MGM Film Musical Dancer Ann Miller DIes

Discussion in 'Movies' started by Peter Kline, Jan 22, 2004.

  1. Peter Kline

    Peter Kline Cinematographer

    Feb 9, 1999
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    Dancer Ann Miller Dies of Cancer at 81

    by Bob Thomas
    Associated Press, January 22, 2004

    LOS ANGELES -- Ann Miller, the raven-haired, long-legged actress and
    dancer whose machine-gun taps won her stardom during the golden age
    of movie musicals, died Thursday of lung cancer. She was 81.

    Miller died at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, said Esme Chandlee, her
    longtime friend and former publicist.

    A onetime childhood dance prodigy, she reached the peak of her film
    career at MGM in the late 1940s and early '50s with "On the Town,"
    "Easter Parade" and "Kiss Me Kate."

    She remained a dazzling tapper in her 60s and earned millions on
    Broadway and touring with Mickey Rooney in "Sugar Babies," a
    razzmatazz tribute to the era of burlesque.

    "At MGM, I always played the second feminine lead; I was never the
    star in films," she once recalled. "I was the brassy, good-hearted
    showgirl. I never really had my big moment on the screen.

    "'Sugar Babies' gave me the stardom that my soul kind of yearned for."

    Rooney said Thursday that Miller "was a great talent. She is a great
    talent. I'll never think of her as being gone."

    "She told me the last time I spoke to her she wasn't feeling too
    well, and I said, 'Keep your head up, kid.' I'm just very sad."

    Miller's legs, pretty face and fast tapping (she claimed the record
    of 500 taps a minute) earned her jobs in vaudeville and night clubs
    when she first came to Hollywood. She adopted the stage name of Anne
    Miller. Her early film career included working as a child extra in
    films and as a chorus girl in a minor musical, "The Devil on

    An appearance at the popular Bal Tabarin in San Francisco won a
    contract at RKO studio, where her name was shortened to Ann.

    Her first film at RKO, "New Faces of 1937," featured her dancing. She
    next played an acting hopeful in "Stage Door," with Katharine
    Hepburn, Ginger Rogers, Lucille Ball and Eve Arden.

    Most of her RKO films were low-budget musicals and comedies. A
    contract at Columbia Pictures started impressively with the role of
    the would-be ballerina in Frank Capra's Oscar-winning "You Can't Take
    It with You."

    Then she was cast in a series of wartime B musicals with titles
    like "True to the Army," "Priorities on Parade" and "Hey Rookie."

    When Cyd Charisse broke a leg before starting "Easter Parade" at MGM
    with Fred Astaire, Miller replaced her. That led to an MGM contract
    and her most enduring work.

    She was teamed with Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra in "On the Town,"
    Red Skelton in "Watch the Birdie," and Bob Fosse in "Kiss Me Kate."

    Other MGM films included: "Texas Carnival," "Lovely to Look At,"
    "Small Town Girl," "Deep in My Heart," "Hit the Deck" and "The
    Opposite Sex."

    The popularity of musicals declined in the 1950s, and her film career
    ended in 1956. Miller remained active in television and the theater,
    dancing and belting songs on Broadway in "Hello, Dolly" and "Mame."

    In later years, she astounded audiences in New York, Las Vegas and on
    the road with her dynamic tapping in "Sugar Babies" when. The show,
    starring her and Rooney, opened on Broadway in 1979 and toured for
    years. In 1990, she commented that "Sugar Babies" had made her
    financially independent.

    Before each performance, she practiced for an hour.

    "Honestly, I have had to live like a high priestess in this show,"
    she remarked in a 1984 interview. "It is a very, very lonely life.
    When you work the way I work -- that means hard -- there's no time
    for play."

    She was born Johnnie Lucille Collier in Chireno, Texas, the first
    name dictated by her father, who had wanted a boy. After her parents
    divorced, she was called Annie, for reasons she never knew.

    Growing up in Houston, Annie suffered from rickets, and dancing
    lessons helped straighten her legs. Her mother was almost totally
    deaf and could not find work. By the age of 12, Annie was almost full
    grown at 5 feet 5, and she danced to support her mother and herself.

    While her career in Hollywood prospered, Miller became a regular
    figure in the town's night life, and she caught the eye of Louis B.
    Mayer, all-powerful head of MGM. They began dating and could be seen
    on the dance floors of Ciro's and Mocambo.

    "I think one reason Mr. Mayer fancied himself in love with me was
    that he was lonely," she wrote in her 1972 autobiography, "Miller's
    High Life." Another reason: "He knew or reasoned that I was as
    virginal as the day I was born."

    She declared that Mayer pleaded for marriage, but her ever-watchful
    mother would not allow it. She decided to accept the offer of
    marriage from steel heir Reese Milner.

    It was a mistake. After giving birth to a daughter who died three
    hours later, she divorced Milner. Marriages to oilmen William Moss
    and Arthur Cameron also ended in divorce.

    Films of Ann Miller

    The Good Fairy, 1935

    The Devil on Horseback, 1936

    New Faces of 1937, 1937

    Stage Door, 1937

    The Life of the Party, 1937

    Tarnished Angel, 1938

    Room Service, 1938

    Radio City Revels, 1938

    You Can't Take it With You, 1938

    Too Many Girls, 1940

    Hit Parade of 1941, 1940

    Melody Ranch, 1940

    Go West, Young Lady, 1941

    Time Out for Rhythm, 1941

    True to the Army, 1942

    Priorities on Parade, 1942

    What's Buzzin', Cousin?, 1943

    Reveille With Beverly, 1943

    Carolina Blues, 1944

    Jam Session, 1944

    Hey, Rookie, 1944

    Eve Knew Her Apples, 1945

    Eadie Was a Lady, 1945

    The Thrill of Brazil, 1946

    The Kissing Bandit, 1948

    Easter Parade, 1948

    On the Town, 1949

    Watch the Birdie, 1950

    Two Tickets to Broadway, 1951

    Texas Carnival, 1951

    Lovely to Look At, 1952

    Kiss Me Kate, 1953

    Small Town Girl, 1953

    Deep in My Heart, 1954

    Hit the Deck, 1955

    The Opposite Sex, 1956

    The Great American Pastime, 1956

    Mullholland Drive 2000
  2. Haggai

    Haggai Producer

    Nov 3, 2003
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    RIP. A fabulous song and dance talent with the beauty and on-screen presence to match.
  3. Robert Crawford

    Robert Crawford Moderator

    Dec 9, 1998
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    Seems like they're dropping like flies. RIP, Ann Miller.

  4. ScottR

    ScottR Cinematographer

    Apr 1, 2000
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    Shakin' the Blues Away remains one of the most electrifying dance numbers in cinema history.

    Thanks, Ann.
  5. Steve Christou

    Steve Christou Long Member

    Apr 25, 2000
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    London, England
    Real Name:
    Steve Christou
    Sad news. I watched On the Town fairly recently, one of my favorite musicals.
    Ann Miller was great in that. Also loved her in Easter Parade and Kiss me Kate.

    RIP Ann.[​IMG]
  6. Brian Kidd

    Brian Kidd Screenwriter

    Nov 14, 2000
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    She was truly a firey lady. RIP Ann. I always hate to see more and more classic Hollywood stars pass away.
  7. DeeF

    DeeF Screenwriter

    Jun 19, 2002
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    Hey, wasn't she in Mulholland Drive? Somebody needs to tell these obit writers to update their stuff.
  8. Randy Korstick

    Randy Korstick Producer

    Feb 24, 2000
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    I've seen the majority of her films and always enjoyed her work.
  9. John Kilduff

    John Kilduff Screenwriter

    Oct 27, 2001
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    She will be missed. She was a great dancer.


    John Kilduff...

    I actually picked her for my dead pool list.
  10. Henry Gale

    Henry Gale Producer

    Jul 10, 1999
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    She got this part using a fake ID. Ann was 14 or 15 at the time. It's a remarkable film and performance...watching her pretend to be 7 years older than she was, on and off screen.
  11. Linda Thompson

    Linda Thompson Supporting Actor

    Apr 4, 2004
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    I mentioned Ann Miller just last week in a post here, in which I was lamenting the disappearance of the amazingly-talented old-school entertainers, and the vehicles which showcased them.

    RIP to another of the all-time greats...
  12. Russell G

    Russell G Fake Shemp

    Sep 20, 2002
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    I recently discovered Ann thorough Warners insanly active musical dvd release schedual last year.

    Amazing screen presence, and a dynamite performer. After watching a number with her you always wanted more. Definately quickly became a favorite.
  13. ZacharyTait

    ZacharyTait Cinematographer

    Aug 10, 2003
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    The only movie I saw her in was in Mulholland Drive and she captured the screen there as well.

    Whenever I have time, I'll check out some of her films.

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