In step with Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers was one half of the most legendary dancing team in film history; she was also a successful dramatic actress, even winning a Best Actress Oscar. Born Virginia McMath on July 16, 1911, in Independence, MO, as a toddler, she relocated to Hollywood with her newly divorced mother, herself a screenwriter. At the age of six, Rogers was offered a movie contract, but her mother turned it down. The family later moved to Fort Worth, where she first began appearing in area plays and musical revues. Upon winning a Charleston contest in 1926, Rogers' mother declared her ready for a professional career, and she began working the vaudeville circuit, fronting an act dubbed "Ginger and the Redheads." After marrying husband Jack Pepper in 1928, the act became "Ginger and Pepper." She soon traveled to New York as a singer with Paul Ash & His Orchestra, and upon filming the Rudy Vallee short Campus Sweethearts, she won a role in the 1929 Broadway production Top Speed.
On Broadway, Rogers earned strong critical notice as well as the attention of Paramount, who cast her in 1930's Young Man of Manhattan, becoming typecast as a quick-witted flapper. Back on Broadway, she and Ethel Merman starred in Girl Crazy. Upon signing a contract with Paramount, she worked at their Astoria studio by day and returned to the stage in the evenings; under these hectic conditions she appeared in a number of films, including The Sap From Syracuse, Queen High, and Honor Among Lovers. Rogers subsequently asked to be freed of her contract, but soon signed with RKO. When her Broadway run ended, she went back to Hollywood, starring in 1931's The Tip-Off and The Suicide Fleet. When 1932's Carnival Boat failed to attract any interest, RKO dropped her and she freelanced around town, co-starring with Joe E. Brown in the comedy The Tenderfoot, followed by a thriller, The Thirteenth Guest, for Monogram. Finally, the classic 1933 musical 42nd Street poised her on the brink of stardom, and she next appeared in Warner Bros.' Gold Diggers of 1933.