Born Lucille Ann Collier, April 12, 1919, in Houston, TX; daughter of John and Clara Emma (Birdwell) Collier; married Reese Milner (divorced); married William Moss (divorced); married Arthur Cameron (divorced). Addresses: AGENT--c/o Contemporary Korman Agency, 132 Lasky Drive, Beverly Hills, CA 90212.
Ann Miller, the dancer, the actress, the singer, is known today for never quite making it big as a star. David Shipman says in The Great Movie Stars: TheInternational Years (Hill & Wang, 1981) that Miller "used to refer to herself as the near-click of show business." In a more positive vein, Miller isremembered for her zestiness, her long, sexy legs, her "classy chassis and sequined tights" (The MGM Stock Company: The Golden Era, Arlington House, 1973), and particularly for her machine-gun tapping which is known to top five hundred taps per minute. In addition, Miller has been labeled Queen of the B movies, "those wonderful nonsense movies of the 1930s and '40s," writes Jerry Tallmer for the New York Post (June 7, 1969).
Ann Miller was born Lucille Ann Collier (though some sources cite her name asJohnnie Lucille, with the implication that her father wanted a son). At agefive she was sent to dancing school by her mother as therapy for a case of rickets. Since her mother and father separated when Miller was still a child, she started tap dancing at the Elks and Rotary Clubs to help support her mother and herself. When she won a personality contest at age ten, her mother tookher to Hollywood. While tap dancing at the Bal Tabarin, Miller was discovered by Lucille Ball and Benny Rubin, who notified RKO talent scouts. RKO was interested and Miller's first movie, made while she was still a teenager, was New Faces of 1937. In close succession she appeared in Stage Door with Katharine Hepburn and Ginger Rogers, in Too Many Girls with Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, and in Room Service with the Marx brothers. Ephraim Katz remarked in TheFilm Encyclopedia (Crowell, 1979) that "for a decade . . . her talents werewasted on mainly minor comedy musicals."'
It was not until the late 1940s that Miller entered her golden period. She acted in such musicals as Easter Parade with Judy Garland and Fred Astaire, Onthe Town with Gene Kelly and Frank Sinatra, and as Bianca in her favorite, Kiss Me Kate. Only in Kiss Me Kate did Miller get a high billing, but her show-stopping dancing numbers kept her alive in film for nearly two decades. Whenher film career ended in the mid-1950s, she appeared in nightclubs, on television, and occasionally on the stage. Blake Green for the San Francisco Chronicle (May 24, 1979) recorded Miller's remarks regarding her early career: "I've seen Hollywood at the top and at the bottom . . . and I still think it is one of the most fascinating places on earth. I came along at the tail end of the golden era, and I don't think we'll ever see its likes again."
Miller acted on the stage once during 1939 in George White's Scandals of 1939. She returned as Mame in the Broadway production of the same name in 1969, and according to Louis Botto for Playbill (October, 1981), on opening night when she took her tap shoes from her bag she immediately received an ovation. Tallmer observed that "as the new leading lady, [Miller has] injected a wholenew shot of plasma into the tired Broadway bloodstream." Describing her appearance in Mame to Tallmer, Miller said: "I had three marriages, did 40 movies,played the top TV shows, but in my personal life I never found happiness. Ittook Broadway to fix that up. I've never felt better in my life." And ten years later, in 1979, Miller was starring on Broadway again, this time with Mickey Rooney in Sugar Babies, a Broadway musical about the heyday of Burlesque.As she enthusiastically told Green, "I have the strangest feeling I'll be tapping when I'm 80."
January 22, 2004: Miller died on January 22, 2004, in Los Angeles, California, of lung cancer. She was 81. Source: New York Times, January 23, 2004, p. A21; E! Online, www.eonline.com, January 23, 2004.