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Vera-Ellen in 1941
Vera-Ellen Rohe

February 16, 1921
DiedAugust 30, 1981(1981-08-30) (aged 60)[1]
Resting placeGlen Haven Memorial Park, Sylmar, California
Occupation(s)Dancer, actress
Years active1937–1959
Robert Hightower
(m. 1941; div. 1946)
Victor Rothschild
(m. 1954; div. 1966)

Vera-Ellen (born Vera-Ellen Rohe; February 16, 1921[citation needed] – August 30, 1981) was an American dancer and actress. She is remembered for her solo performances as well as her work with partners Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, Danny Kaye, and Donald O'Connor. She is best known for her starring roles in On the Town (1949) with Gene Kelly and White Christmas (1954) with Danny Kaye.

Early life[edit]

Vera-Ellen Rohe was born in Norwood, Ohio, to Martin F. Rohe, a piano dealer,[2] and Alma C. Westmeier. Both were descended from German immigrants.[3] Her hyphenated first name originated in a dream that her mother had and that her mother saw it in the “Lights.”[4]

She began dancing at age 10 and quickly became proficient. One of her fellow dance students at Hessler Studio of Dancing was Doris Day.[5] At age 13, she was a winner on the Major Bowes Amateur Hour[6] and embarked upon a professional career.


Left to right: June Haver, Vera-Ellen, and Vivian Blaine in Three Little Girls in Blue (1946)


In 1939, she made her Broadway debut in the Jerome Kern/Oscar Hammerstein musical Very Warm for May. She became one of the youngest Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall. 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 1945 film Wonder Man.


Starting in 1945 with Wonder Man, her first film, her singing was dubbed. However, the Decca Broadway Original Cast Album of 1943's revival of A Connecticut Yankee has two vocals by Vera-Ellen, "I Feel at Home with You" and "You Always Love the Same Girl," both duets with Chester Stratton. Her style is of a comic soubrette.[citation needed]


She danced with Gene Kelly in the Hollywood musicals Words and Music and On the Town, while also appearing in the last Marx Brothers film, Love Happy. She received top billing alongside Fred Astaire in the musicals Three Little Words and The Belle of New York. She had a co-starring role with Donald O'Connor in the Ethel Merman vehicle Call Me Madam. She also starred in the 1951 musical comedy 'Happy Go Lovely' alongside David Niven and Cesar Romero. Vera-Ellen's penultimate film role was the 1954 blockbuster hit White Christmas, co-starring with Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, and Rosemary Clooney. She starred in only one more film, the 1957 British production Let's Be Happy.[6]


Vera-Ellen was a reasonably frequent guest on US variety programming in the mid-to-late 1950s. Her final performances were on a November 22, 1958, television episode of The Perry Como Show[7] and a February 14, 1959, broadcast of The Dinah Shore Show.[8] Following that, Vera-Ellen retired from performing.[citation needed]

Personal life[edit]

According to Hollywood chronicler Brian Cronin, what he describes as Vera-Ellen's "extremely thin"[9] appearance led to rumors during her career that she had an eating disorder.[9] A rumor that her neck was always covered during the filming of White Christmas because of wrinkling caused by supposed anorexia persists to this day. However, pictures and video taken at the same time show her neck appearing normal and undamaged.[9] A friend, Bill Dennington, who knew her during the last 20 years of her life, dismissed the story about her neck and added that he hated "that people think of her as 'the dancer with anorexia' and not just the fabulous dancer who has been so overlooked."[9]

Her niece by marriage, Ileana Rothschild, born in 1967, remembered that her aunt "never stopped taking dance classes and maintained her slim figure always." She was also an "avid swimmer," who used a swimming program to recover from a mild stroke late in her life. According to Rothschild, she had no eating disorder.[9]

Vera-Ellen was married twice. Her first husband was a fellow dancer, Robert Hightower, to whom she was married from February 1941 to November 1946.[10] Her second husband was oilman Victor Rothschild. They were married from 1954 to 1966 when they divorced. While married to Rothschild, she gave birth to a daughter, Victoria Ellen, who died in 1963 at three months from SIDS. Following the death of her only child, she withdrew from public life.[citation needed]


Vera-Ellen died at the Los Angeles County General Hospital on August 30, 1981, of ovarian cancer. She was 60 years old.[11]


Year Title Role Notes
1945 Wonder Man Midge Mallon Singing voice dubbed by June Hutton
1946 The Kid from Brooklyn Susie Sullivan Singing voice dubbed by Suzanne Ellers
Three Little Girls in Blue Myra Charters Singing voice dubbed by Carol Stewart
1947 Carnival in Costa Rica Luisa Molina Singing voice dubbed by Pat Friday
1948 Words and Music Herself
1949 Love Happy Maggie Phillips
On the Town Ivy Smith
1950 Three Little Words Jessie Brown Singing voice dubbed by Anita Ellis
1951 Happy Go Lovely Janet Jones Singing voice dubbed by Eve Boswell
1952 The Belle of New York Angela Bonfils Singing voice dubbed by Anita Ellis
1953 Call Me Madam Princess Maria Singing voice dubbed by Carol Richards
Big Leaguer Christy
1954 White Christmas Judy Haynes Singing voice dubbed by Trudy Stevens
1957 Let's Be Happy Jeannie MacLean Singing voice dubbed by Joan Small
(final film role)

Stage work[edit]

Radio appearances[edit]

Year Program Episode/source
1953 Stars over Hollywood Hasty Retreat[12]


  1. ^ "Vera-Ellen, Dancer in Movies". The New York Times. 2 September 1980. p. 17. Retrieved 2011-07-03.
  2. ^ Handsaker, Gene (March 22, 1946). "Hollywood". Altoona Tribune. p. 14. Retrieved June 27, 2015 – via open access
  3. ^ Soren, David (2003). Vera-Ellen: The Magic and the Mystery. Luminary Press. ISBN 978-1-887664-48-6.
  4. ^ West, Alice (April 12, 1953). "Behind Scenes at Hollywood". The Ogden Standard-Examiner. p. 20. Retrieved June 27, 2015 – via open access
  5. ^ Kiesewetter, John (December 13, 2012). "Vera-Ellen danced into hearts". Retrieved 27 June 2015.
  6. ^ a b "Vera-Ellen dead at age 55". Ukiah Daily Journal. September 1, 1981. p. 17. Retrieved June 27, 2015 – via open access
  7. ^ "Perry Como Show". The Decatur Daily Review. November 22, 1958. p. 6. Retrieved June 27, 2015 – via open access
  8. ^ "TV Listings". The Oregon Statesman. February 14, 1959. p. 11. Retrieved June 27, 2015 – via open access
  9. ^ a b c d e "Did Vera-Ellen's Neck Have to be Covered During the Filming of White Christmas Because it was Ravaged by the Effects of Anorexia?". 2012-09-13. Retrieved 2018-12-24.
  10. ^ Cf. Soren, pp. 71–72: "The stable, happy marriage with Bob Hightower lasted from their wedding day on February 4, 1941 (some sources say February 1942 or March 17, 1943) to their official separation in 1946 ... Photos of ... Vera Ellen hit the newspapers on November 28, 1946, when a default divorce was granted in Los Angeles"
  11. ^ "Vera-Ellen, Dancer in Movies", The New York Times, Hollywood, Associated Press, September 2, 1981
  12. ^ Kirby, Walter (May 10, 1953). "Better Radio Programs for the Week". The Decatur Daily Review. p. 50. Retrieved June 27, 2015 – via open access

Further reading[edit]

  • Oderman, Stuart, Talking to the Piano Player 2: Stars, Writers, and Bandleaders Remember. BearManor Media, 2009. ISBN 1-59393-320-7.
  • Soren, David, Vera-Ellen: The Magic and the Mystery. Luminary Press, Baltimore, 2003. ISBN 1-88766-448-3.

External links[edit]