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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 audiences.' This 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's Story

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.

The credit 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 Scriptwriter.

In November, Laverne will reach the grand age of 90. Here are Laverne's memories of Miriam LaVelle in her own words:

"I 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 acrobatic techniques!] 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".

I'm hoping, 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 referred to.

Sweet Beginnings: 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 Miriam Patterson.'

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 Patterson.'

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 appearances.

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.   

Theatre work: 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 1942.

Movie appearances: 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 stats below.

                                 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                 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer            January 1944

                              Seven days ashore              November - December 1943           RKO Radio Pictures               January 1944

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 Stabile orchestra.

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 1950.

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 1942

'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 1942

'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 1942

'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 September 1942

'...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 October 1942

'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 September 1943

'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 1946

'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 Truman.

 

Chester Times 7th June 1946.

This features an advert for the Boyd 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 1946

A brief gossip column insertion states rather enigmatically, 'Carlos Ramirez waits at the Capitol [theatre] stage door for Miriam LaVelle'.

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 1946

'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 June 1946.

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 image.

 

The Morning Herald 19th July 1946

'...Cute little Miriam Lavelle, Carnival dancing star, tells me she'll wed bandleader Georgie Auld at Christmas....'

 

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'. (Carlos Ramirez?).

 

Chester Times 1st November 1946

Mr. and Mrs. William Paterson [Patterson] 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 1947

'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 two nights.'

 

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 July 1950

'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 not veil'.

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.