Ann Miller Tops in Taps
Jim Connor | Hermes Pan
Ann Miller Tops in Taps: An Authorized Pictorial History by Jim Connor (New York: Watts, 1981) with an introduction by Hermes Pan.
This terrific book highlights the great career of a great dancer. Offering brief descriptions of each of Ms. Miller's movies, the book features sections on the RKO years, the Columbia years, the MGM years and a section on stage and TV performances. Miller made 11 movies at RKO after signing her contract in 1937. She moved to Columbia in 1940, making 12 movies at that studio before moving on to MGM in 1948 where she made 11 more films. In 1951 RKO borrowed Ann Miller back from MGM for one more movie there.
I was introduced to Ann Miller through the movie Easter Parade when it was broadcast on TV here in Japan. I still think "Shaking the Blues Away" is one of Ann Miller's best numbers. Miller rarely played the female lead. But though her characters were not central to the plot -- if there was a plot -- each movie offered up one or two great showcase numbers where her special talents could shine. On The Town, Lovely to Look At, Small Town Girl, Kiss Me Kate; every time I see these MGM musicals, Ann Miller's tap number is the highlight for me.
MGM released many musicals on VHS tape in 1990's, so I've seen most of her movies, or so I thought till I found this book. Now I've learned about those 23 so-called "B" movies at RKO and Columbia. As far as I can tell, these movies have never been released on VHS or DVD and three are many that I have never seen. A few have been shown on cable TV in the US and Ann Miller is always good even when the films are not. As any student of movie musicals knows, RKO and Columbia just didn't put the kind of money and effort into musicals the way MGM did.
MGM was so special, gathering the best talent, the best musical directors, and choreographers, costume designers, set designers, even make up artists. Those were the people who made great talents like Ann Miller shine. When I saw That's Entertainment! in 1975, it was still difficult in Japan to get information about those classic musical movie stars. I went to one of the big foreign book stores in Ginza and found many books about movie musicals. Tops in Taps was one of them. It was so expensive for a teenager like me, around 3 or 4 times as much as its original US dollar price. So I would just go to the book store and look at it. Then in 90's, on a trip to the States, I found this copy in a used book store. Nice and cheap too! Get your own ocpy of Ann Miller Tops in Taps
Go to the Women's International Center website for a fine bio page.
For a nice photo spread, checkout Only Legends.
A nice profile of Ann Miller with a list of all her films can be found at Reel Classics.
Ann Miller is the greatest female tap dancer of all time. 100% woman, Ann Miller hides nothing! She’s just out there dancing all the way!
Sadly, Ann Miller died, January 23, 2004.
— Shinichi Matsumoto