Miller, Ann (1919—)
Miller, Ann (1919—)
American dancer and actress. Name variations: Lucy Ann Collier; Lucille Ann Collier. Born Johnnie Lucille Collier on April 12, 1919 (she claims 1923), in Chireno (some sources say Houston), Texas; daughter of John Alfred Collier (a criminal lawyer) and Clara Collier; married Reese Llewellyn Milner (a millionaire industrialist), on February 16, 1946 (divorced); married William Moss (a Texas oilman), in 1958 (divorced May 1961); married Arthur Cameron (a Texas oil millionaire), in 1961 (marriage annulled 1962); no children.
Published autobiography, Miller's High Life (1972).
The Devil on Horseback (1936); New Faces of 1937 (1937); Life of the Party (1937); Stage Door (1937); Radio City Revels (1938); Having a Wonderful Time (1938); Tarnished Angel (1938); You Can't Take It With You (1938); Room Service (1938); Melody Ranch (1940); Too Many Girls (1940); Hit Parade of 1941 (1940); Go West, Young Lady (1941); Time Out for Rhythm (1941); Priorities on Parade (1942); True to the Army (1942); Reveille with Beverly (1943); What's Buzzin' Cousin? (1943); Carolina Blues (1944); Jam Session (1944); Hey, Rookie (1944); Eadie Was a Lady (1945); Eve Knew Her Apples (1945); Thrill of Brazil (1946); Easter Parade (1948); The Kissing Bandit (1948); On the Town (1949); Watch the Birdie (1950); Texas Carnival (1951); Two Tickets to Broadway (1951); Lovely to Look At (1952); Small Town Girl (1953); Kiss Me Kate (1953); Deep in My Heart (1954); Hit the Deck (1955); The Opposite Sex (1956); The Great American Pastime (1956); Won Ton Ton, the Dog Who Saved Hollywood (1975); Lucy and Desi: A Home Movie (1993); That's Entertainment! III (1994).
George White's Scandals of 1939 (1939); Can-Can (1969); title role in revival of Mame (New York City, May 1969–January 1970); summer tour of Hello Dolly! (1971); summer tour of Anything Goes (1972); Panama Hattie and Cactus Flower (1978–79); starring role in Sugar Babies (opened October 8, 1979, at New York City's Mark Hellinger Theater; London run, September 1988–January 1989 at Savoy Theater).
"The Bob Hope Show" (October 6, 1957); "The Perry Como Show" (1959); "The Ed Sullivan Show" (1960); "The Hollywood Palace" (1964); appeared on many interview shows, including the "Conan O'Brien" and "Tom Snyder" shows (1994); guest starred onAnn-Margret special "Dames at Sea"; "Love Boat"; "Out of This World" (1991); "Home Improvement" (1993).
Dames at Sea (Bell System K-4900); Deep in My Heart (MGM E-3153, MGM SES 54ST); Easter Parade (MGM E-502, MGM E-3227, MGM SES-40ST); Hit the Deck (MGM E-3163, MGM SES-43ST); Kiss Me Kate (MGM E-3077, Metro M/MS-525, MGM SES-44ST); Lovely to Look At (MGM E-150, MGM E-3230, MGM SES-50ST); On the Town (Show Biz 5603, Caliban 6023); Small Town Girl (Scarce Rarities 5503); Sugar Babies (Col Special Products BE-8302); Two Tickets to Broadway (RCA LPM-39).
Known for her vivaciousness, rapid-fire tap dancing, and fantastic legs, actress and dancer
Ann Miller was in show business for most of her life, starring in 40 motion pictures, numerous Broadway shows and national tours, and making many television appearances. Sent by her mother to dancing school at the age of three to cure a case of rickets, Ann (then known as Johnnie Lucille) soon became adept at "quick-style" dancing and performed at many local functions. Her parents divorced when she was 11, and her mother, who had dreams of making Ann a star, toted her off to Hollywood where Ann continued dancing at local functions and won a talent contest. At 17, she was hired for a brief chorus job in The Devil on Horseback (1936).
Actress Lucille Ball discovered her in 1936 working at the Bal Tabarin Club in San Francisco, and arranged for a screen test. She was then hired by RKO and, with her name changed to Ann Miller, appeared in New Faces of 1937, dancing in her famous fast style. Miller appeared in a host of other films for RKO, including Stage Door (1937), Radio City Revels (1938), and Room Service (1938), before leaving for New York City to join the Three Stooges on stage in George White's Scandals of 1939. Although the show was short-lived, it did serve to gain her attention. "Ann is terrific. She's an eye tonic, has loads of style and a personality that whirls with hurricane force across the footlights," wrote Robert Coleman in the New York Daily Mirror. She returned to RKO for third billing in Too Many Girls (1940), starring Lucille Ball and Frances Langford . Gene Autry's horse was her main competition in Autry's Western Melody Ranch (1940).
After she performed in Time Out for Rhythm (1941) for Columbia, the studio signed Miller to a long-term contract. Her job was to highlight the minor musicals the studio churned out by the dozen, including Go West, Young Lady (1941), Reveille with Beverly (1943), Hey, Rookie (1944), and Jam Session (1944), all of which made money. Her gorgeous figure and competent singing were also highlighted in Eadie Was a Lady (1945) and Eve Knew Her Apples (1945). Just as she was about to star in a major screen musical for Columbia, The Petty Girl, Miller's new husband, millionaire industrialist Reese Llewellyn Milner, demanded that she abandon her career. Columbia sued, winning a $150,000 settlement against her, which she settled by starring in The Thrill of Brazil (1946). According to Miller, her drunken husband then beat her and threw her down a flight of stairs while she was pregnant, causing her to have a miscarriage and breaking her back. The couple divorced, and her studio contract lapsed.
After an injury forced Cyd Charisse to withdraw from Easter Parade (1948), MGM's Louis B. Mayer, who had been impressed by Miller's performance in Eadie Was a Lady, gave her Charisse's part. During the course of the film, in which she lost Fred Astaire to Judy Garland , she performed a flashy tap-dance number, "Shaking the Blues Away," while still wearing a back brace from her fall down the stairs. MGM signed Miller to star in musicals, and she appeared in The Kissing Bandit (1948), On the Town (1949) with Gene Kelly, Watch the Birdie (1950), and Texas Carnival (1951) with Esther Williams . In 1953, she performed in both of her best MGM films, Small Town Girl and Cole Porter's Kiss Me Kate. Her roles dwindled as MGM's fortunes began to fade, however, and although in 1956 she appeared in The Opposite Sex, a remake of Clare Booth Luce 's The Women, she ended her relationship with MGM after not receiving a role that she had been promised in Silk Stockings.
In 1958, Miller married Texas oilman William Moss. The disastrous marriage lasted three years; 13 days after her divorce in May 1961, she wed another Texas oilman, Arthur Cameron. That marriage was annulled in 1962.
Miller began doing television shows in the late 1950s, and also occasionally performed in night clubs. As a personal friend of hotelier Conrad Hilton, she served as "unofficial ambassador" at Hilton Hotel openings worldwide. From 1969 to 1970, Miller starred in Mame on Broadway, enjoying success in the role for which Angela Lansbury had won a Tony Award, and later was herself nominated for a Tony for her performance with Mickey Rooney in Sugar Babies, which opened in 1979 and ran for three years on Broadway and four years on tour. Miller and Rooney also appeared in the six-month London run of Sugar Babies in 1989, for which she received a nomination for the Laurence Olivier Award.
Miller, whose autobiography Miller's High Life was published in 1972, has been the recipient of many awards, including the George M. Cohan Award for best female entertainer in 1980 and the Sarah Siddons Award for best performer of the year for Sugar Babies in 1984. Other awards include a Lifetime Achievement Award from the University of Southern California, the Gene Autry Golden Boot Award for her performances in Westerns, the Gypsy Award for lifetime achievement from the Dance Society of America in 1993, and a lifetime achievement award from the Inner Critics Circle of Arizona. A pair of her tap shoes are on display at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.
Parish, James Robert, and Michael R. Pitts. Hollywood Songsters. NY: Garland, 1991.
Quinlan, David, ed. The Film Lover's Companion. Carol, 1997.
Current Biography. NY: H.W. Wilson, 1980.
Jo Anne Meginnes , freelance writer, Brookfield, Vermont