Guest Author - Vance R. Rowe
At the young age of fifteen years old and after winning a dance contest, Ginger Rogers began touring with a Midwestern and Southern vaudeville troupe. Her act was called Ginger and the Redheads. Born in Missouri in 1911, Rogers took dancing and singing lessons as a toddler. These dancing and singing lessons would serve her well through her illustrious career. A career that saw her in over 70 motion pictures and she would garner an Academy Award for one of these films entitled Kitty Foyle.
Ginger Rogers was never a professionally trained ball room dancer but that didn't stop her from dancing into our hearts in several movies with Fred Astaire. Although they were never close outside of the films, their names have become synonymous together. Today, if you mention the name Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers is always mentioned as well.
Born Virginia Katherine McMath in Independence, Missouri, her parents divorced shortly after she was born. She adopted the stage name Ginger Rogers because a cousin of hers could not pronounce Virginia and called her Ginger instead and the surname was taken from her stepfather's last name. Her mother, Lila, managed Ginger's career until she died in 1971. By 1941, Ginger Rogers was the highest paid woman in America garnering 355,000 dollars a year for her movie and Broadway career.
Ginger always preferred the quiet life when she wasn't performing and was not one those actors/actresses that liked to party. In fact she spent as much time as she could on a ranch she bought a ranch on the Rogue River in Oregon. She had also purchased a hilltop mansion in Beverly Hills.
In 1965, Ginger Rogers made her last film entitled Harlow in which she played the mother of actress Jean Harlow. Although 1965 was the last year for movies for Rogers, it wasn't the last year she performed. In fact, she succeeded Carol Channing in the Broadway musical, Hello Dolly! which she performed for two years and then went to London in 1969 and starred in the musical Mame. Although her name is often mentioned with Fred Astaire, she also performed in movies alongside Cary Grant, Marilyn Monroe, and Katherine Hepburn to name a few.
In popular culture, the character played by Tina Louise, named Ginger on the television show Gilligan's Island, was supposed to be loosely based on Ginger Rogers.
It was this day in history, April 25, 1995 that Ginger Rogers passed away at the age of 83.