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a question about Ruby Keeler


tracey65k
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I have had "42nd Street" and "Gold Diggers of 1933" (I think that's the year) taped forever and finally got around to watching them the other night and I'm puzzled. Both films have Ginger Rogers in them in small roles. Ginger can sing acceptably, she can act very well and dances like a dream. So does anyone know why, given that they had her, would anyone have used Ruby Keeler? I mean, ok, she can sing better than Ginger, but she can't act worth a darn and dances like a moose in hobnailed boots. Why give her the leads in these movies? Was she really that big a star then? Or was she somebody's girlfriend or wife?

Just curious...

Tracey

 

PS If you're a Ruby Keeler fan, I apologize for any offense my post might have caused...

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Tracy, I think alot had to do with the fact that she was married to Al Jolson and a good friend to Mark Hellinger that she made it big .Ginger Rogers was unknown until she sang "We're in the money" in Gold Diggers of 1933 that was when the public liked, and wanted more of Ms. Rogers.

vallo

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This is in Richard Lamparski's "Whatever Became of...?" series:

 

"'It's really amazing. I couldn't act. I had that terrible singing voice, and now I can see I wasn't the greatest tap dancer in the world, either.' All of what Ms. Keeler said may be true, but she had a quality during those bleak Depression years that people could identify with. Her roles, those of a kid trying to get a break on Broadway, were so close to her own story that it didn't matter how she read the lines, because...audiences were rooting for her to make good."

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Hi Tracey,

 

Actually I'd love to see a 'moose in hobnailed boots' dancing; that would be a novelty!!

I've only ever seen Ruby Keeler in "42 Street" so I can't judge her talent really. But I thought she was right for the part as a clunky chorine, who's given a chance.

I really was much more interested in Bebe Daniels, who does a great job with the boys in "You're Getting To Be a Habit with Me"... Marvellous!! Bravo, Bebe.....

 

Larry

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Okay, I gotta stick up for Ruby Keeler.

 

She's like a breath of fresh air to me. She's not too serious or too professional but just a natural, down to earth and sweet.

 

Ruby was loved so much because the performance she gave in 42nd Street, which was during the Depression, gave hope to young girls and people that they could make it if they worked hard enough.

 

Ruby's dancing wasn't so bad, it was easy going, she dances well with James Cagney in "Footlight Parade" and "Go Into Your Dance" and "Sweetheart of the Campus."

 

She was just America's Sweetheart, the girl next door type. What Busby Berkeley did for her having all the girls copy her in I believe in Dames showed how popular she was. She was just sweet and likeable.

 

Back in those days, if you didn't have much talent, you could make it on looks, charm, personality, and she had that and so did others. I don't see quite as many with those qualities on screen today.

 

If you get a chance, check out, Broadway Through A Keyhole penned by Walter Winchell, its a story patterned after Ruby's life. A gangster helps Ruby to fame, she marries Al Jolson, the biggest star of the time and that kind of thrust her into fame. Constance Cummings portrays Ruby in Broadway Through A Keyhole, you will like this movie, its a precode, that you can find at Ebay.

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> I really was much more interested in Bebe Daniels,

> who does a great job with the boys in "You're Getting

> To Be a Habit with Me"... Marvellous!! Bravo,

> Bebe.....

 

That number is so campy. I love that the boys are all outfitted in matching high-waisted trousers!

 

Midge

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A Ruby Keeler tidbit.

 

When Columbia made "The Jolson Story" in 1946, Ruby refused to let them use her name for the female lead portrayed by Evelyn Keyes. The character's name became "Julie Benson," but all the facts of Julie's career matched up exactly with Ruby's real-life career.

 

"The Jolson Story" shows Julie starring in "Show Girl" on Broadway as well as in "42nd Street," "Gold Diggers," and "Go Into Your Dance" in Hollywood.

 

The whole world knew it was supposed to be Ruby Keeler, so why didn't she let them use her name? After their divorce, Ruby wanted to put as much distance between herself and Mr. Jolson. The quote I remember went something like this: "I did not want my children to look up on that screen and hear me saying 'I love you' to that man as we fall into an embrace and kiss."

 

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Wayne

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  • 5 months later...

It took me six months, but I finally got back to this thread. I, too, want to stick up for Ruby Keeler. She's adorable and she tap dances just fine.

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People misunderstand Ruby Keeler's style of dancing,anyway. She wasn't a "tap dancer",she was one of the last performers(in Hollywood,at any rate) of a related style called "buck dancing" which was by its nature heavier-footed and didn't emphasize speed and "twinkling toes" as much as tap dancing does.She's not performing tap dancing badly,she's doing a completely different style of dancing.

 

But who thought that poor Ruby sang better than Ginger Rogers???!!! Ruby Keeler was as cute as a button,but she had a singing voice like Foghorn Leghorn!

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  • 11 years later...
On 12/14/2005 at 1:41 PM, tracey65k said:

I have had "42nd Street" and "Gold Diggers of 1933" (I think that's the year) taped forever and finally got around to watching them the other night and I'm puzzled. Both films have Ginger Rogers in them in small roles. Ginger can sing acceptably, she can act very well and dances like a dream. So does anyone know why, given that they had her, would anyone have used Ruby Keeler? I mean, ok, she can sing better than Ginger, but she can't act worth a darn and dances like a moose in hobnailed boots. Why give her the leads in these movies? Was she really that big a star then? Or was she somebody's girlfriend or wife?

Just curious...

Tracey

 

PS If you're a Ruby Keeler fan, I apologize for any offense my post might have caused...

I'm a big Ruby fan, I love her very much. But, I'm not offended by you not liking her. Everyone has a right to like or not like any Hollywood star that they wish.

One reason why Ruby won the part of the star near the end of the film and not Ginger is like another poster said, Ginger wasn't that well known in 42nd St yet, and she became more noticed in We're in the money in Gold diggers 33 which came about 5 or 6 months after this film. But, Ginger didn't really become bigger until her first pairing with Fred Astaire in Flying down to Rio which came out about another few months later. The Fred and Ginger pair really started taking off and making it big after that with Roberta, The gay divorcee, and Top hat, all which came out in the mid 1930s.

Also, Ruby's sweetness and charm really hit it with depression audiences.

I know that many people consider Ruby's dancing to be clunky, but she was a buck n wing dancer and that's how that kind of dancing went. Her singing, I personally loved it in its own way. I found it cute the way she talked her line "now you don't know if you're in a garden, do you? Come-on answer me. Or on a crowded avenue" while walking onto the subway with Dick Powell in I only have eyes for you in Dames.

 

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On 12/29/2005 at 8:30 PM, msladysoul said:

Okay, I gotta stick up for Ruby Keeler.

 

She's like a breath of fresh air to me. She's not too serious or too professional but just a natural, down to earth and sweet.

 

Ruby was loved so much because the performance she gave in 42nd Street, which was during the Depression, gave hope to young girls and people that they could make it if they worked hard enough.

 

Ruby's dancing wasn't so bad, it was easy going, she dances well with James Cagney in "Footlight Parade" and "Go Into Your Dance" and "Sweetheart of the Campus."

 

She was just America's Sweetheart, the girl next door type. What Busby Berkeley did for her having all the girls copy her in I believe in Dames showed how popular she was. She was just sweet and likeable.

 

Back in those days, if you didn't have much talent, you could make it on looks, charm, personality, and she had that and so did others. I don't see quite as many with those qualities on screen today.

 

If you get a chance, check out, Broadway Through A Keyhole penned by Walter Winchell, its a story patterned after Ruby's life. A gangster helps Ruby to fame, she marries Al Jolson, the biggest star of the time and that kind of thrust her into fame. Constance Cummings portrays Ruby in Broadway Through A Keyhole, you will like this movie, its a precode, that you can find at Ebay.

I completely agree with all of this

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On 12/27/2005 at 5:48 PM, vecchiolarry said:

Hi Tracey,

 

Actually I'd love to see a 'moose in hobnailed boots' dancing; that would be a novelty!!

I've only ever seen Ruby Keeler in "42 Street" so I can't judge her talent really. But I thought she was right for the part as a clunky chorine, who's given a chance.

I really was much more interested in Bebe Daniels, who does a great job with the boys in "You're Getting To Be a Habit with Me"... Marvellous!! Bravo, Bebe.....

 

Larry

I loved Bebe Daneils You're getting to be a habit with me also. Bebe and Aline McMahon in Gold Diggers 33 had alot in common as the assertive gold digging type.

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On 6/23/2006 at 12:12 AM, daddysprimadonna said:

People misunderstand Ruby Keeler's style of dancing,anyway. She wasn't a "tap dancer",she was one of the last performers(in Hollywood,at any rate) of a related style called "buck dancing" which was by its nature heavier-footed and didn't emphasize speed and "twinkling toes" as much as tap dancing does.She's not performing tap dancing badly,she's doing a completely different style of dancing.

 

But who thought that poor Ruby sang better than Ginger Rogers???!!! Ruby Keeler was as cute as a button,but she had a singing voice like Foghorn Leghorn!

Like Foghorn Leghorn? Now don't you, I say don't you be talkin about Ruby that way.

Ruby is great though in many ways.

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21 minutes ago, Allenex said:

I'm a big Ruby fan, I love her very much. But, I'm not offended by you not liking her. Everyone has a right to like or not like any Hollywood star that they wish.

One reason why Ruby won the part of the star near the end of the film and not Ginger is like another poster said, Ginger wasn't that well known in 42nd St yet, and she became more noticed in We're in the money in Gold diggers 33 which came about 5 or 6 months after this film. But, Ginger didn't really become bigger until her first pairing with Fred Astaire in Flying down to Rio which came out about another few months later. The Fred and Ginger pair really started taking off and making it big after that with Roberta, The gay divorcee, and Top hat, all which came out in the mid 1930s.

Also, Ruby's sweetness and charm really hit it with depression audiences.

I know that many people consider Ruby's dancing to be clunky, but she was a buck n wing dancer and that's how that kind of dancing went. Her singing, I personally loved it in its own way. I found it cute the way she talked her line "now you don't know if you're in a garden, do you? Come-on answer me. Or on a crowded avenue" while walking onto the subway in I only have eyes for you in Dames.

 

Ruby Keeler was a famous tap dancer in nightclubs and on Broadway in New York City in the 1920s.

Ginger Rogers was an up and coming performer also on Broadway, but she was not a tap dancer. In the Fred Astaire movies she put on the tap shoes and did the Motions, but she couldn't make the tap sounds.  It's a little bit like all those people who pretend to play the piano and they look very good, but actually someone else is playing the piano.

I think the part in 42nd Street called for not only a real tap dancer, but also a naive ingenue personality type that Ginger Rogers was not perceived as fitting. Before 42nd Street, Ginger Rogers had made a number of movies and had some featured roles. She was not unknown to the public or Hollywood brass. 

Initially Fred Astaire was very unhappy about Ginger Rogers being selected to to co-star with him as his dancing partner in Gay Divorcée. RKO decided to team them together in Fred Astaire's first staring vehicle because they had made such a big hit in Flying Down to Rio. Astaire thought she was all wrong for the part because of the brassy in your face personality that she had portrayed in Gold Diggers of 1933. Astaire felt that the woman in Gay Divorcée should be a refined upper class personality type, which he wasn't sure Ginger could play. 

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11 minutes ago, Allenex said:

I loved Bebe Daneils You're getting to be a habit with me also. Bebe and Aline McMahon in Gold Diggers 33 had alot in common as the assertive gold digging type.

Daneils was NOT in Gold Diggers 33 but 42nd Street and in 42nd Street she wasn't a gold digger but instead the star of the play that the film is about.   She hurts her ankle and decides to retire and marry,  giving Keeler her big break.

Maybe you're thinking of Joan Blondel since she was the roommate of McMahon in GD-33.  BUT these gals were only pretending to be gold diggers because the two men had insulted them with the assumption that ALL of their 'kind' (dancing girls \ stage actresses),  are gold diggers.   

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On 1/23/2018 at 7:32 PM, jamesjazzguitar said:

Daneils was NOT in Gold Diggers 33 but 42nd Street and in 42nd Street she wasn't a gold digger but instead the star of the play that the film is about.   She hurts her ankle and decides to retire and marry,  giving Keeler her big break.

Maybe you're thinking of Joan Blondel since she was the roommate of McMahon in GD-33.  BUT these gals were only pretending to be gold diggers because the two men had insulted them with the assumption that ALL of their 'kind' (dancing girls \ stage actresses),  are gold diggers.   

I know that Bebe Daniels wasn't in Gold diggers 33, what I meant was that Bebe in 42nd St had the similar type assertive personality as Aline McMahon had in Gold diggers 33. 

I loved Blondell's characters in Gold diggers 33, Footlight parade, and Dames. All sometimes sweet characters with a kniving side to them, including in Dames when Blondell's sneaking into Guy Kibee's bed on the train and then in his bedroom and blackmailing him to put the money up for the show (also funny, Blondell going "cousin Ezraaa" and Kibee trying to say it was "the wind in the pipes" to Ezra (Hugh Hubert) and Zazu Pitts (who were waiting for an excuse to cut Guy off "like a ripe banana"). It wasn't just Ruby and her number I only have eyes for you that helped make that film great. Also funny was Hugh's hiccuping scene and the bottles of Dr. Silver's golden elixer, and Blondell helped too. In Footlight parade, Blondell and Cagney did sort of seem like a match made in heaven. I love Cagney in Footlight, as I'm also a fan of his in Public enemy (including the grapefruit scene, his scenes with Jean Harlow), Angels with dirty faces, Yankee doodle dandy, The roaring twenties, and White heat ("I made it! Top of the world ma!"), I love it.

 

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On 1/23/2018 at 7:28 PM, Princess of Tap said:

Ruby Keeler was a famous tap dancer in nightclubs and on Broadway in New York City in the 1920s.

Ginger Rogers was an up and coming performer also on Broadway, but she was not a tap dancer. In the Fred Astaire movies she put on the tap shoes and did the Motions, but she couldn't make the tap sounds.  It's a little bit like all those people who pretend to play the piano and they look very good, but actually someone else is playing the piano.

I think the part in 42nd Street called for not only a real tap dancer, but also a naive ingenue personality type that Ginger Rogers was not perceived as fitting. Before 42nd Street, Ginger Rogers had made a number of movies and had some featured roles. She was not unknown to the public or Hollywood brass. 

Initially Fred Astaire was very unhappy about Ginger Rogers being selected to to co-star with him as his dancing partner in Gay Divorcée. RKO decided to team them together in Fred Astaire's first staring vehicle because they had made such a big hit in Flying Down to Rio. Astaire thought she was all wrong for the part because of the brassy in your face personality that she had portrayed in Gold Diggers of 1933. Astaire felt that the woman in Gay Divorcée should be a refined upper class personality type, which he wasn't sure Ginger could play. 

I really like Ginger's song at the dance hall near the beginning of Flying down to Rio "music makes me do the things I never would do".  I love the pairing of Fred and Ginger in Follow the fleet, and Ginger's singing "let yourself go", which she and Fred dance to later along with their great dance number "let's dance and face the music".  Also, the scene early on when Harriet Hillard (who's made up to look homely) can't get the attention of Randolph Scott, but then when her sister Ginger makes her over, she wows Scott immediately. Women getting, or wanting to get makeovers to look prettier has been a common practice for a very long time. There's also in Footlight parade when Ruby Keeler was an office assistant, given glasses, and an unbecoming dress at the start of the film to make her look homely, then Joan Blondell gives her a makeover, makes her beautiful (which is how she normally looks), and wows Cagney who immediately makes her a star dancer (and Cagney's hilarious mocking of Frank McHugh's "it cant be done! It just can't be done!" who keeps yelling that line throughout the picture), and then Ruby in the next scene takes the lead in the cat number (and looking cute in that cat outfit) "Sitting on a backyard fence" (you can see her buck n wing style dancing, where her arms are moving much less than her legs, but if you ever listen to Ruby's tap sounds, you can hear how brilliant her tapping is). I also loved Cagney's aside to Blondell "another good gal gone bad", right after Ruby's makeover and before "sitting on a backyard fence" begins.

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On 1/23/2018 at 7:28 PM, Princess of Tap said:

Ruby Keeler was a famous tap dancer in nightclubs and on Broadway in New York City in the 1920s.

Ginger Rogers was an up and coming performer also on Broadway, but she was not a tap dancer. In the Fred Astaire movies she put on the tap shoes and did the Motions, but she couldn't make the tap sounds.  It's a little bit like all those people who pretend to play the piano and they look very good, but actually someone else is playing the piano.

I think the part in 42nd Street called for not only a real tap dancer, but also a naive ingenue personality type that Ginger Rogers was not perceived as fitting. Before 42nd Street, Ginger Rogers had made a number of movies and had some featured roles. She was not unknown to the public or Hollywood brass. 

Initially Fred Astaire was very unhappy about Ginger Rogers being selected to to co-star with him as his dancing partner in Gay Divorcée. RKO decided to team them together in Fred Astaire's first staring vehicle because they had made such a big hit in Flying Down to Rio. Astaire thought she was all wrong for the part because of the brassy in your face personality that she had portrayed in Gold Diggers of 1933. Astaire felt that the woman in Gay Divorcée should be a refined upper class personality type, which he wasn't sure Ginger could play. 

I noticed how Ginger often was good at playing a combination of both a girl with refined qualities and grace, and also displayed signs of a girl with a more working class background. She displayed a great balance of both styled qualities in Follow the fleet and in The story of Vernon and Irene Castle, which I loved.

Ginger did have a brassy attitude during the first part of Gold diggers 33, including after her fabulous "we're in the money" number is interrupted and her infamous line "the depression, dearie", and then the assertive way she walked into Ruby, Blondell, and Aline McMahon's apartment when Ned Sparks was organizing a new show. But I noticed how Ginger's character got sort of shoved aside as the film progressed and Aline and Blondell took over when hooking up with Guy Kibee and Warren William pretending to like them while knowing that they were just looking at them as cheap gold diggers. Ginger's character got rather easily manipulated when Aline threatened to break her leg if she came near Kibee again (and kicked her telling her to stop looking at him with those " bedroom eyes").  Her character didn't really match anymore with the strong, brassy character she started out playing.

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