Born Johnnie Lucille Ann Collier in Chireno, Texas, Miller was enrolled by her mother in a tap-dancing school at age 5 to strengthen her legs after a case of rickets. Her parents divorced when she was 10, and she moved with her mother to California, where she helped support the two of them by dancing in nightclubs. It was during this time that she took the stage name of Ann Miller. Lucille Ball and comedian Benny Rubin saw Miller performing in San Francisco in 1937 and urged RKO Pictures to sign her to a contract. To get the deal, the 13-year-old Miller lied about her age, saying she was 18. This began a lifelong confusion about her true age. Although some reference books gave her birth year as 1919, in later years Miller claimed that she had been born in 1923. Winning notice as Ginger Rogers' dancing partner in the 1937 film "Stage Door," she landed supporting roles in a string of movies through the remainder of the decade, including "Room Service" with the Marx Brothers in 1938. The next year, she had a role in Frank Capra's "You Can't Take It With You," which won a best-picture Oscar. In the early 1940s, she set a record for the fastest tap dancing, producing more than 500 tap sounds per minute.
In 1948, she signed with MGM and danced with Fred Astaire in her first film for that studio, "Easter Parade". Miles Kreuger, president of the Los Angeles-based Institute of the American Musical, said "the quintessential Ann Miller number" is "Shaking the Blues Away," in "Easter Parade," the 1948 MGM musical co- starring Judy Garland and Fred Astaire. "It's a great solo turn where she's on the stage alone and she just uses the space wonderfully," Kreuger said Thursday. "That number captures all the essence, I think, of Ann Miller — the bravura tap dancing and her enormous energy and that joyous smile that was so engaging."
She co-starred with Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra and Betty Garrett the following year in "On the Town" and played Lois Lane "Bianca" in the 1953 film version of "Kiss Me Kate," the musical adaptation of Shakespeare's "The Taming of the Shrew," co-starring Bob Fosse, Kathryn Grayson and Howard Keel. When film musicals' popularity declined in the 1950s, Miller When film musicals' popularity declined in the 1950s, Miller went to television and then the stage. In 1969, she took over the starring role in the Broadway musical "Mame." She gained new fame in 1972 when she danced on a giant soup can in a commercial for Great American Soup.
The stage role for which Miller was probably best known was in the vaudevillian "Sugar Babies," for which she received a 1980 Tony Award nomination. She co-starred in the role with Mickey Rooney on Broadway and on tour. "She could do it all," Rooney said Thursday. "Nobody will ever tap dance like her again. She was a lot of fun to be with. It wasn't like work." In 1998, Miller won rave reviews for her turn in Stephen Sondheim's "Follies" at the Paper Mill Playhouse in New Jersey. She sang "I'm Still Here," a song about a show business survivor. Her solo "got a standing ovation in the middle of the show every night," recalled Angelo Del Rossi, Paper Mill's former executive producer.
In later years, she lived in Beverly Hills and Sedona, Ariz., and wrote two memoirs, "Miller's Highlife" in 1972 and "Tops in Taps" in 1981. Miller's tap shoes, which she named Moe and Joe, are on display in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. Annie returned to movies in 2001 in David Lynch's "Mulholland Drive," playing Coco Lenoix, the eccentric manager of a Hollywood apartment complex.
“Thank you Ann for “Shaking The Blues Away” and leaving us with a special legacy,
for we too, “Gotta Hear That Beat”!