Johnnie Lucille Collier, better known as Ann Miller (April 12, 1923 – 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. Miller’s maternal grandmother was Cherokee. Miller’s father insisted on the name Johnnie because he had wanted a boy, but she was often called Annie. 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.
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.
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:
AKA Johnnie Lucille Ann Collier
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Dancer, Actor
Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Kiss Me Kate
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
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
|19341935||Anne of Green GablesThe Good Fairy
The Devil on Horseback
New Faces of 1937
Time Out for Rhythm
True to the Army
Reveille with Beverly
|Eadie Was a Lady
Eve Knew Her ApplesThe Thrill of Brazil
Watch the Birdie
The Opposite Sex
Won Ton Ton
Goodnight, We Love You ♦