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Jeni LeGon

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Information about Jeni LeGon

Profile image of Jeni LeGon

Profession

Category:
EntertainmentMakers
Occupation(s):
Film Actress
Tap Dancer

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Red
Favorite Food:
Ice Cream (Vanilla)
Favorite Time of Year:
August
Favorite Vacation Spot:
None
Favorite Quote:
Everyday you live and learn.

Birthplace

Born:
8/14/1916
Birth Location:
Chicago, Illinois

Profession

Category:
EntertainmentMakers
Occupation(s):
Film Actress
Tap Dancer

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Red
Favorite Food:
Ice Cream (Vanilla)
Favorite Time of Year:
August
Favorite Vacation Spot:
None
Favorite Quote:
Everyday you live and learn.

Birthplace

Born:
8/14/1916
Birth Location:
Chicago
See how Jeni LeGon is related to other HistoryMakers

Biography

Dancer, actress, and dance instructor Jeni LeGon was born Jennie Ligon on August 14, 1916, in Chicago, Illinois. Later, in London, she learned that she was descended from General Henry Beauchamp Lygon, the 4th Earl of Beauchamp, through her father, Hector Ligon, a "Geechie" from the Georgia Sea Islands. LeGon grew up with her older sister Mary Belle in Chicago's overcrowded Black Belt. Practicing and performing with other children, LeGon received her first formal training from Mary Bruce's School of Dance. She often skipped school to learn new dance routines from the movies, and she graduated from Sexton Elementary School in 1928. In 1930, at age thirteen, she successfully auditioned for the Count Basie Orchestra's chorus line. Leaving Englewood High School a year later, LeGon was already a cutting edge professional dancer with a repertoire of knee drops, flips, slides, mule kicks, and flying splits, which she performed wearing pants.

In 1931, LeGon became a member of the family oriented Whitman Sisters troupe, which traveled the South. With her half sister, Willa Mae Lane, she formed the LeGon and Lane tap duo in 1933. In 1935 Hollywood, Earl Dancer, the former manager of Ethel Waters, discovered LeGon. Dancer helped LeGon to be the first black woman to sign an extended contract from MGM, though it was shortly cancelled. In her first screen role, LeGon danced with Bill "Bojangles" Robinson (the only black woman to do so on screen) in Hooray for Love, which also featured Fats Waller.

Her twenty-four film credits include: Broadway Melody of 1936, This Was Paris, (1937), Start Cheering, Fools for Scandal (1938), I Can't Give You Anything But Love (1940), Birth of the Blues, Sundown, Arabian Nights (1941), While Thousands Cheered, Stormy Weather (1943), Hi De Ho (1945), Easter Parade (1948), I Shot Jesse James (1949) and Somebody Loves Me (1952).

LeGon married composer Phil Moore in 1943 and they co wrote "The Sping" which Lena Horne sang in Panama Hattie. She also starred in Fats Waller's Broadway musical, Early to Bed and took African dance lessons from Katherine Dunham that same year. In 1953, LeGon appeared with Dorothy Dandridge and Harry Belafonte as a teacher in Bright Road. Her next U. S. film role would not come until Snoop Dogg's 2001 film, Bones. In the 1950's LeGon founded a school of dance and appeared in television's Amos and Andy. By the 60's she toured with Jazz Caribe. In 1969, LeGon settled in Vancouver, British Columbia teaching tap, point and Dunham technique. In the 1970s, LeGon worked with Troupe One, a youth theatre group and traveled to London with the Pelican Players in the 80s.

The Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame and the National Congress of Black Women have honored LeGon. In 2002, Oklahoma City University conferred upon her a doctorate of performing arts in American Dance. In 1999, the National Film Board of Canada released Grant Greshuk's prize-winning documentary, Jeni LeGon: Living in a Great Big Way.

Jeni Legon passed away on December 7, 2012.

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  • Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Jeni LeGon interview
  • Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Jeni LeGon's favorites
  • Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Jeni LeGon describes her mother's background
  • Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Jeni LeGon describes her father's background
  • Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Jeni LeGon remembers her mother
  • Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Jeni LeGon remembers her grandmother and great-grandmother
  • Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Jeni LeGon remembers her father
  • Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Jeni LeGon recalls her introduction to show business
  • Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Jeni LeGon discusses her siblings
  • Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Jeni LeGon recalls performances from her childhood
  • Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Jeni LeGon remembers early performances with her family
  • Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Jeni LeGon discusses social life in her childhood community, Chicago, Illinois
  • Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Jeni LeGon recalls her early school life
  • Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Jeni LeGon details her early interest in the performing arts
  • Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Jeni LeGon remembers her sister-in-law
  • Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Jeni LeGon discusses her beginnings as a professional dancer
  • Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Jeni LeGon recounts her performances with the Whitman Sisters
  • Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Jeni LeGon discusses the end of her performances with the Whitman Sisters
  • Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Jeni LeGon recounts the beginning of her film career
  • Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Jeni LeGon remembers her performances on Broadway and in London, England
  • Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Jeni LeGon gives an overview of her career as a performer
  • Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Jeni LeGon remembers dancer Bill 'Bojangles' Robinson
  • Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Jeni LeGon recalls her collaborations with Fats Waller
  • Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Jeni LeGon recalls her roles in 'Stormy Weather' and 'Dishonor Bright'
  • Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Jeni LeGon discusses her musical collaboration with ex-husband Phil Moore
  • Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Jeni LeGon recounts her encounters with influential dancers
  • Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Jeni LeGon recalls encountering racial discrimination in Hollywood
  • Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Jeni LeGon describes limited social interactions in Hollywood
  • Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Jeni LeGon remembers the cast of 'Amos 'n Andy'
  • Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Jeni LeGon discusses race and performance
  • Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Jeni LeGon remembers pioneer entertainers
  • Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Jeni LeGon reflects on current film and television projects
  • Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Jeni LeGon discusses cultural influences in her performances
  • Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Jeni LeGon discusses racism in the dance world
  • Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Jeni LeGon remembers her favorite dancers
  • Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Jeni LeGon discusses settling in Vancouver, British Columbia
  • Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Jeni LeGon shares her impersonations
  • Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Jeni LeGon describes her entertainment pursuits in Vancouver, British Columbia
  • Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Jeni LeGon considers her retirement options
  • Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Jeni LeGon shares her observations of African American communities
  • Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Jeni LeGon reflects on the course of her career
  • Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Jeni LeGon remembers her mother and sister
  • Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Jeni LeGon considers her legacy