Born in Missouri, Rogers began taking dance and singing lessons as a toddler. By age five, she was appearing in commercials. At age 15, she won a Charleston dancing contest and soon after began touring the Southern and Midwestern vaudeville circuit with her act, “Ginger and the Redheads.” Her mother, Lela, a reporter and writer, worked as Ginger’s manager and traveled with her as a chaperone. She and Ginger’s father had divorced shortly after Ginger was born, and Lela would continue to manage her daughter’s career until her death in 1971.
After making a splash on Broadway in George Gershwin’s hit play Girl Crazy, Rogers signed a film contract in 1931. She would play a series of wisecracking blondes in a number of B movies, working at various studios before settling at RKO. In 1933, she was paired with Fred Astaire in Flying Down to Rio. Although she lacked formal ballroom training, she and Astaire made a perfect match on the dance floor. Audiences flocked to the 10 movies they made together, including The Gay Divorcee (1933), Top Hat (1935), Swing Time (1936) and Shall We Dance? (1937). Apart from her graceful dance moves, Rogers also established her credentials as a serious actress with her performance in the 1940 film Kitty Foyle, for which she won an Academy Award for Best Actress.
On this date in 1974, Pamela Susan Courson, the long-term companion of Jim Morrison, vocalist of The Doors died from an overdose in Los Angeles.
Her cremated remains are interred at Fairhaven Memorial Park in Santa Ana, California. It is because of her connection to Orange County that I began researching famous Orange County residents; this ultimately led to the release of my first book, Final Resting Places Orange County’s Dead & Famous (2010).