Sally Rand

Sally Rand

Born Helen Harriet Beck
April 3, 1904(1904-04-03)
Hickory County, Missouri, U.S. Died August 31, 1979 (aged 75)
Glendora, California, U.S. Other names Billie Beck Occupation Burlesque dancer
Actress Years active 1925–1979 Spouse(s) Clarence Robbins (?–?)
Thurkel Greenough (1941–?)
Harry Finkelstein (1949–1950)
Fred Lalla (1954–?)

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Sally Rand (April 3, 1904 [1] – August 31, 1979) was a burlesque dancer and actress, most noted for her ostrich feather fan dance and balloon bubble dance. She also performed under the name Billie Beck.


Helen Harriet Beck was born in Hickory County, Missouri. During the 1920s, she acted on stage and appeared in silent films. Cecil B. DeMille gave her the name Sally Rand, inspired by a Rand McNally atlas. She was selected as one of the WAMPAS Baby Stars in 1927. After the introduction of sound film, she became a dancer, known for the fan dance, which she popularized starting at the Paramount Club. Her most famous appearance was at the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair entitled Century of Progress. She had been arrested four times in a single day during the fair due to perceived indecent exposure while riding a white horse down the streets of Chicago, but the nudity was only an illusion. She also conceived and developed the bubble dance, in part to cope with wind while performing outdoors. She performed the fan dance on film in Bolero, released in 1934.[citation needed]In 1936, she purchased The Music Box burlesque hall in San Francisco, which would later become the Great American Music Hall. She starred in “Sally Rand’s Nude Ranch” at the Golden Gate International Exposition in San Francisco in 1939 and 1940.[2]She appeared on television in 1957, on an episode of To Tell the Truth with host Bud Collyer and panelists Polly Bergen, Ralph Bellamy, Kitty Carlisle, and Carl Reiner. She did not “stump the panel” but was correctly identified by all four panelists. She continued to appear on stage doing her fan dance into the 1960s. Rand once replaced Ann Corio in the stage show, This Was Burlesque, during the 1960s. Rand appeared at the Mitchell Brothers in San Francisco in the early 1970s. Later, she appeared with Tempest Storm and Blaze Starr.[citation needed]

She died in 1979 in Glendora, California, aged 75, from undisclosed causes.

  • In Tex Avery‘s cartoon Hollywood Steps Out (1941), a rotoscoped Rand performs her famous bubble dance onstage to an appreciative crowd. A grinning Peter Lorre caricature in the front row comments, “I haven’t seen such a beautiful bubble since I was a child.” The routine continues until the bubble is suddenly popped by Harpo Marx and his slingshot, with a surprised Rand (her nudity covered by a well-placed wooden barrel) reacting with shock. Rand is referred to as “Sally Strand” here.
  • Sally Rand and her 1933 World’s Fair fan-dance were mentioned in the 1972 episode of The Waltons entitled “The Carnival”. She was the model of several characters in Robert A. Heinlein‘s stories, such as the Mary-Lou Martin of “Let There Be Light“.[citation needed]
  • Rand was also included in Heinlein’s final book, To Sail Beyond The Sunset, as a friend of main character, Maureen Johnson Long, mother of Lazarus Long.
  • In the 1979 book The Right Stuff, the author Tom Wolfe described Sally Rand fan-dancing for the first American astronauts and other dignitaries and referred to the astronauts observing this sixtyish woman’s “ancient haunches”. In the 1983 film version of The Right Stuff, Rand was portrayed by actress Peggy Davis.
  • A fictionalized version of Rand appeared in Toni Dove‘s interactive cinema project,

Spectropia, played by Helen Pickett of the Wooster Group.

  • In the 1936 Merrie Melodie cartoon Page Miss Glory, a robustly proportioned matron performs a parody of Rand’s fan dance.


  • The Dressmaker from Paris (1925)
  • The Texas Bearcat (1925)
  • The Road to Yesterday (1925)
  • Braveheart (1925)
  • Bachelor Brides (1926)
  • Sunny Side Up (1926)
  • Gigolo (1926)
  • Man Bait (1927)
  • The Night of Love (1927)
  • Getting Gertie’s Garter (1927)
  • The Yankee Clipper (1927)
  • The King of Kings (1927)
  • His Dog (1927)
  • The Fighting Eagle (1927)
  • Galloping Fury (1927)
  • Heroes in Blue (1927)
  • A Woman Against the World (1928)
  • Crashing Through (1928)
  • Nameless Men (1928)
  • A Girl in Every Port (1928)
  • Golf Widows (1928)
  • Black Feather (1928)
  • The Sign of the Cross (1932)
  • Hotel Variety (1933)
  • Bolero (1934)
  • The Sunset Murder Case (1938)

Short Subjects:

  • The Czarina’s Secret (1928)

  • ^ Born April 3, 1904 per SSDI under the name Helen Beck; SS#349-10-3000. According to the 1920 U.S. census, her parents were William F. and Lillie Beck, and she had a younger brother, Harold; the family was then residing in Jackson County, Missouri, not Hickory County.
  • ^ “Sally Rand and The Music Box”, Virtual Museum of San Francisco
    • Knox, Holly. Sally Rand From Films to Fans. Published by Maverick Publications (1988); ISBN# 0892881720


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