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Vera Ellen (Vera Ellen Westmeier Rohe)

Vera Ellen

Vera-Ellen Westmeier Rohe was born in Norwood, Ohio, a suburb of Cincinnati, to Martin F. Rohe, a piano dealer, and Alma Catherine Westmeier, both descended from German immigrants. Her hyphenated name originated in her mother’s dream in which she had a daughter named “Vera-Ellen.” Vera Ellen began dancing at age 10 and quickly became proficient. (One of her fellow dance students at Hessler Studio of Dancing was Doris Day.) At age 13 she was a winner on the Major Bowes Amateur Hour and embarked upon a professional career. In 1939, Vera Ellen 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, although she was only 5’4″. 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. 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. Vera-Ellen’s next to last 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.

Vera Ellen performed on a November 22, 1958, television episode of The Perry Como Show and a February 14, 1959, broadcast of the The Dinah Shore Show. She was married twice. Her first husband was a fellow dancer, Robert Hightower, to whom she was married from February 1941 to November 1946. Her second husband, from 1954 to their 1966 divorce, was millionaire Victor Rothschild of the Rothschild family. While married to Rothschild, she gave birth to a daughter, Victoria Ellen, who died at three months of age from SIDS in 1963. Following the death of her only child, she withdrew from public life. The marriage between Vera-Ellen and Rothschild ended in divorce. Vera-Ellen has been thought to have suffered from anorexia before much was known about the disease. She was celebrated for her lithe figure at the time. Vera-Ellen developed severe arthritis due to her years of dancing, a condition which could have been exacerbated by anorexia. Vera Ellen died at The University of California Los Angeles Medical Center on August 30, 1981. She was 60 years old. She is buried at Glen Haven Memorial Park in the Los Angeles suburb of Sylmar.

More Images

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  • Vera-Ellen_01 -

Born

  • February, 16, 1921
  • USA
  • Norwood, Ohio

Died

  • August, 30, 1981
  • USA
  • Los Angeles, California

Cemetery

  • Glen Haven Memorial Park
  • Sylmar, California
  • USA

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