Gwen Verdon

(13th January 1925 – 18th October 2000)

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Born in California USA in 1925, Gwen Verdon was an actress and dancer who won four Tony awards for her musical comedy performances. She also worked as choreographers assistant and specialty dance coach for both theatre and film. The Verdon family could be described as “showpeople” as her father was an electrician at MGM Studios, and her mother was a former vaudevillian of the Denishawn dance troupe, as well as a dance teacher.As a toddler, Gwen had problems with her legs, which were badly misshapen and spent her early years in orthopedic boots and rigid leg braces. So her mother put her in dance classes which strengthened her legs and improved her carriage. By the time she was six, she was already dancing on stage. She went on to study multiple dance forms, ranging from tap, jazz, ballroom and flamenco to Balinese. She involved in more than 30 movies and stage performances, included Chicago, Can-Can and Alice. This brought her to received 4 Tony Awards,  Grammy Award,  American Theatre Hall of Fame, and  National Medal of Arts.Verdon was considered the best dancer on Broadway in the 1950s and 1960s. Her breakthrough role came when choreographer Michael Kidd cast her as the second female lead in Cole Porter’s musical Can-Can (1953). That reputation was further solidified during her next show, George Abbott’s Damn Yankees(1955). She would forever be identified with her role as the vampish Lola, and it was on this show that she first worked with Bob Fosse as her choreographer, they were later wed in 1960. Verdon returned to the stage in 1966 as the character Charity in Sweet Charity, which like many of her earlier Broadway triumphs was choreographed and directed by husband Fosse. Verdon also travelled to Berlin to help Fosse with Cabaret, the musical film for which he won an Academy Award.
Although estranged as a couple, Verdon and Fosse continued to collaborate on projects such as Chicago (1975) (in which she originated the role of murderess Roxie Hart opposite Chita Rivera) and the musical Dancin’ (1978), as well as Fosse’s autobiographical movie All That Jazz (1979). She went on to focused on film acting, playing character roles in movies such as The Cotton Club, and Cocoon. In 2000 when Verdon died in at the age of 75 in Vermont USA; all marquee lights on Broadway were dimmed as a tribute to the legendary actress.
 


Gwen Verdon- The Early Years with Guest Marge Champion