Ginger Rogers dies, aged 83

Ginger Rogers, who achieved dance and screen immortality through her partnership with Fred Astaire, died yesterday at her home in California, aged 83.

During a career that spanned almost two-thirds of a century - starting with a touring vaudeville act in the mid-Twenties and continuing until ill-health forced her to give up her own musical show in the final years of her life - Ms Rogers became one of the most sought after and highly paid stars in Hollywood, winning an Oscar in 1940 for her performance in the film Kitty Foyle.

But the magical series of films - 10 in all - that she made with Fred Astaire are her most vivid legacy. "We had our snits," she wrote later, "we were never bosom buddies off the screen, we were different people with different interests. We were a couple only on film."

But what a couple. A shimmering string of hits, beginning with Flying Down to Rio in 1933 and followed by such jewels as Top Hat, Follow the Fleet, and Shall We Dance, for millions helped illuminate the bleak decade of the Thirties. A less gifted natural dancer than Astaire, she learnt nonetheless to match almost his every step. Over 60 years, the films have lost not one iota of their appeal.

Many thought that the break-up of the partnership would spell the end for Ginger Rogers. But she was nothing if not versatile. Kitty Foyle was but the first of 25 mostly successful films, her portrayals ranging from the glamorous and romantic, to the wise-cracking and down-to-earth Roxie Hart. Her last screen role was as the mother of Jean Harlow in a 1965 film on the screen diva's life.

But if her stage persona was one of elegance, gaiety and glitter, her private life was less successful. She married five times but had no children, and her solace was Christian Science, to which she was introduced by her fiercely ambitious mother, Lela.

In keeping with her faith, Ms Rogers never drank and never smoked. She disapproved of the trend to franker, more realistic cinema.

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