From Larry Billman, author of many definitive books on film dancers, as well as screen
March 2, 2007
My name is Larry Billman and I am writing to you from Tokyo, Japan - where I currently
live and work. As an avocation, I am writing a book about Film Dancers and came
across your wonderful tribute to Lizanne. The beautiful photographs and well-deserved
praise brought so many wonderful memories back to me that I wanted to write and give
you more information.
I knew and danced with Lizanne in the early Sixties, as a member of the Hermes Pan
Dancers in Johnny Mathis' world tour 1960-'61. The show had already played Asia, but
one of the male dancers, Fred Curt, had left the show and I got a frantic phone call to
replace him. As the show was going to open somewhere in the U.S. in a very short time,
Lizanne - who was the "dance captain" and my partner - taught me the show in a couple
of days. The "slam-through" rehearsals nearly killed me. We rehearsed at the home of
Helen Noga, Johnny's manager, on Sunset Blvd. and every time I have driven past that
house in the past [now] 47 years, my legs ache!
Forgive me as I am writing this from memory. When I return to my home in California, I
have a file on the show and will check all of the dates as well as scan and send you some
photos. Anyway...my first show was fairly scary. Lizanne had been an excellent and very
thorough teacher. She was maybe 5 feet tall and weighed around 85 pounds. I was 6'2",
so lifting her was a pleasure. There were two lifts in the show which were pretty tricky.
One was a "to the shoulder" lift in "Tonight" (from "West Side Story.") She would run
at me, give me one of her hands and then I was to swing her up onto my shoulder and
turn with her there. In that first show, I almost dropped her - managing to grab her ankle
as she went over my shoulder and headed to the floor! The second lift was a complicated
one in which she ran at me, I grabbed her waist and flipped her over - as a cartwheel - in
front of my body. The number was "The Gal with the Yeller Shoes" which Hermes Pan
had choreographed in the film Meet Me in Las Vegas. I put my arms in the wrong
configuration (right over left vs left over right) so when I tried to flip her, my arms locked
and she banged her head on the floor. I can so well remember her saying: "Why did you
do that?" after I got her back on her feet. But, I made it through the first show and she
was gracious and forgiving.
The rest of the tour, which included one month at Sahara Hotel in Las Vegas (December
1960?) was wonderful. Lizanne was lovely, funny, earthy and one of the best dancers in
the world. She was beautifully trained in ballet but was also sharp and precise in jazz and
other "Broadway Show Dance" styles of the period. She also excelled in
comedy/character dance. At that time, Lizanne was married to the choreographer Earl
Barton. One of the other girls in the show, Michelle "Mickey" Barton, had also been
previously married to him. Michelle was the "dark" version of Lizanne: dainty, sharp,
funny and very brunette. The "dynamics" of having the two of them working together
I wish I had paid more attention when I was with her about her life, but this is what I do
know: - Her maiden name was not "Truex." She has been married to the son of actor
Ernest Truex (Barry?) in New York. The information and photo that you have from her
appearance with the Agnes de Mille Dance Theatre proves that she already had been
married to a "Truex." The "key" to more information is to find out what her maiden
At the time she could have been 30 years old. We laughed about my dancing with "an
older woman" but she was so youthful in her outlook and had a beautiful complexion.
And, as the photos on your site prove, she looked liked a teenager. Her hair was
platinum and cut short, although a bit longer than when she was a "Goon Girl" in
She first met (?) and worked with Earl Barton in a revival of the musical "Can Can,"
which played the Civic Playhouse in Los Angeles in 1956 and at the Hacienda Hotel in
Las Vegas in 1957.
Barton and she remained working in Las Vegas in the "Monte Proser Tropicana Revue"
which was part of the "Grand Opening" of the Tropicana Hotel in 1957-'58. The show
was a revue format featuring some of the best dancers of the time including George
Chakiris, Dante DiPaolo, Sylvia Lewis, Neile Adams (Steve McQueen's wife) and Elaine
Dunn. Stars came-and-went within the show (Ernie Kovacs, Carol Channing, Jayne
Mansfield, etc.) but the dancers were the actual "stars" of the show. I have spoken to
George Chakiris about it as (for some reason) I have an LP of the show and made him a
copy of it. He recalled it as a wonderful show that he was very proud if.
Of course, Lizanne as featured in most of the comic dances, as her innate comedic talents
- and small, compact size - were used to great advantage. Your site mentions that "during
her Tropicana days she was a brunette," but I do not think so. I will try to verify that.
For more information on the show, go to Dante DiPaolo (Rosemary Clooney's widower)
site at http://www.rosemaryclooney.com/dante/index.htm
Married to Earl Barton in October 1959 (from "Dance Magazine"), she assisted him and
appeared in The Five Pennies (1959) and also Twist Around the Clock (1961). As one of
the "Earl Barton Dancers," she appeared on TV in "The Frances Langford Show" (the
show ran from 1957-'59), "Ford Startime" (1960), "Polka Parade" (a local Los Angeles
KTLA show) and "The Danny Kaye Show" in 1961. Her last recorded performance is
"Route '66" in 1962. I will write something for the Professional Dancers Society (PDS)
newsletter, requesting any information that people might have should be sent to you.
George Chakiris, Sylvia Lewis and Neile Adams all receive that newsletter. Many of the
other dancers in the Mathis tour (Kitty Malone, Mickey Barton, Gary Menteer) also are
members of PDS.
We all would love to know what happened to Lizanne. Let us hope it is good news, as she
deserved the best.
Thanks to you - and those who have written in for honoring her so.
March 8, 2007
To answer your questions about where I got some of Lizanne's credits, I have to go back
to Dance Magazine. In every monthly issue there was a "Hollywood and Las Vegas"
column written by a good friend, named "Roy Clark" (no not THAT Roy Clark). He
would mention the jobs that dancers and/or choreographers were doing. There was
actually one reference to a show that Earl Barton was scheduled to choreograph and when
I asked Earl about it, he took a moment to try to remember it and then said, "No, that
never happened. The show backers pulled out." So, as valuable as Roy's columns in the
late '50s-early '70s were, they can be "faulty" and do not contain much detailed
information (like the name of the episode of "Route 66" Lizanne was going to do). I am
sure that I got all of the TV information (Ford Startime, Frances Langford Show, Danny
Kaye Show, etc.) from those "blurbs." She could have been in the chorus or doing a
featured role. Earl Barton choreographed The Frances Langford Show, so that seems like
a "natural" that she would be on the program. And I would assume that her appearance
on "Route 66" included dance.
How did I come across your website? I am writing a second (companion book) to the
Film Choreographers book - an encyclopedia of the dancers in films. I "Googled"
Lizanne and up popped your wonderful site. Isn't the Internet becoming a terrific
I also have a non-profit foundation in California called The Academy of Dance on Film -
hence the access to Dance Magazines (the Academy has a complete set from 1949-2006).
We also have many Fabulous Las Vegas Magazines - so hold off - if you can - on
spending any money on them. When I eventually get to California, I have started a
"Look For" list of stuff for you, to which I will add those. Here in Tokyo, I just happen
to have the 1960s file of the pages from Dance Magazine which contain the News From
"Hollywood and Las Vegas," "New York, "London," "Paris," etc. information. I have
been going through them page-by-page to find references to boodles of dancers and will
see if I missed - or skipped - any references to Lizanne. I am up to 1962. We also have
all of Agnes de Mille's books at the Academy which might also help.
Above and beyond the PDS "plea," I have also written a letter to Gemze De Lappe -
another still-gorgeous, tiny, flashing-eyed dancer who was in the de Mille company with
Lizanne. Gemze lives in New York and does not use the Internet - but has a mind like a
trap, as she has been the one who has recreated Agnes de Mille's work all over the world
since the 1940s. She has a friend who can perhaps post her recollections in an email.
Thinking about Lizanne, another thing has popped into my head. Her real name may not
even be "Lizanne." I don't know why, but I recall calling her "Lizzie" and can imagine a
conversation about her changing her real name (Elizabeth, Liz, Lizzie) to "Lizanne" when
she joined the ballet. Damn! I wished I'd paid more attention. But I wish that everyday. I
never dreamed I would be writing about so many of these people and let them "get away"
although I worked with them. My writing may be my way of thanking and honoring
them. As you are doing with Lizanne. Film is FOREVER and we all have to know who
those people were/are.
March 13, 2007
A friend in New York was to have dinner with Gemze DeLappe on Monday night and
promised to ask questions about Lizanne and the deMille Dance Theatre. Hope she got
Nevkid12: Another odd thought - in "Oklahoma!" Liz had a twangy mid-western/squeaky
voice. Was she just in character or was that really her? She was supposedly born in Kansas
City, MO, so I thought that might have been her natural voice.
Lizanne had a low, husky voice and a mid-Western accent. For "Oklahoma!" she
"Okie-d" her accent.
(Mother of God - cute, perky, and a voice like Marlene Dietrich! Liz must have hit any male
within range the same way Kryptonite affected Superman.)
March 14, 2007
Have not heard from the woman who was going to have dinner with Gemze but if I do
not hear in a week or so, I will send her a "Well?" query. Researchers/Archivists are an
odd - and wonderful - breed. We fall into holes and can think of nothing but the
"Trails" we are on. The rest of the world simply goes on.
Because of my writing and the Academy of Dance on Film, I get some amazing questions.
I have had many families of ex-Hollywood dancers write to ask if we have information on
[usually] ladies who danced in the Hollywood chorus 1930-'40. Those are "tough"
requests, as, during those days, so few people received on-screen credit. Now, every
dancer, driver and assistant gets "credit" - which is how it should be. Especially for
families who are doing searches similar to yours about Lizanne. I actually started my
writing at least 20 years late as too many of the people who were involved in the Golden
Age of the Movie Musicals are gone. And those who are left sometimes have faulty
memories. Film audiences make movies much more "important" than those who worked
in them, as Hollywood was simply a company town and the product was the movies. I
have talked with dancers who were "contract" dancers during the mid-'40s to mid-'50s. I
usually know much more about their careers than they do. They simply showed up each
day and were told to go to a sound stage. I have found many films which Julie Newmar
was in...and have to show them to her. She sort of watches them and finally says: "Yes,
that is me. But I do not remember this at all."
Bottom line; research is tough. You keep going! I will follow.
March 20, 2007
Your remark about "X" being jealous of other dancers is similar to a response I got from
someone else in the Tropicana Show: "I was a principal with Elaine Dunne and did not
share a dressing room with the other gypsies." Excuse me? I know that Lizanne was not a
"Gypsy" in that show, but rather had songs, dances and comedy skits. That is one of the
weaknesses and drawbacks of the "Gypsy" mentality. They all were jealous of each other.
Lizanne was never "Chorus" material. She was a brilliant dancer and had the kind of
charisma that made an audience sit up and take notice whenever she entered the stage.
(Nevkid12: This is the finest compliment of a dancer that I have ever read - and fits Lizanne
to a "T".) Being her partner in the Johnny Mathis Show, I got lucky. Lizanne (and
partner) had all sorts of specialty/featured moments in the show. Particularly in the
Western Hoedown "The Gal with the Yaller Shoes" number - in which I dropped her on
her head. There also was a Latin number that the girls performed and she was featured.
So, I only "thanked" that Tropicana dancer and did not react to her "other gypsies"
remark. The irony, of course, is that two strangers are writing to each other about
Lizanne. And not her!
April 2, 2007
An eBayer has a DVD copy of a kinescope Startime for Feb. 1960 where Joan Crawford
was interviewed by Dave Garroway. I emailed him as to any appearance of the "Barton
Dancers" but no reply as yet. He wants $20 for it but I am loathe to shell out money blindly
if he doesn't answer.
Good idea. Not having an episode and cast list, you probably would be "stiffed." It is too
bad that you are not near the Museum of Radio and Television. They have two locations:
Beverly Hills and Manhattan. There, you could go and look at the TV shows you are
searching for, before you buy blindly.
Another seller has a 1960 "Fab Las Vegas" and I asked him if the Johnny Mathis
show/Lizanne was mentioned.
Hold on. I will finally be in California from April 27-May 14th and will find and send
everything I have regarding that tour.
I got a "not in this issue" response plus a question as to why I was so interested in
Lizanne. I gave him a thumbnail history of our search, including Lizanne's website, and got
this nice reply: "Great story. I come into a lot of Vegas related material in my collecting
interests, and I will join in your search for Lizanne. I will continue to monitor your website
and let you know if I come across even the slightest mention of her. Good luck!"
As to the questions:
Did Lizanne ever mention her work in "Oklahoma!"?
Obviously, we talked about it, as I was very impressed with her in it. She did talk about
how Gene Nelson and Agnes de Mille had to collaborate on the "Kansas City"
choreography. de Mille had no tap knowledge or background at all.
She had quite a bit more than just a bit part and it would be interesting if she had any
comments on auditioning, etc. I have no recollection of discussing any of that. At the
time, I was a stupid 22 year-old dancer trying to make a living.
Interesting bit on de Mille. In the initial "Who are the two dancers?" question on IMDb,
the poster wondered if the girls were relatives, etc. of anyone and that that connection
resulted in them getting so much exposure. That lasted until I received a copy of a micro
bio of Lizanne in a de Mille program, wherein it was mentioned that Lizanne was Prima
Ballerina at the Denver Post Opera. I posted that you don't get that title by being just a
dancer (not 'chorus' material) and that the decision to give Liz that part was fully warranted
on her own merits. Also, since the "Kansas City" routine was out in the boonies, everyone
must have been bused in from Nogales - or perhaps some were boarded up at a nearby
I believe that Nogales is correct....not from conversations with Lizanne, but rather books
and articles I have read which contain information about the film. . . .
Do you have any idea where I might get a copy of the OK screenplay, or a website that
might have it? I'd like to see just how Lizanne's part was written.
I will look for the screenplay once I get to California.
Great! I am having one heck of a time tracking that one down - the latest being a search
through the B. Dalton bookstores database on screenplays. They had just about everything -
except "Oklahoma!" The reason I'd like to see how it was written for her part is that she
seemed to add so many little extra touches, like jumping up and down in an excited
schoolgirl manner in the departing train sceen in "Kansas City", and especially in "Farmers
and Ranchers" where she was on the periphery of the action when the fight broke out.
I have performed the show several times as "Will Parker" and recall that there are no
roles of "The Goon Girls" in the original show. It must have been an addition by the film
director, Fred Zinneman and de Mille. Other than the "girl who falls down" (played by
Virginia Bosler in the film - the dark-haired girl who swoons and falls to the floor several
times in "Many A New Day"), the other dancing girls are only classified as "Girl" or
"Another Girl." The Goon Girls are additional characters only in the film. Lizanne's
character, which is obviously a tomboy on the brink of becoming a woman, might have
been part of the original choreography. But Gene Nelson's character, "Will Parker," was
not admired and followed by the girls in the original. So, I believe you can pat yourself
on the back about being correct that the Goon Girls are a screenplay invention. They
work particularly well in the "Kansas City" song and dance. In the original show, it is
simply Will Parker, Aunt Eller and the Cowboys...but many of his slightly-suggestive
lyrics work very well being delivered to the couple of little girls, don't you think?
Agreed. I got the biggest kick out the suggestive glance between Liz and Jane when Ado
Annie showed up in "All Er Nuthin'" while they were flirting with Will. I posed the
question as to whether it was suggestive of a closer relationship than just an infatuation or
was it merely a childish caught-in-the-act routine (more likely, especially for a 1954 movie).
Again, once I get to California, I have dozens of books by de Mille and musical theater
books about the show and film. I will scour them thoroughly for any information I can
find. About Lizanne's hair style: When "The Pajama Game" opened on Broadway in
1954, a former Hollywood dancer and choreographic assistant to Gene Kelly, Carol
Haney, was cast in the role of the comic soubrette - which she also played in the film
version. In Hollywood, her hair had been worn long. One day, while rehearsing the show
in New York, she decided to do something new and cut her hair in the style which would
become known as "The Pixie Cut." All of the girls who succeeded her in the role (Shirley
MacLaine, Neille Adams, Elaine Dunne, etc.) got the exact same haircut. While in New
York, Lizanne probably saw that and emulated it. To my knowledge, she was the only
blond pixie - the others were all brunettes. Neille and Elaine ironically also costarred with
Lizanne in the Tropicana Show, so it must have been an interesting line-up of "Pixies."
Leslie Caron also had a similar hairstyle in her early career. That particular hairdo
works very well for Lizanne in "Many a New Day," when, after watching the other girls
comb and brush their long hair, she picks at her short boyish cut and charmingly shakes
her head, as if she had a glorious crown of cascading hair - which was the style of the
period that the show takes place in.
That set me to thinking what is my favorite scene, and so help me, they ALL are! That pixie
cut made her the definitive Eye Candy. I liked that one because she seemed to act dazed for
a second when she stopped shaking her head and then followed that up with that
heart-tugging head-on-shoulders vignette near the end. I wasn't the only one grabbed by
that one. An IMDb poster wrote, "Ever since I first saw this movie. . . . one of my favorite
moments is her little moment of a young girl's yearning near the end of 'Many A New Day'.
It crystalizes the deMille contribution to the musical theatre. She didn't stage dances, she
told stories." Finally, did she ever mention what she did after "Oklahoma!" and before
Vegas? That would be the 1955-57 period. That is the last gap in her career.
Sorry, I draw another blank. I will check the Dance Magazines 1955-'57 at the Academy.
THE SMOKING GUN, PART II, aka BINGO!
(The following email is one I have longed to read. If I was on speaking terms with the
Pope, I'd nominate Larry for sainthood.)
May 12, 2007
Okay Ed, here it is...your well-earned Payoff! I know that you are sitting down, so I am
I HAVE FOUND - AND BEEN IN CONTACT WITH - LIZANNE. (My emphasis. The
sweetest words in the English language -- Shakespeare included.
Thanks to Roy Clark's Dance Magazine reports from Hollywood and Las Vegas in the
1960s, I came upon the notation in one issue that "Lizanne Truex and Bob xxx were
recently married." Rather than getting you hopeful with bits and pieces, when I arrived
in California, I contacted her.
Because she does not have email access, I printed out and mailed her all of the wonderful
photos and information from your site. To say the least, she was overwhelmed. After so
many years, to be honored in the way that you have, took her breath away. Giving her
time to process all of that, we then began talking. I am sending a "Bio" that I pieced
together from conversations with her. That file is attached for you. Hopefully it will
answer many of the questions we both had about her career.
To begin your "conversation" with her, here is her mailing address: [Deleted for privacy's
sake - Ed]
I also have her phone number, but - as you have been so protective of her, I am doing the
same by not sending it to you. I think that is information which should come from her.
Being "overwhelmed" takes time to process, so I know you will "honor" that time for
her. I am sending her a printed out copy of this message so she knows what I have
written to you. And, we must let her try to tell you in a letter what your site has meant to
Thank you for honoring a wonderful, talented lady and may your relationship bloom and
grow. And thank you letting me (a "footnote" in her remarkable life and career) have a
wonderful time finding her once again.
Congratulations! EUREKA - You have found her! [Not quite. Larry solved this mystery
while the rest of us only nibbled around the edges.] She is alive and well and her voice
sounds exactly the way it did many years ago. That sense of humor and enthusiasm has
never left her. I can return to Tokyo in two days with a sense of accomplishment.
So, starting with the IMDb's "Oklahoma!" message board question "Who are the two
dancers?" 15 months ago, the Holy Grail search for Lizanne has come to a happy end (the
understatement of the century). My heartfelt thanks to all who aided and supported me in
this sometimes frustrating search. That doesn't mean this work is ended, for there's still
some of Lizanne's stage appearances to fill out and, if the gods smile on me, Lizanne will
answer my letters and give us some great anecdotes about "Oklahoma!" and the rest of her
|Emails From One Who Worked With Lizanne
Starting off with One Helluva Email, and I use that term advisedly. I have been immersed
in the search for Lizanne since discovering her identity in June 2006 and had often
wondered about Lizanne herself -- how was she to work with, was she as charming off
stage as she was on, did she every marry some lucky guy, etc. A still distant hope is that
she, or any of her children, would spot this site and realize that she made such an
impression that it still ripples through the audiences to this day.
Bit by bit, biographical information started to surface -- just enough to tease. Anecdotes
flesh out a person in a way that no dry statistics ever can, so the hope remains that those
who had worked with Lizanne would come forth, either here or on the IMDb message
board for Lizanne.
So, after 11 months of searching and sometimes turning into cul-de-sacs, I received this
thunderbolt and follow-up emails. (My comments/questions in blue italics.)