ?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Our family loves White Christmas and our copy has a 2000 interview with Rosemary at the end of the movie and she says herself, that she could sing but not dance and Vera could dance, but not sing. The studio dubbed Veras voice. I do see someone commented that theyve seen Vera singing and I'll have to check that out somewhere on YouTube. Both were unbelievably talented women! Wish they still made them like that! "Those" were real movie stars!!

      Delete
  16. Serveral brought up anorexia its been discounted many times nothing but a rumor.
    She never received the recognition she deserved.. Let's remember her as a great dancer and nothing less..

    ReplyDelete
  17. How many of you actually lived in the 40s? I did. It was common to have a tiny waist and be thin. Eating was not a hobby or a past time. Snacks did not exist except for potato chips and pretzels. Often these items were homemade as a treat. Pop or soda was not common to consume daily. It was a treat as well. Everyone I knew was thin. None of us were anorexic.

    ReplyDelete
  18. We are so thankful and grateful to have "White Christmas" as a part of our family tradition. It would not be Christmas with out it. Every year I watch it, I get inspired and spell bound by Vera. She in an incredibly tallent and there is no other like her. She fascinates me when I see her dance and I get up and start dancing too. Every year I think "How does she do that?" The way that she moves is incredible. I have always wondered what inspired her to dance. There are a lot of cold facts and speculations about Vera. I wonder if she knew how much she was loved and how she was a part of family traditions and the inspiration she brought. I am really thankful to have seen her and have her be a part of history that I can share with others. She was a Silver Screen Treasure and we are so lucky to have had her to watch every year and to celebrate Christmas with. Thank you Vera-Ellen!

    ReplyDelete
  19. As a young adult with my own family, we would often watch "White Christmas" during the yule season at my mom's. She would always comment that Vera-Ellen could have been my mom. Apparently, my dad (before marrying my mom) had something going on with Vera-Ellen. After my mom died, I was going through some old letters and I found several from Vera-Ellen to my father. They are very benign and (if I remember correctly) during WWII. I have a feeling that there may have been a effort to "support the troops" through Hollywood celebs. The celebs (or someone acting on their behalf) would correspond with members of the army. Either way, it's a fun story and I've some WWII nostalgia.

    ReplyDelete