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Polish-born American dancer and actress Gilda Gray (1901-1959). Poster showing "Gilda Gray herself in person. She'll shake the town. Columbia, 7 days commencing Monday, May 18." Gilda Gray (October 24, 1901 – December 22, 1959) was a Polish born American actress and dancer who became famous in the US for popularizing a dance called the "shimmy" which became fashionable in 1920s films and theater productions. Her desire to continue her burgeoning career, she used the professional name Mary Gray for a while, and her faltering relationship with her husband prompted her to relocate to Chicago where she was noticed by a talent agent, Frank Westphal, who took her to New York and introduced her to his wife, singer Sophie Tucker. It was Tucker who prompted her to change her first name name to Gilda, a reference to her golden hair. By 1919, she was appearing in a J.J. Shubert show, The Gaieties of 1919. By 1920, Gilda had found a new manager, Gaillard T. "Gil" Boag (d. 1959). After being seen by Florenz Ziegfeld, she appeared in the 1922 Ziegfeld Follies where she was enormously popular with the public.
After her divorce from her first husband, in 1923 she married Gil Boag and took her successful vaudeville to Hollywood, California; they divorced four years later. She quickly abandoned vaudeville to become a film star, and between 1919 and 1936 Gray made several movies, in all of which she performed her famous shimmy. Her second role was a small part in Girl with the Jazz Heart. Jesse Lasky signed her to a contract with Famous Players. With him she made Aloma of the South Seas, which grossed $3,000,000 in its first three months. The success of this film was enhanced by Gilda's personal appearances doing the shimmy as a promotion. In 1927, she made two more films, The Devil Dancer and Cabaret. In 1931 she suffered a heart attack. In 1932, Gray announced her engagement to singer Arthur Jarrett, but abandoned their marriage plans when it became clear that the five-day waiting period between filing a marriage license and the actual ceremony could not be waived. On 23 May 1933, she married a Venezuelan diplomat, Hector Briceño de Saa. The couple separated two years later and divorced in 1938. By the time of her death at the age of 58 from a second heart attack, on December 22, 1959, Gilda Gray was again in financial trouble. According to an obituary published in The New Times, she had lived there with Antonio Raio, a fire captain for Warner Bros, and his wife for the past six years. Gray had suffered an attack of food poisoning five days prior to her death and was under the treatment of a physician. The Motion Picture Relief Fund paid for her funeral. Pierce Brothers mortuary supervised her funeral proceedings. A shimmy is a dance move in which the body is held still, except for the shoulders, which are alternated back and forth. When the right shoulder goes back, the left one comes forward. It may help to hold the arms out slightly bent at the elbow, and when the shoulders are moved, keep the hands in the same position. In 1917 a dance-song titled "Shim-Me-Sha_Wobble" by Spencer Williams was published, as was "The Jazz Dance, which included the "Shimmy-She", among others. Flappers performed dance in the 1920s. The origin of the name is often attributed to Gilda Gray, a Polish emigrant to America. An anecdote says that when she was asked about her dancing style, she answered, in heavy accent, "I'm shaking my chemise". However, in an interview Gilda denied having said this, and earlier usages of the word are recorded. In the late 1910s others were also attributed as being the "inventor" of the shimmy, including Bee Palmer. Mae West, in her autobiography Goodness Had Nothing to Do with It, claimed to have retitled the "Shimmy-Shawobble" as the Shimmy herself, after seeing the moves in some black nightclubs. Gilda Gray was born as Marianna Michalska in Kraków, Poland on 24 October 1901 to Max and Wanda Michalski, who emigrated to the United States in 1909 and settled in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She had one sibling, Josephine Michalska, Mrs. Sielecki. Description Source Wikipedia