Ruby Keeler

Actor, Dancer, Singer
Former speakeasy dancer, chorine and Broadway lead who married musical star Al Jolson and moved with him to Hollywood, where she starred in some of the classic musicals of the 1930s. Keeler made her film debut as an ... Read more »
Born: 08/24/1909 in Halifax, Nova Scotia, CA

Filmography

other (8)

The Wedding Planner 2001 (Movie)

("Mr & Mrs Is the Name") (Song Performer)

Happy Birthday, Hollywood! 1986 - 1987 (TV Show)

Actor

The Rowan and Martin Special 1973 - 1974 (TV Show)

Actor

The Phynx 1969 (Movie)

(Actor)

Go Into Your Dance 1934 (Movie)

(Actor)

42nd Street 1932 (Movie)

Peggy Sawyer (Actor)

Footlight Parade 1932 (Movie)

(Actor)

Gold Diggers of 1933 1932 (Movie)

Polly Parker (Actor)

Biography

Former speakeasy dancer, chorine and Broadway lead who married musical star Al Jolson and moved with him to Hollywood, where she starred in some of the classic musicals of the 1930s. Keeler made her film debut as an aspiring showgirl in "42nd Street" (1933), opposite newcomer Dick Powell. She would be paired with the singing Powell in seven Warner Bros. extravaganzas, most of them distinguished by their elaborate, surrealistic, Busby Berkeley-designed dance routines. Keeler was sometimes the decorative centerpiece of Berkeley's bizarre numbers; buffs are unlikely to forget the jigsaw puzzle of Keeler's face in "Dames" (1934), assembled to the haunting strains of "I Only Have Eyes for You".

Although Keeler later claimed "I couldn't act. I had that terrible singing voice, and now I can see I wasn't the greatest tap dancer in the world, either", her sincere and spirited portrayals of sweet, mostly working-class, ingenues trying to get a break touched a chord in audiences during the height of the Depression. Although as a dancer she wasn't as graceful or expressive as Ginger Rogers or as speedy and technically proficient as Ann Miller or Eleanor Powell, it should be noted that Keeler essentially began as a buck-and-wing dancer. Buck dancing was done without taps on the bottoms of one's shoes and aimed primarily at a percussive effect, with less concern for the movements of the upper body; certainly Keeler's duet with James Cagney in the "Shanghai Lil" number in "Footlight Parade" (1933) is very fun to watch and listen to. Also notable was Keeler's duet with Lee Dixon to "Too Marvelous for Words" in one of her last musicals, "Ready, Willing and Able" (1937), performed on the keys of a giant typewriter.

Keeler retired from the screen in 1941 and, after occasional TV appearances in the 50s and 60s, made one of the most heralded show business comebacks, charming Broadway in the 1971 revival of the musical "No, No, Nanette". She was married to Jolson from 1928 to 1940 and made only one musical film with him, "Go Into Your Dance" (1935).

Relationships

Al Jolson

Husband
Met while Keeler was a dancer at Texas Guinan's El Fey Club in New York starred together in the Warner Brothers musical film "Go Into Your Dance" (1935)

Al Jolson

Son
adopted with Al Jolson Keeler awarded custody after divorce from Jolson survived her

Kathleen Keeler

Daughter
company manager for "Catskills on Broadway" (1992) survived her

John Lowe

Husband
Married 1941 until his death 1969

John Lowe

Son
son of John Lowe survived her

EDUCATION

Professional Children's School

New York , New York

Milestones

1989

Final film, "Beverly Hills Brats"

1975

Suffered a stroke and was operated on for an aneurysm of the brain, was comatose for two months (date approximate)

1970

Made Broadway comeback in a revival of the 1920s stage musical, "No, No Nanette"

1969

Returned to film in "The Phynx"

1940

Retired from stage and film

1940

Final film before first retirement, "Sweethearts of the Campus"

1940

Returned to stage in "Hold onto Your Hats" at the Grand Opera House, Chicago

1938

Replaced Katharine Hepburn as one of the two female leads (the other being Anne Shirley) in "Mother Carey's Chickens", her last film for three years and her first non-musical film

1937

Last film at Warner Brothers, "Ready, Willing and Able"

1936

Last film in which she co-starred with Dick Powell, "Colleen"

1934

Last of four consecutive musicals with musical numbers supervised by Busby Berkeley, "Dames"

1933

Film debut, "42nd Street"; was also her first film collaboration with choreographer and dance director Busby Berkeley and the first of seven joint appearances opposite singer Dick Powell

1929

Al Jolson was instrumental in getting Keeler a featured role in Ziegfeld's "Show Girl" on Broadway; Jolson strolled down aisle of theater singing "Liza" while Keeler tap danced; he received no billing and no salary

1928

Appeared on Broadway in "Whoopee"

1927

First major Broadway stage role in "Bye, Bye Bonnie"

1923

New York stage debut in chorus of "The Rise of Rosie O'Reilly"

1922

Danced in Texas Guinan's El Fey speakeasy at age 13 (date approximate)

1911

Family moved to New York's Lower East Side when Keeler was three (date approximate)

Professional debut in cabaret as a buck-dancer in partnership with Patsy Kelly

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