Eve Golden’s YouTube Theater: Ann Pennington and Her Anti-Gravity Legs

ann_pennington_lux_soap
Ann Pennington in an ad for Lux soap, listed on EBay as Buy It Now for $9.99.


Note: We are pleased to introduce a feature by author Eve Golden, whom longtime readers will recall from her previous feature “Queen of the Dead.”

Ann Pennington (1893-1971) was a tiny bundle of delight who shone on Broadway in the 1910s and ’20s. From a Quaker family, she dashed off to Broadway, where she was soon dancing in the Ziegfeld Follies (seven editions between 1913 and 1924–she also danced for Ziegfeld’s arch-enemy George White, in five of his Scandals, proving that she was both an invaluable performer and a delight to have around).

 

The never-married Ann didn’t originate the shimmy, the Charleston or the Black Bottom, but she helped popularize them, with her loose-limbed, double-jointed dancing. Generous, funny (she put a Men’s Room sign on her dressing-room door), Ann also appeared in a handful of silent films, including Pretty Ladies (1925), which featured a neophyte Joan Crawford.

With the advent of talkies, Ann was rushed into five 1929 films, sometimes just seen in a shoehorned-in musical number. Her career pretty much ended with the Jazz Age, and her decline was swift and sad. She danced at the 1939 World’s Fair and appeared in the 1943 Broadway show “The Student Prince”” and a handful of early 1940s bit parts in films. Her money evaporated–spent, given away, gambled.

When pianist and historian Stuart Oderman encountered her in 1970, Ann was living in a run-down hotel off Times Square, flat broke and existing day-to-day on handouts, charity and welfare. She remained tough and cheerful, refusing to feel sorry for herself or publicize her plight. She died at 77, and was buried in Kensico Cemetery in Westchester, by the Actors Benevolent Guild.

I offer for your delight Ann doing the Snake-Hips in the 1929 film “Happy Days,” apparently in front of a backdrop depicting  giant ovaries. That’s the wonderful Sharon Lynn singing before Ann’s entrance, and I leave you marveling how Ann did that with her legs:

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About lmharnisch

I work at the Los Angeles Times
This entry was posted in Eve Golden, Film, Hollywood, Queen of the Dead and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Eve Golden’s YouTube Theater: Ann Pennington and Her Anti-Gravity Legs

  1. Eve says:

    Hope you all enjoy! The ONLY part of the 21st century I approve of is YouTube. I know I have shared these oddball clips with friends, but I hope to open little windows that I hope some of you will peer further into (out of?).

    Like

  2. james zeruk says:

    Yayyy! Eve’s back!

    Like

  3. I think I read that Stuart Oderman interview, but I didn’t really know who she was. Thanks for the light!

    Like

  4. Lauren says:

    I love Eve’s style, sense of humor and impeccable knowledge. So glad to read her posts here.

    Like

  5. betty1114 says:

    Excellent article and am looking forward to more articles from Eve Golden.

    Like

  6. Keith says:

    I knew a tiny little bit about Ann Pennington, something about rouge on her knees, or some such silliness. Our Miss Eve writes such informative articles, so glad to read more of hew work.

    Like

  7. Tricia Crisafulli says:

    Love the mix of history and entertainment! Eve brings the “dead back to life”–well, at least the more lively and notable ones. Love the column and can’t wait to read more.

    Like

  8. Scott Pitzer says:

    “five 1920 films” is supposed to read something else, I’m sure– being talkies.

    Like

  9. roccoplanet says:

    You had me at “Anti-Gravity Legs”. Also…being double-jointed can be useful if you’re living in a run down Times Square hotel later on in life. See…she knew what she was doing. Planning is EVERYTHING.

    Like

  10. Eve says:

    Glad y’all liked this–I don’t know which article Larry has slated for next week. In a few of them I get kinda . . . opinionated . . . which I know is always a bad move online.

    Like

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