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Question of the Day: Ruby Keeler


Janet0312
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     I don't agree that she sabotaged her career or for that matter, whether she even cared about furthering her career. She was probably very unhappy with Jolson and finally had enough and divorced him. She had some temporary happiness when she and Jolson adopted a baby boy. I believe after her divorce she was looking to find a nice man not connected with the film industry and settle down. And that's exactly what she did. From what I read and heard she had a very happy married life. She had her career and she had a happy blissful marriage and family. So I'm sure she was content.

     Years ago TCM ran a documentary on her and in it her daughter speaks while they show home movies of her with her family. Her daughter mentioned that her mother never mentioned that she was an actress and that none of her brothers or sisters even knew about her film career until many years later.

She never talked about it. The only hint they ever had was when the radio would be on and Ruby would start to dance to the music on the radio (a tap dance). Otherwise, her daughter described her as a typical housewife and Mom who dearly loved her family.

 

I heard a similar story about a particular child actor (can't remember who right now).  He could have been one of the Little Rascals, or maybe a child actor from a TV show.  Just off the top of my head, but he was at home with his wife later on in life, and somebody came knocking at their door and asked if it was him.  His wife had no idea what the stranger was talking about.  That was when he broke it to his wife that he had been a child actor.

 

I've known a handful of former celebrities, and they really don't want to be known for their work.  They just want to be known for themselves.  They go to great lengths to protect their privacy.

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     I know I'm being "partial" because I liked Ruby but I think she had a certain "something" that fit into the films she was in. Most of her films had her as the nice, shy, naïve, sweet girl, the kind of gal a guy would want to bring home to meet his parents and sit down to Sunday dinner. She proved a contrast

to the other film actresses such as Joan Blondell who were saucy, sassy and who had "been around the block" so to speak.

Yes, there was a slew of Garbo imitators and then a bastion of saucy wisecracking dames. It was a bit much. Every now and then you need a girl-next-door type like Ruby Keeler and June Allyson and Sandra Dee.

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Yes, there was a slew of Garbo imitators and then a bastion of saucy wisecracking dames. It was a bit much. Every now and then you need a girl-next-door type like Ruby Keeler and June Allyson and Sandra Dee.

 

While I'm big on cuteness and agree that movies need many different 'types',   I still feel they should be first rate actors.  E.g.  Priscilla Lane fits the girl-next-door mode but to me she was a good actor.   I just don't see that from the 3 you mention here  (but Dee was cute on steroids).  

 

As for June I don't see the cuteness since she comes off way to masculine for my taste,,,, not just with her voice but how she moves and her entire persona.    

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Yes, there was a slew of Garbo imitators and then a bastion of saucy wisecracking dames. It was a bit much. Every now and then you need a girl-next-door type like Ruby Keeler and June Allyson and Sandra Dee.

There have always been girls next door type actresses; every studio had at least one on its roster at all times. One of the very biggest stars of the early 30s, one of the very biggest stars was Janet Gaynor, who had pretty much inherited the mantle of America's Sweetheart from Mary Pickford. Others that specialized in this at the time include Silvia Sydney,.Nancy Carroll,.etc. Duing the Depression, the twist was they usually played waifs and other inoccents that had to sully themselves in order to provide for themselves, their parents, or most commomly, thier child(ren).

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  • 2 years later...

Why are so many people bad-mouthing Ruby Keeler like this? Ruby Keeler is wonderful. She's not just beautiful, but she had a charm, quirkiness, and character of her own that made her fabulous. She also had a great tap dancing talent, and yes, to me a great singing voice. Ruby was in every way, just as her name. She had her own unique singing style that I guess doesn't suit alot of people today, but it suites me, and she had a very nice voice talking and singing. Her tap dancing was buck n wing style, a separate form of tap, so you can't really compare her to Eleanor Powell or Ginger Rogers' dancing which I love and find amazing too. They were different from each other.  These are all modern people's opinions on Ruby, which of course are going to be different from 1930s and 1940s people's opinions.  I guess a lot of people today don't appreciate her in the same way Golden Age audiences did. Ruby Keeler had a sweet, kind spirit on screen and off from what I've read. She's had this innocent pure heart.

Ruby was wonderful in 42nd St, Footlight parade, Gold diggers 33, Dames, Flirtation walk, Colleen,  Ready, willing, and able, and Jolson's Get into that dance.  Not one of those films did I not love her in.

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  • 4 weeks later...
On 11/5/2017 at 1:44 PM, Allenex said:

Why are so many people bad-mouthing Ruby Keeler like this? Ruby Keeler is wonderful. She's not just beautiful, but she had a charm, quirkiness, and character of her own that made her fabulous. She also had a great tap dancing talent, and yes, to me a great singing voice. Ruby was in every way, just as her name. She had her own unique singing style that I guess doesn't suit alot of people today, but it suites me, and she had a very nice voice talking and singing. Her tap dancing was buck n wing style, a separate form of tap, so you can't really compare her to Eleanor Powell or Ginger Rogers' dancing which I love and find amazing too. They were different from each other.  I guess a lot of people today don't appreciate her in the same way Golden Age audiences did. Ruby Keeler had a sweet, kind spirit on screen and off from what I've read. She's had this innocent pure heart that is rare in anybody today.

Ruby was wonderful in 42nd St, Footlight parade, Gold diggers 33, Dames, Colleen, and in Ready, willing, and able. 

Not sure why you marked 'confused' on my post about Priscilla Lane. Television might have benefited from her presence. As for Ruby, a lot of people on the TCM boards (in the past) didn't think she was very talented. I like Ruby and have never had a problem with her or her performances.

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1 minute ago, TopBilled said:

Not sure why you marked 'confused' on my post about Priscilla Lane. Television might have benefited from her presence. As for Ruby, a lot of people on the TCM boards (in the past) didn't think she was very talented. I like Ruby and have never had a problem with her or her performances.

I like Ruby because she is cuteness on steroids but in some of her dance numbers she does come off as rather clunky.    I was told this was just the style of a certain form of tap dancing.    Hey, I'm no expect on dancing so that could be true, but still, it sometimes looks clunky to me.

 

 

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4 minutes ago, TopBilled said:

Not sure why you marked 'confused' on my post about Priscilla Lane. Television might have benefited from her presence. As for Ruby, a lot of people on the TCM boards (in the past) didn't think she was very talented. I like Ruby and have never had a problem with her or her performances.

Sorry, I accidentally pushed the wrong button. I was trying to do something else.

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3 minutes ago, jamesjazzguitar said:

I like Ruby because she is cuteness on steroids but in some of her dance numbers she does come off as rather clunky.    I was told this was just the style of a certain form of tap dancing.    Hey, I'm no expect on dancing so that could be true, but still, it sometimes looks clunky to me.

Whenever I think of her, I think about how they had to invent a fictional wife in THE JOLSON STORY because she did not have a friendly divorce from Al Jolson. So in his movie biopic her name is Julie Benson (played by Evelyn Keyes). LOL

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1 hour ago, TopBilled said:

Whenever I think of her, I think about how they had to invent a fictional wife in THE JOLSON STORY because she did not have a friendly divorce from Al Jolson. So in his movie biopic her name is Julie Benson (played by Evelyn Keyes). LOL

 This from wikipedia; Ruby Keeler refused to allow her name to be used, so the writers used an alias, "Julie Benson".

Odd for a biography.   I didn't think a person,  living or dead,  had a legal right to NOT allow their name to be used in a film or book that is a biography.    Yea,  they can sue for defamation if what is portrayed is false.   Since there are a lot of 'made up' plot lines in the film,  I assume that is why the producers decided to NOT use Keeler's name in the film. 

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2 hours ago, jamesjazzguitar said:

I like Ruby because she is cuteness on steroids but in some of her dance numbers she does come off as rather clunky.    I was told this was just the style of a certain form of tap dancing.    Hey, I'm no expect on dancing so that could be true, but still, it sometimes looks clunky to me.

 

 

It looks clunky to me too.  I don't enjoy watching it, especially when I watch Fred & Ginger, Gene Kelly, and Eleanor Powell dance.  I also don't like watching Joan Crawford dance.  It looks clunky and sloppy.  It reminds me of me when I do my tap dancing impression. 

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On 3/21/2015 at 12:51 AM, midnight08 said:

     There's something about her I liked even though she wasn't a great actress or singer. However she could tap dance. I remember a discussion of her a few years ago and someone explained that her method of tap dancing was a different form from people like Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly. It seemed like more of a hard step tap and there was a name for it which I don't remember.

    I also liked her because I never heard any bad stories about her. After her divorce from Jolson she remarried and had (I think) 5 kids and lived a very happy life. When her husband died she was coaxed to come back by none other than Busby Berkely and had a successful comeback in "No No Nanette".

She had never done a stage play before and she was 60 at the time but the audience loved her.

They call it Buck and Wing--and it's basically self-taught when you see the kind of technique that she had.

 Ruby would be the first person to tell you she never had a ballet lesson in her life; so don't expect her to have that smooth line and flowing Style.  

 

What you like so much about Eleanor Powell, Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly and Ann Miller: it's not just therir tap dancing prowess , which is on a very high level, but it's also their fantastic ballet technique.

 Good tap dancers are good Jazz dancers as well. And they spend a great deal of time at the ballet barre and in jazz dance class.

If you ever have a chance, take a good look at Debbie Reynolds tap dancing in Singin' in the Rain. Legend has it that she learned these complicated steps in 6 to 9 weeks--and boy she certainly does look it!  But you got to give a little Texas Dynamo credit that she kept up with Gene Kelly and Donald O'Connor all the way through, even though she looked pretty clumsy.

I'm sure later that Debbie got some ballet technique because she certainly was a smooth performer later in life.

If you know anything about ballet and you've seen some of these routines of any of the tap dancers that I mentioned previously, then you will know what a high-level they are in terms of their ballet technique. Any one of them could have been stars in a ballet company. 

Tap dancers may be the only dancers who are judged on sound. Ruby's taps are extraordinarily professional, succinct and easy to listen to. I'm a big fan of her come back recording on Broadway of

No No Nanette, as well as her tapturn with Jimmy Cagney in Footlight Parade-- Shanghai Lil.

Ruby was a good tap dancer for her day because many people and dancers had not been exposed to ballet. She was popular and she earned her popularity on her own. In the final analysis --it's hard to say this-- but by the mid thirties Ruby was a bigger star than Al Jolson was. So needless to say they were soon divorced. LOL

BTW-- if you've ever seen the Jolson story you know that Ruby Kahler was on Broadway in a Gershwin show called Show Girl. And it's true that Jolson would get up most nights and sing the song from the audience; I don't know if they wanted him to or not. LOL The song was Liza-- that's where Liza Minnelli's name comes from.

 

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2 hours ago, Princess of Tap said:

If you ever have a chance, take a good look at Debbie Reynolds tap dancing in Singin' in the Rain. Legend has it that she learned these complicated steps in 6 to 9 weeks--and boy she certainly does look it!  But you got to give a little Texas Dynamo credit that she kept up with Gene Kelly and Donald O'Connor all the way through, even though she looked pretty clumsy.

I'm sure later that Debbie got some ballet technique because she certainly was a smooth performer later in life.

 

Didn't Debbie also have a background in gymnastics? That would certainly explain her ability to at least pick up those routines so quickly.

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5 hours ago, Allenex said:

Sorry, I accidentally pushed the wrong button. I was trying to do something else.

You can retract a reaction if you want to - there should be a little 'x' by the selected reaction from the list, which if clicked  is supposed to remove it.

As for Ruby - I like her performances, as they come across as natural & unforced.

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I just love the "Shanghai Lil" number from Footlight Parade.  It's one of my favorites but I think that's due more to Jimmy Cagney than Ruby Keeler.  Ruby's charms fit that era but she couldn't transcend the evolution of films into the 1940's unlike Dick Powell.  I agree movies need the "girl next door" types.  Not every actress can be a Bette Davis powerhouse or Rita Hayworth love goddess.

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14 hours ago, TopBilled said:

Whenever I think of her, I think about how they had to invent a fictional wife in THE JOLSON STORY because she did not have a friendly divorce from Al Jolson. So in his movie biopic her name is Julie Benson (played by Evelyn Keyes). LOL

I wouldn't say that they invented a fictional wife for Al Jolson, even if they couldn't use Ruby Keeler's name.

There may be some fiction in  terms their relationship and how their marriage ended, but there's a great deal of veracity in terms of Ruby Keeler's career as portrayed in the movie. She did star in the Ziegfeld musical "Show Girl"on Broadway. Jolson did get up and sing the Gershwin song "Liza" in the audience, while she danced on stage. And she and Jolson  did make several movies-- the little-known A Day at Santa Anita and the very well-known Go Into Your Dance. In fact, the About A Quarter to Nine number is recreated in the Jolson Story movie.

To give you an idea of how acrimonious the divorce was: the couple had adopted a son and named him Al Jolson jr. When Jolson subsequently remarried and adopted another son, he gave that child the same name. That's just how cruel Al Jolson could be.

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6 hours ago, ChristineHoard said:

I just love the "Shanghai Lil" number from Footlight Parade.  It's one of my favorites but I think that's due more to Jimmy Cagney than Ruby Keeler.  Ruby's charms fit that era but she couldn't transcend the evolution of films into the 1940's unlike Dick Powell.  I agree movies need the "girl next door" types.  Not every actress can be a Bette Davis powerhouse or Rita Hayworth love goddess.

Funny you would mention Bette Davis and Rita Hayworth. They were everything that Ruby Keeler was not. And probably didn't want to be.

Bette Davis was a great actress; Ruby Keeler was not. Rita Hayworth was a professionally trained all- around versatile dancer and an exceedingly, breathtakingly beautiful woman; Ruby Keeler certainly was neither of those things.

Ruby came out of the twenties and she was very much the young, cute flapper type. She did fit into her time and place well, yet at the same time, I'm not so sure she even wanted to continue in films.

There certainly are those who just thrive in an era and then fade away. But I think you can say the same thing about Rita Hayworth after the 40's.

What Dick Powell and Robert Montgomery did in the 1940s was extraordinary. And both went on to be pioneers in classic TV.

But I wouldn't look down on Ruby because she choose not to continue-- at that time, men and women certainly had different views as to how they should spend their lives. Ruby only came back to that fantastic comeback on Broadway in No No Nanette in the 1970s because her husband had died.

 

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1 hour ago, Princess of Tap said:

I wouldn't say that they invented a fictional wife for Al Jolson, even if they couldn't use Ruby Keeler's name.

There may be some fiction in  terms their relationship and how their marriage ended, but there's a great deal of veracity in terms of Ruby Keeler's career as portrayed in the movie. She did star in the Ziegfeld musical "Show Girl"on Broadway. Jolson did get up and sing the Gershwin song "Liza" in the audience, while she danced on stage. And she and Jolson  did make several movies-- the little-known A Day at Santa Anita and the very well-known Go Into Your Dance. In fact, the About A Quarter to Nine number is recreated in the Jolson Story movie.

To give you an idea of how acrimonious the divorce was: the couple had adopted a son and named him Al Jolson jr. When Jolson subsequently remarried and adopted another son, he gave that child the same name. That's just how cruel Al Jolson could be.

Barbara Hale plays another wife (with a fictional name) in the sequel JOLSON SINGS AGAIN. I am assuming that character is modeled after Jolson's last wife in real life, a "happier" marriage that lasted until his death in 1950. He was only 62 when he died. Of course Ruby Keeler was just 41 at the time. She lived until 1993.

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On 3/21/2015 at 11:28 AM, MovieCollectorOH said:

 

I heard a similar story about a particular child actor (can't remember who right now).  He could have been one of the Little Rascals, or maybe a child actor from a TV show.  Just off the top of my head, but he was at home with his wife later on in life, and somebody came knocking at their door and asked if it was him.  His wife had no idea what the stranger was talking about.  That was when he broke it to his wife that he had been a child actor.

 

I've known a handful of former celebrities, and they really don't want to be known for their work.  They just want to be known for themselves.  They go to great lengths to protect their privacy.

And which of course would be the basic plot of the 1952 comedy Dreamboat starring Clifton Webb and Ginger Rogers.

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Ruby Keeler was very beautiful to me, and just about every quality of hers was so uplifting and pleasant. I know that some people don't care for her acting skills, her dancing and singing skills, or even think she's that attractive. I am just saying that I don't agree, I think almost everything about Ruby is wonderful. Even her singing to me, I personally find it very nice in her own way, and I found it cute the way she talked her line "what if we're in a garden, come' on answer me. Or on a crowded avenue" while getting onto the subway with Dick Powell in "I only have eyes for you" in "Dames".  I guess different people have different ideas on what they find appealing. 

As for Ruby and Al Jolson's divorce, I believe one big reason was that Al's lifestyle was often more than what Ruby found comforting. Al was really into speakeasies and living a crazier lifestyle and Ruby was never herself as much into the speakeasy lifestyle and was an active Catholic and always went to church. She wanted an easier, more settled down life which she happily found with her next husband who she had kids with and remained with for more than 20 years until his death. She then returned to acting with " No, no Nanette " since was the next best thing to her after her happy marraige and her kids. Ruby had a part of her where she loved becoming a star and making people happy even though settling down with a family was number one to her.

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  • 2 weeks later...

What do any of you think of Ruby and Dick Powell's number "I only have eyes for you" in "Dames"? I personally loved it. That and "By a waterfall" swimming number in "Footlight parade" (which totally inspired Esther Williams' swimming numbers ten years later) are two of my favorites, although I love almost everything Ruby is in. I also loved the 1984 TV guest appearance with Lee Roy Reams singing "I only have eyes for you" to the 70 year old Ruby, who still looked great for 70.  I could tell how emotional and touching it was for her. I would've loved to also have sung it to her if it was possible to go back in time and if I had a decent singing voice, but I'm afraid neither will be able to happen, lol. 

In "I only have eyes for you", I did find it a little weird them showing 30 pictures of Ruby's face moving around, and I heard that Ruby herself was embarrassed watching that part. But I would still rather see 30 pictures of her face over almost anyone elses. Aside from that, every and I mean every other part of that number was wonderful, the singing down to the subway and on it before Ruby and Powell fell asleep, and the part right after all of the pictures of her face with Ruby and a bunch of other Ruby lookalikes dancing around along with the beautiful singing at that point of the song. The first time I saw that part, I thought that it was trick photography showing actual 30 Ruby Keelers dancing around, however the second time I saw they were 30 different showgirls in matching dresses and hairstyles to Ruby's. 

 

 

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On 3/20/2015 at 2:36 PM, mr6666 said:

really.....couldn't sing OR act, danced a bit & had a cute face though :rolleyes:

This was the great depression. There was the great divide economically. And in other ways too. 

There were some actors/actresses who the public loved simply because they could relate to them. Not so glamorous but, the average woman could see themselves in that role. I see this today in certain situations.

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