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Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada
Place of Death
Rancho Mirage, California, USA
Cause of Death
Claim to Fame
42nd Street (1933)
Profile Bio Text
Ruby Keeler (born Ethel Hilda Keeler; August 25, 1910 – February 28, 1993) was a Canadian-born American actress, dancer and singer most famous for her on-screen coupling with Dick Powell in a string of successful early musicals at Warner Brothers, particularly 42nd Street (1933). From 1928 to 1940, she was married to singer Al Jolson. She retired from show business in the 1940s but made a widely publicized comeback on Broadway in 1971.
Keeler was born in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada, to an Irish Catholic family, one of six siblings. Two sisters, Helen and Gertrude, had brief performing careers. Her father was a truck driver, and when she was three years old, her family packed up and moved to New York City where he knew he could get better pay. But it was not enough: there were six children, and although Keeler was interested in taking dance lessons, the family could not afford to send her.
Keeler attended St. Catherine of Siena parochial school on New York's East Side, and one period each week a dance teacher would come and teach all styles of dance. The teacher saw potential in Keeler and spoke to her mother about Ruby taking lessons at her studio. Though her mother declined, apologizing for the lack of money, the teacher wanted to work with her so badly that she asked her mother if she would bring her to class lessons on Saturdays, and she agreed.
During the classes, a girl she danced with told her about auditions for chorus girls. The law required professional chorus girls to be at least 16 years old; although they were only 13, they decided to lie about their ages at the audition. It was a tap audition, and there were a lot of other talented girls there. The stage was covered except for a wooden apron at the front. When it was Ruby's turn to dance, she asked the dance director, Julian Mitchell, if she could dance on the wooden part so that her taps could be heard. He did not answer, so she went ahead, walked up to the front of the stage, and started her routine. The director said, "who said you could dance up there?" She replied, "I asked you!" and she got a job in George M. Cohan's The Rise of Rosie O'Reilly (1923), in which she made forty-five dollars a week to help her family.
Full Name at Birth
Ethel Hilda Keeler
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Gertrude Keeler, Helen Keeler
Ethel Ruby Keeler (August 25, 1909 – February 28, 1993) billed professionally as Ruby Keeler, was a Canadian-born American actress, dancer and singer most famous for her on-screen pairing with Dick Powell in a string of successful early musicals at Warner Brothers, particularly 42nd Street (1933). From 1928 to 1940, she was married to actor and singer Al Jolson. She retired from show business in the 1940s, but made a widely publicized comeback on Broadway in 1971.
Actress, Dancer And Singer
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