She was born Vera Ellen Westmeier Rohe on February 16, 1921 in Norwood, Ohio , an enclave within Cincinnati, to Martin Rohe and Alma Catherine Westmeier, both descended from German immigrants. She began dancing at age 10 and quickly became very proficient. At 16 she was a winner on the Major Bowes Amateur Hour, and embarked upon a professional careerIn 1939, Vera-Ellen made her Broadway theatre debut in the Jerome Kern/Oscar Hammerstein musical Very Warm for May at the age of 18. She became one of the youngest Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall, although she was not tall. This led to roles on Broadway in Panama Hattie, By Jupiter, and A Connecticut Yankee, where she was spotted by Samuel Goldwyn, who cast her opposite Danny Kaye and Virginia Mayo in the film WONDER MAN(1945).
She danced with Gene Kelly in the Hollywood musicals WORDS AND MUSIC(1948) and ON THE TOWN(1949), while also appearing in the last Marx Brothers film, LOVE HAPPY(1950). She received top billing alongside Fred Astaire in Three Little Words and The Belle of New York (1952). Then came co-starring roles with Bing Crosby in the blockbuster hit WHITE CHRISTMAS(1954). The warm and fuzzy yuletide favorite WHITE CHRISTMAS (1954) is usuallly considered her best-remembered movie in which she played one-fourth of a glamorous quartet consisting of Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye and (sister) Rosemary Clooney.
Musicals went out of vogue by the late 50s and, as Vera-Ellen was practically synonymous with musicals, her career went into a sharp decline. During the 1950s, she was reputed to have the "smallest waist in Hollywood", and is believed to have suffered from anorexia nervosa. She retired from the screen in 1957. Guest appearances on the television variety shows of Dinah Shore and Perry Como in 1958 and 1959 were among the last of her entertainment career.
Vera-Ellen was married twice. Her first husband was fellow dancer Robert Hightower (from 1941 to 1946).Her second husband, from 1954 to 1966, was millionaire Victor Rothschild. Both marriages ended in divorce. While married to Rothschild, she gave birth to a daughter, Victoria Ellen Rothschild, who died at three months old of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome in 1963. Following the death of her child, Vera-Ellen withdrew from public life and never recovered from it. She died of cancer in Los Angeles, California in 1981...
For more on Vera-Ellen's later years go to this article:
VERA-ELLEN: THE LATER YEARS