Legendary actress, Ginger Rogers, was born Virginia Katherine McMath on Jul 16, 1911 in Independence, MO. Rogers appeared in over 95 film and TV roles. Her best known films include Stage Door, The Major and the Minor, Kitty Foyle, Bachelor Mother, Roxie Hart, 5th Avenue Girl and her nine musicals with Fred Astaire: Flying Down to Rio, The Gay Divorcee, Roberta, Top Hat, Follow the Fleet, Swing Time, Shall We Dance, Carefree, The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle and The Barkleys of Broadway. Rogers died at the age of 83 on Apr 25, 1995 in Rancho Mirage, CA and was laid to rest in Oakland Memorial Park Cemetery in Chatsworth, CA.
Ginger Rogers was born Virginia Katherine McMath on July 16th, 1911 in Independence Missouri. She received her famed nickname from a young cousin who couldn't properly pronounce the name Virginia and thus "Ginga"ÃÂÃÂ stuck. Shortly after her birth, Rogers became the center of a bitter custody battle. It's reported Rogers father fled with her twice, culminating in her moving to Kansas City to live with her grandparent while her mother relocated to Hollywood to work as a screenwriter. At the age of nine, Rogers moved to Fort Worth, Texas with her mother and new stepfather, John Logan Rogers. Although never properly adapted, Ginger legally took the surname Rogers. An energetic child, Rogers took an interest in dance and performance at a young age. Her mother found work as a theatre critic for the Fort Worth Record, offering her daughter more exposure to the world of theatre and performance. She accompanied her mother to local stage productions and then soon began to perform at local charity events and school productions.
In 1926, at the tender of 14, Rogers entered and won the Texas State Charleston completion, earning a spot on the Interstate Theatre Circuit. She soon became a hit on the Vaudeville circuit, gaining notice for her act "Ginger and The Red Head." She scored another hit with her first husband, Jack "Pepper" Culpepper in an act aptly titled "Ginger and Pepper." The act, like the marriage, did not last long and soon Ginger went solo. She traveled the middle-America vaudeville circuit before heading to New York to sing with the Paul Ash orchestra in 1929. Later that year, on Christmas Day, Rogers made her Broadway Debut in the musical Top Speed to smashing reviews. She managed to catch the eye of Paramount talent scouts and was signed to long-term contract, working out of their Astoria studios to allow her to continue work on the stage. Her first film for the studio was 1930's Young Man of Manhattan where she played a fast-talking flapper at just 19 years old. Later that year, she and Ethel Merman starred in the Broadway hit Girl Crazy. The play was a hit and by end of the run both actresses were launched into Broadway stardom. She made four more films that year for Paramount pictures but became increasingly frustrated with being typecast as small-minded blonde. Soon, she asked to be released from her contract and traveled west to Hollywood, living with her mother.
Rogers first couple years were fairly unremarkable. She had a brief three-picture stint at Pathe Exchange and went from studio to studio taking small parts, trying to make a name for herself. She starred in films such as The Tip Off and The Thirteen Ghosts for Monogram studios and Carnival Boat for RKO. Her first role of note was as Chorus girl Ann "Anytime" Lowell in 1933's 42nd Street, where she demonstrated her skill as formidable musical comedienne. With that film, she also began mold her on-screen persona as feisty and seemingly world-wary woman with endless energy and enthusiasm. In 1933 she also starred in Busby Berkeley's Gold Diggers of 1933. The grandiose Warner Brothers' musical featured Roger leading a line of gold-coin wearing chorus girls singing, "We're in the Money," in pig latin. She soon signed with RKO studios after some success with the light comedies Professional Sweetheart. Musicals, however, were her genre of choice and it would be her next musical that would launch Rogers into international stardom as one of Hollywood's most beloved onscreen couples.
Fred And Ginger
Roger's next film was the extravagant musical comedy Flying Down to Rio. Although billed fourth and fifth, it was Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire who became the real stars of the movie. The couples' first shared dance together was the Carioca, a sensual ballroom number in which the pair had to stay close enough to keep their foreheads in physical contact. The two exhibited a remarkable amount of on-screen chemistry and stole the film from its lead stars. RKO immediately reunited the pair for 1934's The Gay Divorcee, this billed at the top of the movie poster. The film was a hit and RKO understood they had dancing goldmine in their hands. Their next film together, 1935'sRoberta, was their first to feature a song written specially the dancing duo, Smoke Gets in Your Eye. The pair would star in a total of 10 films together and is credited with helping keep RKO studios finically afloat during much of the mid-1930's. Most critics credit Rogers as Astaire's best onscreen partner due to their separate strengths as performers. Although Rogers lacked the refinement as a dancer that many of Astaire's other parents possessed, she more than made up for it with her skills as an actress, a comedienne and her natural sensual appeal. Astaire, on the other hand, was the most gifted dancer to ever grace the silver screen but lacked conventional masculine appeal and was still growing as actor. As the infamous Katharine Hepburn goes: "Fred gave Ginger class, while she gave him sex appeal." They enjoyed smash hits that like 1935's Top Hot and high artistic achievement such as the dance number "Waltz in Swing time" in 1936's Swing Time. Other films for RKO include Follow the Fleet, Shall We Dance, and Carefree. After their last film for the studio, 1939's The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle lost money; the pair went their separate ways.
While partnered with Astaire, Rogers also maintained a steady schedule of other films, one of the most notable being 1937's Stage Door opposite Katharine Hepburn and Lucille Ball. In the film Roger's plays the cynical dancer Jean Maitland, living in a theatrical rooming house along side the haughty and polish Katharine Hepburn. The film was hit, earning four Academy Award nominations. In 1940 Roger's played the title role of the film Kitty Folye. In the film, she plays a working class girl longing for a wealthy publisher. The performance earned her the Academy Award for Best Lead Actress. At this point in her career, Roger's was one of the highest paid and most bankable actresses in Hollywood. She left her contract at RKO to be a freelance player. In 1942, she stared in the hit Roxie Hart, the precursor to what would become the hit musical Chicago. That year she also starred Billy Wilders directorial debut The Major and the Minor. She continued her streak of hit comedies that year with Once Upon a Honeymoon. In 1944 she returned to the musical with Lady in the Dar, directed by Kurt Weill. In 1949, she reunited with Fred Astaire one last time for MGM's charming Technicolor delight, The Barkley's of Broadway. However, soon after Rogers career would start it's steady decline
By the time the 1950's rolled around, Rogers career began to lose its luster. She drifted into non-select women's pictures such as 1950's Perfect Strangers and 1951's Storm Warning. Rogers enjoyed a brief resurgence in popularity with Howard Hawks Monkey Business opposite Cary Grant. She managed another minor hit in 1953 with Dreamboat but soon went back to playing lead roles in insignificant films. In 1965, feeling the movie business had dried up, she returned to the Broadway with Hello, Dolly! She traveled to the England to play the lead in 1969's West End production of Mame. The production ran for 14 months and was even performed for the reigning Monarch, Queen Elizabeth. II.
Although away from the movie screen, Rogers stayed in the public with a series of T.V interviews and public Q and A's. She and Astaire received a standing ovation at the 1967 Academy Awards when the duo performance an impromptu dance for their audience.
Later Life and Death
As the decades rolled along, Roger's became less active in the public eye, choosing instead to spend much her time on her Oregon Ranch. Although she officially retired from the movie business, she did make the occasional television appearance, appearing in popular series such as The Love Boat. Her final screen appearance was in the 1987 television series Hotel. In 1992 she was a received accolade at the Kennedy Center Honors, which paid tribute to the aged star. Her final public appearance was in 1995 when she received the Women's International Center Living Legend Award. Ginger Rogers died on April 25, 1995 of a heart attack at her Ranch in Oregon. She was 83 years old.
(Source: article by Minoo Allen for Classic Movie Hub).
Rogers' autobiography Ginger: My Story was published in 1991.
Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire starred in ten musicals together: Flying Down to Rio (1933), The Gay Divorcee (1934), Roberta (1935), Top Hat (1935), Follow the Fleet (1936), Swing Time (1936), Shall We Dance (1937), Carefree (1938), The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle (1939) and The Barkleys of Broadway (1949).
HONORS and AWARDS:.
Ginger Rogers was nominated for one Academy Award, winning for Best Actress for Kitty Foyle (as Kitty Foyle) in 1940.
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She was honored with one star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in the category of Motion Pictures. Ginger Rogers's handprints and footprints were 'set in stone' at Grauman's Chinese Theater during imprint ceremony #49 on Sep 5, 1939.
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Jean Maitland: We started off on the wrong foot. Let's stay that way.
Kitty Foyle: There's a lot of living to do in this world. And if you're worthwhile, you get hurt.
read more quotes from Ginger Rogers...