Gilda Gray ~ The Shimmy Queen

Gilda Gray

 Gilda Gray was a showgirl and Ziegfeld Follies star known for popularizing the shimmy dance

She was born Marianna Michalska on October 24, 1895 in Rydlewo, Poland. Gilda would later claim that her parents died when she was a child but this isn't true. Her parents brought her and her sister to the United States in 1903. As a young teenager she agreed to an arranged marriage with John Gorecki, a concert violinst. Their son Martin was born in 1913. A few years later a talent agent convinced her to move to New York City to pursue a show business career. She was introduced to singer Sophie Tucker who became her mentor. Gilda performed in J.J. Shubert's show The Gaeties Of 1919. The voluptuous blonde quickly became known for doing a sexy "shimmy" dance. Although the original dance was created by Native Americans Gilda was credited with popularizing it. She made her film debut in the 1919 comedy A Virtuous Vamp. In 1922 Flo Ziegfeld invited her to join the Ziegfeld Follies. She was now being called "The Shimmy Queen".

Gilda GrayGilda Gray

Gilda Gray Magazine Cover

Gilda divorced her husband and married nightclub owner Gilbert Boag in 1923. After leaving the Follies she became a popular performer in vaudeville. Producer Jesse Lasky signed her to a film contract in 1926. She was given a starring role in the drama Aloma Of The South Seas. Her performance got good reviews and the movie was a box office success. Then she appeared in the films Carbaret, The Devil and The Dancer, and Picadilly with Anna May Wong. Gilda filed for divorce in 1929 claiming Gilbert was cruel. He responded by accusing her of having an affair with her manager C.D. Krepps. Unfortunately her film career stalled and she lost most of her fortune in the 1929 stock market crash. Still in demand as a dancer she accepted a lucrative offer to perform at the Palace Theater in New York. Then in June of 1931 she suffered a near fatal heart attack.

Gilda Gray NudeGilda Gray Nude
Gilda wasn't shy about posing partially nude

Gilda Gray

She was briefly engaged to singer Art Jannett but they broke up. Gilda married Hector Briceno de Saa, a Venezuelan diplomat, in May of 1933. The couple separated two years later. Her final film role was a bit part in the 1936 musical Rose Marie. She was forced to file for bankruptcy in 1941. During World War 2 she worked to raise money for Poland. In 1946 she made headlines when she sued the producers of the movie Gilda starring Rita Hayworth. The aging star claimed the movie was based on her life. Gilda desperately wanted to make a comeback but she was now suffering from numerous health problems. Unable to work she had to move in with close friends in Los Angeles. She was profiled on the television show This Is You Life in 1954. Gilda said "They might roar more today but we had more fun." On December 22, 1959 she died from a heart attack at the age of sixty-four. She was buried at Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, California.

Gilda GrayGilda Gray In Color

Gilda Gray