Johnny Lucille Collier in Houston, Texas, 12 April 1923.
Married 1) Reese Miller (divorced); 2) William Moss, 1958 (divorced); 3)
Arthur Cameron, 1961 (marriage annulled).
Dancer as child: entered show business playing clubs;
1937—contract with RKO; 1939—Broadway debut in
George White's Scandals
; 1942—contract with Columbia; 1948—contract with MGM after
; late 1950s—mainly in television and nightclub appearances;
1960s—toured in musicals
, and others; 1969—in Broadway run of
; 1972—appeared in
in St. Louis, and later on tour; 1979–82—on Broadway in
with Mickey Rooney, and toured with it, 1982–85.
1980—Tony nomination for
; 1996—Women's International Center Living Legacy Award.
c/o Artists Group, 10100 Santa Monica Blvd no. 305, Los Angeles, CA
Films as Actress:
The Devil on Horseback (Wilbur)
New Faces of 1937 (Jason); Stage Door (La Cava) (as Annie); The Life of the Party (Seiter) (as Betty)
Radio City Revels (Stoloff) (as Billie Shaw); Having Wonderful Time (Santell) (as Vivian); You Can't Take It with You (Capra) (as Essie Carmichael); Room Service (Seiter) (as Hilda Manney); Tarnished Angel (Goodwins) (as Violet McMaster)
Too Many Girls (Abbott) (as Pepe); Hit Parade of 1941 (Auer) (as Annabelle Potter)
Melody Ranch (Santley) (as Julie Shelton); Time Out for Rhythm (Salkow) (as Kitty Brown); Go West, Young Lady (Strayer) (as Lola); True to the Army (Rogell) (as Vicki Marlow)
Priorities on Parade (Rogell) (as Donna D'Arcy)
Reveille with Beverly (Barton) (title role); What's Buzzin' Cousin? (Barton) (as Ann Crawford)
Jam Session (Barton) (as Terry Baxter); Hey Rookie (Barton) (as Winnie Clark); Carolina Blues (Jason) (as Julie Carver)
Eve Knew Her Apples (Jason) (as Eve Porter); Eadie Was a Lady (Dreifuss) (title role)
The Thrill of Brazil (Simon) (as Linda Lorens)
The Kissing Bandit (Benedek) (as fiesta dancer); Easter Parade (Walters) (as Nadine Gale)
On the Town (Kelly and Donen) (as Claire Huddesen)
Watch the Birdie (Donohue) (as Miss Lucky Vista)
Two Tickets to Broadway (Kern) (as Joyce Campbell); Texas Carnival (Walters) (as Sunshine Jackson)
Lovely to Look At (LeRoy) (as Bubbles Cassidy)
Small Town Girl (Kardos) (as Lisa Bellmount); Kiss Me Kate (Sidney) (as Bianca)
Deep in My Heart (Donen)
Hit the Deck (Rowland) (as Ginger)
The Opposite Sex (David Miller) (as Gloria Dell); The Great American Pastime (Hoffman) (as Mrs. Doris Patterson)
Won Ton Ton, the Dog Who Saved Hollywood (Winner) (cameo)
That's Entertainment! III (Friedgen and Sheridan) (as host)
The Stan Freberg Commercials (Donavan & Stan Freberg) (as wife); Mulholland Drive (Lynch—for TV) (as Coco)
By MILLER: books—
Miller's High Life , with N. L. Browning, New York, 1972.
Tapping into the Force , with Dr. Maxine Astor, Norfolk, Virginia, 1990.
By MILLER: article—
Interview, in After Dark (New York), November 1979.
"Shoes with Wings On: A Conversation with Ann Miller," interview in Classic Images (Muscatine), January 1994.
On MILLER: books—
Condor, Jim, Ann Miller: Tops in Tap , New York, 1981.
Thomas, Tony, That's Dancing! , New York, 1985.
On MILLER: articles—
Shipman, David, in The Great Movie Stars , rev. ed., London, 1979.
Current Biography 1980 , New York, 1980.
Ciné Revue (Paris), 20 August 1981.
Film Dope (Nottingham), January 1990.
Feld, B., "Ann Miller: Still Tops in Taps," in Film Journal (New York), May 1994.
* * *
Ann Miller's reputation as Hollywood's virtuoso female tap dancer is challenged only by Eleanor Powell, whose career was ending as Miller's was beginning. It is a tribute to Miller's ability—and her long, shapely legs, and spirited personality—that she is as well known as she is, given that her roles were often second leads in minor musicals. Indeed, in only four of her films ( Easter Parade , On the Town , Lovely to Look At , and Kiss Me Kate ) did she work with other significant performers of the genre. Nevertheless, she managed to achieve a long and respectable career within the Hollywood studio system and subsequently on stage.
Although Miller's dancing was limited to tap (she had to learn basic ballet steps to play Essie Carmichael in You Can't Take It with You ), within that form she incorporated almost limitless variations. Since speed was her particular skill, she was able to include extra heel and toe in standard tap steps. Moreover, the dynamic quality of her dancing was often heightened by the spectacular nature of the routines. Many of her roles, particularly those at Columbia, were as a singer-dancer in nightclubs or vaudeville, and a climactic musical number highlighted Miller's tapping. "Thumbs Up and V for Victory" in Reveille with Beverly and "No Name Jive" in Jam Session are examples; in each, she is backed by a chorus that, through arrangement of the sets and choreography, makes her dancing the center of attention.
When she worked with major figures of the genre (Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly, for example), Miller's acting and singing as well as dancing became part of the MGM ensemble approach. Although she shares the screen in On the Town , for instance, she contributes to the whole film; there is at least one number that presents each character through song and dance. In hers, "Prehistoric Man," she captures the libidinous nature of Claire Huddesen precisely because she dances that character. Without diminishing the air of glamour that Miller had cultivated throughout her career, her roles at MGM also allowed her to contribute to the musical genre while displaying her always stunning tap dancing ability.
Miller's screen career, for all intents and purposes, ended with the death of the studio system and the decline of the Hollywood musical. This is a shame, because the persona she had established, which mainly won her the parts of comic (albeit attractive) ladies and bitches, might have sustained her well into middle age.
In recent years, she (along with her old MGM cohort, Mickey Rooney) has been touring in the musical revue Sugar Babies , demonstrating that after all these years her natural charm and dancing talents have not failed her.
—Jerome Delamater, updated by Audrey E. Kupferberg