Lucille Bremer: 15 Minutes of Fame
In March 1946, actress/dancer Lucille Bremer appeared on the cover of Life magazine in a rare color splash. The accompanying article praised her and the new MGM film Ziegfeld Follies and it seemed Lucille was a star on the rise.
But insiders knew MGM had already pulled the plug on this gifted performer's career.
Today most film buffs know Lucille Bremer as Judy Garland's sister in Meet Me In St. Louis or as Fred Astaire's dance partner in several classic numbers. But the gossip of the day also listed Lucille Bremer as MGM producer Arthur Freed's girlfriend or mistress. This trashy rumor followed the talented performer for her short but meteoric career.
Bremer began as as Rockette at the famed Radio City Music Hall. Following chorus appearances in several Broadway hits, Bremer was spotted dancing at the Versailles Club in NYC by famed producer Freed. Bringing her to Hollywood, she made a screen test that so impressed studio head Louis B. Mayer that he stated, "She's going to be big—very big!"
Freed gave Lucille the plum role in Meet Me In St. Louis, and she was first rate. He next cast her as Fred Astaire's dance partner in two brilliant numbers in the all-star Ziegfeld Follies. Bremer proved to be a great partner for Fred Astaire, and her work in both is magical. Unfortunately, the filming of Follies took almost two years and the film was not released until March of 1946, after the flop that destroyed Lucille Bremer's bid for stardom.
Yolanda and The Thief (1945) has the unfortunate reputation as being the only arty Freed picture that lost money. Based on a fantasy by Ludwig Bemelmans and directed by Vincente Minnelli, Yolanda is one of the most gorgeous, underappreciated musical films in history. Lucille plays a convent-bred heiress who thinks that crook Fred Astaire is her guardian angel.
Although her singing was dubbed, her dance numbers with Astaire were wonderful. The film’s ending number, "Coffee Time," is among the greatest ever filmed. Performed on a floor of wavy, broad black and white stripes, the sequence dazzles. The cinematography and costumes are equally opulent.
But when Yolanda proved to be a box office disappointment, all the blame was put on Lucille Bremer.
She was given one more musical, Till The Clouds Roll By, where she played a bitchy star in the making. In her great dance number, "I Won't Dance," she’s paired with MGM heart throb Van Johnson.
MGM lost interest in Lucille Bremer and sold her contract to low budget Eagle Lion. She made three films for them, including Ruthless where she gave a tough-as-nails performance as the grasping wife of Sidney Greenstreet. After that, Lucille quit the movies, married the son of a former Mexican president and had four children. After a divorce, she moved to La Jolla CA where she operated a boutique and lived the rest of her life in obscurity until her death in 1996 at the age of 79.
Lucille Bremer probably wouldn’t have been a great lasting star. But her beauty and dancing ability will always be showcased in the three great MGM musicals she made, and "Coffee Time" has the distinction of being one of the greatest dance numbers in musical film history.