Vilma Ebsen, who danced in the film “Broadway Melody of 1936” with her brother Buddy long before he became famous on “The Beverly Hillbillies,” died March 12 in Thousand Oaks, Calif. She was 96.
Vilma Ebsen was a dance instructor and co-owner of the former Ebsen School of Dancing in Pacific Palisades, Calif.
As she grew up, she taught at her father’s Orlando, Florida, dance school, then joined her brother in New York for the Broadway run of the musical “Whoopee.”
They teamed up, and were featured in the vaudeville revue “Broadway Stars of the Future.” The song- and-dance team of Vilma and Buddy Ebsen also appeared in the Broadway musical revue “Flying Colors,” in which they introduced “A Shine on Your Shoes,” and were featured in the 1934 edition of “Ziegfeld Follies,” in which they sang “I Like the Likes of You.”
They came to Hollywood the following year to appear in the 1935 MGM movie musical “Broadway Melody of 1936,” in which the Ebsens introduced “Sing Before Breakfast” on a brownstone rooftop with Eleanor Powell. They also performed “On a Sunday Afternoon” and danced in the big “Broadway Rhythm” finale.
It was her only movie appearance.
Buddy Ebsen went on to appear in other movies and Vilma returned to New York where husband Robert Emmett Dolan was a Broadway conductor. She appeared in the musical comedy “Between the Devil,” which ran on Broadway from 1937 to 1938.
Vilma and her husband moved to Pacific Palisades in 1941 with their toddler son Robert. Dolan, who became a seven-time Academy Award-nominated film composer, and Ebsen later divorced.
In 1948, she married tennis player Stanley Briggs and the couple had a a son, Michael.
Vilma Ebsen and her sister Helga started the Ebsen School of Dancing in 1943, focusing on ballet and tap dancing for children. It operated until the mid-1990s.
“It really became her life,” son Robert Dolan said. “She’s got adoring students that go back for decades.”
Vilma’s brother Buddy, who played the role of Jed Clampett in the 1960’s hit TV comedy “The Beverly Hillbillies,” died in 2003.