Gwen Verdon Biography

(Actress and Dancer Known for Her Work in the Musicals: ‘Damn Yankees’, ‘Sweet Charity’, and ‘Chicago’)

Birthday: January 13, 1925 (Capricorn)

Born In: Culver City, California, United States

Gwen Verdon was a highly acclaimed American actor and dancer. Despite a serious illness that affected her since the age of 2, she managed to have a brilliant ‘Broadway’ career and also displayed her talent in many movies, leaving behind a great legacy. Praised by critics and audiences, she also worked as a choreographer’s assistant and trained future stage stars. A major aspect of her life and career was her marriage to director-choreographer Bob Fosse. The couple had a rich professional collaboration that resulted in many brilliant shows. Gwen Verdon was the muse who inspired his husband’s choreography. She kept the legacy alive after her husband`s death. She played the lead role of ‘Roxie Hart,’ one of the most iconic roles ever seen on ‘Broadway.’ She received many awards and appeared in several movies until her death at the age of 75.
Quick Facts

Also Known As: Gwyneth Evelyn Verdon

Died At Age: 75


Spouse/Ex-: Bob Fosse (1960-1971), James Henaghan (1942-1947)

father: Joseph William Verdon

mother: Gertrude Lilian Standring

siblings: William Farrell Verdon

children: Jim Henaghan, Nicole Fosse

Born Country: United States

Dancers Actresses

Height: 5'4" (163 cm), 5'4" Females

Died on: October 18, 2000

place of death: Woodstock, Vermont, United States

Notable Alumni: Alexander Hamilton High School

Ancestry: Canadian American

U.S. State: California

Cause of Death: Heart Attack

More Facts

education: Alexander Hamilton High School

  • 1

    What was Gwen Verdon known for in the entertainment industry?

    Gwen Verdon was known for her exceptional dancing and acting skills, particularly in Broadway musicals.
  • 2

    Which famous choreographer did Gwen Verdon frequently collaborate with?

    Gwen Verdon frequently collaborated with renowned choreographer Bob Fosse, both professionally and personally.
  • 3

    What was Gwen Verdon's approach to her work as a performer?

    Gwen Verdon was known for her dedication, professionalism, and perfectionism in her approach to performing, constantly striving for excellence.
  • 4

    How did Gwen Verdon's unique style influence the world of dance and theater?

    Gwen Verdon's unique style and innovative techniques left a lasting impact on the world of dance and theater, inspiring future generations of performers and choreographers.
Childhood & Early Life
Gwyneth Evelyn “Gwen” Verdon was born in 1925 in Culver City, California, into a family of British immigrants. Everyone in the family was involved in show business. Her mother was a dance teacher and part of a dance troupe, while her father worked at the ‘MGM Studios’ as an electrician.
Another defining aspect of her childhood was her medical condition. She had rickets, a disease that affected her legs. As a result, she had to wear special boots and braces to straighten her legs. Thus, her mother decided to send her to dance lessons from an early age, not knowing that dance would later become the central part of her child’s life and help her make a bright career.
Her first appearance as a solo ballerina was at the age of 11, in a musical film called ‘The King Steps Out.’
She went to ‘Hamilton High School’ in Los Angeles, where she studied ballet with Ernest Belcher. She had a great start to her career, but her future career was put on hold by a pregnancy at 17. She had eloped and married a tabloid reporter, which resulted in a son and then a divorce 5 years later. Following this, she left her son, Jimmy, in the care of her parents and returned to her passion, working as Jack Cole's assistant choreographer. After a disappointing show, she went back to raise her child and started to teach dance.
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1953 was a great year for Gwen Verdon, as she earned the role of ‘Claudine’ in the musical ‘Can Can,’ which featured choreography by Michael Kidd. This was her big chance, and it earned her a ‘Tony Award.’
The role of ‘Lola’, the ‘Devil’s attractive assistant in ‘Damn Yankees’, choreographed by Bob Fosse, brought Gwen her second ‘Tony.’
She then collaborated with Fosse for ‘New Girl in Town’ and ‘Readhead,’ which led her to win her third and fourth ‘Tony Awards.’ The two even got married in 1960.
Following a break after the birth of her daughter, Nicole Fosse, in 1966, she found her way back to the entertainment industry, playing Charity Hope Valentine in ‘Sweet Charity,’ which was a hit and had more than 600 performances. It was also a collaborative effort with her husband. ‘Sweet Charity’ was then turned into a movie, which gave Fosse the chance to direct his first film, while Gwen contributed to its choreography.
While their marriage was going through a rough patch, the power couple of ‘Broadway’ continued to work together. In 1975, she brought to life the character ‘Roxie Hart’ in ‘Chicago.’ She then appeared in ‘Dancin’ in 1978 and ‘All that Jazz’ (which was actually based on Fosse’s life).
In the 1980s, Gwen became more interested in movies and appeared in ‘The Cotton Club’ (1984), ‘Cocoon’ (1985), and ‘Cocoon: The Return’ (1988). She also had roles in ‘Magnum, P.I.,’ ‘Dream On,’ and ‘Homicide: Life on the Street’ (which got her an ‘Emmy’ nomination). She then appeared in ‘Alice,’ a movie by Woody Allen. She also appeared as ‘Ruth’ in ‘Marvin’s Room.’
Among her last accomplishments of her career were the ‘Broadway’ musical ‘Fosse,’ where she was the artistic consultant, and the films ‘Walking Across Egypt’ (1999) and ‘Bruno’ ( 2000), in which she had supporting roles.
She released an album named ‘The Girl I Left Home For’ in 1956. It had her covers of famous jazz songs.
Awards & Achievements
Gwen Verdon received four ‘Tony Awards’: one for the ‘Best Featured Actress’ for ‘Can-Can’ and three for the ‘Best Leading Actress,’ for ‘Damn Yankees,’ ‘New Girl in Town,’ and ‘Readhead.’ She also won a ‘Grammy’ for ‘Readhead.’ She made her way to the ‘American Theater Hall of Fame’ and got the ‘National Medal of Arts.’
Family & Personal Life
She was married twice. His first marriage, to reporter James Henaghan, was short-lived. She had a son with him. James had alcohol issues. They divorced 5 years later, in 1947. It was when she met Bob Fosse that she found her true partner in life and show business. However, Fosse’s infidelity caused a rupture in their relationship. Gwen, however, did not divorce him and stood by his side until his death.
Gwen died years later, in 2000, from a heart attack which occurred while she was sleeping.
Facts About Gwen Verdon
Gwen Verdon was known for her unique style of dance, often incorporating her signature "twitch" and "hitch kick" movements into her performances.
Despite her petite stature, Verdon had a powerful presence on stage and was able to command attention with her dynamic dance moves.
Verdon was a talented actress in addition to being a renowned dancer, earning critical acclaim for her performances both on Broadway and in film.
She was married to legendary choreographer Bob Fosse, with whom she collaborated on many successful projects, showcasing their undeniable chemistry both on and off the stage.
Verdon was a trailblazer for women in the entertainment industry, breaking barriers and paving the way for future generations of female performers.


Grammy Awards
1959 Best Broadway Show Album Winner

See the events in life of Gwen Verdon in Chronological Order

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