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Vera-Ellen's Geni Profile

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Vera-Ellen Westmeier Rohe

Birthplace: Cincinnati, Hamilton, Ohio, United States
Death: Died in Los Angeles, California, United States
Cause of death: Cancer
Place of Burial: Los Angeles, California, United States
Immediate Family:

Daughter of Martin Friedrich Rohe and Alma Rohe
Wife of Robert Hightower and Victor Bennett Rothschild
Mother of Victoria Ellen Rothschild

Occupation: actress, dancer
Managed by: R. Owen Wyant
Last Updated:

About Vera-Ellen

Vera-Ellen (February 16, 1921 - August 30, 1981) was an American actress and stage and film dancer, principally celebrated for her filmed dance partnerships with Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly and Donald O'Connor.

She was born Vera Ellen Westmeier Rohe in Norwood, Ohio to Martin Rohe and Alma Catherine Westmeier, both descended from German immigrants. She began dancing at the age of 9 and quickly became very proficient. At 16, she was a winner on the Major Bowes Amateur Hour, and entered upon a professional career.

In 1939, Vera-Ellen made her Broadway theatre debut in the Jerome Kern/Oscar Hammerstein musical Very Warm For May at the age of 18. She became one of the youngest Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall, although she was not tall. This led to roles on Broadway in Panama Hattie, By Jupiter, and A Connecticut Yankee, where she was spotted by Samuel Goldwyn, who cast her opposite Danny Kaye and Virginia Mayo in the film Wonder Man (1945).

Vera-Ellen in Happy Go Lovely (1951)She appeared in several films, including White Christmas (1954), On the Town (1949), the "Slaughter on Tenth Avenue" dance in Words and Music (1948) -- the last two with Gene Kelly. Vera-Ellen was also one of the stars in the last Marx Brothers film, Love Happy (1949). She took top billing alongside Fred Astaire in Three Little Words (1950) and The Belle of New York (1952), with Donald O'Connor in Call Me Madam (1953), and in Let's Be Happy (1957).

During the 1950s, she was reputed to have the "smallest waist in Hollywood", probably because she suffered from anorexia, which contributed to her premature aging [1]. She retired from the screen in 1957.

Vera-Ellen was married twice. Her first husband was fellow dancer Robert Hightower, whom she was married to from 1945 to 1946. Her second husband, from 1954 to 1966, was millionaire Victor Rothschild. Both marriages ended in divorce. While married to Rothschild, she gave birth to a daughter, Victoria Ellen Rothschild, who died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome in 1963. Following this traumatic event Vera-Ellen further withdrew from public life.

She died of cancer at her home in California at the age of 60 in 1981.

Shortening and hyphenating her name to "Vera-Ellen" in the early 40s, this little lady became one of the greatest dancers of her generation on Broadway and Hollywood. Vera-Ellen (1921-1981), appeared in "White Christmas" (1954) and"On the Town" (1949) During her early career, she appeared in nightclub acts, as one of the youngest Rockettes, and a Broadway dancer.

Biography: David Soren, Vera-Ellen The Magic and the Mystery

In 1936 Vera Ellen's dance studio employers took her to a dance teacher's convention in New York City. Vera was intrigued by the opportunities for dance education and employment in New York and wanted to return. Vera's mother Alma apparently thought so too, but her father was reluctant. He relented when Alma agreed to accompany Vera, and that she agree not to accept any employment in establishments that served liquor.

Vera Ellen auditioned for and then won a competition on the "Major Bowes Amateur Hour". She then went on the road with one of Bowes' touring companies, the "All Girl Unit". Alma accompanied Vera on this tour. After the tour Vera Ellen enrolled in the Sonia Serva School of Dancing. Alma took a secretarial job to pay for the lessons. Vera auditioned for a part in a Broadway show but was rejected because of her small stature. As a result of this, Vera Ellen embarked on a campaign to try to increase her height. At age sixteen Vera Ellen was only four feet six inches tall (135 cm). and weighed just 76 pounds(37kg). She did begin to grow ,though, and by age twenty-one she had reached her adult height of 5 feet 4 inches(160 cm). Vera Ellen believed all her life that her growth was due entirely to the diet and exercise regime she followed in her late teens, but the growth was more likely due to an overdue natural growth spurt.

During 1937, she was able to land a dancing job with the Ted Lewis band in 1937. Just after her eighteenth birthday, Vera Ellen tried out for a spot in Billy Rose's Casa Manana club show. Vera refused to audition for a chorus position though, instead opting to audition for a specialty dance spot to the annoyance of Rose. She did get the spot though. After the Casa Manana closed Vera Ellen went on to Broadway.

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 was known as "Twinkle toes". She appeared in many movies, almost all of them musicals, until the late 1950's.

Films include: Wonder Man, Three Little Girls in Blue, Kid from Brooklyn, Carnival in Costa Rico, Words and Music, On the Town, Love Happy, Three Little Words, Happy Go Lovely, Belle of New York, Call Me Madam, Big Leaguer, White Christmas and Lets Be Happy.

Supposedly suffered from anorexia nervousa.

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Vera-Ellen's Timeline

February 16, 1921
Cincinnati, Hamilton, Ohio, United States
August 30, 1981
Age 60
Los Angeles, California, United States
Los Angeles, California, United States