Last Ziegfeld Follies Star Doris Eaton Travis Dies at 106

By: May. 11, 2010
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Doris Eaton Travis, the one-time Ziegfeld Follies star (and last surviving Ziegfeld girl), who was still kicking at the age of 106 at this year's Broadway Cares / Equity Fights AIDS Easter Bonnnet competition on April 26-27, has passed away this morning. 

Tom Viola / Executive Director - BROADWAY CARES / EQUITY FIGHTS AIDS told that "Doris Eaton Travis was beloved at Broadway Cares. Since first meeting her at the very young age of 94 in 1998 when she appeared at the 12th Annual EASTER BONNET Competition at the New Amsterdam Theatre through 24th Annual Competition two weeks ago at The Minskoff - no matter her age when the stage lights his Doris she was instantly and forever young. Whether leading 30 Broadway dancers in a conga, playing sassy in a tux with the Cagelles, celebrating her 100th birthday on the New Amsterdam stage where she first appeared at age 16, teaching Sutton Foster "the Black Bottom" or the young ballerinas from BILLY ELLIOT in "Ballin' the Jack" - a number she had introduced in 1921, Doris was simply a delight. Broadway loved her, giving her a standing ovation just two weeks ago that I know she took to heart and I'm certain has taken with her. She taught us all a little bit about how to celebrate the past and live for today. We will miss her forever."

Viola also noted that "Doris' nephew, Joe Eaton, who travelled with Doris to numerous EASTER BONNET Competitions said that Doris had been having difficulty swallowing and had gone into the hospital on Sunday to be rehydrated. It was decided to take her back to the hospital this morning. She was talkative in the car, then chatting with the nurses, who had googled her since Sunday, about being a Ziegfeld girl and having just returned from the Bonnet Competition in New York City. But when she lay down on the doctor's table, she simply slipped away. Quietly, without incident and I'll bet the sound of the extraordinary ovation she received on stage at the Minskoff just two weeks ago today ringing in her ears."

Following her Ziegfeld years, Doris Eaton Travis was a featured star in many musical reviews, Broadway comedies and silent films. Nacio Herb Brown's classic "Singing In The Rain" was written for and introduced by Doris in the Hollywood Music Box Review. She starred in films made in New York, Hollywood, England and Egypt and after an absence of over sixty years, returned to Hollywood in 1999, and at the age of 95 was cast for a cameo role in Jim Carrey's "Man In The Moon."

In 1936, she was hired by the Arthur Murray Dance Studios in New York as a tap dance instructor. She remained with the Arthur Murray company for thirty-two years, advancing from teaching to owning her own school. Eventually Eaton Travis established and owned a total of eighteen Arthur Murray studios across Michigan. She authored a column of dance advice and commentary for the Detroit News entitled "On Your Toes" and hosted a local television program for seven years.

In 1992, aged 88, Eaton Travis graduated cum laude from the University of Oklahoma. She was awarded an honorary doctorate from Oakland University in 2004 at the age of 100. In January 2008, Doris Eaton Travis, served as the Grand Marshal of the opening parade for the Art Deco Weekend festival in Miami Beach.

For the past number of years she has performed her dance magic on the New Amsterdam stage in the annual Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS benefits. She also continued to actively manage and operate her 880 acre ranch in Norman, Oklahoma.

Two great books are available about Doris Eaton Travis and her travels, Days We Danced: The Story of My Theatrical Family from Florenz Ziegfeld to Arthur Murray and Century Girl: 100 Years in the Life of Doris Eaton Travis Last Living Star of the Ziegfeld Follies.

Original Ziegfeld Follies Chorus Girl Doris Eaton Travis Opens 2010 Easter Bonnet Show

Original Ziegfeld Follies Chorus Girl Doris Eaton Travis Opens 2010 Easter Bonnet Show

Original Ziegfeld Follies Chorus Girl Doris Eaton Travis Opens 2010 Easter Bonnet Show

Photo Credit: Peter James Zielinski