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Ann Miller
Ann Miller 1957 (cropped).jpg
Miller in 1957
Born
Johnnie Lucille Collier

(1923-04-12)April 12, 1923
Died January 22, 2004(2004-01-22) (aged 80)
Resting place Holy Cross Cemetery, Culver City
Occupation Actress, dancer, singer
Years active 1934–2001
Spouse(s)
Reese Llewellyn Milner
(m. 1946; div. 1947)

Bill Moss
(m. 1958; div. 1961)

Arthur Cameron
(m. 1961; div. 1962)
Children 1
Signature
Signature of Ann Miller.svg
Ann Miller by Ned Scott, May 1946
Miller in 1946
Ann Miller publ
Miller in 1946
Anne Miller 1948
Miller in 1948

Ann Miller (born Johnnie Lucille Collier; April 12, 1923 – January 22, 2004) was an American actress, dancer and singer. She is best remembered for her work in the Classical Hollywood cinema musicals of the 1940s and 1950s. Her early work included roles in Frank Capra's You Can't Take It with You (1938) and the Marx Bros. film Room Service (1938). She later starred in the movie musical classics Charles Walters' Easter Parade (1948), Stanley Donen's On the Town (1949) and George Sidney's Kiss Me Kate (1953). Her final film role was in David Lynch's Mulholland Drive (2001).

In 1960, Miller received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In 2017, The Daily Telegraph named her one of the best actors never to have received an Academy Award nomination.

Early life

Johnnie Lucille Collier (other sources give other birthnames, such as Lucille Collier and Lucy Ann Collier) was born in Chireno, Texas, to Clara Emma (née Birdwell) and John Alfred Collier, a criminal lawyer who represented the Barrow gang, Machine Gun Kelly, and Baby Face Nelson, among others. She was an only child. Her maternal grandmother was Cherokee. She began to take dance classes at the age of five, after suffering from rickets. Her mother believed that these classes would help strengthen her young daughter's legs.

She lived in Houston, Texas, until she was nine, when her parents divorced. Her mother moved with her to Los Angeles. As her mother was deaf, finding work was hard for her; however, because Miller looked much older than she was, she began to work as a dancer in nightclubs and supported both of them. About this time, she adopted the stage name Ann Miller, which she kept throughout her career.

She was considered a child dance prodigy. In an interview in a "behind the scenes" documentary on the making of the compilation film That's Entertainment! Part III (1994), she said Eleanor Powell was an early inspiration.

Career

Ann Miller (handprints in cement)
The handprints of Ann Miller in front of the Great Movie Ride at Walt Disney World's Disney's Hollywood Studios theme park

In 1936, Miller was hired as a dancer in the "Black Cat Club" in San Francisco (she reportedly told them she was 18). There, she was discovered by Lucille Ball and talent scout/comic Benny Rubin (although some sources say this occurred at Bal Tabarin). This led Miller to be given a contract with RKO in 1936 (she had also told them she was 18, and apparently provided a fake birth certificate, procured by her father – with the name "Lucy Ann Collier") and she remained there until 1940. In 1937, she played Ginger Rogers’ dancing partner in Gregory La Cava’s Stage Door. In 1938, she played the quirky, constantly dancing Essie Carmichael in the best-picture Oscar-winner, Frank Capra's You Can't Take it With You. In 1941, she signed with Columbia Pictures, where, starting with Time Out for Rhythm, she starred in 11 B movie musicals from 1941 to 1945. She ended her contract in 1946 with one "A" film, The Thrill of Brazil. She finally hit her mark in Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer musicals such as Easter Parade (1948), On the Town (1949), and Kiss Me Kate (1953).

Miller was famed for her speed in tap dance. Studio publicists concocted press releases claiming she could tap 500 times per minute, but, in truth, the sound of ultra-fast "500" taps was looped in later. Because the stage floors were waxed and too slick for regular tap shoes, she had to dance in shoes with rubber treads on the sole. Later, she would loop the sound of the taps while watching the film and actually dancing on a "tap board" to match her steps in the film.

Ann Miller in Sugar Babies, cropped
Miller in Sugar Babies, 1979

Her film career effectively ended in 1956 as the studio system lost steam to television, but she remained active in the theater and on television. In 1969, she starred on Broadway in the musical Mame, in which she wowed the audience in a tap number created just for her. 1971 found her starring in an iconic television commercial for “The Great American Soup” (created by Stan Freberg), with Miller rising up out of the floor on top of an eight-foot high cylinder designed to look like a giant soup can. The ad was a spectacular song and dance number in the tradition of the movie extravaganzas which were her stock in trade. In 1979, she astounded audiences in the Broadway show Sugar Babies with fellow MGM veteran Mickey Rooney, which toured the United States extensively after its Broadway run. In 1983, she won the Sarah Siddons Award for her work in Chicago theatre.

She appeared in a special 1982 episode of The Love Boat, joined by fellow showbiz legends Ethel Merman, Carol Channing, Della Reese, Van Johnson and Cab Calloway in a storyline that cast them as older relatives of the show's regular characters. Her last stage performance was a 1998 Paper Mill Playhouse production of Stephen Sondheim's Follies, in which she played hard-boiled Carlotta Campion and received rave reviews for her rendition of the song "I'm Still Here". At the age of 63, Miller sang and tap danced to "42nd Street" at the opening of the Disney MGM Studios on May 1, 1989. This would be her last live dance performance.

She was the subject of This Is Your Life on British television in 1993 when she was surprised by Michael Aspel at the studios of CBS Television City, Hollywood.

Miller appeared as a dance instructor in Home Improvement episode "Dances with Tools" (1993) Between 1995 and 2001, Molly Shannon parodied Miller several times on Saturday Night Live in a recurring sketch titled "Leg-Up!" In 2001, she took her last role, playing "Coco" in director David Lynch's critically acclaimed Mulholland Drive.

Outside of acting, she published two books. Her first book was an autobiography, Miller's High Life (1972). Her second book was Tapping into the Force (1990), about her experiences in the psychic world.

Personal life

Miller married three times, to Reese Llewellyn Milner in 1946, to William Moss in 1958, and to Arthur Cameron in 1961, and in between marriages dated such well-known men as Howard Hughes, and Conrad Hilton. During her marriage to Reese Llewellyn Milner, while pregnant with daughter Mary in her last trimester, she was thrown down the stairs by Milner and went into early labor. Her baby Mary lived only three hours on November 12, 1946.

Death

Miller died, aged 80, from lung cancer on January 22, 2004, and her remains were interred in Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, California.

For her contribution to the motion-picture industry, Miller has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6914 Hollywood Boulevard. In 1998, a Golden Palm Star on the Palm Springs, California, Walk of Stars was dedicated to her. To honor Miller's contribution to dance, the Smithsonian Institution displays her favorite pair of tap shoes, which she playfully nicknamed "Moe and Joe".

Work

Film

Year Title Role Notes
1934 Anne of Green Gables School Girl Uncredited
1935 The Good Fairy Schoolgirl in Orphanage Uncredited
1936 The Devil on Horseback Dancer Uncredited
1937 New Faces of 1937 Herself, Dance Specialty
1937 The Life of the Party Betty
1937 Stage Door Annie
1938 Radio City Revels Billie Shaw
1938 Having Wonderful Time Camp Guest Uncredited
1938 You Can't Take It with You Essie Carmichael
1938 Room Service Hilda Manny
1938 Tarnished Angel Violet 'Vi' McMaster
1940 Too Many Girls Pepe
1940 Hit Parade of 1941 Anabelle Potter
1940 Melody Ranch Julie Shelton
1941 Time Out for Rhythm Kitty Brown
1941 Go West, Young Lady Lola
1942 True to the Army Vicki Marlow
1942 Priorities on Parade Donna D'Arcy
1943 Reveille with Beverly Beverly Ross
1943 What's Buzzin', Cousin? Ann Crawford
1944 Hey, Rookie Winnie Clark
1944 Sailor's Holiday Herself
1944 Jam Session Terry Baxter
1944 Carolina Blues Julie Carver
1945 Eadie Was a Lady Eadie Allen and Edithea Alden
1945 Eve Knew Her Apples Eve Porter
1946 The Thrill of Brazil Linda Lorens Alternative title: Dancing Down to Rio
1948 Easter Parade Nadine Hale
1948 The Kissing Bandit Fiesta Specialty Dancer
1949 On the Town Claire Huddesen
1950 Watch the Birdie Miss Lucky Vista
1951 Texas Carnival Sunshine Jackson
1951 Two Tickets to Broadway Joyce Campbell
1952 Lovely to Look At Bubbles Cassidy
1953 Small Town Girl Lisa Bellmount
1953 Kiss Me Kate Lois Lane 'Bianca'
1954 Deep in My Heart Performer in 'Artists and Models'
1955 Hit the Deck Ginger
1956 The Opposite Sex Gloria
1956 The Great American Pastime Mrs. Doris Patterson
1976 Won Ton Ton, the Dog Who Saved Hollywood President's Girl 2
2001 Mulholland Drive Catherine 'Coco' Lenoix Final film role

Television

Year Title Role Notes
1953 Lux Video Theatre Intermission Guest Episode - "Three Just Me"
1971 Dames at Sea Mona TV adaptation of stage musical
1972 Love, American Style Episode - "Love and the Christmas Punch"
1982 The Love Boat Connie Carruthers Episode - "The Musical/My Ex-Mom/The Show Must Go On/The Pest/My Aunt, the Worrier" (Part 1 & 2)
1990 Out of This World Elsie Vanderhoff Episode - "Diamond's Are Evie's Best Friend"
1993 Home Improvement Mrs. Keeney Episode - "Dances with Tools"
2003 100 Greatest Self Contributor, Episode - "The 100 Greatest Musicals".

Theatre

Year Film Role Notes
1939 George White's Scandals of 1939 Performer Alvin Theatre, Broadway
1968 Can-Can Performer
1969 Mame Mame Dennis Winter Garden Theatre, Broadway
1971 Hello, Dolly! Dolly Gallagher Levi Kenley Players
1972 Anything Goes Reno Sweeney Regional, New Jersey
1973 Blithe Spirit Elvira Little Theatre on Square
1976 Panama Hattie Hattie Maloney Syracuse Artists Playhouse
1978 Cactus Flower Stephanie Regional
1979-83 Sugar Babies Ann Mark Hellinger Theatre, Broadway
1998 Follies Carlotta Campion Paper Mill Playhouse, Millburn, New Jersey

Awards and nominations

Year Award Category Nominated work Result Ref.
1980 Tony Awards Best Actress in a Musical Sugar Babies Nominated
1980 Drama Desk Awards Outstanding Actress in a Musical Nominated

On February 8, 1960, Miller received a Star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6914 Hollywood Blvd.

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Ann Miller para niños

  • List of dancers
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