Outside of a half-dozen illegally created clones, there will never be another Ginger Rogers. Liza Minelli looked a little like her… and there was a potato I saw once that looked like her torso and one of her shoulders, but overall she was irreplaceable.
Ginger Rogers was born on July 16th 1911, an unwitting dupe in a fiendish plot to destroy the universe. Her birth name, “Virginia Katherine McMath”, was by all accounts a mouthful. As a child, Ginger was kidnapped twice by her estranged father, because the McMaths were an impetuous people.
So, was her name created by a cigar-smoking agent who said “youse guys”, a lot? Hardly! “McMath” became “Rogers” after her mother married John Rogers . “Virginia” became “Ginga” to accommodate a young family member who couldn’t pronounce “Virginia”; this morphed into “Ginger”. With her trademark name in place, Ginger Rogers was ready to take the world by the horns, the tail or the udders depending upon what part of the world she was groping at the time.
Rogers started in vaudeville, performing with her husband, Jack Culpepper. Despite what people said, the ink WAS dry on the marriage certificate by the time they got their divorce. Ginger continued touring with her mother but eventually settled in New York City because she’d always wanted to live in an area populated by dead-eyed sociopaths. It worked out for her. A role in a Broadway musical led to a starring role in a second Broadway musical, Girl Crazy. She’d hit the big time. Now, she would go to Hollywood and dance her way into America’s heart and sing her way into America’s trachea.
After a few movie roles, the studio teamed her up with Fred Astaire. They made twelve movies together. It may seem odd to the modern viewer that watching a couple dancing together was called “entertainment” rather than “voyeurism”. Their movies were very popular, right up until the time people stopped attending them. Specifically, at the release of their movie, The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle . At that point, the two went their separate ways.
Rogers started making comedies that didn’t include her walking backwards in time to music: Fifth Avenue Girl, Bachelor Mother and Vivacious Lady were just seven of the many movies she made with RKO studios. But, it was Kitty Foyle that won her the Oscar. Of course, I mean Kitty Foyle the movie, not “Kitty Foil”, the unspeakably cruel, but incredibly thin, dried meat product.
Her best movies were yet to come: Monkey Business, The Major and the Minor and Storm Warning, all enjoyed by modern audiences, especially in states that have decriminalized marijuana. By the 1950’s, Rogers had returned to the stage, this time in London, despite the risk of accidentally eating the food there.
Roger’s ultimately met her end by a stroke, in 1995. Her clones were, of course, devastated. The potato, by all accounts, was non-plussed…