Ginger Rogers (Virginia Katherine McMath)

Ginger Rogers

Ginger Rogers

Rogers was an only child, and she maintained a close relationship with her mother throughout her life. Lela Rogers (1891–1977) was a newspaper reporter, scriptwriter, and movie producer. She was also one of the first women to enlist in the Marine Corps, was a founder of the successful “Hollywood Playhouse” for aspiring actors and actresses on the RKO set, and a founder of the Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals.

Mother and daughter had an extremely close professional relationship, as well. Lela Rogers was credited with many pivotal contributions to her daughter’s early successes in New York and in Hollywood and gave her much assistance in contract negotiations with RKO.

In her classic 1930s musicals with Astaire, Ginger Rogers, co-billed with him, was paid less than Fred, the creative force behind the dances, who also received 10% of the profits. But she was also paid less than many of the supporting “farceurs” billed beneath her, in spite of her much more central role in the films’ great financial success. This was personally grating to her and had effects upon her relationships at RKO, especially with director Mark Sandrich, whose purported disrespect of Rogers prompted a sharp letter of reprimand from producer Pandro Berman, which she deemed important enough to publish in her autobiography. Rogers fought hard for her contract and salary rights and for better films and scripts.

Rogers’ first marriage was at age 17 to her dancing partner Jack Pepper (real name Edward Jackson Culpepper) on March 29, 1929. They divorced in 1931, having separated soon after the wedding. Ginger dated Mervyn LeRoy in 1932, but they ended the relationship and remained friends until his death in 1986. In 1934, she married actor Lew Ayres (1908–96). They divorced seven years later.

In 1943, Rogers married her third husband, Jack Briggs, a U.S. Marine. Upon his return from World War II, Briggs showed no interest in continuing his incipient Hollywood career. They divorced in 1949. In 1953, she married Jacques Bergerac, a French actor 16 years her junior, whom she met on a trip to Paris. A lawyer in France, he came to Hollywood with her and became an actor. They divorced in 1957. Her fifth and final husband was director and producer William Marshall. They married in 1961 and divorced in 1971, after his bouts with alcohol and the financial collapse of their joint film production company in Jamaica.

Rogers was lifelong friends with actresses Lucille Ball and Bette Davis. She appeared with Ball in an episode of Here’s Lucy on November 22, 1971, in which Rogers danced the Charleston for the first time in many years. Rogers starred in one of the earliest films co-directed and co-scripted by a woman, Wanda Tuchock‘s Finishing School (1934). Rogers maintained a close friendship with her cousin, writer/socialite Phyllis Fraser, but was not Rita Hayworth‘s natural cousin, as has been reported. Hayworth’s maternal uncle, Vinton Hayworth, was married to Rogers’s maternal aunt, Jean Owens.

She was raised a Christian Scientist and remained a lifelong adherent. She devoted a great deal of time in her autobiography to the importance of her faith throughout her career. Rogers was a lifelong member of the Republican Party.

In 1977, Rogers’s mother died. Rogers remained at the 4-Rs (Rogers’s Rogue River Ranch) until 1990, when she sold the property and moved to nearby Medford, Oregon. Her last public appearance was on March 18, 1995, when she received the Women’s International Center (WIC) Living Legacy Award. For many years, Rogers regularly supported, and held in-person presentations, at the Craterian Theater, in Medford, where she had performed in 1926 as a vaudevillian. The theater was comprehensively restored in 1997 and posthumously renamed in her honor as the Craterian Ginger Rogers Theater.

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Born

  • July, 16, 1911
  • Independence, Missouri

Died

  • April, 25, 1995
  • Rancho Mirage, California

Cause of Death

  • death was a heart attack

Cemetery

  • Oakwood Memorial Park
  • Chatsworth, California

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