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This Day in WWII 14 December 1939 - 1945 *1937


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NestlesAd-Dec1942.jpgNestle's Chocolate Ad - December 1942

 

1939: Because of its brutal aggression against Finland, the Soviet Union is expelled from the League of Nations.

 

1939: Two Russian 'G'-class destroyers approach Utö fortress. The fortress opens fire sinking one of the destroyers.

 

Vera-Ellen1.jpg **Vera-Ellen

 

1941: German Field Marshal Wilhelm Keitel orders the construction of defensive positions along the European coastline.

 

1941: As German forces evacuate Kalinin, 100 miles to the Northwest of Moscow, Hitler furious at what he sees as weakness by his Generals, countermands Field Marshal von Brauchitsch's plans for withdrawal.

 

Vera-Ellen2.jpg Vera-Ellen

 

1941: Convoy HG76 (32 ships), sets sails from Gibraltar with heavy escort.

 

1941: Royal Navy destroyers sink two Italian Light Cruisers off Cape Bon. Both Cruisers were carrying much needed fuel for Panzer Armee Afrika. U-557 sinks the British Cruiser Galatea outside of Alexandria harbor.

 

Vera-Ellen3.jpg Vera-Ellen

 

1941: Thailand formally allies herself with Japan.

 

1941: Japanese troops continue to land throughout the Philippines.

 

VicksAd-Dec1942.jpg Vicks Ad - December 1942

 

1942: A three day tank battle begins South of Stalingrad.

 

1943: German strength on Eastern Front is now only 2,086,000, with 188,000 allied and satellite troops. German casualties for 1943 were 900,000.

 

Vera-Ellen4.jpg Vera-Ellen

 

1944: Congress passes and President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs into law an act authorizing the creation of the ranks of General of the Army and Fleet Admiral, so that the highest American officers can attain a rank equivalent to that of Field Marshal. Over the next week, George C. Marshall, Douglas MacArthur, Dwight D. Eisenhower and Henry "Hap" Arnold are promoted to the rank in the Army, while William D. Leahy, Ernest J. King and Chester Nimitz are made Fleet Admirals. Subsequent to the war, William F. "Bull" Halsey will be promoted Fleet Admiral and Omar N. Bradley will become the last General of the Army.

 

Vera-Ellen5.jpg Vera-Ellen

 

1944: U.S. troops capture an important Japanese supply post on Leyte, at the southern tip of the 'Yamashita defence line'.

 

1945: SS personnel convicted of atrocities at Belsen and other concentration camps, are hanged.

 

Vera-Ellen6.jpg Vera-Ellen

 

*1937: The Japanese change the name of Peiping to Peking. They also begin what will be known as the Rape of Nanking, during which they massacre an estimated quarter of a million Chinese.

 

Vera-Ellen7.jpg Vera-Ellen

 

**One of musical film's most vivacious and vibrant dancing talents who glided effortlessly through Hollywood's "Golden Age" in the 40s and 50s was Vera-Ellen Westmeyer Rohe, better known to all her fans simply by her hyphenated first name. Whether performing solo or dueting with the best male partners of her generation, including Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly and Donald O'Connor, Vera-Ellen gave life to some of the most extraordinary dance routines ever caught on film. Sadly, out-and-out stardom eluded her, and she never did quite earn the recognition or accolades that were bestowed upon many of her musical peers and co-stars.

 

Born Vera Ellen Westmeier Rohe in Norwood, Ohio, an enclave within Cincinnati, to Martin Rohe and Alma Catherine Westmeier, both descended from German immigrants, on February 16, 1921. The only child of a piano tuner, she was painfully shy and frail as a youngster and had developed severe health issues by age 9. Using dance as both physical and emotional therapy, what was once recreational became a soulful and burning passion, and her talent became obvious nearly from the onset. As a teen she appeared in nightclub acts and became one of the Rockettes' youngest members, quickly graduating to a dancer on the "Great White Way." Vera-Ellen made her Broadway debut with "Very Warm for May" at age 18 in 1939, which also featured another young hopeful, June Allyson. She then segued into "Higher and Higher" (1940), which also had Allyson in the cast, "Panama Hattie" (1940) which starred Ethel Merman, "By Jupiter (1942) with Ray Bolger, and a revival of "A Connecticut Yankee" (1943).

 

Blessed with a sweet, apple blossom appeal and touching, elfin charm, her movie career began taking shape in 1945. Supposedly her mother thought that since Vera-Ellen looked much younger than she was, it might be wise to shave five years off of her age in order to build her up as a dancing teen sensation. Her first two films were musical vehicles for the up-and-coming Danny Kaye in "Wonder Man" (1945) and "The Kid from Brooklyn" (1946). They and the movies were both hits and people soon fell in love with her fresh-faced innocence. A hard-working, uncomplicated talent, she paired famously with Gene Kelly in MGM's "Words and Music" (1948) in which their "Slaughter on Tenth Avenue" number was a critical highlight, and "On the Town" (1949) as "Miss Turnstiles," the apple of Kelly's eye. She also appeared twice with Fred Astaire in her heyday, though in the lesser known "Three Little Words" (1950) and "The Belle of New York" (1952), and shared dance steps with the equally agile Donald O'Connor in "Call Me Madam" (1953). Arguably, her best-known (and best-loved) film appearance is as part of the glamorous quartet in the Bing Crosby yuletide favorite "White Christmas" (1954) in which she re-teamed with Danny Kaye and played sister to Rosemary Clooney.

 

Vera-Ellen8.jpg Vera-Ellen

 

Musicals went out of vogue by the late 50s and, as Vera-Ellen was practically synonymous with musicals, her career went into a sharp decline. But that was only one reason. A light acting talent, she might have continued in films in dramatic roles, as she had in the movie "Big Leaguer" (1953) with Edward G. Robinson, but dark, outside influences steered her away altogether. Personal unhappiness and ill health would quickly take their toll on her.

It was discovered that Vera-Ellen silently battled anorexia throughout much of the 50s before doctors had even coined the term or devised treatments. Moreover, she developed severe arthritis following her retirement and was forced to revert to dance lessons again in order to combat it. If that wasn't enough, she had to endure two failed marriages while losing her only daughter, Victoria Ellen Rothschild, to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) in 1963. These tragic events turned her into a virtual recluse. Little was heard for decades until it was learned that she had died of cancer in Los Angeles, California, on August 30, 1981. Less remembered today compared to several of the big stars that shared the stage with her, Vera-Ellen was a lithe and lovely presence who deserved so much more. Nevertheless, she has provided film lovers a lasting legacy and deserves to be called one of Hollywood's true dancing legends.

 

TRIVIA:

Measurements: 33 1/2-21-34 (measured in 1952), (Source: Celebrity Sleuth magazine)

Height: 5' 4" (1.63 m)

Nickname: Bunny

Spouse:

Victor Rothschild (1954 - 1966) (divorced) 1 child

Robert Hightower (4 February 1941 - 28 November 1946) (divorced)

Trade Mark:

Her legs

Her kind smile

She was known to have the smallest waist in Hollywood from the mid 1940s through the 1960s.

SperryCorpAd-Dec1943.jpg Sperry Corporation Ad - December 1943

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