This blue-eyed blonde bombshell was one of the most talented performers of her era. Virginia Katherine McMath was born to Lela Owens and William McMath in Independence, Missouri on July 16, 1911. She received her stage name “Ginger” because one of her young cousins could only muster up “Ginja”, and her last name was borrowed from her step-father, John Rogers. Close friends and family said she learned to dance before she could walk. By the young age of 10, she was performing in front of her first audiences at celebrations, charity shows, and lodge meetings with her stepfather. A mere four years later, Ginger won the Texas State Charleston Championship and was awarded with a month of appearances in four Texas cities on the Interstate Theatre Circuit. The crowds loved “Ginger and the Redheads” so much that Junior Orpheum decided to send them on tour across the western portion of the U.S.
Ginger made her way to the East Coast and debuted in her first Broadway musical, Top Speed, which opened Christmas Day in 1929; she was only eighteen years old. Six weeks of eight hour rehearsals were necessary for the usual dance routine. Talent, an amazing work ethic, and recognition brought her across the U.S. to Hollywood. She went on to make over 70 films, and appeared in various television series as well as many more Broadway shows. By 1937, Ginger Rogers was receiving a salary of $124,770, equivalent to $2,107,945 today. In 1940, Ginger received an Oscar for Best Actress for her role in the film Kitty Foyle, and by 1945 Miss Ginger Rogers was the highest paid actress in Hollywood. Compared to most Hollywood stars, she had minimal scandal—despite four divorces and flings with Howard Hughes and Cary Grant. She preferred soda to alcohol and sports to parties. Miss Ginger Rogers even helped Lucille Ball to overcome being camera-shy, which enabled Lucille Ball to have such a successful career.
Many cannot utter Ginger Roger’s name without remembering her magical performances with Fred Astaire. The world fell in love with the duo, thus they made ten films together, including Top Hat, Swing Time, Gay Divorcee, and Shall We Dance. Much to Ginger’s dismay, her films with Fred Astaire often became more popular than her other roles, including her Oscar winning role in Kitty Foyle. In 1965, Miss Rogers decided to retire because of her growing distaste for the new, modern frankness of Hollywood content. Her net worth was $20 million.
Miss Ginger Rogers passed away on April 25, 1995 from congestive heart failure (CHF) and was laid to rest in Oakwood Memorial Park in Chatsworth, CA, where Fred Astaire, the other half of the beloved duo, was also buried. She left the world with the gift of happiness and pure entertainment.