Considering that she made only eleven films, it is odd that Ruby Keeler is so widely remembered as the pert, dancing sweetheart of Warners musicals of the 1930s. By the standards of Charisse, Rogers, Eleanor Powell. Vera-Ellen, Ann Miller, and Debbie Reynolds, she was an ordinary girl. (Indeed, talent was never her tiling.) But her naivete did slot into Dick Powell’s lewdness and express the quick innuendo of the period. A chorus girl/dancer, in 1928 she married Al Jolson.
After starring for Ziegfeld she got the part of the girl who substitutes for the injured Bebe Daniels in the backstage musical 42nd Street (33, Lloyd Bacon). The same slightly bemused parts were provided by Gold Diggers of 1933 (33, Mervvn Le Roy) in which Powell takes a can opener to her metal costume; Footlight Parade (33, Bacon); Dames (34, Ray Enright); Flirtation Walk (34, Frank Borzage); Go Into Your Dance (35, Archie Mayo)—the only film she made with Jolson; Shipmates Forever (35. Borzage); Colleen (36, Alfred E. Green); and Ready. Willing and Able (37, Enright). When Jolson quit Warners, she went with him and floundered: Mother Carey’s Chick¬ens (38, Rowland V. Lee) was an RKO disaster. In 1941, after divorce, she made Siceetheaii of the Campus (Edward Dmytryk) and then retired.
In 1971 she reclaimed her dancing shoes and appeared on Broadway in a very successful revival of No, No, Nanette.