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de_varenne

Dick Powell and Ruby Keeler

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So much has been written about other screen teams -- Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy, William Powell and Myrna Loy, Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake -- as to whether or not they got along, if they enjoyed working together or if it was strictly business. But I have yet to hear anything about a favorite team: Dick Powell and Ruby Keeler. They were paired seven times, from 42nd Street in 1933 to Colleen in 1936, playing the sweethearts of the Warner Brothers' musicals. Are there any behind-the-scenes stories to tell?

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As far as any 'shenanigans' going on, the Powells and Ruby made four movies together, so I'm sure Joanie kept her eye on Dickie, and Jolson, then married to Ruby, no doubt, kept an eye on her. I'd bet Dick, Ruby and Joanie were pals.

 

Colleen (1936)

Dames (1934)

Footlight Parade (1933)

Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933)

 

As a teenager, I was fascinated reading the movie mags about June Allyson and her handsome husband. Until I started watching TCM, sometime in the 90's, I was unaware of Dick Powell's early life as a song-and-dance man. Then, to top it all off, you could have knocked me over with a feather when I heard Dick had been married to Joan Blondell. In my teenage years, Joan was on the tv show 'Here Comes The Brides', and I knew of some of her more recent films. So, to see her on TCM hoofing it in the 30's, with her HUSBAND Dick....wow...I was floored.

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Thanks for your reply, stargzn! Glad to find another fan.

 

I'm not digging for "shenanigins" -- if anything like that did go on, I don't want to know. But Dick and Ruby make such a cute couple on screen, and I enjoy watching them so much that I wondered if they enjoyed working together or if it was all movie magic.

 

By the way, I've not yet been able to see Shipmates Forever or Colleen. If you have seen them, could you tell what you think of them? Thanks!

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You're welcome! That's the trouble being on this site. I don't know how to add a winky smiley...which would have been after the word shenanigans. Okay...I could have done ; ) but that looks so lame. lol!

 

Sorry, can't help you on the titles. I may have seen Colleen, and even have it recorded, but my 'filing' system is a disaster. If I ever come across it, I'll update this post -- or if I find the other title too.

 

My gosh, I love old movies!! Your reminder of Dick and Ruby have me wanting to search some out right now. Thanks for the push!

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It seems like an awfully funny thing to say, but I'm glad I pushed you!

 

Do you have a favorite of their films? My list goes somthing like this...

 

Flirtation Walk

Dames

Footlight Parade

42nd Street

Golddiggers of 1933

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dick and ruby had such perfect chemistry, you would've thought that they were married and not dick and joan. i have the busby berkeley set, and the only movie i haven't watched is gold diggers of 35 because there is no ruby keeler or joan blondell. i wish they had put wonder bar in the set.

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On Saturday, April 01, 2006 at 10:27 AM, de_varenne said:

So much has been written about other screen teams -- Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy, William Powell and Myrna Loy, Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake -- as to whether or not they got along, if they enjoyed working together or if it was strictly business. But I have yet to hear anything about a favorite team: Dick Powell and Ruby Keeler. They were paired seven times, from 42nd Street in 1933 to Colleen in 1936, playing the sweethearts of the Warner Brothers' musicals. Are there any behind-the-scenes stories to tell?

Ruby and Powell were definately an item on screen. But, they were not a romantic couple off screen, Powell married Joan Blondell during the time they were filming together. Plus, Ruby's hub Al Jolson got jealous easily over her being with any other men. He didn't even like watching her elope with Powell on screen. Ruby and Powell were just a screen couple, nothing else. Just to add to your list of Old Hollywood screen couples who were not couples in real life, there was also Jean Harlow and Clark Gable, Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney, and Eleanor Powell and Robert Taylor.

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On Saturday, April 01, 2006 at 6:18 PM, de_varenne said:

It seems like an awfully funny thing to say, but I'm glad I pushed you!

 

Do you have a favorite of their films? My list goes somthing like this...

 

Flirtation Walk

Dames

Footlight Parade

42nd Street

Golddiggers of 1933

As we know, Ruby and Powell are very well known and loved for their pairings in 42nd St, Footlight parade, Dames, and Gold diggers 33. But two underated films with them that I also loved are Flirtation walk (like you also mentioned) and Coleen. I loved the title song number near the end of Flirtation walk, as well as Ruby and Powell's wedding number "Mr. and Mrs. is the name". And I also loved "I don't have to dream again" (with the fashion show and all those beauties in their beautiful dresses, and Ruby) and I loved "You gotta know how to dance" in Coleen, Ruby was wonderful in all of it.       I also loved Ruby and Al's Get into your dance. Al really was unforgettable singing "Mammy" and "A quarter to nine".  It's too bad that their marriage didn't end up well since they were both such amazing Golden age stars, and were amazing together on screen. I would've loved to have been around in the 1930s and to have seen Al and Ruby performing live at the speakeasies.

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On 4/1/2006 at 6:00 PM, stargzn said:

You're welcome! That's the trouble being on this site. I don't know how to add a winky smiley...which would have been after the word shenanigans. Okay...I could have done ; ) but that looks so lame. lol!

 

Sorry, can't help you on the titles. I may have seen Colleen, and even have it recorded, but my 'filing' system is a disaster. If I ever come across it, I'll update this post -- or if I find the other title too.

 

My gosh, I love old movies!! Your reminder of Dick and Ruby have me wanting to search some out right now. Thanks for the push!

I love old films too. Ruby Keeler is wonderful and I still don't quite understand why alot of people today don't like her that much. Depression audiences loved her. Maybe I think a little more like someone from the 1930s than like someone from the 21st century. My loving 1930s and 1940s films and music and not caring much for stuff today also explains that

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On 4/1/2006 at 6:47 PM, shearerchic04 said:

dick and ruby had such perfect chemistry, you would've thought that they were married and not dick and joan. i have the busby berkeley set, and the only movie i haven't watched is gold diggers of 35 because there is no ruby keeler or joan blondell. i wish they had put wonder bar in the set.

Gold diggers 35 doesn't have wonderful Ruby Keeler in it, but it does have beautiful Gloria Stewart, who Dick Powell elopes with, and the amazing Dorthy Dare in a stunning performance in "Lullaby of Broadway". You can't miss it. The number "The words are in my heart" with Powell and Gloria, and all the pianos is great too.

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On Thursday, February 01, 2018 at 9:45 AM, RipMurdock said:

Never could get into them. They seemed kind of fake but I guess the musicals were meant to be more for the ladies.

 

On Thursday, February 01, 2018 at 9:45 AM, RipMurdock said:

Never could get into them. They seemed kind of fake but I guess the musicals were meant to be more for the ladies.

They were fake, fantasy worlds in contrast to reality in the 1930s, but they were a temporary needed escape from the harsh realities of the Depression. Those films weren't just for the ladies back then, they were for everyone who was wanting that temporary escape. And from what I've read and heard, even the most miserable and hopeless feeling souls cherished those couple of hours at the theater. I'd question before how so many people could afford movie tickets in the 1930s when they couldn't even afford bread, and the answer to that I've read was that even the most financially struggling people made it their mission to spend the first pennies they could find on two things, bread and a night at the theater, since a couple hours of escape was a very high priority to them. Oh, and the third thing they scrounged their pennies for was for booze, which they often had together with going to the theater and watching the films, it's what they desperately needed with their otherwise tough and struggling Depression era lives. Just think, when you're feeling down and out, doesn't having a couple drinks while watching your favorite movie or show, or listening to your favorite music sound like the perfect medicine?

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I wonder if anyone here knows what types of films Ruby Keeler liked to watch, not star in but watch. I read somewhere once that Ruby loved "The sound of music" when it came out in 1962. And she also loved "Tea for two" in 1953 with Doris Day, which was also part of what influenced her to star in Broadway's "No no Nanette" in 1969. She probably didn't care so much for movies that came out in the 1980s and early 1990s before she passed on, movies had changed alot by then. Early 1960s films like "Sound of music" still had that old fashioned charm of films from the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s

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On 4/1/2006 at 10:27 AM, de_varenne said:

So much has been written about other screen teams -- Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy, William Powell and Myrna Loy, Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake -- as to whether or not they got along, if they enjoyed working together or if it was strictly business. But I have yet to hear anything about a favorite team: Dick Powell and Ruby Keeler. They were paired seven times, from 42nd Street in 1933 to Colleen in 1936, playing the sweethearts of the Warner Brothers' musicals. Are there any behind-the-scenes stories to tell?

Aside from Janette McDonald and Nelson Eddie, I don't think that the couples you listed had any off screen romance. Ruby Keeler and Dick Powell romanced only in their films and had no real life off screen romance according to everything that I've always read and heard. Powell was marrying Joan Blondell, and Ruby was married to Al Jolson (who also got jealous easily). With Janette and Nelson, they actually did have a real life romance off the screen and were really very much in love with each other. Janette's untimely death in the 1960s destroyed Nelson, and he passed away only a year or two later. They say when an older couple is really in love with each other, one will often die shortly after the other. My great grandparents passed away in close timing to each other also. Several theories on the reasons for that have been: 

a) the strain and upset on one losing the other when older and/or not well is too much for their body to handle, and it therefore causes fast physical deterioration and also causes an extra strain on the heart increasing the chance of heart attack.

b) the survivor of the anamoured couple wants to join the departed in the hearafter as soon as possible, it's the survivor's pain of missing the departed so badly combined with their belief in being soulmates and their souls belong together. And, when someone wants to die badly enough when they're already older and not well, the body may cooperate. It's mind over matter to some degree.

c) a couple that is really in love with each other and has been married can often share similar things with each other such as their type of health problems, them being similar age, and them having similar life habits (such as for example them both having been heavy smokers or heavy drinkers, and when they've done that together for years, the habits have taken a simultaneous toll on both of their healths).

It's not even always only been married couples where this all has happened, dear lifelong friendships have also seen similar patterns. Walter Mathau and Jack Lemon were very close friends for many years (and starred in films together from "The Odd couple" in 1968 to "Grumpier old men" in 1994. When Walter died in 2000, it struck Jack Lemon hard and he passed on only a few months later. The two of them had a friendship strong enough to where they considered themselves soulmates

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Dick Powell and Joan Blondell didn't marry until September 19, 1936; what ended up being the final Powell/Keeler film, "Colleen", was released earlier that year. From January 4, 1933 to September 4, 1936 Blondell was married to her first husband, cinematographer George Barnes. The Powell/Blondell marriage was in trouble early on and they were both unfaithful. I agree that it's unlikely that Powell and Ruby Keeler were involved when they worked together mostly due to the jealous and possessive nature of Keeler's husband, Al Jolson (he apparently even hired private detectives to keep tabs on her). Jolson insisted that she leave Warner Brothers with him in 1937 and her career never fully recovered. Powell was apparently unaware of Jolson's massive ego and jealousy until they worked together on "Wonder Bar" (1934); Powell and the rest of the cast ended up despising Jolson for his behavior and upstaging antics. 

I recently discovered that Powell and Keeler may have been involved following her separation from Jolson in 1939. It was noted in the press at the time that she moved into a house that was close to Powell's bachelor pad and it stirred up a "minor scandal". No doubt they would have tried to keep it secret for obvious reasons. I don't think Keeler would have had a fling under normal circumstances but given that Jolson had treated her so badly and they were headed for divorce, maybe she decided to enjoy herself. She and Powell had known each other for several years so it wasn't as if she was having an affair with a random stranger. (Keeler married her second husband, John Homer Lowe, in October 1941) There is, of course, no way to verify this all these years later, but I think it's safe to assume that there are a lot of stories that we don't know about. You'll notice that both books written about Ruby Keeler don't go into depth about her personal life and her relationship with others, as she was a very private person. Given that Powell was married at the time he likely wouldn't have talked about it either. He did mention in a 1937 interview that he missed working with Keeler because she was an empathetic actress and she made it easier for him to react to her because she reacted so well to him and he knew that their chemistry could not be duplicated. In the introduction to the pilot episode of his last television series, "The Dick Powell Show", he specifically mentioned Ruby - and only Ruby - when he talked about how his early movies were often seen on late night television. 

The information about the possible affair between Powell and Keeler was noted by Powell's third wife, June Allyson, in her 1983 autobiography. She stated that when she was dating Powell his father loaned her a scrapbook about his early career. His "romantic triumphs" as she put it were also featured - Powell was quite the ladies' man in the 1930s and he did have a tendency to become romantically involved with his female co-stars. Mary Brian, Ginger Rogers, Rosemary Lane, Marion Davies, and of course Joan Blondell. I was very surprised to read that there may have been more than a professional relationship between Powell and Keeler. I can't say whether they were ever in love with each other but there may have well been an attraction and they seemed fond of one another. 

Here are a couple of photos. The first one is candid of Powell, Keeler and Joan Blondell taken in 1935 which is interesting in retrospect, as is the next one of Powell, Keeler and Al Jolson (who is the only one looking at the camera and looks very possessive of his lovely young wife in the presence of the boyishly handsome Powell).

dickpowellrubykeelerjoanblondellp89d70p1gbyypy9g.jpg

dickpowellrubykeeleraljolson57c0e918a7cd3__al-jolson-rubys-husband-birthday-girl-ruby-keeler-and-dick-powell.jpg

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