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Ann Miller was born Johnnie Lucille Ann Collier in Chireno, Texas in 1923. Her father had wanted a boy badly, and she got stuck with "Johnnie" as her first name, but she was called Annie. She had rickets as a child, and started dancing to strengthen her legs. Her mother left her father and took her to California when she was 13, and because her mom could not keep a job for very long, Ann had to support them, which she did working as a dancer in the "Black Cat Club" in San Francisco (she had matured early, and told them she was 18!). She was signed by RKO when she was 14 (they too believed she was 18), and she appeared as a dancer in 10 movies from 1937 to 1940, working her way up to playing the third lead in some of them. In 1941, she moved to Columbia and was in 12 movies through 1946. In 1948, she moved to MGM, and big budget musicals were all the rage there, and then found room for Ann to tap dance in most of them. As many of us suspected, she could not really tap 500 times per minute, as the studio claimed (she actually would perform in regular shoes, and then they would add in the sound of the taps!). But she WAS an incredible dancer (on a par with Eleanor Powell), and she had the most amazing legs, and if you look at the movie poster for any movie she appeared in from the 1930s to 1950s they almost always prominently show her legs on the poster! When musicals declined, Ann hung up her tap shoes and retired from movies in 1956. She starred on Broadway in the musical "Mame" in 1969, where they added a tap dancing number just for her (she had lost none of her ability, even though she had been dancing professionally for over 30 years!). The following year, master commercial writer Stan Freberg wrote a commercial for Heinz Great American Soups where housewife Miller is asked by her husband "What's for dinner?" and she rips off her dress to reveal a sequinned outfit, and she tap dances on a giant soup can, and at the end he says, "Why do you have to make such a big production out of everything?"! In 1979, Miller returned to Broadway in Sugar Babies (with Mickey Rooney) and once again amazed audiences with her tap dancing! She stayed with the very successful show for nine years as it toured the country. She continued performing until the late 1990s, and she passed in 2004, at the age of 80.
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