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biography . . .
Chapter 1: The Early Years Chapter 4: More Film Work
Chapter 2: Broadway
Chapter 5: Back to Broadway
Chapter 6: Beyond Broadway
Chapter 3: MGM
Chapter 1:  Early Years
Thomas (Tommy) Rall was born in Kansas City, MO on December 27, 1929 but moved soon thereafter to Seattle, WA.  As a child, he had a crossed eye which prevented him from spending a lot of time reading books.  His mother thought this condition would keep him from succeeding in traditional studies and enrolled him in dancing classes instead.  While still a youngster, he performed a dance and acrobatic vaudeville act in Seattle theatres and attempted small acting roles. Ultimately, however, exercises prescribed by a doctor corrected his eyesight so that he did not have trouble reading. 

In the early 1940’s, his family moved to Los Angeles, providing him an opportunity to act  in film.  His first role was at MGM in a short film about Napoleon called
Vendetta and for the few days he was there, he attended the MGM studio school with classmates Mickey Rooney and Elizabeth Taylor.  At that time, he began tap dancing lessons and became proficient enough so that his teacher was able to get him a part as a member of the jitterbugging Jivin’ Jacks and Jills at Universal Studios.  He joined dancers Donald O’Connor, Peggy Ryan and Shirley Mills in several light wartime Andrews Sisters vehicles including Give Out Sisters with Dan Dailey, Get Hep to Love and It Comes Up Love with young soprano Gloria Jean, as well as Private Buckaroo, Give Out Sisters and Always a Bridesmaid.  He went back to MGM to perform as a barely recognizable “dancing peasant” in the Russia-friendly propagandist films, The North Star and Song of Russia.

Tommy also began ballet studies, attending classes conducted by David Lichine, Adolph Bohm and Bronislava Nijinska.  This was of vital importance as Lichine was choreographer-in-chief at the Ballet Theatre (later the American Ballet Theatre) in New York City.  In 1944, Tommy was offered the opportunity to audition for the company and was accepted as a member of the corps de ballet.  At age fourteen, he moved cross-country with his mother and began honing his dancing skills with the best choreographers, dancers and teachers of the time.  Debuting as the Tyrolean Boy in Lichine’s
“Graduation Ball” at the Metropolitan Opera House, Tommy spent three and a half years with the Ballet Theatre, eventually becoming a featured soloist.  His performance repertoire included Jerome Robbins’ “Fancy Free” and “Interplay” in 1946, about which, John Martin in the New York Times stated that “young Tommy Rall…developing into a first rate performer, came off with the lion’s share of the honors.”

                                                                 to...Chapter 2: Broadway
photo by Valente
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