The Hollywood Big Screen Legend Born 100 Years Ago in East Texas
There have been many events and celebrations commemorating the 100th anniversary of Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, Texas. In 1923, the first students attended classes at what was then called Stephen F. Austin State Teachers College.
Another Historic 1923 Nacogdoches Event
This year (2023) marks the 100th birthday of another significant event in the history of Nacogdoches County.
On April 12, 1923, a baby girl was born in Chireno, Texas. Her name was Johnnie Lucille Collier. By the time she had turned 14, Johnnie was already appearing in Hollywood movies with A-listers such as Katharine Hepburn, Ginger Rogers, and Lucille Ball.
Yes, her name was Johnnie, but she liked to be called Annie, which she later adapted to the stage name that we now associate with her legendary status as a dancer and actress...Ann Miller.
From Nacogdoches to Hollywood
Ann Miller (nee Johnnie Collier) and her parents moved from Chireno to Houston while she was still quite young. Her mother and father divorced shortly thereafter which led Ann and her mom to move to California.
Miller continued to take dance and tap lessons and after seeing a movie with Eleanor Powell, she realized this was the path she wanted to take.
Ann Miller would hone her dancing skills and then lied to talent scouts about her age, telling them she was 18 when she was barely a teenager. It paid off for her, though, as she started getting roles including a feature part in the movie Radio City Revels in 1938.
When you watch the video, keep in mind, that Ann Miller has yet to turn 15.
One of the Best Ever
Ann Miller would go on to a legendary career in Hollywood musicals, plus she had several top-billing roles on Broadway. She would dance and sing with notables like Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, and Mickey Rooney.
Her tap dancing was flawless and done with machine-gun speed, yet she made it look fun and effortless. 'On The Town' with Gene Kelly, Frank Sinatra, and Vera-Ellen is one of my favorite Ann Miller movies.
Miller passed away in Los Angeles in January 2004 at the age of 80.
SFA and Ann Miller
So, while celebrating the centennial of Stephen F. Austin State University, just remember, that in the very same year, just 20 miles east of the SFA campus, Johnnie Lucille Collier was born. She changed her name to Ann Miller and she would go on to be one of the biggest celebrities from Nacogdoches County.
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