What inspired this project? Having viewed,
quite by accident, film clips of Miriam LaVelle on YouTube I got
curious - but left it at that. Then, whilst idly searching eBay, I came
across an original photograph of Ms LaVelle, a collectors item, and eagerly snapped it up. From that
moment I was on a roll to find out more...
The photo is a 10 by 8 inch
original studio portrait, a clipped version being used for the home page of
this site. You can view the full version under Images. Importantly, though,
on the verso is written, '17
years old Ballerina just signed with MGM, after been applauded by Broadway
gave me a vital starting point.
Most likely the studio portrait was taken early 1943, by which time Ms
LaVelle would have gone through the studio grooming process and been added to the
roster of MGM lovelies. It stacks up with the production dates for her first
film, April - August 1943.
I took the line, that until
proven otherwise, Ms LaVelle was still with us. Sadly, I learned in early
September 2010 of Ms LaVelle's passing from a lady called Laverne who
knew Miriam well in her heyday.
Laverne lives in St Louis and
via her granddaughter Trisha, has passed on the most enlightening personal
account of her friendship with Miriam LaVelle. I was able to have a long,
animated and very enlightening phone conversation with this lovely lady.
for this information surfacing goes to
Scriptwriter (I'm withholding this person's name for privacy) who
has a solid presence on YouTube as a scriptwriter, composer and actor.
Scriptwriter, who also has a keen interest in Miriam LaVelle, very
kindly passed on contact details for both Trisha and Laverne. Additionally
Scriptwriter was instrumental in putting me in touch with the YouTube
member who'd provided them with the Vodvil film short of Miriam dancing to
the Dick Stabile orchestra. Through this contact I was able to get a copy of
the 1949 Ed Wynn Show episode featuring Miriam. My sincere thanks to
In November, Laverne will reach
the grand age of 90. Here are Laverne's memories of Miriam LaVelle in her
still tap dance - but
didn't for 44 yrs - also sang with bands, big and small, the last having
been with Scott Field Flyers-12 pc. (now called Scott Air Force) band, at
Keil convention center, and elsewhere, during WWII. NOW - to Miriam.
I keep her pic above my tapboard
and still adore her. She was a "doll"- just beautiful - and where do I
begin!! At age 5, I saw her perform as a trapeze artist, at our local
theatre, Granite City, Illinois. The next thing, at the same age (I was 7
yrs. older than she), her Mom stood "over" her and us as Miriam did an
acrobatic lesson by Mom telling her what to show us!! [Laverne
explained to me that at age 5, Miriam was able to give instruction on her
At that same age, she and
I worked a show for the Veterans' Hospital, in South county, St. Louis -
approximately 75 people went, including 9 of us entertainers, in 15 cars;
this was done by the American Legion, Granite City. (I have a backup copy of
that being done). The next I recall, her cousin, Nanela Shone, and I were
in same Granite High School class, January '39. Nan married Clifford
Parmley, moved to Miami Lakes, Florida. (I have her address from that time -
actually valid in 1979 when I prepared our class reunion (high school).
From then, we lost touch.
I have a postcard from July 1945
that Miriam sent from the Croyton Hotel, Chicago - telling me she would be
working a show at the Chase Park Plaza, St Louis, and would be staying with
[the] Shones (her aunt was Nan who passed in '82). I remember going to the
Fox, in St Louis, with Nanela, seeing Miriam perform - AWESOME - and we were
then in her dressing room to visit. Her Mom was a real "watchdog" - never
allowed Miriam to date, alone, that is. I was of the belief that Miriam was
adopted - have no idea how I learned that. I thought that her Mom exploited
her because she wouldn't let her do anything except dance. I visited with
Miriam when she was practicing at our YMCA ballroom for five hours - I
didn't stay, of course.
NOW, I'll try to get this part
of the story told to where it makes sense: My children studied dance (tap)
for years, with teacher, at the YMCA - older daughter was her assistant, on
Saturdays, at age 15. The teacher was Macklyn Williams, from St Louis. HER
sister told her family - and one of them ? told me - this story. The
sister's first name I CANNOT remember. However, her last name was
Williams. She was working the same show, at one point, in New York (Miriam
was living in Manhattan at one time, that I know from Miriam telling me).
The info was that Miriam was jilted by this "band leader" which I haven't
read in the many stories - and started drinking
[This might have been Dick
Stabile's brother, Joey, whom Miriam was sweet on. See further down on this
page]. At the 5-minute
curtain call, she'd be drunk. Well, that really touched my heart - couldn't
picture her being that heartbroken!! The next thing, the Shones told me
that she was wheelchair bound with an illness called (now I do not know the
spelling but this is the way I spelled it for my memoirs) -
Neuphritis. Then, ultimately, I read where she had passed, at age 31. She
was born in 1927, soo this would have been 1958.
I spent a week at wee hours of
the morning searching a TON of albums and scrapbooks and cannot find the
obituary - drives me "nuts". I KNOW I kept it. The next thing, I hope it
is in one of the albums I gave my three children.
I have a dear friend,
Jessica Chapuis, a hoofer in Chicago, who will have received the entire
packet of Miriam's pics, all autographed - two specifically to my husband -
I had requested "a bedroom" pic specifically for him. She sent one large
and one for a billfold. We were married 03/01/42 and he passed 05/19/09.
I miss him terribly after 67 yrs. of marriage. Anyway, Jessica is a pro -
she just put her ad on the "net" for classes. She is 27 - a grad from BU
[Possibly Benedictine University, Chicago] - on full scholarship. Her family
home is Olivette - suburb of St Louis - but has lived in Chicago since
making her debut in "Imagine Tap!" at Harris theatre".
in time, that Laverne will be able to recall more detail of her friendship
with Miriam, and also that she can provide copies of the photos she's
Miriam LaVelle's real name was Miriam Lavelle Patterson, her mother being
Mrs. J A Patterson. She was born in 1927. From the above account, it was
clear Miriam and her mother were living in the St Louis / Illinois area when
Miriam was five - perhaps she started life there. There's no mention of her
father, although it seems he had a brother, William Patterson who possibly
lived in Chester PA. Miriam's dancing career commenced when, aged three, she
practiced dance steps to cure a foot ailment, becoming in the process,
skilled at dancing and acrobatics.
One can only speculate where
Miriam was living between the age of 5 and 7 years old, newspaper archives
picking up her life when she was 7. By then the family were living in Crum Lynne, a small locality on the
north-east outskirts of Chester, Pennsylvania. She attended nearby Ridley Park High School most likely
up to the age of 11, given the various press snippets.
The Chester Times gives mention
of young Miriam on the occasions she performed in school events, it being
clear that show business was written into her bones at an early age.
Columnists reported as follows:
30th April 1934: 'The program
included acrobatic mat numbers by seven-year-old Miriam Patterson, of Ridley
Park who is possessed of exceptional acrobatic skill, a combination of
acrobatic mat and work on parallel bars. There was also a trapeze number by
17th May 1934: 'An exhibition of
acrobatic and mat work was given by Miriam Patterson.'
16th November 1934: Presbyterian
Woman's Society '...and Miriam Patterson, of Crum Lynne, who entertained
with acrobatic numbers.'
22nd November 1934: 'The
assembly program at the high school tomorrow, morning will include tiny Miss
Miriam Patterson, of Crum Lynne in acrobatic numbers.'
27th April 1935: C.T.A.
Minstrels Score Success, '... and there was a snappy acrobatic dance number
in the midst of the solo program by Miriam Patterson, who is a well known
figure of the juvenile stage.'
7th June 1935: Dougherty Sisters
School of Dancing: '... and an acrobatic aerial ring exhibition by Miriam
Patterson who performed with the grace of a circus performer.'
25th July 1935: Talented Tots at
Ridley Park: 'Eight-year-old Miriam Patterson, a talented gymnast, thrilled
and delighted her audience. Many remarkable feats of tumbling and
contortions were demonstrated by the tiny Miss Patterson in her act, which
included a particularly difficult and entertaining "Adagio Dance". The
acrobatic program was concluded by the singing of "The Grasshopper" by Miss
Patterson, which she illustrated with charming descriptive gestures.'
11th March 1936: benefit Show at
Eddystone,' Specialities were performed by William Ward and Miriam
23rd April 1938: 'Several
graceful dances were given by little Miriam Patterson.'
No archive material has been
unearthed accounting for Ms LaVelle's life from 1939 to 1940. Newspaper
articles and Billboard entries provide a fragmented audit trace from 1941 to
1950. At some stage, with or without her family she moved from Chester PA. A photo of Miriam LaVelle, aged 18, in The Chicago Daily Tribune
13 June 1943 titled 'Missouri Waltzer' pegs her as being from St Louis,
Missouri. Another newspaper refers to 'St Louis, her home town.' Regardless, records
indicate Ms LaVelle as retaining links with Pennsylvania through her stage
Miriam LaVelle's rise to
Hollywood stardom centres on an almost legendary stroke of luck. An
'electric' sign (possibly neon) had been erected in the Times Square
vicinity, featuring an animated silhouette or profile based on that of Ms LaVelle,
and which had her 'dancing' for six weeks.
(It's possible the sign-maker had simply approached an agency - fortuitously
Ms LaVelle's - for a suitable
photo to model the sign on). However, the sign garnered much interest and agents homed-in on Ms
LaVelle and booked her for a show at the Strand theatre on Broadway. She was
then spotted by MGM talent scouts.
What's in a name?
As stated prior, Ms LaVelle started life as Miriam Lavelle Patterson.
Variants on her name in Billboard, the press, and on celluloid are Lavelle,
LaVelle and La Velle. For me, LaVelle is the correct variant as it's
consistent with the lady's show-biz aura.
Ms LaVelle is documented as being in two Broadway shows: 'Sunny River' - the
St James theatre (still standing) from April 1941 - May 1942, and 'Keep 'em
laughing' at the 44th Street Theatre (Demolished in 1945) from April to May
Miriam LaVelle appeared in four feature films, each time performing a
mixture of her tried and tested acrobatic dance moves. In 'Meet the people -
1944', 'Seven days ashore - 1944', and 'The gang's all here - 1943', her
brief appearances, though highly entertaining, have virtually no relevance
to the storyline. But in that era, films were frequently little more than a
showcase for popular acts of the day, a flimsy plot gluing the flick
together. In 'Cover Girl - 1944' Ms LaVelle appears fleetingly in a dance
sequence with Gene Kelly, along with several other dancers. Don't blink or
sneeze or you'll miss the lovely lady.
Though MGM signed Ms LaVelle,
'Meet the people' was the only movie this studio featured her in, and one
assumes that the lady was loaned-out to the other studios for the balance of
her film work. It makes sense, as the
production dates for all four movies fell in a similar time-frame per the
Film Production Dates Studio Release Date
The Gang's all here April - August
1943 Twentieth Century-Fox December 1943
Cover Girl July - November 1943 Columbia Pictures Corp. April 1944
Meet the people
June - September 1943
Seven days ashore November - December
1943 RKO Radio Pictures
Ms LaVelle's movie career
appears to have petered-out mid 1944, though she was the subject of a short
film entitled 'Let me love you tonight' made by an outfit called Film Vodvil
in 1946, in which she performs an enchanting dance routine accompanied by the Dick
Theatre and Night Clubs:
Ms LaVelle's small film-clip legacy might well sway nostalgia hounds
to pigeon-hole her as a movie personality, however she was highly active on
the cabaret circuits, both before, during and post her brief dalliance with
the silver screen. This is evidenced by numerous entries in Billboard, some
being performance critiques, others simply venue listings. But all in all,
they provide an interesting, albeit incomplete cameo of Ms LaVelle's
professional activities between 1942 and
It's clear from Billboard that
of all the New York City venues Ms LaVelle played, including the Copacabana
and The Strand Theatre, her main stamping grounds were the Capitol Theatre
on Broadway and Nicky Blair's Carnival Room incorporated within The Capitol
Hotel at 834-836 Eighth Avenue, both
having since fallen to the wrecker's ball. Nicky Blair opened up The
Carnival Room in 1945, a large circus-themed nightclub setting where patrons dined in style whilst being entertained by
jugglers, trapeze artists, acrobats, comedians, and needless to say,
scantly-clad dancers and chorines. The stage comprised a semicircular apron that was
large enough to accommodate all of the props and equipment for these exotic
acts. Two photos
of this venue can be viewed under Images.
Newspaper Archive Time-line:
References to Miriam LaVelle have been found in American newspapers
published between 1942 and 1950. These appear as brief articles, or simply
one-liners written in the buzzy jive of gossip columnists. I found 72
references, but sadly, many were duplicates, the same articles syndicated
across countless newspapers. Nevertheless, they're all pieces of the jigsaw
puzzle. Note that the entries read verbatim - including odd spellings,
punctuation, grammar and vernacular.
Tucon Daily Citizen - 15th April
'Broadway Story: Her name is
Miriam La Velle, a dancer. Been trying to crash The Big Apple for years.
Appeared in musicals destined for New York, but they withered en route. Last
month Miriam joined Irv Caesar's, 'My Dear Children'. Out-of-town critics
liked her lots. An opening was set for B'way, but the show collapsed in
Philly. Last week Miriam finally hit Broadway and the Big Burg - as a figure
in lights on the Wilson animated electriks! ... But wait for the punch
line!... Booking agents enjoyed her silhouet so much they looked her up and
booked Miriam for the Strand where she opened April 10. '
Tucon Daily Citizen - 15th April
'We recently paragraphed about
Miriam Lavelle, the dancer. Tried to get on Broadway for years finally did
it - but via one of those electriky signs... Agents saw her shadows on the
sign, looked-her up and booked her for the Strand theater. Then she was
engaged for 'Keep 'Em Laughing' and next week goes into Loew's State... '
Mansfield News Journal 4th June
'Good inside story is: the
reason why Walter Damrosch left NBC [Nicky Blair's Carnival] Miriam LaVelle,
dancer, and Joey Stabile, Bandleader Dick's brother, adore each other...'
Mansfield News Journal 16th
'...Abbott and Costello, the
funnymen, taking Miriam LaVelle for a tour of the night spots - and getting
her home by midnight, on mama's order's...'
Mansfield News Journal 18th
'It's hard to be a good sport
when your heart broken, but there's one little dancer on Broadway who made
the grade this week, a girl named Miriam LaVelle. She'd been practising for
weeks to dance at the Army Relief Show, 'We're All In It' and on the night
of the benefit she came in makeup and her best costume, ready to appear
before the biggest and most important audience of her lifetime. Anything
might happen, with an audience like that - a producer might see her, maybe
it might mean a Broadway show, maybe she'd get a movie offer. After she had
waited for two hours she was told she couldn't go on - there were too many
other 'big names' from Hollywood and the theater who had to do their acts.
Miriam didn't sulk or cry, although she must have felt like crying. She just
went among the spectators and joined the AWVS workers and helped them sell
more than a million dollar's worth of bonds to the crowd.'
Long Beach Independent 24th
'Miriam LaVelle, who danced her
way into pictures, is the girl who appeared ON Broadway lights before her
name flashed in them. A year ago, the slim 17-year-old acrobatic dancer,
actually danced on an electric advertising sign in the Times Square sector.
There Broadway columnists discovered her as curious thousands stared and
before she knew it, the youngster was a hit in 'Keep Em laughing'. She is
now appearing in her second picture, 'Meet the People', at
metro-Goldwyn-Mayer with Lucille Ball, Virginia O'Brian, Dick Powell and a
couple of big-name bands. Miriam has danced in a couple of theatres in New
York and St Louis her home town, since she was three, when she became the
protégé of Gus Edwards.'
Evening Independent 4th March
'Nicky Blair's revamped Carnival
revue is a dazzling show, retaining such features from the former show as
Elly Ardelty, the breath-taking trapeze artist, and Miriam Lavelle, the
dancing sensation, plus Milton Berle, who is unquestionably the most
versatile and amusing comedian of his time. Also a half dozen other
entertaining acts. A wow of a show.'
An editorial by Ed Sullivan
dated 7th March 1946 describes how a group of entertainers, that included
Miriam LaVelle, had given a show to White House Correspondents and were then
marshalled into The Continental room of the Hotel Statler in New York where
they were introduced to President Truman. Of all the entertainers trying to
pluck up courage to ask the President for an autograph, Miriam LaVelle was
the one to actually do so, and her request was warmly received by President
Chester Times 7th June 1946.
This features an advert for the
Theatre , the main event being a film. However, as was often the
case in cinemas of that time, acts featured between the movies. The ad
reads, 'Behind the Footlights' Miriam Lavelle of Chester! Formerly of the
Dougherty Sisters Studio.'
'Chester' is Chester,
Pennsylvania, and the Boyd Theatre, over 80 years old, is, or was until
recently, being used as a church.
The Morning Herald 15th June
A brief gossip column insertion
states rather enigmatically, 'Carlos
Ramirez waits at the Capitol [theatre] stage door for Miriam
Carlos Ramirez was a famous
singer from Columbia, and possibly Ms Lavelle's favourite clutch. He
famously featured in 'Bathing Beauty' with Esther Williams in 1944.
Schenectady Gazette 15th June
'Miriam Lavelle, the acrobatic
dancer at The Carnival, isn't talking to Milton Berle, the star there, since
they had words about what she should do in the show's finale. Ah - well.
Girls will be girls and Berles will be musicals.'
Hamilton Daily News Journal 19th
A photo of Miriam LaVelle
appeared in this paper and was syndicated across many others. It shows Ms
LaVelle togged out in shorts, holding a fishing rod and wearing a
fisherman's bag. The caption reads, ' Queen Bass - Thousand Islands fishing
guides picked Miriam Lavelle (above) as Queen Bass to reign over the 1946
Rod and Gun club bass tournament at Alexandria Bay, N.Y.'
I've added this photo on the
Images page, but be aware that it's little more than a murky half-tone
The Morning Herald 19th July
'...Cute little Miriam Lavelle,
Carnival dancing star, tells me she'll wed bandleader
Georgie Auld at
The Daily News 27th July 1946
'Stan Fisher, harmonica player,
lost Carnival's Miriam LaVelle, who will wed George Auld...'
Stan Fisher featured in several
movies. Maybe he was dating ML.
Olean Times Herald 31st July
1946. (Olean is a town in New York State).
'Wasn't Miriam LaVelle's motive
in announcing her "engagement" to bandleader George Auld (who happens to be
married already) the old, feminine trick of trying to make the man she
really loves jealous. Hep Broadwayites know the one she loves is a singer'.
Chester Times 1st November 1946
Mr. and Mrs. William Paterson
and daughter, Patricia, spent a day at Philadelphia and attended a musical
comedy, 'Sweet Bye and Bye'. Mr. Paterson's [Patterson's] niece, Miriam Lavelle, has a
prominent part in the show.'
This is the only piece of
information to-date that connects Ms Lavelle to her extended family.
The Record-Argus 2nd December
'Dancer Miriam Lavelle caused
considerable excitement at a Boston hotel. Just disappeared in the middle of
her engagement, trekked to New York, and didn't return to the floor show for
Lowell Sun 5th January 1948
'...Such backstage feuding
between the Strand theatre management and dancer Miriam Lavelle...'
Olean Times Herald 4th may 1949
'Talk of Broadway is the
startling "inside" on dancer Miriam Lavelle's recent marriage in Las Vegas.
It's bound to hit the front pages sooner or later...'
This may have been contrived
gossip of the calibre we experience today, as no references have been found
of Ms LaVelle getting married.
Sandusky Register Star News 3rd
'Acrobatic dancer Miriam Lavelle
split her head open during a TV rehearsal and was rushed to hospital...'
This is the last reference to Ms
LaVelle that appears to exist.
An interesting extract:
In searching the Internet, I found mention of Miriam LaVelle in a Dean
Martin Bio written by Nick Tosches. It's only brief, but with information on
Ms LaVelle rarer than gold dust, any little snippet becomes valued. With a
time-frame of September 1946 the passage reads; 'Now one of his [Dean
Martin's] melancholy babes, the dancer Miriam LaVelle, was in the show with
them at the Riviera. Dean had first met Miriam when she was performing at
Nicky Blair's Carnival on Eighth Avenue, one of the joints he hit making the
rounds with Johnny Buff and Peppi. The pretty brunette had recently
recovered from surgery on her leg, but there was no scar that nylon could
An enigmatic reference -
construe what you will.
Miriam Lavelle post 1950.
Archive references to Miriam
LaVelle peter-out after mid-1950. Variety was on the wane and quite possibly
Ms LaVelle wasn't working in a prolific enough capacity to attract the press
or Billboard. Armed with the information provided by Laverne on Miriam's
final years I shall continue to probe the archives.