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Notable Oregonians: Ginger Rogers - Actress, Dancer

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Ginger Rogers

Ginger Rogers, 1911-1995

Virginia (Ginger) McMath was born on July 16, 1911 in Independence, Missouri to Lela Owens McMath and Eddins McMath. After her parents divorced, she lived in Kansas City, Missouri with her grandparents. In 1920 her mother married John Logan Rogers and the family moved to Fort Worth, Texas. Though she was never formally adopted, Ginger took her stepfather's name. Influenced by her mother's work in theater, Rogers career started at the age of 14 when she won a Charleston dance contest. The prize (a four week vaudeville contract) led to several years of touring the vaudeville circuits. After a brief marriage, Rogers went to New York where she began making radio appearances and acting in short films. In 1930 she starred in George and Ira Gershwin's Broadway musical Girl Crazy.

 

Later that year she moved to Hollywood to act in films with mixed success until 1933. It was then that Rogers was teamed with Fred Astaire in Flying Down to Rio. They went on to form one of the greatest dance duos of film history, making nine more box-office hit musical films together. In addition to dancing and singing in musicals, Rogers expanded her career with comedic and dramatic roles. She won an Academy Award for her portrayal of a prostitute's daughter in the 1940 film Kitty Foyle. Rogers showed her comedic acting abilities in such films as Tom, Dick and Harry (1941) and The Major and the Minor (1942). She returned to the Broadway stage in 1965 when she took over the role of Dolly Levi in Hello Dolly and followed that in 1969 with a star performance as Mame in London.

 

Rogers owned the 1000-acre "Rogue River Ranch" near Eagle Point, Oregon from 1940 to 1990. There she fished and entertained some of Hollywood's brightest stars. The ranch was a working dairy for many years and supplied milk to Camp White in Southern Oregon during World War II. Always a private person, Rogers sought out Oregon to put distance between her public persona and her private life. There was little comparison between her glamorous image on screen and her modest, unpretentious home life.

 

Rogers died at the age of 83 in Rancho Mirage, California on April 25, 1995. The Craterian Ginger Rogers Theater in Medford, Oregon is named in her honor.

 

(Source: Reel Classics) Revised 1/2013

 

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