When it comes to the dancing stars of Hollywood’s golden era, not many, if any, can quite compare to Fred Astaire. And yet, even he was a firm believer that his recurring co-star, Ginger Rogers, was a better dancer than him. During the 1930s, this dynamic dancing duo starred in nine movies together and were, by all accounts, the two stars that everyone wanted to see on the big screen. Unsurprisingly, many speculated that Rogers and Astaire were entangled in a long-winded affair behind the scenes. Between this, her five marriages and other rumored romances, Ginger Rogers had a pretty eventful life, both personally and professionally!
Her First Marriage Of Many
Ginger Rogers certainly had an illustrious career as both a dancer and as an actress. However, her personal life was just as eventful. Back in 1929, when she was just 17, Rogers tied the knot with fellow dancer Jack Pepper.
It seemed like a match made in heaven, especially since they were dancing partners. Yet their relationship fizzled out after just a couple of months. Despite this, it took two years before they finalized their divorce. And that was just the start of her topsy-turvy love life…
On The Rebound
Despite her marriage to Jack Pepper falling apart, Ginger Rogers was still young, with the world at her feet. While her rebound relationship with Mervyn Leroy didn’t last long, the two remained friends for the rest of their lives.
Then, a couple of years later, she married fellow actor Lew Ayres. It looked like the couple was going to go the distance. However, Rogers ended up making a couple of bad decisions that would eventually see the marriage come to an end…
More Than Just A Dancer
While Ginger Rogers had established herself as one of the most talented dancers in the country, she soon proved to the world that she had many strings to her bow. Most notably, she was also an extremely talented actress.
Rogers ended up winning the Academy Award for Best Actress for her non-dancing role in the movie Kitty Foyle. While this was also happening though, Rogers was very much up to no good behind the scenes…
She Took Away Jimmy’s Innocence
It would take many decades before the public was made aware of Ginger Rogers’ romantic fling with co-star Jimmy Stewart. The same year that she won Best Actress, Stewart took home the Best Actor gong for his role in The Philadelphia Story.
In Stewart’s autobiography, the actor claimed that Rogers was the first woman he was ever with. But it wasn’t just Stewart who Rogers was romantically involved with after she finalized her divorce from Ayres…
An Affair To Forget
While Ginger was linked with a multitude of famous names throughout her life, there was one man who she was desperate to forget about. Ever since meeting in 1932, the dancer’s relationship with filmmaker Howard Hughes was nothing short of tumultuous.
Despite getting engaged and Hughes promising to have a mansion built for her, Rogers grew suspicious about his increasingly possessive behavior. She decided to call it quits after Hughes blamed her for his car crashing and his philanderous ways.
The Dynamic Duo
While Ginger was busy going from one man to the next behind the scenes, there was one man who seemed to always be by her side on set. Her working relationship with Fred Astaire is one of the most iconic of the 20th Century, with the duo starring together in nine musical films.
For many, the two revolutionized the way musicals were made in Hollywood due to their incredible dance routines. It was just a matter of time though before rumors started to spread…
An Affair With Astaire?
Intense speculation began to spread surrounding Ginger Rogers’ and Fred Astaire’s reported romance behind the scenes. Even fellow stars such as Katharine Hepburn famously suggested that they were an item. However, both parties repeatedly denied such claims.
Nevertheless, Astaire has admitted that “[Rogers] is the most effective partner I’ve danced with. It got so that everyone else who danced with me looked wrong.” Despite their undeniable chemistry, this didn’t stop Rogers and Astaire from having their fair share of drama…
Their Rumored Rivalry
It is widely believed that the duo had some sort of working rivalry, although both parties have denied such claims. Despite this, Ginger did suggest that she was the one who would find the great move or line to make their scenes perfect.
It seemed like Rogers and Astaire would never work again after The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle in 1939. However, they ended up reuniting ten years later in their first-ever color feature together, The Barkleys of Broadway.
Third Time’s A Charm?
During Rogers’ decade-long hiatus of working with Fred Astaire, she tied the knot for the third time, this time with U.S. Marine/actor Jack Briggs. Once again, it appeared like Rogers had found the one.
After returning from his duties in World War II, Briggs put his acting career to an end and was happy to live in Rogers’ shadow. However, after marrying in 1943, it took the couple six years before they decided to part ways. Surely Rogers would give up on love…
Age Is Nothing But A Number
After failing to hold down a relationship with anyone her own age, Ginger Rogers decided to try her luck with someone younger than her. However, the public was surprised when they found out that she was marrying someone 16 years her junior – French actor Jacques Bergerac.
Funnily enough, it was the third “Jack” that she was romantically involved with and the couple tied the knot in 1953. Nevertheless, the age gap proved to be too wide and four years later, they divorced.
Ginger’s Beauty Secret
Although their marriage came to an end, Ginger Rogers developed a neat little beauty secret while married to Jacques. In an interview with Desert Sun, the performer claimed that her secret was to sleep outdoors.
“Jacques and I sleep on the patio or on the lawn by the pool,” she said. “The only time we can’t is during the rainy season. We move the bed outside the middle of March again.” That wasn’t the only secret she had though…
Straight As An Arrow?
In that very same interview, Ginger Rogers’ also admitted that she didn’t smoke or drink. While she also played tennis twice a week and kept a simple diet, she almost claimed to “use soap with an oily base.”
Although she didn’t drink, the actress did confess to having an ice cream soda fountain at home. And while you might think she avoided drinks primarily for health and beauty reasons, Ginger actually had other reasons for her teetotalist lifestyle…
Gotta Have Faith
It turns out that Rogers primarily avoided drinking because of her lifelong devotion as a Christian Scientist. In her autobiography, Ginger wrote extensively about her faith and how it influenced her entire career.
Back when her step-father John returned from WWI duty, doctors claimed that he would never fully recover from his lung problems. Then, when he was on the verge of death, Ginger’s family prayed intensely for his survival. After he miraculously recovered, Ginger could never let go of her faith.
Her Final Husband?
When the ’60s came around, Ginger Rogers was convinced that she was old enough and wise enough to build a relationship with someone that would stand the test of time. In 1961, she tied the knot with director William Marshall.
Eventually, the couple also became business partners, establishing a film production company in Jamaica. However, after Marshall’s drinking problem and financial troubles, Rogers decided to call it quits yet again and divorced him in 1969. Despite never marrying again, Ginger was never lonely…
When you are one of the biggest stars in Hollywood, you are bound to surround yourself with some famous friends. This certainly was the case, as far as Ginger Rogers was concerned.
The actress was close with stars such as Bette Davis and Lucille Ball. In fact, she co-starred with the former in an episode of Here’s Lucy. It was a truly iconic moment, especially since it was the first time that Ginger had danced the Charleston in many years.
Keeping It In The Family
Another area of her life that Ginger Rogers held dear was her family. She often worked with her relatives, most notably, socialite/writer Phyllis Fraser. There was also a longstanding rumor that Rogers was related to the one and only, Rita Hayworth.
And while this is technically true, the two stars were not blood-related. The reality is that Ginger’s maternal aunt, Jean Owens, was married to Vinton Hayworth, Rita’s maternal uncle. In fact, Ginger’s family was pretty dysfunctional from the beginning…
Her Father Kidnapped Her
Shortly after Ginger was born, her parents, Lela and William decided to separate. Eventually, tensions rose so high between the mother and father that during a long-winded custody battle, William kidnapped daughter Ginger.
It shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise that the courts didn’t agree with William’s radical behavior. As a result, they awarded Lela full custody of Ginger. In fact, William would only get limited visitation of his daughter. From that day onwards, Lela played a massive part in Ginger’s life…
Mom Saved Her Career
Ginger Rogers probably wouldn’t have been such a huge star without the love and support she got from her mother Lela. A successful individual in her own right, Lela worked in film and journalism before dedicating much of her time to helping Ginger make it in the film industry.
After landing a job as a screenwriter, Lela brought five-year-old Ginger to Fox Studios, who didn’t hesitate to offer her a contract. Although Lela turned it down on Ginger’s behalf, she eventually helped her become a star…
Highest Paid Star Of The Year
During her teens, Ginger was already a household name and by the time she reached 19, she was earning a whopping $1,000 a week. At the time, that was a really good salary. However, her worth only got higher as her career progressed.
By the time 1942 came around, Ginger was officially the highest-paid female Hollywood performer of that year. She was raking in a cool $100,000 per year. Despite the money she was earning, Ginger couldn’t help that she was feeling cheated…
Fighting For Women’s Rights
Seeing that she was surrounded by strong, independent women (most notably, her mother,) Ginger Rogers worked hard throughout her career for women’s rights. She advocated for equal pay, especially after being paid less than co-star Fred Astaire.
Also, she took a stand when she learned that character actors were paid more than her. Moreover, Rogers made history when she starred in 1934’s Finishing School. It was one of the very first movies to be co-directed and co-written by a woman – Wanda Tuchock.
It’s In The Name
While her auburn hair could easily explain why she went by the stage name of Ginger Rogers, there’s actually another story behind how she got the alias. Born Virginia Katherine McGrath, the young lady adopted the surname Rogers after her mother married WWI vet John Rogers.
She was never officially adopted, but nevertheless, she very much considered John to be her father. As for “Ginger,” it turns out that her cousin Helen couldn’t pronounce “Virginia,” so “Ginger” was born.
Her Last Appearance
On March 18, 1995, Ginger Rogers made her last public appearance, receiving the Women’s International Center (WIC) Living Legacy Award. It was a huge achievement, even by her standards. During her final years, the star spent her summers in Medford, Oregon and her winters in Rancho Mirage.
Then, on April 25, 1995, at the age of 83, Ginger passed away in Rancho Mirage. Although Hollywood had lost one of its true greats, Rogers’ legacy ended up living on in some of the most unlikely places…
A Star Is Reborn
At just 14 years of age, after winning the Texas State Charleston Championship, Ginger Rogers was very much on her way to stardom. In 1926, during her rise to fame, the young performer did a show at Oregon’s Craterian theater.
Fast forward nearly seven decades later, and Rogers returned to help raise funds to save the aging theater. She ended up raising a staggering $100,000 and a few years later, the city decided to rename the theater the Craterian Ginger Rogers Theater in her honor.