US actress and dancer, whose name is linked in cinema history with that of her dancing partner of the 1930s, Fred Astaire.
Born in Independence, Missouri, Rogers started out in vaudeville as a dancer. She appeared for a time with her first husband, Jack Pepper, as ‘Ginger and Pepper’, before securing solo roles in such Broadway musicals as Top Speed (1929) and Girl Crazy (1930–31). At about the same time she began to play leads in such film musicals as 42nd Street and Golddiggers of 1933 (both 1933). It was, however, her partnership with Fred Astaire that has made her one of the screen's immortals. They first danced together in Flying Down to Rio (1933), the number ‘Carioca’ stealing the show. After that came the main part of the Astaire–Rogers canon – Roberta (1935), Top Hat (1935), Follow the Fleet (1936), Swing Time (1936), Shall We Dance? (1937), and Carefree (1938) – in which the polish, grace, and magic of their dancing brought delight to audiences all over the world. Later, they came together again for The Barkleys of Broadway (1949).
In the meantime, Rogers went on to make a name for herself as a straight actress, winning an Academy Award for Kitty Foyle (1940). As a comedy actress she also made Roxie Hart (1942), The Major and the Minor (1942), and Monkey Business (1952). It was, however, on stage that her major successes of the 1960s came, with Hello Dolly! (1965) on Broadway and the London production of Mame (1969).