Ginger Rogers


Actor, Dancer
Ginger Rogers

About

Also Known As
Virginia Katherine Mcmath
Birth Place
Independence, Missouri, USA
Born
July 16, 1911
Died
April 25, 1995
Cause of Death
Natural Causes

Biography

As the saying went about Ginger Rogers, she could do everything that her famous dance partner, Fred Astaire, could do, but she did it backwards and in high heels. That declaration neatly summed up the career of the Oscar-winning actress, which was marked by her seemingly limitless talents, which included starring in 10 sparkling screen musicals with Astaire, as well as subtle comedies li...

Photos & Videos

Finishing School - Lobby Card
Tom, Dick and Harry - Title Lobby Card
Vivacious Lady - Publicity Stills

Family & Companions

Edward Jackson Culpepper
Husband
Vaudevillian. Married in 1928; separated in 1929; divorced in 1931; performed with wife in duo act, "Ginger and Pepper".
Fred Astaire
Companion
Dancer. Met in 1930 when he did uncredited dance direction on "Girl Crazy"; dated briefly.
Lew Ayres
Husband
Actor. Second husband; married 1934-41; couple acted together in "Don't Bet on Love" (1933); separated in the late 1930s; Ayres also starred in such films as "All Quiet on the Western Front" (1930), "Holiday" (1938), "Johnny Belinda" (1948) and a series of Dr. Kildare films for MGM; career harmed during WWII when he declared himself a conscientious objector; still served in a non-combative role; later an author on the subject of comparative theology; died on December 30, 1996.
Howard Hughes
Companion
Industrialist, aviator, film producer. Involved with Rogers during late 1930s; she reportedly broke off their engagement when she discovered he was being unfaithful.

Bibliography

"Shall We Dance: The Life of Ginger Rogers"
Sheridan Morley (1996)
"Ginger Rogers: A Bio-Bibliography"
Greenwood Press (1994)
"Ginger: My Story"
Ginger Rogers, HarperCollins (1991)
"Astaire Dancing"
John Mueller (1985)

Notes

"You bring out a lot of your own thoughts and ideals when acting ... You know, there's nothing damnable about being a strong woman. The world needs strong women. There are lots of strong women who are ... helping ... mothering strong men; they want to remain unseen. It's kind of nice to be able to play a strong woman who is seen." --Ginger Rogers

"She gives him sex, and he gives her class." --Katharine Hepburn's explanation of the onscreen chemistry between Rogers and Astaire, offered at a time when the team was at a popular and critical peak and Hepburn's popularity was ebbing

Biography

As the saying went about Ginger Rogers, she could do everything that her famous dance partner, Fred Astaire, could do, but she did it backwards and in high heels. That declaration neatly summed up the career of the Oscar-winning actress, which was marked by her seemingly limitless talents, which included starring in 10 sparkling screen musicals with Astaire, as well as subtle comedies like Stage Door" (1937) and "The Major and the Minor" (1942), as well as heartfelt dramas like "Kitty Foyle" (1940). Rogers had achieved stardom on Broadway before she was 20, and began making feature films shortly thereafter, but it was her collaborations with Astaire that elevated her from movie star to screen icon. Their dance routines were the epitome of class and grace, as well as possessing a chaste sexiness that transcended the censorial limitations of the period. Astaire himself would credit her as one of his best screen partners, but their films together were just the start of her long and storied career. A decade's worth of solo features followed her musical heyday, culminating with her Oscar triumph as a headstrong girl determined to find happiness in "Kitty Foyle." Though her movie career declined in the early 1950s, Rogers remained a star on Broadway and nightclubs for another two decades, as well as a welcome figure on television, where she regaled audiences with stories of her past work. Rogers' star never truly dimmed, both in her lifetime and after it, and her screen presence, whether in the arms of Astaire or on her own, remained one of Hollywood's greatest treasures. She was born Virginia Katherine McMath on July 16, 1911 in Independence, MO, the only child of electrical engineer William Eddins McMath and his wife Lela Emogene Owens, a screenwriter and reporter. From an early age, she was referred to as "Ginja," which came from a young cousin who was unable to pronounce "Virginia." Rogers' parents split shortly after she was born, which resulted in an acrimonious custody battle. During this time, Lela Owens was working in Hollywood, so Rogers spent part of her childhood at her grandparents' home in Kansas City. Later, her mother married John Logan Rogers and moved with her daughter to Fort Worth, TX to work as a theater critic. Although never formally adopted by Rogers, Ginger took his surname as her own. The bubbly child was interested in dance from an early age, performing frequently at local charity shows and school productions, but her passion truly blossomed when her mother brought her along to various stage productions. There, Rogers reportedly danced and sang along with the performers. At 14, she won the Texas State Charleston Competition, which earned her a four-week tour of Texas cities on the Interstate Theatre Circuit. With two redheaded Charleston dancers as her accompaniment, the act, billed as "Ginger and the Redheads," drew such crowds at each stop that the tour was extended to a six-month jaunt through the Western states. Rogers briefly developed a vaudeville act with her first husband, Jack Culpepper, who performed a singing and comedy act under the name of Jack Pepper. Their partnership, billed as "Ginger and Pepper," had an even shorter lifespan than their marriage, which lasted from 1929 until they parted amicably in 1931. Rogers soon established herself as a solo act with lengthy runs in Chicago and St. Louis. Rogers also sang with Chicago bandleader Paul Ash's orchestra, and traveled with them to New York City to perform at the Paramount Theatre on Broadway in 1929. There, she landed her first stage role as the ingÈnue in the musical "Top Speed," which earned her critical raves as well as the attention of Paramount Pictures, which signed her to a seven-year contract. In 1930, the 19-year-old Rogers made her feature film debut as a saucy flapper in "Young Man of Manhattan," a breezy show business comedy starring Claudette Colbert and Charles Ruggles. As Puff Randolph, Rogers uttered the immortal line "Cigarette me, big boy," which soon became a national catch phrase. That same year, Rogers earned her first starring role on Broadway in "Girl Crazy." Top billed with another up-and-coming actress-singer, Ethel Merman, the show made Rogers a star, and minted two of her numbers, "Embraceable You" and "But Not For Me", as instant classics. At the end of her Broadway run, she dove into motion pictures, making four pictures in 1930 alone. None were particularly memorable, with Rogers usually playing dizzy blondes, and she soon freed herself of her Paramount contract before lighting out for Hollywood with her mother. Once there, she worked for a variety of studios in unremarkable pictures until 1933's "42nd Street" for Warner Bros. Cast as chorus girl Ann "Anytime Annie" Lowell, she established her screen persona as a brassy, worldly-wise girl who dove into songs and dance numbers with boundless enthusiasm. In 1933, she starred in "Gold Diggers of 1933," an opulent musical with choreography by Busby Berkeley, who showcased her in a jaw-dropping rendition of "We're In the Money," which featured the barely clad showgirl dancing before colossal coins while Rogers delivered part of the number in pig Latin. Rogers was also adept at light comedy, as evidenced by her fast-talking turn as a reporter opposite her second husband, actor Lew Ayres, in "A Shriek in the Night" (1933). But musicals remained her most prominent showcase during this period, and in 1934, she signed with RKO to make "Flying Down to Rio," a romantic comedy with Gene Raymond as a bandleader who falls for a flirtatious Brazilian girl (Dolores Del Rio) while performing in Miami. Billed fourth and fifth in the credits were Rogers as Honey Hale, the band's singer, and Fred Astaire as Fred Ayres, Raymond's assistant. Their first dance together was "Carioca," a ballroom number in which they perform with their foreheads touching. The chemistry between the pair was immediately palpable to viewers, many of whom felt that they stole the picture away from the leads. Astaire and Rogers were soon minted as a screen dance team, and earned their first starring roles in "The Gay Divorcee" (1934), which featured a 20-minute routine to "The Continental" at its conclusion. Astaire was a notorious perfectionist who often drove stage and screen partners to distraction with his endless rehearsals. But Rogers proved to be not only his most enduring co-star, but also his most durable. She had never performed with a dance partner prior to "Flying Down to Rio," and though an accomplished dancer, lacked certain skills like tap, that would be essential elements of their subsequent collaborations. But she did possess two attributes that helped her overcome these obstacles: she was doggedly determined to succeed, a gift from her ambitious mother that helped her to master difficult steps and routines. And she was a talented actress who was able to convey romance, grace and poise through physical presence and facial expression. The end result was a combination of movement and performance that elevated Rogers and Astaire's 33 paired routines to the vanguard of style in Hollywood dance and provide the ultimate escapism for audiences suffering through the Great Depression. Keeping RKO studios afloat throughout the 1930s, Astaire and Rogers made 10 films together, beginning with 1933's "Flying Down to Rio" and concluding 16 years later with "The Barkleys of Broadway" (1949), in which Rogers stepped in for an ailing Judy Garland. Critics and fans found their respective favorites among the pictures, though the most financially successful was unquestionably "Top Hat" (1935), a lively screwball comedy with Astaire as an American tap dancer who attempts to woo a reluctant Rogers. The film featured one of their most memorable numbers, "Cheek to Cheek," in which Astaire wins over the headstrong Rogers through a complex, dreamlike routine that suggested verbal sparring before she succumbed to his charm with her signature deep backbend. The couple would enjoy similar moments of brilliance in subsequent films, like the syncopated "Waltz in Swing Time" from "Swing Time" (1936) which simultaneously expanded the boundaries of screen elegance while poking gentle fun at it, and a lovely foxtrot to "They Can?øøt Take That Away from Me" in "Shall We Dance" (1937), among many other scenes indelibly etched in the minds of musical fans around the world. Despite the acclaim Rogers enjoyed from these films, she was treated as one of the supporting cast by RKO, and in fact, was paid less than many of them. Her mother, Lela Rogers, proved to be her ace in the hole in terms of fostering both financial and artistic respect from the studio. Rogers had been a tough but caring stage mother since her daughter's debut in the 1920s, and personally oversaw the shooting of many of her films to make sure her daughter was regarded as a star. "Shall We Dance" marked the apex of the Astaire-Rogers collaborations, as well as the final days of the Depression Era musical. Skyrocketing production costs in the face of a national debt made studio chiefs turn to dramas and comedies for their box office take, and the pair would make just two more films, 1938's "Carefree" and "The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle" (1939). The latter, a biopic of the popular World War I dance team, was considered a failure because of its downbeat ending in which Astaire, as Vernon Castle, dies during military service, but in truth, it was the genre that had collapsed, not the duo's screen popularity. During this period, Rogers had worked tirelessly to maintain her identity as a performer outside of her partnership with Astaire through brassy comedies and emotional dramas. Her naturally brassy persona shone through in the former in pictures like the Broadway showgirls slice-of-life "Stage Door" (1937) and "Roxie Hart" (1942), a highly sanitized biopic of the showgirl whose scandalous murder case was also the subject of the musical "Chicago." But she also excelled at "women's pictures" like "I'll Be Seeing You" (1944), a handkerchief-heavy romance between a shell-shocked soldier (Joseph Cotton) and a convict (Rogers) on furlough. Rogers' solo career hit its high point with 1940's "Kitty Foyle," a sudsy drama penned by Dalton Trumbo about a working-class girl who falls in love with a wealthy but spineless publisher (Dennis Morgan). She earned the Best Actress Oscar for her performance, and for a time, she was the highest paid and most in-demand actress in Hollywood. Having severed ties with RKO, she moved freely among the studios, cherry-picking quality projects like Billy Wilder's comedy "The Major and the Minor" (1942), with Rogers masquerading as a 12-year-old girl in order to avoid paying a full train fare, and "Lady in the Dark" (1944), an adaptation of the Kurt Weill/Ira Gershwin musical about a woman publisher (Rogers) undergoing psychoanalysis. Rogers was even the hero of Ginger Rogers and the Riddle of the Scarlet Cloak, a girls' adventure novel in the vein of the "Nancy Drew" series penned by her mother. The success of her films and other projects allowed her to purchase a 1,000-acre ranch in Southern Oregon, where she lived with her mother and built a dairy complex that supplied milk to Camp White, a nearby military cantonment, throughout World War II. In 1969, she sold her home in Beverly Hills to live in Oregon permanently until 1990. Rogers married her third husband, Marine Jack Briggs in 1943, but the marriage ended in 1949, which also marked the decline of her status as a leading lady. Her films had drifted into weak melodrama territory, and with the exception of "The Barkleys of Broadway" (1949), a charming musical which reunited her with Astaire, and "Monkey Business" (1952), a cute screwball comedy by Howard Hawks that co-starred Cary Grant and a little-known Marilyn Monroe, her output saw few successes. She co-starred with Clint Eastwood in "The First Traveling Saleslady" (1956), one of the last productions by her old employer, RKO Pictures, and flitted between features and television until 1965, when she made her final film appearance as Jean Harlow's mother in the wan biopic "Harlow." Rogers maintained a reduced profile in the 1950s and early 1960s; she had married actor Jacques Bergerac, a Frenchman 16 years her junior, in 1953, but the union only lasted four years. In 1961, she married bandleader-turned-actor William Marshall, who produced one of her final movies, a lackluster adventure called "The Confession" (1964) with Ray Milland. Marshall's issues with alcohol forced a separation, but the couple did not formally divorce until 1969. Rogers bounced back the following year in the Broadway production of "Hello, Dolly!" The musical, which had starred Carol Channing, had been performing poorly at the box office, but ticket sales soared when she took over as Dolly Levi for an 18-month run. Four years later, she scored a second stage success with "Mame" in London, which ran for 14 months and included a Royal Command Performance for Queen Elizabeth II. Despite the end of her screen career, Rogers' popularity never diminished with moviegoers, who eagerly followed her numerous appearances on talk and variety shows throughout the 1960s and 1970s. She also remained on friendly terms with Astaire, whom she presented a special Academy Award in 1950; when the duo broke out into an improvised dance during an appearance at the 1967 awards, they received a standing ovation from the audience. Rogers kept herself in the public eye as a spokesperson for JC Penney, and even designed a line of lingerie for them. She later launched a successful nightclub tour that took her around the world. Rogers also expressed an interest in women's rights, as noted by a speech at the Congressional Women's Luncheon in 1973, which was later read into the Congressional Record. In 1986, Rogers fulfilled a lifelong ambition to direct when she oversaw an off-Broadway production of "Babes in Arms" in Tarrytown, New York. She made her final screen appearance in a 1987 episode of "Hotel" (ABC, 1983-88) before publishing her autobiography, Ginger: My Story, in 1991. Rogers then settled into a series of well-deserved accolades from her peers. Chief among these was the Kennedy Center Honors, which paid tribute to her in 1992. The event was somewhat overshadowed by Astaire's widow, Robyn Smith, who refused to allow film clips of her husband with Rogers to be shown during the subsequent CBS broadcast. Rogers' final public appearance came in March of 1995, when she received the Women's International Center Living Legend award. A month later, on April 25, 1995, Rogers died of congestive heart failure at the age of 83 while at her winter home in Rancho Mirage, CA. She was interred at the Oakwood Memorial Park in Chatsworth, CA in a plot next to her mother, and only a short distance away from the grave of Fred Astaire.

Filmography

 

Cast (Feature Film)

That's Entertainment! III (1994)
Harlow (1965)
Mama Jean
Oh, Men! Oh, Women! (1957)
Mildred Turner
Teenage Rebel (1956)
Nancy Fallon
The First Traveling Saleslady (1956)
Rose Gillray
Tight Spot (1955)
Sherry Conley
Black Widow (1954)
Carlotta Marin
Forever Female (1954)
Beatrice Page
Twist of Fate (1954)
[Joan] Johnny Victor
We're Not Married! (1952)
Ramona Gladwyn
Dreamboat (1952)
Gloria Marlowe
Monkey Business (1952)
Edwina Fulton
The Groom Wore Spurs (1951)
Abigail J. [A. J.] Furnival
Storm Warning (1951)
Marsha Mitchell
Perfect Strangers (1950)
Terry Scott
The Barkleys of Broadway (1949)
Dinah Barkley
It Had to Be You (1947)
Victoria Stafford
Heartbeat (1946)
Arlette Lefon
Magnificent Doll (1946)
Dorthea "Dolly" Payne Madison
Week-End at the Waldorf (1945)
Irene Malvern, the actress
Lady in the Dark (1944)
Liza Elliott
Tender Comrade (1944)
Jo Jones
I'll Be Seeing You (1944)
Mary Marshall
Once Upon a Honeymoon (1942)
Katie O'Hara Von Luber also known as Katherine Butt-Smith
The Major and the Minor (1942)
Susan Applegate [also known as Su-su Applegate]
Roxie Hart (1942)
Roxie Hart
Tales of Manhattan (1942)
Diane
Tom, Dick and Harry (1941)
Janie
Lucky Partners (1940)
Jean Newton
Primrose Path (1940)
Ellie May Adams
Kitty Foyle (1940)
Kitty Foyle
The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle (1939)
Irene Castle
Bachelor Mother (1939)
Polly Parrish
Fifth Avenue Girl (1939)
Mary Grey
Carefree (1938)
Amanda Cooper
Vivacious Lady (1938)
Francey [Morgan]
Having Wonderful Time (1938)
Teddy [Shaw]
Stage Door (1937)
Jean Maitland
Shall We Dance (1937)
Linda Keene
Swing Time (1936)
Penelope "Penny" Carrol
Follow the Fleet (1936)
Sherry Martin
Star of Midnight (1935)
Donna Mantin
Top Hat (1935)
Dale Tremont
Romance in Manhattan (1935)
Sylvia Dennis
In Person (1935)
Carol Corliss, also known as Miss Colfax
Roberta (1935)
[Comtesse "Tanka"] Scharwenka [also known as Lizzie Gatz]
The Gay Divorcee (1934)
Mimi [Glossop]
Finishing School (1934)
[Celeste] Pony [Ferris]
Twenty Million Sweethearts (1934)
Peggy [Cornell]
Upper World (1934)
Lilly [Linder]
Change of Heart (1934)
Madge Rountree
Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933)
Fay [Fortune]
42nd Street (1933)
Ann [Anytime Annie Lowell]
Don't Bet on Love (1933)
Molly Gilbert
Professional Sweetheart (1933)
Glory [Eden]
A Shriek in the Night (1933)
Patricia Morgan
Rafter Romance (1933)
Mary [Carroll]
Chance at Heaven (1933)
Marjorie "Marje" Harris
Broadway Bad (1933)
Flip Daly
Sitting Pretty (1933)
Dorothy
Flying Down to Rio (1933)
Honey Hale
You Said a Mouthful (1932)
Alice Brandon
The Tenderfoot (1932)
Ruth
Carnival Boat (1932)
Honey
The Thirteenth Guest (1932)
Marie Morgan
Hat Check Girl (1932)
Jessie King
Honor Among Lovers (1931)
Doris Brown
The Tip-Off (1931)
Baby Face
Suicide Fleet (1931)
Sally
Follow the Leader (1930)
Mary Brennan
Queen High (1930)
Polly Rockwell
The Sap From Syracuse (1930)
Ellen Saunders
Young Man of Manhattan (1930)
Puff Randolph

Music (Feature Film)

Me and Orson Welles (2009)
Song Performer

Cast (Special)

Bob Hope: The First Ninety Years (1993)
The 65th Annual Academy Awards Presentation (1993)
Performer
The Kennedy Center Honors: A Celebration of the Performing Arts (1992)
Happy Birthday, Hollywood! (1987)
Irving Berlin's America (1986)
Texas 150: A Celebration Special (1986)
The American Film Institute Salute to Billy Wilder (1986)
Performer
The Night of 100 Stars II (1985)
George Stevens: A Filmmaker's Journey (1984)
Herself
Legends of the Screen (1983)
Guest
Bob Hope Special: Bob Hope's Women I Love - Beautiful but Funny (1982)
The All-Star Salute to Mother's Day (1981)
Accent On Love (1959)
Guest
Tonight at 8:30 (1954)
Lily Pepper (Story 1), Laura Jesson (Story 2), Victoria Gayforth (Story 3)

Misc. Crew (Special)

George Stevens: A Filmmaker's Journey (1984)
Other

Cast (Short)

Hollywood Newsreel (1934)
Herself
A Night in a Dormatory (1929)

Life Events

1917

Offered a part in a Fox film while mother was working as a scriptwriter; mother refused to let her work after the first day

1925

Briefly worked as substitute dancer for Eddie Foy in vaudeville

1926

Began working regularly on the vaudeville circuit: billed as "Ginger and Her Redheads", toured Oklahoma and Texas with two other dancers, after winning a statewide Charleston contest in Texas; the two "redheads" who performed with her had finished second and third in the contest and were engaged by Rogers' mother; later did a solo act

1928

Worked as band singer with Paul Ash's orchestra in New York (date approximate)

1929

Success on Broadway in supporting role in musical "Top Speed" (singing "Hot and Bothered") led to screen test at Parmount's Astoria, Long Island Studio; signed by Paramount

1929

Appeared in a number of short subjects including "A Night in a Dormitory" (1929) and "Office Blues" (1930)

1930

Made feature film debut at Paramount's studios in Astoria, Queens, as a Jazz Age flapper in "Young Man of Manhattan", in which she uttered a line which enjoyed a nationwide popularity, "Cigarette me, big boy!"

1930

Played female lead in her first feature musical film, "Queen High"

1930

Returned to Broadway as female lead (at age 19) of George and Ira Gershwin's successful "Girl Crazy", earning $1,000 per week; introduced the song standards "Embraceable You" and "But Not for Me"; first met Fred Astaire (whom she dated briefly), who helped stage one of her dance numbers

1931

Moved out to Hollywood; first West Coast-produced feature, "The Tip Off"; made several films for RKO-Pathe

1932

Composed song, "The Gal Who Used to Be You" which she sang in a short film, "Hollywood on Parade #1"

1932

Named one of the WAMPAS "Baby Stars" of 1932

1932

First top-billed role in "The Thirteenth Guest"

1933

Famous career moment: performing cheerful Depression-era anthem, "We're in the Money", in pig Latin in "Golddiggers of 1933"

1933

Signed with RKO

1933

Played early showcase part in RKO's "Professional Sweetheart"; one of her earliest films which was built up as a "vehicle" for her talents

1933

First film with Fred Astaire, "Flying Down to Rio", in which they played supporting roles

1934

First co-starring vehicle with Astaire, "The Gay Divorcee"

1936

Radio debut in "The Curtain Rises" with Warren William on "Lux Radio Theater"

1937

Enjoyed notable success without Astaire in "Stage Door"

1938

First of four appearances on the cover of "Life" magazine

1939

Last RKO musical with Fred Astaire, "The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle"

1939

Invited to place her hand and footprints and her signature in cement at Grauman's Chinese Theater

1941

Opted not to renew her exclusive contract with RKO and began free-lancing; signed nonexclusive pact with the studio

1944

Starred in first film in color, Paramount's "Lady in the Dark"; film also featured the famous mink and sequins gown which cost over $30,000 at the time and was later donated to and kept on display at the Smithsonian Institute; Rogers' entire wardrobe for the film cost $150,000-200,000

1945

Highest-paid woman in the US, earning over $250,000; was also America's 8th highest paid person overall that year

1946

Starred in rare historical drama, "Magnificent Doll", in which she played First Lady Dolley Madison

1946

First film made through nonexclusive RKO deal in three years, "Heartbeat", was also her last for the studio for a decade

1948

Displeased with the scripts RKO sent her, Rogers and studio ended her nonexclusive contract by mutual consent

1949

Reunited with Fred Astaire when called on to replace an ailing Judy Garland in "The Barkleys of Broadway"

1950

Presented Fred Astaire with a special Oscar at the Academy Awards ceremony for 1949 films

1951

Returned to Broadway to star in a dual role Louis Verneuil's unsuccessful comedy, "Live and Let Love"; for one part she was billed as "Ginger Rogers" and for the other she was credited under her birth name "Virginia McMath"; show closed after 51 performances, though Rogers received good reviews

1951

Made last of four appearances on the cover of "Life" magazine, in connection with her return to Broadway after 20 years

1954

Made TV debut in "Tonight at 8:30", a version of three short plays by Noel Coward

1954

Starred in first film not made in the United States, the British-produced "Beautiful Stranger" (U.S. Release title, "Twist of Fate")

1957

Starred in last feature film for seven years, "Oh Men! Oh Women!"

1958

Starred in TV variety special, "The Ginger Rogers Show"

1959

Made Las Vegas performing debut at the Riviera Hotel

1959

Starred in a live British TV adaptation of the musical, "Carissima"; oddly enough, the role as staged gave her the opportunities to neither sing nor dance

1959

Starred in tour of a bound-for-Broadway musical comedy, "The Pink Jungle", opposite Agnes Moorehead; play performed in several cities, but show had various problems with script, cast and production and the show never made it to Broadway

1963

Made a pilot for a TV comedy series, "The Ginger Rogers Show", in which she played twin sisters Elisabeth and Margaret Harcourt; option on possible series not picked up

1964

Played the Queen on a TV version of Rodgers's and Hammerstein's musical version of "Cinderella", with Leslie Ann Warren in the title role

1964

Rogers and husband G. William Marshall set up production deal to make their own films, shooting in Jamaica; encountered production, budgeting and bureaucratic problems on the one film they made, "The Confession", starring Rogers; resulting film turned out poorly and was only distributed in 1971 in select areas under titles include "Quick, Let's Get Married" and "Seven Different Ways"

1965

Final dramatic film role, played Jean Harlow's mother in the biopic, "Harlow"

1967

Reunited with Fred Astaire on Academy Awards broadcast, when they presented the writing awards; did a 30-second impromptu dance bit together while en route to the podium which received a huge audience response and caused considerable media hubbub

1971

Toured US in the musical, "Coco"; attracted media attention when she refused to utter one four-letter word in the script

1972

Signed a seven-year deal to act as traveling fashion consultant for J.C. Penney Stores

1975

Starred onstage in the spring in Chicago in romantic comedy, "Forty Carats", then toured with show during the summer

1978

Recorded an album of songs in England for EMI called "Miss Ginger Rogers"

1980

Performed a capsule version of her touring show at Radio City Music Hall

1980

Starred in a summer production of "Anything Goes" opposite Sid Caesar

1983

Career feted on the syndicated documentary TV special, "Legends of the Screen"

1987

Made directorial debut staging a revival of the musical comedy play, "Babes in Arms"

1987

Appeared in the "Hail and Farewell" episode of the ABC series "Hotel"

1988

Unsuccessfully sued the Italian producers of Fellini's film "Ginger and Fred" for invasion of privacy

1991

Made television appearance as guest interviewee along with June Allyson, Jane Powell, and Esther Williams on "Burt Reynolds Conversations With..."

1995

Last public appearances included those at a photo session for a Vanity Fair magazine issue dedicated to Hollywood and at a Screen Actors Guild tribute (Rogers was one of the original 100 members of the actors union when it was founded in the early 1930s)

Photo Collections

Finishing School - Lobby Card
Finishing School - Lobby Card
Tom, Dick and Harry - Title Lobby Card
Tom, Dick and Harry - Title Lobby Card
Vivacious Lady - Publicity Stills
Here are some photos taken to help publicize RKO's Vivacious Lady (1938), starring Ginger Rogers and James Stewart. Publicity stills were specially-posed photos, usually taken off the set, for purposes of publicity or reference for promotional artwork.
Swing Time - Ginger Rogers Behind-the-Scenes Photos
Here are a few photos taken behind-the-scenes during production of RKO's Swing Time (1936), in which co-star Ginger Rogers is rehearsing with choreographer Hermes Pan.
Having Wonderful Time - Movie Posters
Having Wonderful Time - Movie Posters
Tight Spot - Movie Posters
Tight Spot - Movie Posters
Tight Spot - Lobby Card Set
Tight Spot - Lobby Card Set
Tight Spot - Behind-the-Scenes Photos
Tight Spot - Behind-the-Scenes Photos
I'll Be Seeing You - Publicity Stills
I'll Be Seeing You - Publicity Stills
The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle - Movie Posters
The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle - Movie Posters
The Gay Divorcee - Herald
Here is the herald for RKO's The Gay Divorcee (1934), starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. Heralds were advertising handouts that studios provided to theater owners for distribution around their town.
Vivacious Lady - Publicity Art
Here are some pieces of advertising art created by RKO to publicize Vivacious Lady (1937), starring Ginger Rogers and James Stewart.
Bachelor Mother - Publicity Stills
Here are a few Publicity Stills taken for Bachelor Mother (1939), starring Ginger Rogers and David Niven. Publicity stills were specially-posed photos, usually taken off the set, for purposes of publicity or reference for promotional artwork.
Top Hat - Behind-the-Scenes Photos
Here are several photos taken behind-the-scenes during production of RKO's Top Hat (1935), starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers and directed by Mark Sandrich.
Follow the Fleet - Behind-the-Scenes Photos
Here are a few photos taken behind-the-scenes during production of Follow the Fleet (1936), starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.
Stage Door - Lobby Cards
Here are a few Lobby Cards from RKO's Stage Door (1937), starring Katharine Hepburn and Ginger Rogers. Lobby Cards were 11" x 14" posters that came in sets of 8. As the name implies, they were most often displayed in movie theater lobbies, to advertise current or coming attractions.
Tender Comrade - Movie Posters
Here are a few movie posters from RKO's Tender Comrade (1944), starring Ginger Rogers and Robert Ryan.
Bachelor Mother - Lobby Cards
Here are a few Lobby Cards from Bachelor Mother (1939), starring Ginger Rogers and David Niven. Lobby Cards were 11" x 14" posters that came in sets of 8. As the name implies, they were most often displayed in movie theater lobbies, to advertise current or coming attractions.
Kitty Foyle - Scene Stills
Here are several scene stills from Kitty Foyle (1940), starring Ginger Rogers and Dennis Morgan.
Bachelor Mother - Scene Stills
Here are a few scene stills from RKO's Bachelor Mother (1939), starring Ginger Rogers and David Niven.
Stage Door - Movie Posters
Here are a few original-release American movie posters for Stage Door (1937), starring Katharine Hepburn, Ginger Rogers, and Adolphe Menjou.
Flying Down to Rio - Scene Stills
Here are a few scene stills from RKO's Flying Down to Rio (1933), starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.
Vivacious Lady - Lobby Cards
Here are a few Lobby Cards from RKO's Vivacious Lady (1937), starring Ginger Rogers and James Stewart. Lobby Cards were 11" x 14" posters that came in sets of 8. As the name implies, they were most often displayed in movie theater lobbies, to advertise current or coming attractions.
Shall We Dance - Behind-the-Scenes Pan Photo
Here is a photo taken behind-the-scenes during production of RKO's Shall We Dance (1937). The photo is a unique panoramic shot of the soundstage with cast and crew (so use the ZOOM function for a closer look).
Swing Time - Behind-the-Scenes Photos
Here are a few photos taken behind-the-scenes during production of RKO's Swing Time (1936), directed by George Stevens and starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers.
Carefree - Lobby Cards
Here are several Lobby Cards from Carefree (1938). Lobby Cards were 11" x 14" posters that came in sets of 8. As the name implies, they were most often displayed in movie theater lobbies, to advertise current or coming attractions.
Twenty Million Sweethearts - Lobby Cards
Here are several Lobby Cards from First National's Twenty Million Sweethearts (1934). Lobby Cards were 11" x 14" posters that came in sets of 8. As the name implies, they were most often displayed in movie theater lobbies, to advertise current or coming attractions.
Upper World - Movie Poster
Here is the Window Card from Warner Bros' Upper World (1934), starring Warren William and Ginger Rogers. Window Cards were mini posters designed to be placed in store windows around town during a film's engagement. A blank space at the top of the poster featured theater and playdate information.
Fifth Avenue Girl - Movie Posters
Here are a few original movie posters from RKO's Fifth Avenue Girl (1939), starring Ginger Rogers.
Kitty Foyle - Publicity Stills
Here are a few Publicity Stills from Kitty Foyle (1940), starring Ginger Rogers, Dennis Morgan, and James Craig. Publicity stills were specially-posed photos, usually taken off the set, for purposes of publicity or reference for promotional artwork.
Rafter Romance - Behind-the-Scenes Photos
Here are several photos taken behind-the-scenes during production of RKO's Rafter Romance (1933), directed by William Seiter and starring Ginger Rogers and Norman Foster.
In Person - Lobby Card
Here is a Title Lobby Card from RKO's In Person (1935) starring Ginger Rogers. Lobby Cards were 11" x 14" posters that came in sets of 8. As the name implies, they were most often displayed in movie theater lobbies, to advertise current or coming attractions.
Shall We Dance - Behind-the-Scenes Stills
Here are a few photos taken behind-the-scenes during production of RKO's Shall We Dance (1937), starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers and directed by Mark Sandrich.
Rafter Romance - Movie Posters
Here are two styles of Window Card from RKO's Rafter Romance (1933), starring Ginger Rogers. Window Cards were mini posters designed to be placed in store windows around town during a film's engagement. A blank space at the top of the poster featured theater and playdate infromation.
Rafter Romance - UK Herald
Here is a Herald for the British release of RKO's Rafter Romance (1933), starring Ginger Rogers.
Rafter Romance - Lobby Cards
Here are a few Lobby Cards from Rafter Romance (1933). Lobby Cards were 11" x 14" posters that came in sets of 8. As the name implies, they were most often displayed in movie theater lobbies, to advertise current or coming attractions.
Follow the Fleet - Publicity Stills
Here are some Publicity Stills from RKO's Follow the Fleet (1936), starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. Publicity stills were specially-posed photos, usually taken off the set, for purposes of publicity or reference for promotional artwork.
Rafter Romance - Publicity Stills
Here are a number of Publicity Stills from RKO's Rafter Romance (1933), starring Ginger Rogers and Norman Foster. Publicity stills were specially-posed photos, usually taken off the set, for purposes of publicity or reference for promotional artwork.
Rafter Romance - Scene Stills
Here are a number of scene stills from RKO's Rafter Romance (1933), starring Ginger Rogers and Norman Foster.
Kitty Foyle - Behind-the-Scenes Photo
Here is a photo taken behind-the-scenes during production of Kitty Foyle (1940), directed by Sam Wood and starring Ginger Rogers.
Ginger Rogers - State Express Cigarette Card
This is a small cigarette card of actress Ginger Rogers. These trading cards were included in Cigarette packs in the 30's and 40's and were collectible items. Customers could even purchase books to organize and collect these cards. State Express was an active Cigarette Card producer, creating a wide range of cards featuring famous people of which film stars were an often popular draw.
Player's Cigarette Card of Ginger Rogers, circa 1930s.
This is a small cigarette card for actress Ginger Rogers. These cards were included in Cigarette packs in the 30's and 40's and were collectible items. Customers could even purchase books to organize and collect these cards. John Player & Sons was an active Cigarette Card producer, creating a wide range of cards featuring famous people of which film stars were an often popular draw.

Videos

Movie Clip

Bachelor Mother (1939) - Pay The Fiddler, Man! Department store scion David (David Niven) ambushes employee Polly (Ginger Rogers), just home from a dance contest, whom he wrongly thinks is the mother of a baby left in his custody, causing her to change tactics on the fly, early in RKO's Bachelor Mother, 1939.
You Said A Mouthful (1932) - The Sharks Won't Like The Flavor Nearing the end, Joe E. Brown, a nerd non-swimmer, mistaken for a Canadian champ, thinking he’s wearing the unsinkable swimsuit he invented, with sidekick Farina, desperate to impress Ginger Rogers as heiress Alice, getting ready for the big race from Catalina Island, Preston Foster his rival Ed, in You Said A Mouthful, 1932.
Flying Down To Rio (1933) - Title Song Banned from performing "in" town, Fred (Fred Astaire) does the groundwork for the stage show on airplanes, Honey (Ginger Rogers) out front, song credited to Vincent Youmans, Gus Kahn and Edward Eliscu, in RKO's Flying Down To Rio, 1933.
Flying Down To Rio (1933) - Carioca New in town and preparing for a big-band competition, Fred (Fred Astaire) and Honey (Ginger Rogers) decide to take a turn with the local dance, in Flying Down To Rio, 1933.
Tender Comrade (1943) - Kind Of Red And Uncomfortable On their first night in their new shared house, WWII defense factory workers Jo (Ginger Rogers) and just-married Doris (Kim Hunter) share fairly intimate info, in Tender Comrade, 1943, featuring future blacklist targets Hunter, Mady Christians, writer Dalton Trumbo and director Edward Dmytryk.
Tender Comrade (1943) - You Made Me Love You Speedy path to a flashback getting top-billed Ginger Rogers, as Southern California wartime factory gal Jo, into a sexy outfit (with three, maybe four-inch heels in the back yard!), recalling the proposal by now-deployed Chris (Robert Ryan), in the home-front drama Tender Comrade. 1943.
Tender Comrade (1943) - You Have Very Small Ears Kind of a moment for Ruth Hussey (as Barbara, married to deployed Pete, who might well be a heel), with WWII California factory worker housemates, Kim Hunter, Patricia Collinge and Ginger Rogers (as newlywed Doris, Helen and Jo), about dating other men, in Tender Comrade. 1943.
Tender Comrade (1944) - Awful Bed-Hog Direction by Edward Dnytryk, script by Dalton Trumbo, both future blacklist-ees, soldier Chris (Robert Ryan) comes home to wife Jo (Ginger Rogers), opening Tender Comrade, 1944.
Tender Comrade (1944) - White For Dumbrowski? Looks like at least the crew visited the Douglas Aircraft plant in Long Beach, CA, military wives Jo (Ginger Rogers), Barbara (Ruth Hussey), Helen (Patricia Collinge) and Doris (Kim Hunter, one of her earliest roles), getting lunch in Tender Comrade, 1944.
Swing Time (1936) - A Fine Romance Dance partners Penny (Ginger Rogers) and Lucky (Fred Astaire) are constrained from confessing their love for each other, Pop (Victor Moore) enlisted as his backstop, lyrics by Dorothy Fields written to Jerome Kern's tune to support the plot point, Ginger's vocal first, George Stevens directing, in Swing Time, 1936.
You Said A Mouthful (1932) - You're Just As I Pictured You Joe E. Brown as Joe Holt, in L-A from Iowa, come for his $1-million inheritance and having found out all he got was a servant’s son (Farina), they’re about to take jobs on Catalina Island when Ginger Rogers, age 21, mistakes him for we-don’t-know-who, Guinn Williams the real guy, in You Said A Mouthful, 1932.
Bachelor Mother (1939) - Women And Things Merlin (Charles Coburn), owner of the department store that just dismissed holiday-employee Ginger Rogers, and his heir (David Niven) are introduced, while the head of the foundling home (Ernest Truex), who believes she abandoned her baby, follows, in Bachelor Mother, 1939.

Trailer

Tom, Dick And Harry (1941) -- Original Trailer From RK0, the original theatrical trailer for the follow-up to Ginger Rogers’ Academy Award winning performance in Kitty Foyle, the comedy Tom, Dick And Harry, 1941, starring Ginger, Alan Marshal, George Murphy, and Burgess Meredith.
Twenty Million Sweethearts - (Original Trailer) A promoter (Pat O'Brien) neglects his wife to make a singer (Dick Powell) a radio star in Twenty Million Sweethearts (1934).
Flying Down to Rio - (Original Trailer) A dance-band leader finds love and success in Brazil. The first Fred Astaire-Ginger Rogers movie.
Bachelor Mother - (Re-issue Trailer) Ginger Rogers is a fun-loving shop girl who is mistaken for the mother of a foundling in Bachelor Mother (1939) co-starring David Niven.
Tenderfoot, The - (Original Trailer) Joe E. Brown stars as an innocent cowboy who sets out to back a Broadway play in The Tenderfoot (1932) based on George S. Kaufman's play The Butter And Egg Man.
Gold Diggers of 1933 - (Original Trailer) Three chorus girls fight to keep their show going in order to rich bachelors in Gold Diggers of 1933 starring Joan Blondell.
Roxie Hart - (Original teaser trailer) To try and kick-start her show-business career, a woman (Ginger Rogers) admits to a Chicago murder in Roxie Hart (1942).
Black Widow (1954) - (Original Trailer) A young stage hopeful (Peggy Ann Gardner), is murdered and suspicion falls on her mentor, a Broadway producer (Van Heflin) in Black Widow (1954).
Follow The Fleet - (Re-issue trailer) Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers face the music and dance in the naval musical Follow The Fleet (1936).
Top Hat - (Re-issue Trailer) A woman thinks the man who loves her is her best friend's husband in Top Hat (1935), a romantic comedy starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers and featuring the songs of Irving Berlin.
Lucky Partners - (Original Trailer) Ronald Colman and Ginger Rogers are the Lucky Partners (1940) who win the Irish Sweepstakes. But will they win each other?
Vivacious Lady - (1941 Re-release Trailer) After a whirlwind courtship, a night club singer meets her conservative new in-laws in Vivacious Lady (1937), starring Ginger Rogers & James Stewart.

Hosted Intro

Promo

Family

William Eddins McMath
Father
Electrical engineer. Separated from Lela McMath when Rogers was a small child.
Lela Rogers
Mother
Screenwriter, drama critic, agent. Acted as Ginger's manager; married second husband John Rogers while working as a newspaper reporter in Kansas City (divorced 1929); worked for a time at RKO teaching and promoting new talent; wrote a series of fiction books centered around daughter's character for Whitman publishers in the 1940s; "friendly witness" during the HUAC trials of the 1940s and 50s; made brief appearance as mother of Rogers's character in "The Major and the Minor" (1942); died in 1977.
John Rogers
Step-Father
Insurance salesman. Adopted Ginger Rogers after her father's death; divorced from Lela McMath in 1929.
Rita Hayworth
Cousin
Actor, dancer. Popular film star of the 1940s and 50s; one of WWII's most famous pin-ups; began career in dancing act with her father; films include "Blood and Sand" (1941), "Gilda" (1946), "Miss Sadie Thompson" (1953) and "Pal Joey" (1957); starred in a segment of the anthology film "Tales of Manhattan" (1942), but a different one than the one which highlighted Rogers; not all sources confirm that Rogers and Hayworth were cousins.

Companions

Edward Jackson Culpepper
Husband
Vaudevillian. Married in 1928; separated in 1929; divorced in 1931; performed with wife in duo act, "Ginger and Pepper".
Fred Astaire
Companion
Dancer. Met in 1930 when he did uncredited dance direction on "Girl Crazy"; dated briefly.
Lew Ayres
Husband
Actor. Second husband; married 1934-41; couple acted together in "Don't Bet on Love" (1933); separated in the late 1930s; Ayres also starred in such films as "All Quiet on the Western Front" (1930), "Holiday" (1938), "Johnny Belinda" (1948) and a series of Dr. Kildare films for MGM; career harmed during WWII when he declared himself a conscientious objector; still served in a non-combative role; later an author on the subject of comparative theology; died on December 30, 1996.
Howard Hughes
Companion
Industrialist, aviator, film producer. Involved with Rogers during late 1930s; she reportedly broke off their engagement when she discovered he was being unfaithful.
George Stevens
Companion
Director. Involved with Rogers in an on again/off again affair when she was separated from Lew Ayres in the late 1930s; directed Rogers in "Swing Time" (1936) and "Vivacious Lady" (1938).
Jack Briggs
Husband
Married in 1943, divorced 1949; he was a 22-year-old Marine whom she met while touring with the USO during WWII; had previously played small roles in several Hollywood films; purchased a ranch together in Oregon.
Cary Grant
Companion
Actor. Co-starred with Rogers in "Once Upon a Honeymoon" (1942) and "Monkey Business" (1952); had a romantic relationship in the 1940s, briefly reprised in the 50s.
Greg Bautzer
Companion
Lawyer. Prominent Hollywood attorney; close friend to many top film stars; dated and was involved with Rogers for a time c. late 1940s/early 50s.
Jacques Bergerac
Husband
Actor, former attorney. Fourth husband; married 1953, divorced 1958; he was 25, she was 42 at time of marriage; co-starred in British-made "Twist of Fate/Beautiful Stranger" (1954).
William Marshall
Husband
Actor, director, producer. Fifth husband; married in 1961; divorced in 1971; appeared together in stage tour of "Bell, Book and Candle" (1958); started a film production company together in Jamaica in 1963, which resulted in the film "The Confession/Quick, Let's Get Married" (1964).

Bibliography

"Shall We Dance: The Life of Ginger Rogers"
Sheridan Morley (1996)
"Ginger Rogers: A Bio-Bibliography"
Greenwood Press (1994)
"Ginger: My Story"
Ginger Rogers, HarperCollins (1991)
"Astaire Dancing"
John Mueller (1985)
"Ginger Rogers"
Patrick McGilligan, Pyramid Books (1975)
"The Films of Ginger Rogers"
Homer Dickens (editor), Citadel Press
"The Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers Book"
Arlene Croce

Notes

"You bring out a lot of your own thoughts and ideals when acting ... You know, there's nothing damnable about being a strong woman. The world needs strong women. There are lots of strong women who are ... helping ... mothering strong men; they want to remain unseen. It's kind of nice to be able to play a strong woman who is seen." --Ginger Rogers

"She gives him sex, and he gives her class." --Katharine Hepburn's explanation of the onscreen chemistry between Rogers and Astaire, offered at a time when the team was at a popular and critical peak and Hepburn's popularity was ebbing

"When you have a dancing partner, there's always going to be a time that the girl is gonna cry. With almost every girl I danced with, I'd get, 'Waaahh ... I can't do it.' 'Oh, you can, shut up, get on, do it.' Ginger didn't do that." --Fred Astaire

"The hardest-working gal I ever knew." --Fred Astaire

"In more than 60 films, she was our picture of the American girl." --from the Kennedy Center Honors Salute of 1992 (it should be noted that Rogers made more than 70 films, not counting film shorts)

She also received a honorary doctorate of fine arts from Austin College in Sherman, Texas in 1972.