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- Johnnie Lucille Ann Collier
- Chireno Texas
- United States
- Actress Dancer
- Long Legs And Fast Tap Dance Routines
Ann Miller Early life
Miller was born Johnnie Lucille Ann Collier (4/12/23) in Chireno in Nacogdoches County in east Texas, the daughter of 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.
Ann Miller Career
At the age of 11 Miller had been hired as a dancer in the "Black Cat Club" in San Francisco (she had 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) in her roles in MGM musicals such as Kiss Me Kate, Easter Parade, and On the Town.
Miller invented 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.
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.
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 anthemic "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.
Miller was parodied on Saturday Night Live. She was played by Molly Shannon as a talk show host, with Debbie Reynolds (played by Cheri Oteri), on a show called Legs Up.
She died at the age of 80 from cancer, which had metastasized to her lungs, and was interred in the Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, California.
Ann Miller Trivia
Made something of a comeback in the early 1970s singing and dancing in the Busby Berkeley-inspired TV ads for Heinz's "Great American Soups." The song she sang was written by humorist Stan Freberg and choreographed by Danny Daniels.
She made herself four years older, when she began working in Hollywood. She became an excellent tap dancer after her mother told her while watching Broadway Melody of 1936 (1935) starring Eleanor Powell if she would practice a little that same quality.
When she was in her early teens, she was advised to pretend she was 18 in order to get a job in the movies. Her father wanted a boy, so Ann was named Johnnie Lucille Collier, and she later went by Lucille. In 1937, in order to keep her contract with RKO Pictures, she got a fake birth certificate, which said she was Lucille Ann Collier, born in Chireno, Texas, on April 12, 1919.
Famous for her big hair in the later years of her career.
Father was a well-known criminal defense lawyer who defended such infamous gangsters as Baby Face Nelson and Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow of "Bonnie and Clyde" fame.
Discovered by Lucille Ball while doing a show in a San Francisco night club.
Miscarried her baby when she fell down a flight of stairs after a fight with husband Reese Milner.
Devoutly spiritual, she dabbles in psychic phenomena and astrology. She believes she was once Queen Hathshepsut of Egypt.
Refusing to do movies for years because disliked nudity and sex, she finally relented and returned to films after nearly four decades with David Lynch's Mulholland Dr. (2001), which contained nudity and explicit sex.
At the end of her MGM contract she flew overseas to Morocco to entertain on the Timex TV Hour for Bob Hope. She sang and danced "Too Darn Hot" in 120-degree heat, entertaining 5000 soldiers.
Measurements: 35-22-34 (Source: Celebrity Sleuth magazine)
Although some sources list her year of birth as 1919, the U.S. census taken on April 1, 1930, several years before she entered show business, gives her age as 7 years. (Harris County, Texas, enumeration district 71, p. 2A, family 86.)
She was named "Johnnie" by her father, who was expecting a boy.
Claimed her difficulty maintaining relationships with men was due to her being an Egyptian queen in a past life and executing any men who displeased her.
In her tap shoes she claimed to be able to dance at 500 taps per minute. Her tap shoes were called Moe and Joe and were exhibited in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington.
Began dance classes in order to strengthen her legs after suffering from rickets.
On an interview on Turner Classic Movies, she told a story about how each time she needed to dress for a dance on screen, the tops of her stockings needed to be sewn to the costume she was wearing. This was a tedious process and needed to be repeated each time there was a run, etc. One day, she suggested to the man supplying the stockings that he add a top to the stockings so they could be worn as one piece. ...and that's how pantyhose was born.
Was nominated for Broadway's 1980 Tony Award as Best Actress (Musical) for "Sugar Babies."
In Call Her Mom (1972) (TV), she was replaced by Gloria DeHaven after she, herself, had replaced Cyd Charisse.
Her favorite role was Bianca/Lois Lane in Kiss Me Kate (1953).
Inducted into the International Tap Dance Hall of Fame in 2004.
On her tax returns, listed her occupation as "Star Lady".
Biography in: "The Scribner Encyclopedia of American Lives". Volume 7, 2003-2005, pages 372-373. Farmington Hills, MI: Thomson Gale, 2007.
In the 1970s while tap dancing on stage, most notably in the Broadway show "Sugar Babies" with Mickey Rooney, she often wore very large wigs sprayed stiff. This became a target of good natured spoofs on TV shows such as "The Carol Burnett Show" (1967). In the off-Broadway show "Forbidden Broadway", a revue of show tunes with parody lyrics by Gerard Alessandrini, she was portrayed by an actress who sang (to the tune of "That's Entertainment") a song that included the verse: "When I was a girl back at old MGM/ They offered me roles sorta like "Auntie Em"/ I guess I really showed them/ When I killed L.B. Mayer by hitting him with my hair!".
She donated a pair of her gold colored tap shoes to the National Museum of American History in the Smithsonian Institute.
Nominated for the 1980 Tony Award (New York City) for Actress in a Musical for "Sugar Babies.".
Ann Miller on the Web
On The Wavelength With Actress Penelope Ann Miller ... Penelope Ann Miller likes to take on projects other actresses might not have the courage to. She recently completed a recurring role as Sonia, the ex-wife of Ray Romano's character Joe, on TNT's critically acclaimed Men of a ...
Home Theater 3D » Penelope Ann Miller speaks about new silent ... Audiences are kind of craving going back to the beginning because we're so assaulted with noise and sound and special effects and 3D. This movie is a real ...