Monday, March 1, 2010
Ann Miller was the daughter of Clara Emma and John Alfred Collier, a criminal lawyer who represented the Barrow Gang, Machine Gun Kelly, and Baby Face Nelson. Miller danced to exercise her legs to help her rickets. In an interview she said that Eleanor Powell was her inspiration. At the age of 13 Miller had been hired as a dancer in the "Black Cat Club" in San Francisco (she had told them she was 18). it was there she was discovered by Lucille Ball. This led Miller to be given a contract with RKO in 1936 at the age of 13 (she had also told them she was 18). Soon Miller was offered a contract at Columbia Pictures. She is best known for her roles in MGM musicals such as Kiss Me Kate, Easter Parade, and On the Town.
Ann Miller became famous for her speed in tap dancing. Studio publicists claimed she could tap 500 times per minute, but really the sound of ultra-fast "500" taps was put in later. Because the stage floors were slippery, she danced in shoes with rubber soles. Later she would add the sound of the taps while watching the film and actually dancing on a "tap board" to match her steps in the film.
In 1970, Stan Freberg, who is best known for his commercials, used Miller and her tap-dancing skills in a commercial for "Great American Soups." Miller plays a housewife asked by her "husband" what she's prepared for dinner. She throws off her house frock to show a sequined dance outfit, and the kitchen set splits open to reveal a huge Hollywood stage, showcasing a giant can of soup, which Miller sings and dances, accompanied by a chorus line. At the end of the commercial, she returns to the kitchen set, where the husband character says, "Why do you have to make such a big production out of everything?"
Devoutly spiritual, she dabbles in psychic phenomena and astrology. She believes she was once Queen Hathshepsut of Egypt.
At the end of her MGM contract she flew overseas to Morocco to entertain on the Timex TV Hour for Bob Hope. She sang and danced "Too Darn Hot" in 120-degree heat, entertaining 5000 soldiers.