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Ann Miller

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Ann Miller

A long-legged Texas dancer who had been tapping since the age of five, Ann Miller was barely a teenager when she signed her first movie contract in 1937.  Over the course of a two-decade Hollywood career, her roles expanded from specialty dance numbers at RKO and leading roles in successful B-musicals at Columbia during World War II, to second-lead roles in MGM's prestigious A-level musicals of the post-war years.  Though she rarely got the leading man or an opportunity to display much skill as a dramatic actress, Ann Miller's vocal skills and quick wit as a comedienne proved she was more than just a raven-haired bathing beauty with great legs and quick feet.

Stage Door (1937)

Having moved from Texas to Hollywood with her mother when she was ten, Ann Miller danced in local vaudeville houses and even played a few bit-parts in films before being recommended to a talent scout by RKO contract starlet Lucille Ball.  Thirteen-year-old Ann lied about her age and danced a specialty number in the studio's NEW FACES OF 1937 (1937) before Ball and Ginger Rogers conspired to get Ann her first speaking role in STAGE DOOR (1937), Gregory La Cava's adaptation of George S. Kaufman and Edna Ferber's play about life in a boarding house for aspiring actresses.  Ann played Rogers' friend and dance partner in the film, which also starred Katharine Hepburn, Adolphe Menjou, Gail Patrick and Eve Arden, but only Ball and Rogers knew the truth about Ann's age.

You Can't Take It With You (1938)

After playing a few supporting roles in such RKO musicals and comedies as RADIO CITY REVELS (1938) with Kenny Baker and HAVING WONDERFUL TIME (1938) (again with Ball, Rogers and Arden), Ann was borrowed by director Frank Capra to play the eccentric Sycamore family's fudge-making, ballet-dancing daughter in Columbia's YOU CAN'T TAKE IT WITH YOU (1938).  Co-starring Jean Arthur, Jimmy Stewart, Lionel Barrymore, Edward Arnold and Spring Byington, the film earned seven Academy Award nominations and won the Oscar as the year's best picture.  Ann then returned to RKO where she appeared with the Marx Brothers in ROOM SERVICE (1938) -- not one of their better comedic outings, but a film which continued to give Ann needed exposure to depression-era movie audiences.

Eadie Was A Lady (1945)

At the end of 1938, Ann won release from her RKO contract and spent a year on Broadway before returning to Hollywood and a new seven-year contract with Columbia Pictures.  She spent most of the war years starring in successful (though low-budget) musicals such as REVEILLE WITH BEVERLY (1943), WHAT'S BUZZIN', COUSIN? (1943) and EADIE WAS A LADY (1945), either for Columbia or on loan to other studios like Republic and Paramount.  In 1946 at the age of 23, Ann left Columbia and announced her retirement from filmmaking to try her hand at matrimony.

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Last updated: March 10, 2011.
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