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Ginger Rogers was born Virginia Katherine McMath in Independence, Missouri on July 16, 1911. Her mother, known as Lelee, went to Independence to have Ginger away from her husband. She had a baby earlier in their marriage and he allowed the doctor to use forceps and the baby died. She was kidnapped by her father several times until her mother took him to court. Ginger’s mother left her child in the care of her parents while she went in search of a job as a scriptwriter in Hollywood and later to New York City.
Mrs. McMath found herself with an income good enough to where she could send for Ginger. Lelee became a Marine in 1918 and was in the publicity department and Ginger went back to her grandparents in Missouri. During this time, her mother met John Rogers. After leaving the Marines, they married in May, 1920 in Liberty, Missouri. He was transferred to Dallas and Ginger (who treated him as a father) went, too.
Ginger won a Charleston contest in 1925 (age 14) and a 4-week contract on the Interstate circuit. She also appeared in vaudeville acts, which she did until she was 17 with her mother by her side to guide her. Now she had discovered true acting. She married in March, 1929 and, after several months, realized she had made a mistake. She acquired an agent and she did several short films. She went to New York where she appeared in the Broadway production of Top Speed which debuted Christmas Day, 1929. Her first film was in 1929: A Night in a Dormitory (1930). It was a bit part, but it was a start. Later that year, Ginger appeared, briefly in two more films, A Day of a Man of Affairs (1929) and Campus Sweethearts (1930). For a while she did both movies and theatre.
The following year she began to get better parts in films such as Office Blues (1930) and The Tip-Off (1931). But the movie that enamored her to the public was Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933). She did not have top billing, but her beauty and voice was enough to have the public want more. One song she popularized in the film was the now famous, “We’re in the Money.” Also in 1933 she was in 42nd Street (1933). She suggested using a monocle and this also set her apart. In 1934, she starred with Dick Powell in Twenty Million Sweethearts (1934). It was a well-received film about the popularity of radio.
Ginger’s real stardom occurred when she was teamed with Fred Astaire where they were one of the best cinematic couples ever to hit the silver screen. They were first paired in 1933’s Flying Down to Rio (1933) and later in 1935’s Roberta (1935) and Top Hat (1935). Ginger also appeared in some very good comedies such as Bachelor Mother (1939) and Fifth Avenue Girl (1939). Also that year she appeared with Astaire in The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle (1939). The film made money but was not anywhere successful as they had hoped.
After that, studio executives at RKO wanted Ginger to strike out on her own. She made several dramatic pictures but it was 1940’s Kitty Foyle (1940) that allowed her to shine. Playing a young lady from the wrong side of the tracks, she played the lead role well, so well, in fact, that she won an Academy Award for her portrayal.
Ginger followed that project with the delightful comedy Tom, Dick and Harry (1941) the following year. It’s a story where she has to choose which of three men she wants to marry. Through the rest of the 1940s and early 1950s she continued to make movies but not near the caliber before World War II. After Oh, Men! Oh, Women! (1957) in 1957, Ginger didn’t appear on the silver screen for seven years. By 1965, she had appeared for the last time in Harlow (1965). Afterward, she appeared on Broadway and other stage plays traveling in Europe, the U.S. and Canada. After 1984, she retired and wrote an autobiography in 1991 entitle Ginger, My Story. On April 25, 1995, Ginger died of natural causes in Rancho Mirage, California. She was 83.
– That’s Entertainment! III (1994) as Song Performer.
– Harlow (1965) as Mama Jean .
– Oh, Men! Oh, Women! (1957) as Mildred Turner .
– Teenage Rebel (1956) as Nancy Fallon .
– The First Traveling Saleslady (1956) as Rose Gillray .
– Tight Spot (1955) as Sherry Conley .
– Black Widow (1954) as Carlotta Marin .
– Forever Female (1954) as Beatrice Page .
– Twist of Fate (1954) as [Joan] Johnny Victor .
– Dreamboat (1952) as Gloria Marlowe .
– We’re Not Married! (1952) as Ramona Gladwyn .
– Monkey Business (1952) as Edwina Fulton .
– The Groom Wore Spurs (1951) as Abigail J. [A. J.] Furnival .
– Storm Warning (1951) as Marsha Mitchell .
– Perfect Strangers (1950) as Terry Scott .
– The Barkleys of Broadway (1949) as Dinah Barkley .
– It Had to Be You (1947) as Victoria Stafford .
– Heartbeat (1946) as Arlette Lefon .
– Magnificent Doll (1946) as Dorthea “Dolly” Payne Madison .
– Week-End at the Waldorf (1945) as Irene Malvern, the actress .
– Lady in the Dark (1944) as Liza Elliott .
– Tender Comrade (1944) as Jo Jones .
– I’ll Be Seeing You (1944) as Mary Marshall .
– Roxie Hart (1942) as Roxie Hart .
– The Major and the Minor (1942) as Susan Applegate [also known as Su-su Applegate] .
– Tales of Manhattan (1942) as Diane .
– Once Upon a Honeymoon (1942) as Katie O’Hara Von Luber also known as Katherine Butt-Smith .
– Tom, Dick and Harry (1941) as Janie .
– Lucky Partners (1940) as Jean Newton .
– Kitty Foyle (1940) as Kitty Foyle .
– Primrose Path (1940) as Ellie May Adams .
– The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle (1939) as Irene Castle .
– Bachelor Mother (1939) as Polly Parrish .
– Fifth Avenue Girl (1939) as Mary Grey .
– Having Wonderful Time (1938) as Teddy [Shaw] .
– Carefree (1938) as Amanda Cooper .
– Vivacious Lady (1938) as Francey [Morgan] .
– Shall We Dance (1937) as Linda Keene .
– Stage Door (1937) as Jean Maitland .
– Swing Time (1936) as Penelope “Penny” Carrol .
– Follow the Fleet (1936) as Sherry Martin .
– In Person (1935) as Carol Corliss, also known as Miss Colfax .
– Romance in Manhattan (1935) as Sylvia Dennis .
– Roberta (1935) as [Comtesse “Tanka”] Scharwenka [also known as Lizzie Gatz] .
– Star of Midnight (1935) as Donna Mantin .
– Top Hat (1935) as Dale Tremont .
– Twenty Million Sweethearts (1934) as Peggy [Cornell] .
– Upper World (1934) as Lilly [Linder] .
– Finishing School (1934) as [Celeste] Pony [Ferris] .
– Change of Heart (1934) as Madge Rountree .
– The Gay Divorcee (1934) as Mimi [Glossop] .
– Sitting Pretty (1933) as Dorothy .
– Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933) as Fay [Fortune] .
– 42nd Street (1933) as Ann [Anytime Annie Lowell] .
– Chance at Heaven (1933) as Marjorie “Marje” Harris .
– Professional Sweetheart (1933) as Glory [Eden] .
– Flying Down to Rio (1933) as Honey Hale .
– Broadway Bad (1933) as Flip Daly .
– Rafter Romance (1933) as Mary [Carroll] .
– A Shriek in the Night (1933) as Patricia Morgan .
– Hat Check Girl (1932) as Jessie King .
– The Tenderfoot (1932) as Ruth .
– Carnival Boat (1932) as Honey .
– You Said a Mouthful (1932) as Alice Brandon .
– The Thirteenth Guest (1932) as Marie Morgan .
– Suicide Fleet (1931) as Sally .
– Honor Among Lovers (1931) as Doris Brown .
– The Tip-Off (1931) as Baby Face .
– Young Man of Manhattan (1930) as Puff Randolph .
– The Sap From Syracuse (1930) as Ellen Saunders .
– Queen High (1930) as Polly Rockwell
– Follow the Leader (1930) as Mary Brennan
–Hotel (1987) Natalie Trent
– Glitter (1979)
-The Love Boat (1979) Stella Logan
-Here’s Lucy (TV Series) 1965/II
-Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre (TV Series) 1963-1964
-The Red Skelton Hour (TV Series) 1963 —
–Vacation Playhouse (TV Series) Elizabeth Harcourt / Margaret Harcourt 1960
–The Steve Allen Plymouth Show (TV Series) Sketch Actress / Singer Episode dated 16 May 1960 (1960) … Sketch Actress / Singer
-Zane Grey Theater (TV Series) Angie Cartwright Never Too Late (1960) … Angie Cartwright
–The DuPont Show with June Allyson (TV Series) Kay Neilson The Tender Shoot (1959) … Kay Neilson
-Musical Playhouse (TV Series) Lisa Marvin Carissima (1959) … Lisa Marvin
-The Milton Berle Show (TV Series) Episode dated 6 May 1959 (1959)
- 1936 Commission as the only woman admiral of the Texas Navy
- 1940 Best Actress in a Leading Role Academy Award for her dramatic performance in Kitty Foyle, where she played a young lady from the wrong side of the tracks.
- 1952 Golden Globe Nomination for her role in Monkey Business.
- 1972 Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts at Austin College in Sherman, Texas.
- 1991 Houston International Film Festival, Lifetime Achievement Award.
- 1991 Friends of Childhelp, Lifetime Achievement Award.
- 1992 The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Kennedy Center Honors, an award recognizing the lifelong accomplishments and extraordinary talents of America’s most prestigious artists. Other recipients include Ella Fitzgerald, Shirley Temple, Lillian Gish, Bette Davis, Frank Sinatra and Chuck Berry, among others
- 1995 Women’s International Center’s Living Legacy Awards, an award recognizing stunning contributions to humanity and the enduring legacies they have given to humankind. Other recipients include Helen Hayes, Janet Reno, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Kate Smith, Betty Ford, and Mother Teresa, among others.
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