Vera-Ellen was an American actress and dancer, principally celebrated for her filmed dance partnerships with Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, and Donald O’Connor.
She was born Vera Ellen Westmeier Rohe in Norwood, Ohio, a suburb of Cincinnati, to Martin Rohe and Alma Catherine Westmeier, both descended from German immigrants. She began dancing at the age of 9 and quickly became very proficient. At 16, she was a winner on the Major Bowes Amateur Hour, and embarked upon a professional career.
In 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.
She danced with Gene Kelly in the Hollywood musicals Words and Music and On the Town, while also appearing in the last Marx Brothers film, Love Happy. She received top billing alongside Fred Astaire in Three Little Words and The Belle of New York. Then came co-starring roles with Bing Crosby in the blockbuster hit White Christmas and with Donald O’Connor in Call Me Madam.