b. February 16 1921, Norwood, Ohio, USA
d. August 30, 1981, Los Angeles, California, USA
Co-starred with Fred in Three Little Words and The Belle of New York
Of all of Fred's dancing partners, only Vera-Ellen Westmeyer Rohe (it rhymes with go) matched him in versatility, ability, and work ethic. Together, they created some of the most incredible dance routines ever seen onscreen. She was, in fact, the only woman to ever be considered the peer of both Fred and Gene Kelly.
She began dancing for health reasons at the age of 10. During her early career, she appeared in nightclub acts, as one of the youngest Rockettes, and a Broadway dancer.
Her movie career began in 1945, when she appeared with Danny Kaye in "Wonder Man". She had a reputation as an extremely hard worker and warm personality. She appeared in 14 movies, all of them musicals, until the late 1950's, dancing with Gene Kelly in the highly acclaimed "Slaughter on Tenth Avenue" number in Words and Music, dancing and acting with Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra in On The Town, appearing twice with Fred and also with the Marx Brothers and Bing Crosby in other movies.
So why is she largely unknown today?
The reason for her disappearance from the movies is complicated. It is quite obvious that she became alarmingly thin in her thirties. Her peculiar eating habits are well documented. Always a reclusive person, she was also a sufferer of anorexia at a time when not much was known about the disease. One of the side effects of anorexia is that she began to age rapidly. If you watch White Christmas, her neck is constantly covered. This was to mask the most obvious effects of the aging. In an industry and culture where youth and beauty were prized, she didn't stand a chance. At the same time, the era of musicals at Hollywood came to an end. She simply wasn't as good an actor as she was a dancer.
Finally, her only daughter, Victoria Ellen Rothschild, died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome in 1963. This was a tremendously traumatic experience for her, hastening the end of her marriage and ultimately of her life.
Even though she did retire from public life, Vera-Ellen continued to take dancing lessons, partly to combat the arthritis she suffered later.
She was married twice: once to fellow dancer Robert Hightower, and once to millionaire Victor Rothschild. Both marriages ended in divorce.
Vera-Ellen died of cancer in Los Angeles, California, on August 30, 1981.
For more information:
McGraw-Hill Press has published a biography of Vera-Ellen, written by fellow fan Professor David Soren of the University of Arizona. The book is titled Vera-Ellen: The Magic and the Mystery and is available now. The book is mostly sold out - the remaining copies are available from the University of Arizona bookstore (520) 621-2811 (ask for the Textbooks Dept and the course Classics/Art 329 for Dr. Soren). The ISBN # is 0 07 234137 8.
The Vera-Ellen page from Angela's World
Starring Vera-Ellen: Hollywood's Dancing Lady
A Tribute to Vera-Ellen and Her Beautiful Legs
The Internet Movie Database