Ginger Rogers

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Ginger Rogers (July 16 1911April 25 1995) was a legendary Academy Award-winning American actress and dancer. She is most remembered as Fred Astaire's romantic interest and dancing partner in a series of ten all-singing all-dancing Hollywood musicals, but her acting career spanned over thirty years.


Early Life

Ginger Rogers was born Virginia Katherine McMath in Independence, Missouri, the daughter of Eddins McMath, of Scottish ancestry and Lela Owens McMath, of Welsh ancestry. Her mother Lela separated from Ginger's father soon after she was born, and Lela and Ginger went to live with Lela's parents in nearby Kansas City.

Her parents became estranged and fought for custody of Ginger, with her father even going as far as taking Ginger without consent from Lela. After they divorced Ginger stayed with her grandparents, Walter and Saphrona Owens, while Lela wrote screenplays for two years in Hollywood. Several of Ginger's cousins had a hard time pronouncing her first name Virginia, they shortening it to "Ginga".

When Ginger was nine years old her mother remarried John Logan Rogers. Ginger took the name of Rogers, although never legally. They lived in Fort Worth, Texas, and Lela became a theater critic for a local newspaper, the Fort Worth Record.

As a teenager Ginger thought of teaching school, but with Lela's interest in Hollywood and the theater, young Ginger would get more and more exposure to the theater. Waiting for her mother in the wings of the Majestic Theater, Ginger began to sing and dance along to the performers on stage.


Five years later her entertainment career was born one night when the traveling Vaudeville act of Eddie Foy (Bob Hope would play Foy in The Seven Little Foys) came to Fort Worth and needed a quick stand-in. She would enter and win a Charleston contest and then hit the road on a Vaudeville tour. She and Lela would tour for four years. During this time Lela divorced John Rogers, but kept his surname.

When Ginger was 17 she married Jack Culpepper, another dancer on the circuit. The marriage was over within months, and Ginger went back to touring with her mother. When the tour got to New York City, she stayed, getting radio singing jobs and then her Broadway theater debut in a musical called Top Speed, which opened on Christmas Day, 1929.

Film Career

Her first movie roles were in a trio of short films made in 1929 — Night in the Dormitory, A Day of a Man of Affairs, and Campus Sweethearts.

Within two weeks of opening in Top Speed she was hired to star in Girl Crazy by George Gershwin and Ira Gershwin. Fred Astaire was hired to help the dancers with their choreography, and he briefly dated Ginger. Her appearance in Girl Crazy made her an overnight star at the age of 19. In 1930 she was signed with Paramount Pictures for a seven-year contract.

Rogers would soon get herself out of the Paramount contract and head with her mother to Hollywood. When she got to California, she signed a three-picture deal with Pathé, three forgettable pictures. After getting bit parts for singing and dancing for most of 1932, in 1933 she made her screen break-through in 42nd Street with Warner Brothers.

She would then make a couple more forgettable films with RKO. But in the second of those, Flying Down to Rio, she again met up with Fred Astaire. In 1939, she played opposite David Niven in Bachelor Mother.


Years With Fred Astaire

Ginger Rogers was of course most famous for her partnership with Fred Astaire. Together, they made such films as Top Hat and Swing Time, films which are weak on storyline but showcased Fred and Ginger's dancing. Of their partnership, Katharine Hepburn said, "She gives him sex, he gives her class." Despite their onscreen chemistry, the two were not friends offstage, and their last film was in 1939. Nevertheless, "Fred and Ginger" has become almost an automatic reference for any successful dancer partnership.

In 1941 Ginger Rogers won the Academy Award for Best Actress, for her starring role in 1940's Kitty Foyle. In 1940 she purchased a 1000-acre (4 km²) ranch between Shady Cove, Oregon and Eagle Point, Oregon, along the Rogue River, just north of Medford.

The ranch, named the 4-R's (for Rogers' Rogue River Ranch), is where she would live, along with her mother, when not doing her Hollywood business, for 50 years. The ranch was also a dairy, and would supply milk for the war effort during World War II, to Camp White. Rogers loved to fish the Rogue every summer. She sold the ranch in 1990, and moved to Medford.

She was a right-wing Republican politically, and lived for much of her life with her mother, Lela Rogers (1891–1977), a Christian Scientist (like Ginger) who was a newspaper reporter, scriptwriter, movie producer, one of the first women to enlist in the Marine Corps, and a founder of the Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals.

Ginger's mother "named names" to the HUAC, and both mother and daughter were staunchly anti-Communist. This extremely close mother-daughter relationship — Ginger's mother even denied Ginger's father visitation rights after their divorce — has been proffered to explain, in part, Rogers's history of marital disappointments and childlessness.

After her first marriage (to her dancing partner Jack Pepper; real name Edward Jackson Culpepper; on March 29, 1929; they divorced in 1931, having separated soon after the wedding), in 1934, she married her second husband, actor Lew Ayres (19081996); they separated quickly and were divorced in 1941. In 1943, she married her third husband, Jack Briggs, a Marine; they divorced in 1949.

In 1953, she married her fourth husband, lawyer Jacques Bergerac (16 years her junior, he became an actor and then a cosmetics company executive); they divorced in 1957 and he soon remarried actress Dorothy Malone. In 1961, she married her fifth husband, director and producer William Marshall, but separated from him within weeks of their marriage, eventually divorcing him in 1969.

Ginger was good friends with Lucille Ball for many years until Ball's death in 1989, at the age of 77. Lucy did not seem to share Ginger's political views, but evidently still enjoyed her company, as did Bette Davis, a Democrat who definitely did not share Ginger's views and called her a "moralist", but still professed to enjoying Ginger's company.

Ginger Rogers was a cousin of Rita Hayworth, and also to actress Phyllis Fraser (later known in NYC as Phyllis Cerf), whose acting career was brief.

Ginger would spend the winters in Rancho Mirage, California, and the summers in Medford, Oregon. Ginger Rogers died on April 25, 1995, of complications from diabetes, at the age of 83, in Rancho Mirage, California, and was interred in the Oakwood Memorial Park Cemetery in Chatsworth, California.

The Craterian Ginger Rogers Theater in Medford, Oregon is named in her honor.


  • Campus Sweethearts (1929) (short subject)
  • A Day of a Man of Affairs (1929) (short subject)
  • A Night in a Dormitory (1930) (short subject)
  • Young Man of Manhattan (1930)
  • The Sap from Syracuse (1930)
  • Queen High (1930)
  • Office Blues (1930) (short subject)
  • Follow the Leader (1930)
  • Honor Among Lovers (1931)
  • The Tip-Off (1931)
  • Suicide Fleet (1931)
  • Carnival Boat (1932)
  • The Tenderfoot (1932)
  • Hollywood on Parade (1932) (short subject)
  • The Thirteenth Guest (1932)
  • Screen Snapshots (1932) (short subject)
  • Hat Check Girl (1932)
  • You Said a Mouthful (1932)
  • 42nd Street (1933)
  • Broadway Bad (1933)
  • Hollywood on Parade No. 9 (1933) (short subject)
  • Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933)
  • Professional Sweetheart (1933)
  • Don't Bet on Love (1933)
  • A Shriek in the Night (1933)
  • Rafter Romance (1933)
  • Chance at Heaven (1933)
  • Sitting Pretty (1933)
  • Flying Down to Rio (1933) (*)
  • Twenty Million Sweethearts (1934)
  • Upperworld (1934)
  • Finishing School (1934)
  • Change of Heart (1934)
  • The Gay Divorcee (1934) (*)
  • Hollywood Newsreel (1934) (short subject)
  • Romance in Manhattan (1935)
  • Roberta (1935) (*)
  • Star of Midnight (1935)
  • Top Hat (1935) (*)
  • In Person (1935)
  • Follow the Fleet (1936) (*)
  • Swing Time (1936) (*)
  • Shall We Dance (1937) (*)
  • Stage Door (1937)
  • Vivacious Lady (1938)
  • Having Wonderful Time (1938)
  • Carefree (1938) (*)
  • The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle (1939) (*)
  • Bachelor Mother (1939)
  • 5th Ave Girl (1939)
  • Primrose Path (1940)
  • Lucky Partners (1940)
  • Kitty Foyle (1940)
  • Tom Dick and Harry (1941)
  • Roxie Hart (1942)
  • Tales of Manhattan (1942)
  • The Major and the Minor (1942)
  • Once Upon a Honeymoon (1942)
  • Show Business at War (1943) (short subject)
  • Tender Comrade (1943)
  • Lady in the Dark (1944)
  • Battle Stations (1944) (short subject)
  • I'll Be Seeing You (1945)
  • Week-End at the Waldorf (1945)
  • Heartbeat (1946)
  • Magnificent Doll (1946)
  • It Had to Be You (1947)
  • The Barkleys of Broadway (1949) (*)
  • Screen Snapshots: The Great Showman (1950) (short subject)
  • Perfect Strangers (1950)
  • Storm Warning (1951)
  • The Groom Wore Spurs (1951)
  • We're Not Married! (1952)
  • Dreamboat (1952)
  • Monkey Business (1952)
  • Forever Female (1953)
  • Screen Snapshots: Hollywood's Great Entertainers (1953) (short subject)
  • Black Widow (1954)
  • Beautiful Stranger (1954)
  • Tight Spot (1955)
  • The First Traveling Saleslady (1956)
  • Oh, Men! Oh, Women! (1957)
  • The Confession (1964)
  • Harlow (1965)

(*) - with Fred Astaire

Template:Start box {{succession box | title=Academy Award for Best Actress | before=Vivien Leigh for Gone with the Wind | years=1940 | after=Joan Fontaine for Suspicion}} Template:End

Television Work

  • Cinderella (1965)
  • Glitter (1984) (pilot for series)

Quotations about Rogers

  • "Ginger Rogers did everything Fred Astaire did, and she did it backwards and in high heels." (Faith Whittlesey, former US ambassador to Switzerland.) Responsibility for this quote also has been traced to a 1982 Frank and Ernest cartoon.
  • "Fred gave Ginger class, and Ginger gave Fred sex." Katharine Hepburn, actress. Variants include "Astaire gave her class, and Rogers gave him sex" and "He gave her class, and she gave him sex appeal."

External links

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