Saturday, 23 December 2017

Cousins of Some Fame

Do you have any film-related Christmas traditions? We have faithfully watched Hogfather every Christmas for about a decade. Or rather Bill has, it tends to put me to sleep for some reason. Anyhow, I fought back by obtaining White Christmas.  (Also, I finally got him to watch Love Actually and he Actually decided he Loved it, which was a nice surprise.)

Anyhow, I thought I spotted the name Robert Altman in the White Christmas credits. As Hogfather (part I) began I grabbed my laptop and tried to find out how Robert Altman (of M.A.S.H. and Gosford Park fame) was involved with White Christmas.  Turned out he wasn't, the name was in fact Alton, not Altman, and I lost interest.

But then I Googled Vera Ellen, given that Mom was always a major fan and it sort of rubbed off on me. I was electrified to read that the first husband of Vera Ellen was named Robert Hightower. It was also moderately interesting that her second husband was Victor Rothschild of the Jewish Banking Family Rothschild. Only moderately because I'm not related to the Rothschild's, so far as I know, chance would be a fine thing... I am, however, a Hightower, or rather my great-grandmother was. 

It is generally agreed amongst Hightower genealogists that all the Hightowers in the US descend from a Joshua Hightower who left England for the Virginia colony in the mid-1600's. I looked at people who were DNA matches for me and/or four other maternal cousins who are Hightowers. There were 300-some DNA matches who had the name Hightower in their family tree. I could trace - in a rough & ready sort of way using other people's family trees - them all back to Joshua. So I'm ready to claim any Hightower as a cousin (even if it is 11th Cousin or something silly). 

So who was this Robert Hightower who was married to Vera Ellen? I can show you a photo of him on his second marriage (to yet another dancer).  I'm still researching what I can document about his life and there are some rather sad stories (I've never claimed to have a 'normal' family). However, it seems that he also had a brother and a sister who were successful dancers, though not on the scale of Vera Ellen.  More about them later.

And then, looking for one Hightower dancer, I found yet another, one I should have known about as she was from Oklahoma. If you wish, you can watch Rosella Hightower dancing. I think she is absolute magic!

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