Bob Fosse Biography

(American Choreographer and Director Known for His Works ‘The Pajama Game’ and ‘Damn Yankees’)

Birthday: June 23, 1927 (Cancer)

Born In: Chicago, Illinois, United States

Bob Fosse was a renowned American actor, musical theatre artiste, director, and choreographer. He won a total of eight ‘Tony Awards’ and an ‘Academy Award’ for his unparalleled contributions to American choreography and films. In 1973, he became the only person ever to win ‘Oscar,’ ‘Emmy,’ and ‘Tony’ awards in the same year. While ‘Pippin’ and ‘Chicago’ were among his popular musical productions, ‘Cabaret,’ ‘Lenny,’ and ‘All That Jazz’ are some of his memorable films. Though he had a successful career, Fosse struggled with his personal life as it was marred by drug addiction, alcoholism, infidelity, and a failed marriage; all of which helped him to develop his filmmaking and choreographic skills. His flair was marked by subtle gestures, such as a nod or the way he held his teacup or the way he walked. Apart from directing the 1972 musical drama film ‘Cabaret,’ he is also remembered for creating ‘Pardon Me, Miss, Have You Ever Been Kissed by a Real Live Girl.’ Towards the end of his life, he suffered from a lot of health problems, including a persistent heart ailment.
Quick Facts

Also Known As: Robert Louis Fosse

Died At Age: 60


Spouse/Ex-: Gwen Verdon (m. 1960), Joan McCracken (m. 1952–1959), Mary Ann Niles (m. 1949–1951)

father: Cyril K. Fosse

mother: Sara Alice Fosse

children: Nicole Fosse

Partner: Ann Reinking (1972–1978)

Born Country: United States

Directors Choreographers

Died on: September 23, 1987

place of death: Washington, D.C., United States

City: Chicago, Illinois

Ancestry: Irish American, Norwegian American

Cause of Death: Heart Attack

U.S. State: Illinois

Childhood & Early Life
Robert Louis ‘Bob’ Fosse was born on 23 June 1927, in Chicago, Illinois, USA, to Sara Alice Fosse and Cyril K. Fosse. He was the second youngest of six children born to the couple.
During his initial years as a dancer, he teamed up with Charles Grass. Assuming the name ‘The Riff Brothers,’ the duo toured around America and made money with their acts. He was then placed in the variety show ‘Tough Situation.’
In 1946, he made his vaudeville debut alongside his wife in ‘Call Me Mister,’ which caught the attention of popular personalities like Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin. He then became a regular performer with his wife in the ‘Youth Hit Parade’ in the 1950s.
Continue Reading Below
He signed a contract with ‘MGM’ in 1953 and appeared in ‘Give A Girl A Break,’ ‘The Affairs of Dobie Gills,’ and ‘Kiss Me Kate,’ all of which released in the same year. His performances earned him the attention of numerous Broadway producers.
He choreographed his first musical ‘The Pajama Game’ in 1954, followed by ‘Damn Yankees’ the next year.
In 1957, he choreographed ‘New Girl in Town,’ followed by the film adaptation of ‘The Pajama Game,’ starring Doris Day. Three years later, he directed and choreographed a musical titled ‘Redhead.’
In 1961, he choreographed the hit musical ‘How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying’ and was the director/choreographer for ‘The Conquering Hero.’
In 1966, he choreographed and directed a musical called ‘Sweet Charity,’ which also starred his wife and muse, Gwen Verdon. Three years later, he directed his first feature film ‘Sweet Charity,’ which was based on the 1966 stage musical of the same name.
In 1972, he directed one of his most popular Broadway musical productions, ‘Pippin,’ for which he earned a number of ‘Tony Award’ nominations. The same year, he produced his first concert film, ‘Liza with a Z.’
He performed an impressive dance and song routine in the film adaptation of ‘The Little Prince’ in 1974. The same year, he directed ‘Lenny,’ a biopic of Lenny Bruce, which starred Dustin Hoffman.
In 1975, he directed one of his most memorable musicals, based on a play titled ‘Chicago.’ Two years later, he was seen in the romantic comedy film ‘Thieves.’
In 1979, he directed a musical film titled ‘All That Jazz’ which is a semi-autobiographical fantasy based on aspects of his life and career. The film won the ‘Palme d'Or Award’ at the 1980 ‘Cannes Film Festival.’
Continue Reading Below
In 1983, he directed the movie ‘Star 80,’ which was a biopic of Playboy Playmate Dorothy Stratten. The film, although controversial, went on to earn nominations for several distinguished awards.
In 1986, he choreographed, wrote, and directed ‘Big Deal,’ which earned five ‘Tony Award’ nominations and closed only after 69 shows. This was also his last work before his death.
Major Works
In 1972, he directed one of his most iconic works, ‘Cabaret’ a musical film. The movie is regarded as his magnum opus as it holds the record for the most number of ‘Academy Award’ wins in a single year without winning the ‘Best Picture’ award. Bob Fosse won an ‘Academy Award’ for ‘Best Director’ and the film went on to collect a massive $42.8 million at the box-office.
‘Pippin,’ which premiered on Broadway in 1972, is also considered one of his masterpieces. The musical is the 36th longest-running Broadway show as of April 2019.
Awards & Achievements
In 1973, he won two ‘Tony Awards’ for ‘Best Direction of a Musical’ and ‘Best Choreography’ for ‘Pippin.’
He won an ‘Emmy Award’ for ‘Liza with a Z’ under the category ‘Outstanding Achievement in Choreography’ in 1973.
In 1973, he won an ‘Academy Award’ for the film ‘Cabaret’ under the ‘Best Director’ category.
In 1979, he won a ‘Palme d’Or’ at the ‘Cannes Film Festival’ for the movie ‘All That Jazz.’
In 2001, he was posthumously awarded a ‘Laurence Olivier Award’ for ‘Best Theatre Choreographer’ along with Ann Reinking.
Continue Reading Below
He was posthumously inducted into the ‘National Museum of Dance’s Mr. and Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt Whitney Hall of Fame’ in 2007.
Personal Life & Legacy
He married Mary Ann Niles on May 3, 1947, in Detroit, but divorced her in 1951.
He then married Joan McCracken in 1952 and the marriage lasted for a span of seven years. In 1960, he married Gwen Verdon, who was a popular actress and his muse.
On March 3, 1963, Bob Fosse and Gwen Verdon were blessed with a daughter named Nicole Providence Fosse, who also went on to become an actress and a dancer. Fosse and Verdon got separated in the mid-70s, but the couple was legally married till his death. Before his death, he was living with his girlfriend.
He was diagnosed with epilepsy when he suffered a seizure in the midst of a live performance. He also underwent open-heart surgery.
He struggled with alcoholism and drug dependency in his final years.
He passed away on September 23, 1987, due to a heart attack at the ‘George Washington University Hospital.’ His mortal remains were cremated and the ashes were scattered in the Atlantic Ocean.
The ‘Los Angeles Dance Awards’ was renamed to ‘Fosse Awards’ after his death and is now known as ‘American Choreography Awards.’
After his death, a three-part revue on his life titled ‘Fosse’ premiered on Broadway in 1999.
One stretch of Paulina Street in Chicago is called ‘Bob Fosse Way’ in his honor.
A fellowship in his name was established by his daughter Nicole at the ‘Alvin Ailey American Dance Company’ in 2003.
This famous American choreographer and director hated being bald and often wore hats to cover the baldness.


Academy Awards(Oscars)
1973 Best Director Cabaret (1972)
Primetime Emmy Awards
1973 Outstanding Single Program - Variety and Popular Music Liza with a Z (1972)
1973 Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Comedy, Variety or Music Liza with a Z (1972)
1973 Outstanding Achievement in Choreography Liza with a Z (1972)
BAFTA Awards
1973 Best Direction Cabaret (1972)
Recommended Lists:

See the events in life of Bob Fosse in Chronological Order

How To Cite

Article Title
- Bob Fosse Biography
- Editors,

People Also Viewed

Gwen Verdon Biography
Gwen Verdon
Carl Weathers Biography
Carl Weathers
Christopher Nolan Biography
Christopher Nolan
(American, British)
Jennifer Lopez Biography
Jennifer Lopez
Jodie Foster Biography
Jodie Foster
Sylvester Stallone Biography
Sylvester Stallone
Clint Eastwood Biography
Clint Eastwood
Bradley Cooper Biography
Bradley Cooper