Ginger Rodgers (née Virginia Katherine McMath) was born on this day July 16th 1911, in Independence, Missouri, and raised in Kansas City, Rogers and her family moved to Fort Worth, Texas when she was nine years old. Winning a 1925 Charleston dance contest launched a successful vaudeville career, she gained recognition as a Broadway actress for her stage debut in Girl Crazy. Rogers, an only child, maintained a close relationship with her mother, her parents divorcing when she was young. In 1929, Rogers married for the first time at age 17 to her dancing partner and separated soon after the wedding, she went on have a further 4 marriages.
She was one of the most successful actresses during the Golden Era of Hollywood. She left the audiences hypnotised with her performances and was one of the highest paid American actresses of her time. Featured at number 14 on the American Film Institute’s list of ‘greatest screen legends’, Rogers, was an iconic Hollywood star who enjoyed a remarkable acting career. She appeared in 73 films and several Broadway shows.
Rogers was known for her partnership with Fred Astaire. Together, from 1933 to 1939, they made nine musical films including Flying Down to Rio (1933), Top Hat (1935), Swing Time (1936), Shall We Dance (1937) and The Barkleys of Broadway (1949). They revolutionized the Hollywood musical by introducing dance routines of elegance and virtuosity with sweeping long shots set to songs specially composed for them by the popular song composers of the day including Cole Porter with “Night and Day”, a song Astaire sang to Rogers with the line “…you are the one” in two of their movies, being particularly poignant in their last pairing of The Barkleys of Broadway.
Ginger Rogers made her last public appearance on 18 March 1995, when she received the Women’s International Center (WIC) Living Legacy Award. For many years, she regularly supported, and held presentations, at the Craterian Theatre, in Medford, where she had performed in 1926 as a vaudevillian. The theatre was comprehensively restored in 1997 and posthumously renamed in her honour as the Craterian Ginger Rogers Theatre. She died at her Rancho Mirage home on April 25, 1995, from natural causes at the age of 83, she was cremated and her ashes interred with her mother Lela Emogene in Oakwood Memorial Park Cemetery in Chatsworth, California.
Here is a dancing clip from Swing Time: