Gilda Gray ~ The Shimmy Dancer

Gilda Gray

 Gilda Gray was an Austrian Ziegfeld Follies dancer known for popularizing the shimmy dance.

She was born in Austria on October 24, 1901 (some sources say she was born several years earlier). Tragically both her parents died when was a child. Her foster parents brought her to the United States in 1909. As a young teenager Gilda agreed to an arranged marriage with John Gorecki, a bartender. They had a son named Martin in 1913. A few years later she moved to New York City where singer Sophie Tucker became her mentor. She joined J.J. Shubert's show The Gaeties Of 1919. The voluptuous blonde quickly became known for doing a sexy "shimmy" dance created by Native Americans. Gilda made her film debut in the 1919 comedy A Virtuous Vamp. In 1922 Florenz Ziegfeld asked her to join the Ziegfeld Follies. Her shimmy dance had become a national craze and she was now being called "The Shimmy Queen". She 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. Gilda appeared in the films Aloha Of The South Seas, The Devil Dancer, and Cabaret. She filed for divorce from Gil in 1929 claiming he was cruel. He responded by accusing her of having an affair with her manager C.D. Krepps.

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

Gilda Gray

Unfortunately she lost most of her fortune in the 1929 stock market crash. Soon after she was hired to dance at the Palace Theater in New York. Then in June of 1931 she suffered a near fatal heart attack. 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. By this time her career was in trouble. Her final film role was 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. She claimed the movie was based on her life. Gilda wanted to make a comeback but as she grew older she suffered 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 fifty-eight. She was buried at Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City, California.

Gilda GrayGilda Gray

Gilda Gray

Gilda appeared in:
Ziegfeld Follies of 1922 (Jun 05, 1922 - Jun 23, 1923)
Ziegfeld Follies of 1923 [Summer Edition] (Jun 25, 1923 - Sep 15, 1923)