Dance History Quiz | An Unlikely Comeback

Fun facts for teachers & students

Ruby Keeler was one of the biggest Hollywood stars of the 1930s, brightening movie musicals including 42nd Street and Footlight Parade with her sparkling personality and saucy tapping. At age 60 she was long retired and doting on her grandchildren when she was persuaded to return to performing in which Broadway show?

a. Sugar Babies
b. Follies
c. No, No, Nanette
d. 42nd Street

c. No, No, Nanette

Ruby Keeler wasn’t looking to resume her career in 1970 when she got a call from Harry Rigby, a fan struggling to mount a revival of the 1925 musical No, No, Nanette, says Ed Harbur, author of Too Marvelous for Words: The Life and Career of Ruby Keeler in a New York Post article. Rigby promised that Keeler’s former choreographer Busby Berkeley would oversee the production, but once rehearsals began it became clear that Berkeley, by then in his 70s, wasn’t up to the task. Although Keeler quickly proved she hadn’t lost any of her tapping prowess—or charismatic personality—problems mounted, the creators bickered, and tickets sales were nonexistent. But when the show opened in Boston, audiences responded to its comfortable, old-fashioned feel, and couldn’t get enough of Keeler, tapping with joy and flipping her hair back from her forehead as she did so many years ago in the movies. No, No, Nanette opened January 19, 1971, on Broadway and was the smash of the season. A whole new generation discovered Keeler, who appeared on the covers of Time and Life, on talk shows, in advertisements, and in two national tours before suffering a brain aneurysm in 1974.

For more information:
How a forgotten film star became at hit at 61,” New York Post, July 8, 2017, by Michael Riedel