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Gwen Verdon

Gwen Verdon

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Also Known As: Gwenyth Evelyn Verdon,Gwyneth Verdon Died: October 18, 2000
Born: January 13, 1925 Cause of Death: natural causes
Birth Place: Culver City, California, USA Profession: Cast ... actor singer dancer choreographer dance teacher to Hollywood stars Hollywood columnist
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BIOGRAPHY

Petite, saucy redheaded star of Broadway musicals during their golden age in the 1950s, 60s and 70s. A child tap dancer and daughter of a Hollywood studio gaffer, Verdon took a stab at a variety of careers--from dance instruction to reviewing the nightclub scene for The Hollywood Reporter where she first saw the legendary jazz choreographer Jack Cole's work in the late 1940s. She worked both as his assistant choreographer and principal dancer before making her adult film debut in a small part in the "Popo the Puppet" number with Danny Kaye in "On the Riviera", followed by a bit as a slave girl in "David and Bathsheba" (both 1951). Verdon became an overnight Broadway sensation as a show-stopping featured dancer in Cole Porter's "Can Can" (1953); it was her work with her choreographer and later her husband Bob Fosse, however, that made her a four-time Tony winning Broadway legend. Beginning with the seductive witch Lola of "Damn Yankees", the couple fashioned an onstage persona for Verdon that combined the disparate elements of an alluring vamp--whether prostitute or hardened murderer--with an inner sweetness and a heartbreaking vulnerability. Highlighting Verdon's unique talents--her peerless dance technique, sexy figure and fragile, wistful, slightly hoarse voice, Fosse and Verdon created a string of memorable tough gals in "New Girl in Town", "Redhead", "Sweet Charity" and "Chicago" before Verdon voluntarily retired from active dancing in the mid-1970s. Although legally separated from Fosse, she continued to work with him as an assistant choreographer and dance supervisor on his "Dancin'" (1978) and the 1987 revival of "Sweet Charity", during rehearsals of which he died in Washington with Verdon at his side.

With the exception of the faithful 1958 film adaptation of "Damn Yankees" (the only chance she got to recreate a stage role on film), Verdon's film career has book-ended her Broadway stardom; she returned to films in the 1980s as a warm, mature and spunky character performer in such films as "The Cotton Club" (1984), "Cocoon" (1985) and its 1988 sequel, "Nadine" (1987), Woody Allen's "Alice" (1990) and "Marvin's Room" (1996). In the latter, she was the dotty aunt of Meryl Streep and Diane Keaton.

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