Birthday: January 13, 1925
Died At Age: 75
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Also Known As: Gwyneth Evelyn Verdon
Born Country: United States
Born in: Culver City, California, United States
Famous as: Actress
Height: 5'4" (163 cm), 5'4" Females
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
Died on: October 18, 2000
place of death: Woodstock
U.S. State: California
education: Alexander Hamilton High School
Who was Gwen Verdon?
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.
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.
She had two nicknames: “Gwennie” and “The Superior Posterior.”
After one of her performances in ‘Can-Can,’ the public applauded for so long that she had to come back from her dressing room and take a bow in front of them, wearing nothing but a towel.