Veteran dancer Georgie Tapps, who garnered rave reviews in George M. Cohan’s last Broadway musical, “I’d Rather Be Right,” in 1937, died of unreported causes Nov. 1 at Providence St. Joseph Medical Center in Burbank. He was 85.
Tapps, whose signature routines were Ravel’s “Bolero” and Chopin’s “Prelude in A,” was born Nov. 6, 1911, in Washington Heights, N.Y., as Mortimer Alfonse Becker. After leaving school, he took dance lessons with Ned Wayburn’s Dance Academy.
Initial forays on Broadway in 1927 included “Judy” and “Take the Air.” Tapps also appeared at Texas Guinan’s 300 Club, where he danced with Ruby Keeler and George Raft.
In 1932, he appeared in “Americana,” which was produced and written by J.P. McEvoy.
In 1937, Tapps was headlining at the popular Paradise Club in New York City when he got a call to appear in two United Artists films: “Walter Wanger’s Vogues of 1938” and “52nd Street.”
That same year, “I’d Rather Be Right,” starring Cohan, opened in Boston and received rave reviews except for its dancing.
A member of the production team who saw Tapps dance in one of the UA films recruited him for the play. Cohan loved Tapps’ dancing and virtually adopted him during the Broadway run and the subsequent tour.
In September 1941, while appearing at the Rhumba Casino in Chicago, Tapps was called to replace Gene Kelly in “Pal Joey.” It was the high point of his professional career.
More than a decade later, he appeared several times on the Ed Sullivan Show and, in 1960, President-elect Kennedy asked him to represent the U.S. in a cultural exchange program, in which Georgie Tapps and His Dancers performed in an international tour.
While semi-retired, working at a Beverly Hills haberdashery, Tapps in 1980 appeared on stage for the last time in a one-man retrospective of his career, entitled “What Ever Happened to Georgie Tapps?”
He is survived by several cousins.
Funeral services will be held at 10 a.m. Wednesday Nov. 12 at Pierce Brothers Valhalla, 10621 Victory Boulevard, North Hollywood.