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Ethel Hilda "Ruby" Keeler

Also Known As: "Ruby"
Birthplace: Dartmouth, Halifax County, Nova Scotia, Canada
Death: March 28, 1993 (83)
Palm Springs, Riverside, California, United States (Cancer)
Place of Burial: Orange, Orange, California, United States
Immediate Family:

Daughter of Ralph Hector Keeler and Eleanora Nellie Keeler
Wife of John Homer Lowe
Ex-wife of Al Jolson
Mother of Al Jolson, Jr.
Sister of Gertrude A. Keeler; Helen E. Keeler; Anna May Keeler; Margaret Mary Weatherwax and William Cyril Keeler

Occupation: Dancer
Managed by: Scott Meyer
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Ruby Keeler

Actress, Dancer. Ruby Keeler, who appeared in some of Hollywood's best known golden age musicals, was born Ethel Hilda Keeler on August 25, 1909 (sometimes shown as 1910). Her family moved to New York where she learned tap and popular dance before leaving school entirely to dance in nightclubs and on Broadway. It was at one of these nightclubs where she met future husband Al Jolson. Following their 1928 marriage, she moved to Hollywood where she signed with Warner Brothers. She appeared (often alongside crooner Dick Powell) in a number of succesful musical comedies, most notably "42nd Street", "Gold Diggers of 1933", "Footlight Parade" and "Dames", all of which featured elaborate dance routines choreographed by Busby Berkeley. She divorced Jolson in 1939 citing mental cruelty (she would later refer to the marriage as "a long mistake"). In 1941, she married businessman John H. Lowe and settled down to private life. After twenty-eight years of marriage, John Lowe passed away from cancer, paving the way for her return to Broadway in 1971's "No No Nanette." Ruby continued to appear in the show until suffering a brain aneurysm in 1974, leading to a period of physical therapy and eventual recovery. Four years after her final film appearance in 1989, she passed away from kidney cancer.

Ruby Keeler (born Ethel Hilda Keeler; August 25, 1910 – February 28, 1993) was a Canadian-born American actress, dancer and singer.


Jolson was the hottest property in show business in 1928. That's when he met and fell for Ruby Keeler, a nineteen year old chorus dancer at Texas Guinan's Manhattan speakeasy. Jolson was more than twice her age, and she was already romantically involved with mobster Johnny "Irish" Costello. But as before, Jolson launched a relentless romantic offensive, showering Ruby with gifts and attention. After Jolson gave Ruby a pre-wedding gift of one million dollars, her Irish Catholic family dropped all objections, as did Costello. Al and Ruby were married in September 1928 and honeymooned in Europe.

Ruby had been raised on the streets of New York, and was not one to quietly put up with Al's sometimes dismissive, sometimes abusive attitude. Unlike his other wives, Ruby also had a career of her own. So long as that career provided her with sufficient distraction, Ruby would endure the strain of being Mrs. Jolson.

Al tended to show plenty of interest in Ruby whenever it suited his insatiable desire for publicity. When Florenz Ziegfeld invited Keeler to star in the Broadway musical Show Girl (1929 - 111), Jolson insisted that she accept. Knowing her talents were limited, Keeler was terrified. At the first pre-Broadway performance in Boston, she was dancing to the Gershwin showstopper "Liza" when Al unexpectedly stood up in the audience and started singing it. The audience, thinking that Jolson was encouraging his young wife, roared its approval. Ziegfeld made the most of the situation by convincing Al to repeat the stunt during the show's first week in New York.

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Ruby Keeler's Timeline

August 25, 1909
Dartmouth, Halifax County, Nova Scotia, Canada
March 18, 1935
Age 25
March 28, 1993
Age 83
Palm Springs, Riverside, California, United States
Orange, Orange, California, United States