She was born Virginia Katherine McMath, but the world would come to know her—and love her—as Ginger Rogers: Broadway star, Academy Award-winning actress, and the ultimate on-screen dancing partner of the inimitable Fred Astaire. In Ginger: My Story, the legendary entertainer shares the triumphs of a remarkable career that began when she won a Texas dancing contest at age fourteen; the joys and heartbreaks of her five marriages; her relationships with some of Hollywood's major leading men, including Cary Grant, Jimmy Stewart, and damaged daredevil billionaire Howard Hughes; and the strength of her religious convictions that got her through thick and thin.
Lavishly illustrated with rare photographs from the author's personal collection, Ginger is an enthralling, behind-the-scenes tour of Hollywood life during the Golden Age of movies by one of its most enduring stars.
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Read an Excerpt
My mother told me I was dancing before I was born. She could feel my toes tapping wildly inside her for months. Prophetic as this was, my birth was a dramatic one in the steamy heat of a Missouri summer.
In July of 1911, Lela Owens McMath moved to Independence, Missouri. Not quite twenty years old, abandoned by her husband, she left her home in Kansas City. She desperately needed to find a place to live. More important, she wanted her child to be born at home. The little four-room house at 100 Moore Street was the perfect choice.
Once settled, Mother began looking for a job to help support herself and her soon-to-be-born child. She found it through an advertisement calling for "a lady of quality as secretary for the Sand Company," which was located close to her new home.
On a humid July morning, nine months into her pregnancy, Lela applied for the job. She was interviewed by three bearded young gentlemen. Her condition obvious, Mother headed off all questions by admitting she was expecting a baby at the end of the month. She said her husband traveled a lot and she needed to hold a job in order for them to make ends meet.
"If it's agreeable with you," she told the speechless trio, "I will be able to start work for you the first week in August." Mother seemed to radiate a charm that could captivate even the toughest of critters, and despite the unusual circumstances, the Sand men could do no less than hire her.
"We'll expect you on August 1st, Mrs. McMath—or a bit earlier if you can make it." They shook hands all around and Mother started back to her new littlehome.
She had gone a half a block in the sweltering heat when she felt a sharp pain warning of the impending event. Calmly, Mother went into a drugstore, called the doctor, and advised him her labor had begun. She asked him to hurry to her place on Moore Street where she would meet him. "I think I can make it, Doctor, it's only a block and a half away. If I'm not at my house when you get there, look up the street—you just might find me sitting on the curb."
Mother left the drugstore and hurried as best she could. Now the pains were more frequent, forcing her to bend to the oncoming labor. Though embarrassed, she was determined to keep going. Wringing wet, she finally reached her front door. The doctor arrived one minute later. He was amazed at her tenacity in getting home.
The labor took longer than anticipated. Day turned into evening and another day began. Then, at 2:00 A.M. on July 16, 1911, in her own home, Lela McMath gave birth to a seven-and-a-half-pound baby girl. Mother told me she had prayed for a daughter and months before had decided to name the baby after the oldest of her three younger sisters, Verda Virginia. Mother asked the doctor to wait until a reasonable hour and then call her parents, Walter and Saphrona Owens, who would soon come to visit their new blue-eyed grandchild, Virginia Katherine McMath.
Shortly after giving birth, Lela announced that she'd be going to work. Saphrona begged Mother to come home and let her help with the baby. Mother said no to both requests. She had told her employers she'd be there on the first of the month and she would neither budge nor relinquish her baby to anyone.
On August 1, Mother reported to the Sand Companyand—so did I. Mother wrapped me up, put me in a basket, and carried me right along. I was raised in the workplace, literally.
"I'm ready to begin," she told the astonished executives. "Where's the typewriter?" Those gentlemen had not bargained for a secretary and an infant, but, like so many other men, they were enchanted by this 5'l" dynamo and gave her her way. Fortunately, I was a good little baby and rarely cried. If ever I did disturb anyone in the other offices, Mother would offer to take on extra typing without pay. She earned $6.00 a week and hoped her devotion to the job would ultimately raise her to $8.00 a week. Those sums sound ridiculous now, but in those days they were considered decent wages... for women.
On Sundays, Mother would take me by streetcar to Kansas City and leave me with my grandparents for a few hours while she went to the movies. Mother loved motion pictures, and sitting there in the dark, she vowed that one day she would do something—perhaps write for them. On one of those Sundays, my father made a surprise visit to the Owens house and saw me, his daughter, for the first time. His reunion with Mother was not a happy one. Eddins pleaded with her to take him back, promising that his wandering days were over. Lela knew his promises were empty, and so refused. She told him that as soon as she had the money for a lawyer, she would seek a divorce. Chastened, my father left and, for a while, dropped out of sight.
Over the next few months, Mother and I were together constantly. Spring days in Missouri are beautiful, and Mother wanted me to enjoy the outdoors. Under the mottling shade of a weeping willow tree, in the grassy area next to her office, she put a rug and made a makeshift barrier around it. This four-foot-square area was my kingdom. She'd put me in the center and pile little pillows and soft toys around me. "Mommy is right over there," she'd say, pointing to the window near her desk. Then she'd go into the office building, open the screen, and call, "Mommy's right here!" From her workstation, Mother could monitor my actions. I soon became a familiar sight in the neighborhood. People played with me as they went by, and occasionally someone would call up to Lela at her desk to ask permission to take me down the street for an ice cream cone. My love for ice cream came at an early age . . . and has never left!Ginger
My Story. Copyright © by Ginger Rogers. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
At first, I was surprised that I found this book absorbing....but, being busy, I put it down for awhile....and anyway, I rarely read woman's autobiographies. I already knew that Ginger Rogers was a musical comedy star and actress whose greatest years were the 1930s and the 1940s. But, quite by serendipitous circumstance, after seeing her timeless films with Fred Astaire...and a few of her individual films like "The Major and the Minor", "Stage Door", "Vivacious Lady", and her Oscar winning performance in "Kitty Foyle", I picked the book up again. She was not just a star, but a major star and acting talent of Hollywood's Golden Age....and Fred's greatest dancing partner, bar none. This woman had, what Mark Twain called "sand"....Fred's three word description of her was: "She had guts.". She enjoyed one of the longest careers of any diva in Hollywood, and her autobiography captures her strong and joyful spirit. I would have liked to have met her...and dated her. She admits, quite frankly, of a combination of down-to-earth, hard-nosed, and hard-working, pragmatic nature; with plenty of self depreciating humor (She was a first level comedienne); all combined with a decidedly romantic bent. She was one of a kind...and continued to make contributions when other stars faded. And, when her career did stall...as it did for all actresses....she just "picked herself up, brushed herself off, and started all over again."! It's a great read, full of her own sense of fun and humor, that offers insight not only into her own life; mixed with a few jabs at her critics; but also highlighting the wonderful times she enjoyed, in lively early Hollywood.
i just wish ginger rogers wrote her autobiography before she became a mild person. i always imagined that ginger rogers was a very fiery person. in this book she told only the charming side of her life and downplayed her sad parts. i think including more of both would make the autobiography seem more true. ginger rogers is a very classy lady, she does not use her autobiography to tell the dirt on other stars. katherine hepburn sure is a weird actress and the sentimental side of me wish she got more involve with cary grant. how wonderful would that be? ginger rogers, i think, was underappreciated. she is just radiant as a person and as an actress, both drama and comedy.
I found out about Ginger Rogers through Fred Astaire in "Shall We Dance" and I have been addicted to her since then.Fred as well.I wanted to read about Ginger because of her talent in comedy and drama as well as music and dance.I started reading the book on Friday and couldnt put it down.I adored how she payed attention to detail.She didnt diminish any other artist and she stuck up for herself when she felt the need to come out of her lady shell.Lessons learned and chances missed.I love this book.Although I was a little hurt because she didnt mention how she felt about Astaire passing in 87, when she wrote the book in 91. I cried a lil but glad to be able to read and enjoy such an addictive, contagious for laughter and loving and Woman of God person.I love her.
It was a well written book and it gives a history lesson into Hollywood. It makes you feel like you were really there. It is long, a little over 500 pages. Over all a good read.
This book was very disappointing. Ginger Rogers tells only what she "did", and not "why." She gives no insight to her personality, and just details of her actions. I have no idea why her marriages broke up, or how she felt about much except for her views on her religion. If you want to be bored, read this thick book and yawm.