Ann Miller

Johnnie Lucille Collier, better known as Ann Miller (April 12, 1923[1] – January 22, 2004) was an American singer, dancer and actress. Miller was born in Houston, 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.[2][3] Miller’s maternal grandmother was Cherokee.[2] Miller’s father insisted on the name Johnnie because he had wanted a boy, but she was often called Annie.[2] She took up dancing to exercise her legs to help her rickets. She was considered a child dance prodigy. In an interview featured in a “behind the scenes” documentary on the making of the compilation That’s Entertainment III, she said that Eleanor Powell was an early inspiration.

At the age of 13 Miller had been hired as a dancer in the “Black Cat Club” in San Francisco (she reportedly told them she was 18). It was there she was discovered by Lucille Ball and talent scout/comic Benny Rubin. This led Miller to be given a contract with RKO in 1936 at the age of 13 (she had also told them she was 18) and she remained there until 1940. The following year, Miller was offered a contract at Columbia Pictures. She finally hit her mark (starting in the late 1940s and Early 1950s ) in her roles in MGM musicals such as Kiss Me Kate, Easter Parade, and On the Town.

Ann Miller and Fred Astaire, “It Only Happens When I Dance With You” from Easter Parade

Short Documentary about Easter Parade

Miller popularized pantyhose in the 1940s as a solution to the problem of continual torn stockings during the filming of dance production numbers. The common practice had been to sew hosiery to briefs worn by Miller. If torn, the entire garment had to be removed and resewn with a new pair. At Miller’s request, hosiery was manufactured for her as a single pantyhose.[4]

Miller was famed for her speed in tap dancing. 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 slick and slippery, she actually danced in shoes with rubber soles. 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.[4]

This is the finale from the Columbia film, “Reveille with Beverly,” and features Ann Miller in fine form with some of the most rapid taps you’ll hear from any dancer.

In 1970, satirist Stan Freberg, father of the funny commercial, used Miller and her tap-dancing skills in a television commercial for “Great American Soups.” Miller initially plays a housewife asked by her “husband” (Dave Willock) what she’s prepared for dinner. She throws off her house frock to reveal a sequined dance outfit, and the kitchen set splits open to reveal a huge Hollywood stage, showcasing a giant can of soup, atop which Miller sings and dances, accompanied by a double chorus line. At the end of the commercial, she returns to the kitchen set, where the husband character exclaims, “Why do you have to make such a big ‘production’ out of everything?” According to Freberg, the commercial cost so much to produce that little money was left in the advertising budget to purchase airtime for it. The commercial can be seen on the video accompanying Freberg’s boxed set release, “The Tip of the Freberg”.

She was known, especially later in her career, for her distinctive appearance, which reflected a studio-era ideal of glamor: massive black bouffant hair, heavy makeup with a slash of crimson lipstick, and fashions that emphasized her lithe figure and long dancer’s legs. Her film career effectively ended in 1956 as the studio system lost steam to television, but she remained active in the theatre and on television. She starred on Broadway in the musical “Mame” in 1969, in which she wowed the audience in a tap number created just for her. 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.

“I’ll Be Hard To Handle” -One of my favorite tunes. Most folks don’t think of Ann Miller as a singer but as was pointed out to me by a close friend, she was one of the few stars in Hollywood that was not dubbed.

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. In 2001 she took her last role, playing Coco in auteur director David Lynch‘s critically acclaimed Mulholland Drive. Her last stage performance was a 1998 production of Stephen Sondheim‘s Follies, in which she played the hardboiled survivor Carlotta Campion and received rave reviews for her rendition of the song, “I’m Still Here”.

Miller also performed a guest appearance on Home Improvement as a dance instructor to Tim and Jill. For her contribution to the motion picture industry, Ann Miller has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6914 Hollywood Blvd.

PRICELESS!! This is from Sugar Babies, on Broadway in 1980. Ann Miller and Mickey Rooney are fantastic together! Listen to him play piano and sing, and Ann sounds like she is going on 25 years old when she takes the lead!

Miller was parodied on Saturday Night Live by Molly Shannon.

She died, aged 80, from cancer, which had metastasized to her lungs, and was interred in the Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, California; a reputable resting place for people who were of the Catholic faith.

Quick Bio Facts:

Ann Miller

Ann MillerAKA Johnnie Lucille Ann Collier

Born: 12-Apr1923
Birthplace: Chireno, TX
Died: 22-Jan2004
Location of death: Los Angeles, CA
Cause of death: Cancer – Lung
Remains: Buried, Holy Cross Cemetery, Culver City, CA

Gender: Female
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Dancer, Actor

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Kiss Me Kate

Tapdancer. Impersonated by Molly Shannon on the recurring SNL sketch “Leg Up!”

Father: John Alfred Collier
Mother: Clara Birdwell
Husband: Reese Llewellyn Milner (m. 1946, d. 1947)
Husband: William Moss (Texas oilman, m. 1958)
Husband: Arthur Cameron (Texas oilman, m. 1961)
Slept with: Conrad Hilton
Slept with: Howard Hughes
Slept with: Louis B. Mayer

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
RKO Radio Pictures under contract
Hollywood Walk of Fame 6914 Hollywood Blvd.

FILMOGRAPHY AS ACTOR
Mulholland Dr. (16-May-2001)
That’s Entertainment! III (16-Jun-1994) Herself
Won Ton Ton, the Dog Who Saved Hollywood (26-May-1976)
The Opposite Sex (26-Oct-1956)
Hit the Deck (3-Mar-1955)
Deep in My Heart (9-Dec-1954)
Kiss Me Kate (26-Nov-1953)
Small Town Girl (10-Apr-1953)
Lovely to Look at (29-May-1952)
Two Tickets to Broadway (20-Nov-1951)
Watch The Birdie (11-Dec-1950)
On the Town (8-Dec-1949)
The Kissing Bandit (18-Nov-1948)
Easter Parade (30-Jun-1948)
The Thrill of Brazil (6-Sep-1946)
Eve Knew Her Apples (12-Apr-1945)
Carolina Blues (20-Dec-1944)
Reveille with Beverly (4-Feb-1943)
Go West, Young Lady (27-Nov-1941)
Melody Ranch (15-Nov-1940)
Too Many Girls (8-Oct-1940)
Room Service (30-Sep-1938)
You Can’t Take It with You (23-Aug-1938)
Stage Door (8-Oct-1937)
The Life of the Party (3-Sep-1937)

Sources: Wikipedia, YouTube, imdb.com, nndb.com

Features

19341935

1936

1937

1938

1940

1941
1942
1943
1944

Anne of Green GablesThe Good Fairy

The Devil on Horseback

New Faces of 1937
The Life of the Party
Stage Door

Radio City Revels
Having Wonderful Time
You Can’t Take It with You
Room Service
Tarnished Angel

Too Many Girls
Hit Parade of 1941
Melody Ranch

Time Out for Rhythm
Go West, Young Lady

True to the Army
Priorities on Parade

Reveille with Beverly
What’s Buzzin’, Cousin?

Hey, Rookie
Jam Session
Carolina Blues

1945
1946

1948
1949

1950

1951
1952

1953
1954

1955

1956
1976

1994
2001

2003

2004

Eadie Was a Lady
Eve Knew Her ApplesThe Thrill of Brazil

Easter Parade
The Kissing Bandit

On the Town

Watch the Birdie

Texas Carnival
Two Tickets to Broadway

Lovely to Look At

Small Town Girl
Kiss Me Kate (1953)

Deep in My Heart

Hit the Deck

The Opposite Sex
The Great American Pastime

Won Ton Ton

A Century of Cinema
That’s Entertainment! III

Mulholland Drive

Broadway: The Golden Age

Goodnight, We Love You

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2 Comments

  1. You’re right on w/ the clip from Sugar Babies: PRICELESS! I would’ve sold my soul to the devil to have seen it live.

  2. Ann, you are an Angel… You are with God now… Help the seventh art to be(come) beautyful…


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