Vivien Fay (Who’s Who at MGM, 1937) 🇺🇸
Vivien Fay is tiny, blonde, and would seem almost ethereal, were it not for the quickness of her gestures, the animation as she talks, and the vivacious sparkle in her blue eyes. It is only when she is the Prima Ballerina, the Danseuse, dancing across the screen or stage, lightly as a feather on a cloud, that she seems no flesh and blood person, but a dainty apparition.
She has been dancing since she can remember, and at no time during a long, sometimes tedious and always exacting apprenticeship, can she recall a time when she would have been happy doing anything else.
Vivien was born in San Francisco, January 16. Her father was G. H. Fields, a newspaperman, and her mother Fay Vivien Fields. She was christened Billee Fields, and it was Gus Edwards who transposed her mother’s maiden name, and she became Vivien Fay, while dancing with his revue.
It was in San Francisco that she first studied dancing, with Leila Maple, afterwards in Los Angeles with Ernest Belcher, and then Mahr Mieczkowski in San Francisco. Later, Vivien received instruction from Chester Hale and Zanfretti in New York, Gsovsky in Berlin, climaxed by a term of instruction with Pavlowa’s dancing partner, Vladimiroff.
This long trail, which led to a brilliant series of successes, began when Vivien went to New York with Gus Edwards’ Revue. Soon after, she made her first Broadway appearance in Shubert’s Naughty Riquette. She returned to San Francisco and Los Angeles a year later with the original company of Good News, which enjoyed a long run in leading Pacific Coast cities. Vivien’s superb dancing in the musical comedy brought her to the attention of Fanchon and Marco, who signed her to a contract when Good News closed.
Another period of study and training followed, after which Vivien danced in New York’s Publix Theaters. This brought an opportunity with the famous Earl Carroll Vanities.
Never content with one success, Vivien decided that Europe could teach her a great deal. She appeared in Paris, Berlin, Monte Carlo and Hamburg, and while in those cities, continued to practice and study.
Upon her return to New York, Vivien was selected by Max Gordon as the Prima Ballerina of The Great Waltz, one of the most successful of all musical plays. For three seasons, until its close. Vivien’s dancing was an outstanding feature of the production.
It brought her to the attention of Hollywood and she was signed to a long-term contract by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, making her motion picture debut as the Danseuse in the Marx Brothers’ comedy A Day at the Races.
At the first preview, Vivien’s amazing whirling dance brought spontaneous applause from the audience, and critical acclaim as one of the greatest dancing numbers ever filmed.
Vivien brushes aside as unimportant all accomplishments to date. She feels that thousands of hours of patient practice lie ahead before she can approach her goal, and expects to be training herself and studying, as did Pavlowa, until she retires.
“Dancing is my entire life,” she said, “and it demands all of my time, attention and energy. Since I would rather dance than do anything else, I am content to have it that way.”
Although it is not required of her, she has reported every day to the studio’s rehearsal hall, exercising, often for hours, to keep in perfect trim for her creative work as a dancer.
Collection: Who’s Who at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (1937)