This week saw the passing of a minor show biz figure, but one whose career intersected with many of the classic comedians we write about, dancer/beauty/ actress Nita Bieber (1926-2019).
A Los Angeles native, Bieber began dancing in childhood with instruction and encouragement from her mother. After graduating from Hollywood High, she did a U.S.O. tour and spent 9 months with the Jack Cole Dancers.
She wasn’t yet 20 when she broke into movies in Meet Me on Broadway (1946). She is credited in the film as “Nita Berber”. Next came a stint as a chorus girl in Talk About a Lady (1946).
This was followed by a memorable part in a Columbia comedy short well known to fans of the Three Stooges, Rhythm and Weep (1946), which gave her an opportunity to act as well as dance. This is the hilarious short where all three stooges are despondent over their failing show biz careers and are about to jump off a building, when they meet three gorgeous girls (dancers) who are on the roof about to commit suicide as well. Then they hear beautiful music coming from an apartment. The six of them start dancing and the piano player, who claims to be a millionaire, announces he’ll bankroll an act, giving them all a new lease on life. Then the men on white coats take him away. Rhythm and Weep was one of the last films to feature Curly Howard, who’d suffered a series of strokes in the months leading up to this.
Next Bieber had a number in The Jolson Story (1946), followed by bit parts in The Lone Wolf in Mexico (1947), and Millie’s Daughter (1947). She got to dance again in Little Miss Broadway (1947). Then she had a walk-on as a waitress in Kilroy Was Here (1947) with Jackie Cooper and Jackie Coogan.
Also in 1947, came Bieber’s biggest role in a feature, the love interest in News Hounds with the Bowery Boys.
In 1949, her biggest moment in the sun; she was featured on the cover of Life Magazine. The article inside was about her new contract with MGM and her big dance number in the upcoming film Nancy Goes to Rio (1950), with Jane Powell, Ann Sothern, Barry Sullivan, and Carmen Miranda. Unaccountably, after all this publicity, Bieber’s number was cut from the film’s initial release; thankfully it was restored in the home video version. Bieber also got to dance a Cuban number in Lady Without Passport (1950), starring Heddy Lamarr. The came actual named supporting roles in Summer Stock (1950) with Judy Garland and Gene Kelly and The Prince Who Was a Thief (1951) with Tony Curtis and Piper Laurie. During this time she was also showcased in a couple of Universal musical shorts, Jerry Gray and His Band of Today (1950), and Don Cornell Sings (1952).
In the middle of all this, she formed her own troupe, the Nita Bieber Dancers. With this company she performed at Las Vegas hotels like El Rancho and the Frontier in 1951 and 1952. In 1954 she and her troupe performed on The Colgate Comedy Hour. Then she did one last film, Kismet (1955) with Howard Keel and Ann Blyth.
At this stage she had been in films for nearly a decade. She married a dentist named Dr. Jack Wall and opted to retire from the business and devote her time to raising her family.
Learn lots more about Nita Bieber, and peruse lots of photos and videos, at her official website here.