Ginger Rogers (born Virginia Katherine McMath; July 16, 1911 – April 25, 1995) was an American actress, dancer, and singer. She won an Academy Award for her starring role in Kitty Foyle (1940), but is best remembered for performing during the 1930s in RKO’s musical films (partnered with Fred Astaire). Her career continued on stage, radio, and television throughout much of the 20th century.
Born in Independence, Missouri, and raised in Kansas City, Rogers and her family moved to Fort Worth, Texas, when she was nine years old. After winning a 1925 Charleston dance contest that launched a successful vaudeville career, she gained recognition as a Broadway actress for her debut stage role in Girl Crazy. This success led to a contract with Paramount Pictures, which ended after five films. Rogers had her first successful film role as a supporting actress in 42nd Street (1933). Throughout the 1930s, Rogers made nine films with Astaire, among which were some of her biggest successes, such as Swing Time (1936) and Top Hat (1935). After two commercial failures with Astaire, Rogers began to branch out into dramatic films and comedies. Her acting was well received by critics and audiences, and she became one of the biggest box-office draws of the 1940s. Her performance in Kitty Foyle (1940) won her the Academy Award for Best Actress.Rogers remained successful throughout the 1940s and at one point was Hollywood’s highest-paid actress, but her popularity had peaked by the end of the decade. She reunited with Astaire in 1949 in the commercially successful The Barkleys of Broadway. After an unsuccessful period through the 1950s, Rogers made a successful return to Broadway in 1965, playing the lead role in Hello, Dolly! More lead roles on Broadway followed, along with her stage directorial debut in 1985 on an off-Broadway production of Babes in Arms. Rogers also made television acting appearances until 1987. In 1992, Rogers was recognized at the Kennedy Center Honors. She died of a heart attack in 1995, at the age of 83.
Rogers is associated with the phrase “backwards and in high heels”, which is attributed to Bob Thaves’ Frank and Ernest 1982 cartoon with the caption “Sure he [Astaire] was great, but don’t forget that Ginger Rogers did everything he did…backwards and in high heels”. This phrase is sometimes incorrectly attributed to Ann Richards, who used it in her keynote address to the 1988 Democratic National Convention.A Republican and a devout Christian Scientist, Rogers married five times with all of them ending in divorce, and having no children. During her long career, Rogers made 73 films, and her musical films with Fred Astaire are credited with revolutionizing the genre. Rogers was a major movie star during the Golden Age of Hollywood, and is often considered an American icon. She ranks number 14 on the AFI’s 100 Years…100 Stars list of female stars of classic American cinema. Rogers’ autobiography Ginger: My Story was published in 1991.