Hollywood Remains to Be Seen

Ginger Rogers
1911 - 1995

Oakwood Memorial Park

Though best known as Fred Astaire's dancing partner in a series of musicals made in the 1930s, Ginger Rogers appeared in nearly 100 films, and was an excellent comedic and dramatic actress and talented singer. Rogers won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her dramatic performance in "Kitty Foyle" (1940), beating fellow nominees and more established dramatic actresses Bette Davis, Martha Scott, Katharine Hepburn and Joan Fontaine.

Rogers got her first experience on the stage in Forth Worth, TX, where she appeared in various high school productions, then moved on to Broadway. She quickly moved to Hollywood, where she appeared in her first film, a small role in a musical-comedy short titled "A Night in a Dormitory" (1929), when she was only 18. Rogers appeared in a series of musical-comedy shorts for Paramount and RKO studios, co-starring with Rudy Vallee, Jack Oakie, Ed Wynn and Joe E. Brown, among others. Rogers quickly graduated to bigger parts in better musicals, including "42nd Street" (1933) with Warner Baxter and Ruby Keeler, and "Gold Diggers of 1933," with Dick Powell, Joan Blondell and Keeler, which featured Rogers singing and dancing to "We're in the Money."

Later in 1933, Rogers was teamed with dancer Fred Astaire in "Flying Down to Rio," the first of 10 films the pair did together. The others included "The Gay Divorcee" (1934), "Top Hat" (1935), "Roberta" (1935), "Swing Time" (1936), "Follow the Fleet" (1936), "Shall We Dance?" (1937) and "Carefree" (1938). Rogers proved to be the perfect partner for Astaire, and their films were a popular combination of light comedy, marvelous music and elegant dance numbers. Between films with Astaire, Rogers also appeared in romantic comedies on her own, including "Twenty Million Sweethearts" (1934) with Dick Powell and Pat O'Brien, "Star of Midnight" (1935) with William Powell, "Vivacious Lady" (1938) with Jimmy Stewart, "Having a Wonderful Time" (1938) with Douglas Fairbanks Jr., and "Bachelor Mother" (1939) with David Niven.

The next Astaire-Rogers film, "The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle" (1939), was critically acclaimed, but a box-office failure, perhaps because of the more serious tone of the film. Astaire and Rogers would make one more film together, "The Barkleys of Broadway" (1949). Rogers headed in a different direction in "Kitty Foyle" (1940), in which she starred as an engaged working girl who falls in love with a wealthy married man, and must wrestle with her conscience to decide what she should do. Rogers followed that film with a comedic look at the same theme in "Tom, Dick and Harry" (1941), in which she is pursued by three very different men, and imagines what life would be like with each of them.

Rogers worked steadily through the 1940s and early 1950s, appearing in comedies, dramas and musicals, notably "Roxie Hart" (1942) with Adolph Menjou, "The Major and the Minor" (1942) with Ray Milland, "I'll Be Seeing You" (1944) with Joseph Cotton and Shirley Temple, and "Monkey Business" (1952) with Cary Grant and Marilyn Monroe. But she never again achieved the level of popularity she reached while "dancing cheek to cheek" with Fred Astaire. Her last film role was playing Jean Harlow's mother in "Harlow" (1965).

The most famous quote about Rogers -- "She did everything Fred Astaire did, and she did it backwards and in high heels" -- has been attributed to various sources, including Rogers herself. But in her autobiography, Rogers gives the credit for that line to cartoonist Bob Thaves, and says the line first appeared in his "Frank and Ernest" cartoon strip.

Rogers is buried next to her mother, actress and writer Lela Rogers (1890 - 1977). They share a simple gravestone, decorated with two roses.

Rogers was born Virginia Katherine McMath in Independence, MO, on July 16, 1911. She died on April 25, 1995, in Rancho Mirage, CA.

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