Ginger Rogers was a Golden Age actress that remains best known for the series of films that she starred in alongside fellow legend Fred Astaire. Fred always considered Ginger to be his greatest on-screen dance partner, though the actress also made a name for herself without Fred in films like the 1941 noir Kitty Foyle. Despite her immense acting success, Ginger lived a life replete with hardship. Join Facts Verse as we explore how the true story of Ginger Rogers’ death is way sadder than you thought.
Ginger Rogers’ Tragic Early Life
Ginger Rogers was born in Missouri on the 16th of July, 1911. Ginger’s mother was a failed actress that had previously suffered a miscarriage. This meant that she ended up pinning two separates hopes on Ginger just as soon as she was born. For one thing, Ginger’s mother wanted her to survive. For another thing, Ginger’s mother wanted her to become a star. Over the course of her lifetime, Ginger ended up satisfying both of these hopes that her mother had for her, and her mother stuck close by her side to see it. However, that doesn’t mean that the actress’s life was without hardship. In fact, it seems that Ginger struggled a great deal over the course of her lifetime.
Ginger’s suffering began when she was only a small child caught in the midst of her parents’ tumultuous relationship. Ginger’s parents didn’t get along, and Ginger’s mother ended up leaving her father while Ginger was still young. Ginger’s father didn’t take this very well, and subsequently did something that would traumatize his daughter for the rest of her life. After Ginger and her mother moved out, Ginger’s father kidnapped the young girl in the midst of a custody battle. Unsurprisingly, the kidnapping ended up pushing the custody battle in the favor of Ginger’s mother, and the young girl would never see her father again. It’s likely that this separation was for the better, but it’s also inarguable that the entire experience left a great emptiness in Ginger that would continue to plague her. Not all that long after losing custody of Ginger, her father passed away. Ginger’s father passed away when she was only 11 years old, at which point the young girl was well on her way to becoming a star.
During her teenage years, Ginger Rogers started up a vaudeville act by the name of Ginger Rogers and the Redheads. The act was a success, and it was undeniable that Ginger had some serious performing talent. At the age of 17, Ginger met the man that was to become her first of several husbands. This first husband was a man by the name of Jack Pepper, and his and Ginger’s relationship was considered scandalous for two notable reasons. For one thing, Ginger was 17 when they married and had been even younger when they met. For another thing, Jack Pepper had previously been the boyfriend of Ginger’s cousin.
Ginger Suffered Through Numerous Failed Marriages
Despite the red flags, Ginger was adamant that she wanted to marry Jack Pepper. Unsurprisingly, the relationship didn’t last for all that long. In fact, it only lasted for 10 months! It seems that Ginger could never make love work during her lifetime, as she was married five times and none of the marriages lasted longer than a decade.
After her marriage to Jack Pepper fell apart, Ginger travelled out to New York City with her mother. Already a seasoned performer, young Ginger made quick work of Broadway. She got plenty of attention in 1929 when she performed in the play Top Speed, and another hit play came her way not longer after in the form of Girl Crazy. It was on the set of Girl Crazy that Ginger first met Fred Astaire, though it would be years before the two would end up starring together in their series of iconic films. At this time, Fred was a mere choreographer working behind the scenes of the show.
Ginger eventually made her way out to Hollywood, and so did Fred. By the time that Ginger and Fred were starring together in their iconic pictures, Ginger had appeared in over a dozen films. On the first picture that Ginger and Fred made together, it was actually Ginger that got first billing. Sadly, Fred would then go on to eclipse Ginger in the eyes of much of the public, and he secured first billing on all of their subsequent films together. Despite this glaring fact, there was never much bad blood or competition between Ginger and Fred. Both of them loved doing what they were doing, and understood that the other desired relative independence. They cut their working relationship short after a string of hits that started with Flying in Rio in 1933. If you’re enjoying this video so far, be sure to hit the like button to show your support! Also, subscribe to the channel if you’d like to be among the first to know when more Facts Verse videos are on their way!
Ginger’s Work with Fred Astaire Became Iconic
Though Fred Astaire wasn’t as big of a star as Ginger Rogers when the two of them made their debut as a duo in 1933’s Flying in Rio, he did have a reputation as a perfectionist. Over the course of his career, Fred always demanded the absolute best from his dancing partners. By the end of it, he would openly consider Ginger to be the best dancing partner that he had ever worked with. Sadly, this wouldn’t stop Fred Astaire’s popularity from growing to eclipse Ginger’s own soon after their film debut.
1933 didn’t just mark the start of Ginger Rogers’ and Fred Astaire’s on-screen relationship, it also marked the start of Ginger’s relationship with her second husband. Ginger’s second husband was an actor by the name of Lew Ayres, who she had met on the set of a film. The pair would marry in 1934, and the marriage would be over by the end of the decade. They separated in 1936, only a few years after tying the knot. However, they weren’t officially divorced until 1940. The period of time between Ginger’s separation from Lew and their eventual divorce can arguably be considered the years where Ginger was most famous. These were also the years where Ginger caught the attention of Howard Hughes.
Howard Hughes Was Obsessed with Ginger
Howard Hughes became fixated on Ginger Rogers during the mid-1930s. Howard was known to be an avid womanizer, but his obsession with Ginger was something else. Over the course of their relationship, Howard would eventually convince Ginger to become engaged to marry him. However, Howard would never achieve his goal of becoming Ginger’s husband. Still, the story of their relationship is scandalous indeed, as it seems that Howard would stop at nothing to receive the attention of the Golden Age actress.
Howard Hughes’ fixation on Ginger Rogers started out innocent enough, even if Ginger wasn’t all that interested in the wealthy playboy. Howard persisted, and his persistence inevitably paid off. For a time, he managed to secure Ginger as his love interest. However, after Howard’s first marriage proposal, Ginger told him that she wanted to take a break. She then became involved in an extramarital affair with the director of her and Fred Astaire’s Swing Time, who was a man by the name of George Stevens. George Stevens was married to a woman by the name of Yvonne Howell, and Ginger was still technically married to Lew.
It seems that Ginger was having a hard time securing her divorce from Lew Ayres, and this was something that Howard Hughes eventually helped with. Though they had parted way, Howard came back into Ginger’s life in 1940 and his lawyers helped finally get Ginger her divorce. Howard did so with the intention of stepping in and finally getting Ginger’s hand in marriage for himself. Ginger resumed dating Howard, and even accepted his proposal of marriage. However, she did so with the caveat that she was going to save herself until the night of their wedding. Thankfully, this means that Ginger and Howard never actually slept together!
The more Ginger prolonged the marriage, the more jealous Howard became. It got to the point where Ginger accused Howard of doing such things as tapping her phone and following her. By this point, Ginger was understandably no longer interested in the prospect of marrying the man. Howard Hughes ended up getting into a car accident, and he used the incident to try and butter Ginger up with guilt and finally get her to marry him. It’s also possible that the event was entirely staged. Ginger saw through the ploy, and this incident finally put things to an end between the odd couple.
Ginger Rogers Made a Name for Herself with Kitty Foyle
Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire’s professional relationship came to an end around the same time that Ginger and Howard Hughes’ romantic one did. In 1941, Ginger appeared sans Fred in the noir Kitty Foyle, and she received immense acclaim for her work. The film stands as one of the most iconic works featuring the actress that doesn’t also feature Fred Astaire.
Kitty Foyle represented the peak of Ginger Rogers’ success in her own right. She certainly found acclaim as an actress, but she never found success in love. Following her divorce from Lew Ayres, she married three more times over the course of her life.
She was with her fifth husband when she died, and her death was just as tragic as much of her preceding personal life. It seems that Ginger was afflicted with diabetes, and the affliction was something that she spent her entire life in denial about on account of her Christian Science faith. The actress refused to take insulin, and her fifth husband allegedly had to trick her into taking the drug by telling her that it was vitamins. Despite this, Ginger Rogers ended up falling into a diabetic coma and passing away in 1995.
Ginger Rogers doesn’t often get as much credit as her on-screen partner Fred Astaire, but she was incredibly talented and achieved great success despite suffering many hardships. Now it’s time to hear from you: did you know that Ginger Rogers was stalked by wealthy socialite Howard Hughes, and that her Christian Science faith prevented the diabetic actress from taking her insulin? As always, like this video to show your support, and subscribe and hit the notification bell if you’d like to be among the first to know when more Facts Verse videos are on their way!