The Entertainment Magazine: Film

Actress Ann Miller–
a bitter, sweet life

The Life & Death of Actress Ann Miller

By Steve Starr
The Entertainment Magazine

This is true story of the tragic life and death of Lucille "Johnnie" Ann Collier– known as the famous actress Ann Miller. Ms. Collier was born on April 12, 1923 and died January 22, 2004.

Ann Miller, Lucille Ann Collier

Early photo of Lucille Ann Collier
under the stage name of Ann Miller

The unknown little girl

This story starts with the rich steel heir who threw his eight-month-pregnant wife, down the stairs in their home, breaking her back and injuring her unborn baby.

Not long after, the effervescent dancing star, Ann Miller, gave birth in a steel harness to her only child, Mary. The baby died within a few hours. Her husband's influential family then zipped the girl's lifeless body away to a hidden burial spot she was not to be found for another 55 years. This tragic story remained buried along with her child for the rest of Ann Miller's life.

Star "Ann Miller" is born as Johnnie

Lucille Ann Collier was born April 12, 1923 on her grandparents ranch in Chireno, Texas. Expecting a boy, however, Mr. Collier named his daughter "Johnnie."  

Johnnie's father was a well-known criminal lawyer who had defended famous gangsters Bonnie and Clyde and Baby Face Nelson. Viscious Pretty Boy Floyd used Crayolas to draw six-year-old Johnnie a picture of a peacock as she sat on his lap in the state prison on a visit there with her dad.

Mrs. Collier enrolled her three-year-old little girl in dancing lessons to help strengthen her legs, which had become weakened from a case of rickets. At age seven the tot made her first public appearance as a dancing Pink Rosebud in a Police and Fireman's Ball.

When Johnnie was ten she met Bill "Bojangles" Robinson at a local theatre and he gave her a quick tap-dancing lesson. She liked that style of dance very much, and decided to concentrate on it with further lessons.

One night, after visiting her grandmother, Johnnie came home and found her daddy in bed with a strange woman.

When hearing-impaired Clara arrived, Johnnie yelled loudly, "Mother, pack your bags!"  Johnnie’s parents divorced, and Clara Collier whisked her daughter off to Hollywood, determined to get into show business. There, the pair hocked everything they could, including the car, in order to survive.

Johnnie enrolled in Fanchon and Marco's dancing school. The five-foot-seven, eleven-year-old brunette, pretending to be of legal age, was soon hired to dance for $25 a week at the Sunset Club, a small lounge where gambling went on upstairs.

Using the stage name of Ann Miller, Lucille Ann Collier practiced her machine-gun tapping for the thrilled patrons. She also danced at the seedy Black Cat Club, where she scooped up the  coins customers threw into her skirt to help pay the bills.

Times were very difficult for the duo. There was no alimony for Clara, and her handicap kept her from working. One Christmas, a neighbor baked Clara and Ann a chocolate cake, and it became their entire holiday dinner.

Next: Introducing actress Ann Miller

The Death of Ann Miller

Read more about Ann Miller.
Books from Amazon.

 Miller's High LifeAnn Miller by Ann Miller was released in 1972. It is her first autobiography, and tells the story of her life, personal and professional up till then. With many photographs, you can see and read much of the facts, and philosophy that made up Ann Miller's life. Ann Miller fans will like it the most.

Tapping into the ForceAnn Miller is the 1990 book by Ann Miller that updates her life story, and also includes her psychic experiences. It really makes you think about what she says. Keep an open mind and you can really enjoy this book by a fantastic star! Many great photographs also are shown. This relates Ann's tales about doing Sugar Babies with Mickey Rooney when she became the most famous. Ann Miller fans will like this book about her life the most.


Ann Miller Sources:

  • They Had Faces Then  by John Springer and Jack D. Hamilton
  • The Movie Stars Story  Edited by Robyn Karney,

Steve Starr was the author of Picture Perfect-Art Deco Photo Frames 1926-1946, published by Rizzoli International Publications. A photographer, designer and an artist, he is the owner of Steve Starr Studios, specializing in original Art Deco photo frames, jewelry, and furnishings, and celebrating its 39th anniversary in 2006.

Ann Miller's Film Career

The Death of Ann Miller

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