Filled Under: Vera-Ellen
“I was called a bookish child. Mother sent me to a ballet teacher in Cincinnati when I was nine years old. I guess I was an awkward child and the family wanted me to be graceful. When I found out I liked to dance and people seemed to like to watch me, I was determined to go places.” ~ Vera Ellen
Vera-Ellen was an American actress and dancer mostly remembered for her filmed dance partnerships with Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, Danny Kaye, and Donald O’Connor. Vera Ellen was born Vera Ellen Westmeier Rohe on February 16, 1921 in Norwood, Ohio to Martin Rohe and Alma Catherine Westmeier. She began dancing at age ten and at age sixteen she was a winner on the “Major Bowes Amateur Hour” and soon embarked upon a professional career. In 1939, at age 18, Vera-Ellen made her Broadway theatre debut in the Jerome Kern/Oscar Hammerstein musical “Very Warm for May” and she became one of the youngest Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall. This led to roles on Broadway in “Panama Hattie”, “By Jupiter”, and “A Connecticut Yankee”, where she was spotted by Samuel Goldwyn, who cast her in her film debut opposite Danny Kaye and Virginia Mayo in “Wonder Man” (1945). She danced with Gene Kelly in the Hollywood musicals “Words and Music” (1948) and “On the Town” (1949), while also appearing in the last Marx Brothers film, “Love Happy” (1949). Vera-Ellen received top billing alongside Fred Astaire in the MGM musicals, “Three Little Words” (1950) and “The Belle of New York” (1952). She had a co-starring role with Donald O’Connor and Ethel Merman in “Call Me Madam” (1953) for 20th Century-Fox, and with Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye and Rosemary Clooney in Paramount’s blockbuster hit, “White Christmas” (1954). Vera-Ellen’s last film was “Let’s Be Happy” (1957) with Tony Martin. Guest appearances on the television variety shows of Dinah Shore and Perry Como in 1958 and 1959 were among the last of her entertainment career.
Vera-Ellen was married twice. Her first husband was fellow dancer, Robert Hightower from 1941 to 1946. Her second husband was millionaire Victor Rothschild. They were married from 1954 to 1966. Both marriages ended in divorce. While married to Rothschild, she gave birth to a daughter, Victoria Ellen Rothschild, who died at three months of age from SIDS in 1963. Following the death of her only child, she withdrew completely from public life.
Vera-Ellen died of cancer on August 31, 1981 in Los Angeles, California. She was sixty years old.