Ray Hirsch, 1930's Jitterbug Champion
Spunky barely describes this youth from the hey-dey of swing!! This Legendary Lindy Hopper and 1930's-40's silver screen featured dancer will dance, tap and talk his way into your heart! Ray told stories about his good times both on and off screen with Mickey Rooney, Lana Turner, Judy Garland, Busby Berkeley, Alan Ladd, Fred Astaire and the Marx Brothers.
Although Ray considered himself more of a Lindy dancer than a Shag Dancer, he and his partner Patti Lacey, were featured doing shag steps in more Hollywood films than any other dancer. Ray broke into the film business, when he was a student at Hollywood High, after winning first place in a local 'Jitterbug' contest. He won a national jitterbug championship on Sept. 11, 1938; He says about the contest with Patty Lacey "[we] weren't the best Balboa or Lindy or Charleston dancers, but we were crowd pleasers.."
After that, he found himself appearing in several films doing Lindy and Shag. Marin resident Ray Hirsch veteran of stage and screen has been married for over 70 years to Betty (pictured below).
As an original Lindy Hopper he appeared with his dance partner as a featured dancer. The dynamic duo were featured in a number of shorts and films with specialty swing dance segments in them, including "Blondie Meets the Boss," "Mad Youth," "Buck Privates," "Among The Living," "Her First Romance," "Artie Shaw's, Traffic Jam Shorty" and the short "Georgie Porgie." One of the couple's spectacular dance moves in "Mad Youth" made the cover of Life magazine.
His movie-making career was interrupted by World War II when he served with the Marines as a master tech sergeant in support of torpedo bomber squadrons. After four years in the Pacific, he returned to the movie factories.
Although Hirsch could dance up a storm and sing and act as well, he knew he wasn't destined to be a leading man. "I'm not tall and handsome," he said. But he had a good time, and met his, Betty, when both of them were extras on "The Razor's Edge" in 1946.
In the early '50s, when his movie work became a drag because of some of the choreographers he reported to, he moved on to other pursuits.
For a while, he owned a barbecue in Las Vegas, then launched a 38-year career selling lingerie. He also raised Saint Bernards, and, with Betty, three children. He retired nine years ago.
Hirsch slowed by congestive heart disease, but he still loved dancers and dances, just more slowly. He attended a cardiac rehab program three days a week at the YMCA, greeting friends with a smile, song and dance.
"A couple of years ago, I got a call from New York asking, 'Are you Georgie Porgie?'" The result was a check for use of old movie footage in a Ford Escort commercial. Other clips of his fancy footwork have ended up in Virgin Airlines and Texas lottery commercials, and in the film "Kinsey."
He's also been asked to put his encyclopedic knowledge of dance to work as a judge at dance competitions and workshops. "It's opened up a whole new life," he said before his passing in 2015.
OTHER QUOTES from Ray Hirsch about movies and such...
(here's Ray Hirsch behind Mickey Rooney on set & Patty and he jumping)
Hirsch signed with MGM and performed in dozens of movies and short films, flipped through his scrapbook collection the other day as he recalled his pals from the past.
- Astaire wore wooden soles on his shoes "because wood against wood makes a terrific sound," Hirsch said.
- Garland tickled him pink. "I asked would she like to go on a picnic and she said, 'What's a picnic?'"
- Berkeley liked the action at ringside. "I worked in six Busby Berkeley movies. On Wednesday nights we'd listen to the Gillette Fights together."
- The Marx Brothers were a hoot, but he still has a score to settle. "Groucho and Harpo screwed me out of dancing in 'The Big Store,'" Hirsch said.
- Lana Turner was a sweetheart. "Lana Turner was the only actor who ever went to bat for me," making sure he got extra work in one of her films.
- Rooney was a prodigious talent but was also "a gambler who was always broke" and needed to be reined in so as not to embarrass himself - or MGM.
- Alan Ladd wanted to be tall in the saddle. "I worked on a lot of his movies (because) he didn't like acting with anyone who was taller than he was," said Hirsch, who stood 5 foot 8.
Ray & Patty in 'Georgie Porgie"
Ray & Patty in 'Ride 'em Cowboy
Ray, Patty, Lacey, Dean, Jewel