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Joan McCracken

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b. 31 December 1922, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA, d. 1 November 1961, Fire Island, New York, USA. A dancer from early childhood, McCracken studied with Catherine Littlefield, joining her teacher’s dance troupe before she had completed her regular schooling. She danced as a member of the American Ballet Company, working at numerous venues at home and abroad, including appearing at New York’s Radio City Music Hall. In 1943 she had a prominent dancing role as Sylvie in Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II’s Oklahoma! The following year she had her first speaking part in a Broadway production in Harold Arlen’s Bloomer Girl. During the rest of the 40s and into the early 50s she concentrated on dancing and singing roles, appearing in Jerome Robbins’ Billion Dollar Baby (1945), Dance Me A Song (1950) and Me And Juliet (1953), receiving very good notices for the latter. McCracken’s health deteriorated due to a heart condition, and she forsook dancing for straight plays, having previously appeared in Clifford Odets’ The Big Knife (1949) and Angel In The Pawnshop (1951). Although clearly a talented artist, her health problems meant that she was unable to develop her career in the manner she would have liked. She had a similarly uneven private life, with disastrous marriages to dancers Jack Dunphy and Bob Fosse. When her health worsened, McCracken retired from the stage and died soon afterwards.

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