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Vera-Ellen (February 16, 1921 – August 30, 1981) was an American actress and dancer, principally celebrated for her filmed dance partnerships with Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly and Donald O'Connor.

Early life

She was born Vera Ellen Westmeier Rohe in Norwood, Ohiomarker, a suburb of Cincinnati, to Martin Rohe and Alma Catherine Westmeier, both descended from German immigrants. She began dancing at the age of 9 and quickly became very proficient. At 16, she was a winner on the Major Bowes Amateur Hour, and embarked upon a professional career.


In 1939, Vera-Ellen made her Broadway theatremarker debut in the Jerome Kern/Oscar Hammerstein musical Very Warm for May at the age of 18. She became one of the youngest Rockettes at Radio City Music Hallmarker, although she was not tall. 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 film Wonder Man (1945).

She danced with Gene Kelly in Words and Music (1948) and On the Town (1949), and appeared in the last Marx Brothers film Love Happy (1949). She received top billing alongside Fred Astaire in Three Little Words (1950) and The Belle of New York (1952). She co-starred with Bing Crosby in White Christmas (1954) and Donald O'Connor in Call Me Madam (1953) and in Let's Be Happy (1957).

During the 1950s, she was reputed to have the "smallest waist in Hollywoodmarker", and is believed to have suffered from anorexia nervosa. All of her costumes in White Christmas, down to her robe and sleepwear, were designed to cover her neck, which was aged beyond her years due to her eating disorder. She retired from the screen in 1957.

Personal life

Vera-Ellen was married twice. Her first husband was fellow dancer Robert Hightower (from 1941 to 1946). Her second husband, from 1954 to 1966, was millionaire Victor Rothschild. Both marriages ended in divorce. While married to Rothschild, she gave birth to a daughter, Victoria Ellen Rothschild, who died of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome in 1963.

Following the death of her child, Vera-Ellen withdrew from public life. She died of cancer in Los Angeles, California.



  1. cf. Soren, p.71-72: "The stable happy marriage with Bob Hightower lasted from their wedding day on February 4, 1941 (some sources say February 1942 or March 17, 1943) to their official separation in 1946...Photos of...Vera Ellen hit the newspapers on November 28, 1946 when a default divorce was granted in Los Angeles"

Further reading

  • Oderman, Stuart, Talking to the Piano Player 2. BearManor Media, 2009. ISBN #1-59393-320-7.

External links

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