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Ruby Keeler Poster

Biography

Jump to: Overview (4)  | Mini Bio (1)  | Spouse (2)  | Trivia (16)  | Personal Quotes (7)  | Salary (1)

Overview (4)

Born in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
Died in Rancho Mirage, California, USA  (cancer)
Birth NameEthel Hilda Keeler
Height 5' 2" (1.57 m)

Mini Bio (1)

Ruby Keeler started as a dancer on Broadway. After her marriage to Al Jolson she moved to Hollywood and become a star in Warners musicals opposite Dick Powell. After her divorce from Jolson she retired for almost 30 years, until she appeared in "No No Nanette" on Broadway in 1971 under the direction of Busby Berkeley.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: Stephan Eichenberg <eichenbe@fak-cbg.tu-muenchen.de>

Spouse (2)

John Homer Lowe (29 October 1941 - 1969) ( his death) ( 4 children)
Al Jolson (21 September 1928 - 26 December 1939) ( divorced) ( 1 child)

Trivia (16)

She returned to Broadway in 1971, starring in "No No, Nanette", appearing in a run of 861 performances. Her fellow dancer from fifty or so years earlier, Patsy Kelly, was also in the cast.
Although she had been married to Al Jolson she forbade the use of her name in the film of Jolson's life, The Jolson Story (1946). Portrayed in that film by Evelyn Keyes, Keeler is referred to as "Julie Benson.".
Keeler, who was Catholic of mostly Irish descent and husband Al Jolson, who was Jewish, could not conceive a child, so they adopted a baby boy who was half-Irish and half-Jewish. After she divorced Jolson, she had four children with her second husband. Her adopted son, Al Jolson Jr., was a contented member of her new family. He later changed his name to Peter.
When 40-year-old Al Jolson, her future husband, first met her at Texas Guinan's El Fey Club in New York City one night in 1926, she was a 16-year-old dancer in the chorus line. He married her two years later, when she was 18.
Broadway columnist Mark Hellinger, later to become a movie producer, accompanied Keeler and Al Jolson on their honeymoon, to chronicle the event for the local tabloid, the New York Daily News.
Keeler began appearing as a singer and dancer in nightclubs when she was around 14 years old, after dropping out of the sixth grade at Catholic school. She would work at two or three clubs a night, making a minimum of $150 a week. Her iceman father had costly medical problems, and she became her family's breadwinner.
When she was a chorus girl in New York City, Ruby was looked after and protected by a gangster named Johnny Irish. An associate of speakeasy owner and bootlegger Owney Madden, who owned the world-famous Cotton Club in Harlem, and an ally of notorious gangster Dutch Schultz, Irish ran Schultz's nightspots for him. Irish reportedly had no romantic interest in Keeler himself but watched over her because she was very young, somewhat naive and also of Irish descent, like himself. When Al Jolson decided to marry Keeler, he went to Irish to tell him of his intentions. Irish allegedly warned Jolson that if he ever mistreated her he would pay for the transgression with his life.
The eldest of three daughters of Nova Scotian emigrants Ralph Hector Keeler and Eleanora "Nellie" Lahey, Ruby Keeler's parents were poor but managed to pay for her dancing lessons. Ruby was the elder sister of Gertrude Keeler and Helen Keeler and the aunt of child actors Joey D. Vieira and Ken Weatherwax (the latter best-known for playing "Pugsley Addams" in The Addams Family (1964)).
Received a standing ovation at The 51st Annual Academy Awards (1979) when she appeared to co-present the Oscar for the Best Song. She was overwhelmed with emotion.
When she enrolled in Jack Blue's dancing school on West 54th Street in Manhattan at eleven, one of her classmates was Patsy Kelly.
Keeler walked out on the play "Hold on to Your Hat" when husband Al Jolson persisted in making ad-lib references to their marital difficulties during rehearsals.
Keeler ended her RKO contract when the studio billed Anne Shirley over her in "Mother Carey's Chickens".
In her heyday, with carefully counted slow motion, she was declared the world's fastest "tapper".
Got into a chorus line of a Broadway show at 14 and then danced in nightclubs, speakeasies and on stage.
Inducted into the International Tap Dance Hall of Fame in 2019.
A street in Burbank, California is named for her.

Personal Quotes (7)

Al Jolson was my first husband. He always used to boast that he was spoiling me for any man who might come after him. I think Al sensed that it wasn't easy for me being married to an American institution . . . Was he right about spoiling me? I'm sorry. I couldn't possibly say. I couldn't be that indiscreet.
[on her stardom in the 1930s Warner Bros. musicals] 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.
[on why she was not portrayed in 'The Jolson Story'] I don't like him. I don't want my children to grow up someday and maybe see the picture and know I was married to a man like that.
[on her childhood ballet teacher Helen Guest] We were very poor, and I think she gave me the lessons for nothing.
Dancing in speakeasies was a job, and none of us knew for sure who were gangsters. No one told us, so how could we know? My mother used to come and take me home. We thought nothing of walking home together at two in the morning. How different New York was then!
[on her early success] I was all personality and no talent.
I could do a few dance routines, but I didn't have a voice. I always dreaded the part when I had to sing back to Dick (Dick Powell).

Salary (1)

Mother Carey's Chickens (1938) $40,000

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