Hollywood musical star, Broadway dancer dies at 86

— Vera Zorina, the dancer and actress whose career embraced classical ballet with such legendary troupes as the Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo as well as Broadway and Hollywood musicals, has died at the age of 86.

Zorina died Wednesday at her Santa Fe home after suffering a cerebral hemorrhage earlier in the week, her husband, Paul Wolfe, said.

The dancer made her Broadway debut in "I Married An Angel," the 1938 Rodgers and Hart musical in which she starred as a celestial creature sent to Earth to dispense honesty and goodness. The show was choreographed by George Balanchine, her first husband and later founder of the New York City Ballet.

Zorina then appeared in "Louisiana Purchase," the hit 1940 Irving Berlin musical, in which she played a sultry woman out to compromise a U.S. senator. "Dream with Music," her next Broadway musical, expired in less than a month in 1944.

Ten years later, Zorina starred in a short-lived revival of Rodgers and Hart's "On Your Toes," in which she danced in the famous Balanchine ballet "Slaughter on Tenth Avenue."

Brought to Hollywood by producer Samuel Goldwyn, Zorina appeared in such films as "The Goldwyn Follies" (1938), "On Your Toes" (1939), "I Was an Adventuress" (1940), "Louisiana Purchase" (1941), "Star-Spangled Rhythm (1942) and "Follow the Boys" (1944).

Born Eva Brigitta Hartwig on Jan. 2, 1917, in Berlin, Zorina began studying ballet at age 6 with Evgenia Eduardova and Victor Gsovsky.

She joined the Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo in 1934. She was the protege of choreographer Leonide Massine, who put her in "Le Beau Danube" and "Les Presages."

In 1946, Zorina married Columbia Records producer Goddard Lieberson, who died in 1977.

Zorina and Lieberson had two sons: Jonathan, a philosophy teacher, who died in 1989, and composer Peter Lieberson, also of Santa Fe.

She is also survived by three granddaughters.


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