Sunday, December 12, 2010

Ziegfeld Girls I

What else do I love besides silent films? The Ziegfeld Follies. The costumes and shows and the girls and the talent...just amazing. I don't think it could be recreated today. I am sure it would have amazing visual effects nowadays, but back was new and state of the art. It was also during a time of gayness, frivolity, and devil-may-care attitudes. I wish I was around for that! If I had been around during that time, I picture being a Ziegfeld Girl, then a silent film actress, and marry Buster Keaton. The end.

Anyways, I love the Ziegfeld Girls. I especially love the pictures taken by Follies photographer, Alfred Cheney Johnston. They are some of the most beautiful pictures I have ever seen.

I am profiling a few of my favorite girls here. Not all of them were silent film stars, but it was during the same time, so I am adding them. They were beautiful ladies and deserve to be remembered for their involvement in the most spectacular stage show of the century.

Adorable lil Ann Pennington! She packed a lot of energy in her 4'10'' body, and this is one of the reasons why I adore her. I saw a clip of her doing The Black Bottom and it was just amazing. She is also a sad example of how some of these stars ended up unknown and living in poverty later in life.

Ann Pennington was born on December 23, 1893 in Wilmington, Delaware.

She made her stage debut in 1911 and entered the Ziegfeld Follies in 1913. She quickly became a star in the Follies and moved out of just being in the chorus. Because she was so well known on the stage, she was able to appear in both the Follies and George White's Scandals.

Ann appeared in a total of 23 movies, 13 of which were silents. Sadly, most of these films are lost or her part in the film is missing or ended up on the cutting room floor. I also read that there isn't any film left of her doing her signature dance moves, but that is false. Like I stated earlier, I have seen a video clip of her doing The Black Bottom...and it wasn't that long ago.

Ann had a bright and shining personality on stage and often wore revealing costumes. But, offstage she could by shy. But, onstage or off, she loved to have fun.

She lived in both New York and California, depending on what she was working on at the time. In California, she was roommates with friend Fanny Brice.

Ann continued to tour on stage dancing until the 1940s when she retired. One of her last big public appearances was at the 1939 World's Fair.

Ann Pennington passed away on November 4, 1971 in New York City. She had been living alone and penniless for years.

She was buried in Valhallia Cemetery in New York. Her funeral and grave were paid for by the Actors Benevolent Guild. Apparently no one from her family attended her funeral (Ann had a sister named Nellie, but I don't know anything about her).

Ann never married but she did have a few beaus. The closest she ever came to marrying was when she was engaged to boxer Jack Dempsey. She was also rumored to have dated George White, but this was never confirmed because Ann never talked about her personal relationships.

George Gershwin played piano for her during Ziegfeld rehearsals, and also wrote several songs for her.

Her nicknames included "Tiny" and "Penny"

This is a video clip I found of Ann dancing her heart out!


  1. Wonderful blog! I'm trying to find more information about Ann Pennington. Do you have any suggestions in terms of resources or literature? Again, excellent blog. I'm bookmarking this.

    ~ Dash

    azure dot crescent at yahoo dot com

  2. Hello again Dash! Historic Ziegeld is a wonderful site with a lot of information. Also, the books "Ziegfeld Follies" and "The Ziegfeld Touch" are great. They have little snippets of information on the girls.


  3. Ann Pennington dancing The Black Bottom:

    ☮ ♡

  4. Love it!! Love her! Thanks Vetiveronica!

  5. Hi
    I have researched Ann's life for many years and wrote much of her wikipedia entry;
    I have never seen a video of her dancing her two greatest numbers, Black Bottom and Charlston - lots of people think they have seen these, but it is not Ann dancing!; lots of people also "remember" the film of Ann dancing with Felix the Cat - this was never a film at all, it was a series of still photos in a magazine ( they are thinking of Jerry Mouse and Gene Kelly); if you have any source for Ann's old films, please tell!!!


  6. Hey Mark! Glad to meet a fan of Ann's! I do love the pictures of Ann and Felix, they are so cute! I saw a clip of Ann dancing the Black Bottom and then introducing a clip in a film about the history of dance that I got from work. That is as far as I have gotten film wise for her.

  7. Snake Hips.