Lucille Rita Bremer (pronounced “Bray-mer”) was a film actress and dancer, particularly remembered for her work in MGM musical films. Born in Amsterdam, New York, to Richard Bremer and Sarah E. Nichols on February 21, 1917, and raised in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Bremer’s father was of German descent and worked as a barber, while her mother was of Scottish descent and worked as a homemaker. Bremer was the youngest of two children. She had an older brother named Walter, who was 11 years older than her.
When her family settled in Philadelphia, she developed a strong interest in dancing. She studied ballet as a child and later went on to dance with the Philadelphia Opera Company, sparking an appreciation for the performing arts.
As the years went on, Bremer aimed to pursue dancing professionally. She returned to New York to dance at the 1939 World’s Fair and soon secured a career as a Rockette at Radio City Music Hall by age 16. She was typically 5th from the right in the lineup, and toured with the show.
In addition to her work as a Rockette, Bremer actively sought additional dance roles, including appearances in Panama Hattie, earned a featured role in Dancing in the Streets, and the ingénue role in Lady in the Dark. At the same time, she attempted to begin a career in films. After an unsuccessful screen test for Warner Brothers, she once again turned to dance. However, her luck changed when MGM producer Arthur Freed discovered her dancing at the Copacabana and Club Versailles.
Ultimately, Freed invited Bremer to Hollywood for a screen test with MGM. There, she tested with a passage from Dark Victory (1939). She was offered a contract to showcase her talent as a dancer, soon studying acting in efforts to become a star for the Freed Unit.
After appearing in some uncredited film roles, Bremer’s big break would be as Rose Smith in Meet Me in St. Louis (1944). This appearance was followed by more work in musicals such as Ziegfeld Follies (1945), Yolanda and the Thief (1945), and Till the Clouds Roll By (1946). Though she starred in Yolanda and the Thief opposite Fred Astaire, the film was a box office failure and severely marred her rise to film stardom. Gradually, MGM ceased promoting her and she would make her final starring role in a film noir called Behind Locked Doors (1948).
Disenchanted with Hollywood, Bremer left the industry and focused on her private life. She married Abelardo “Rod” Luis Rodriguez, son of a former president of Mexico, at Catalina Island in 1940, later moving to California Sur, Mexico. The couple started a private resort called Rancho Las Cruces, in addition to the Palmilla and Hacienda Hotels in Baja. Her connection to Hollywood piqued the interest of her former film colleagues, eager to vacation in Mexico. In addition, the couple also found business partners in Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball, as well as Bing Crosby.
The couple would go on to have four children: Nicolas, Cristina, Torre Richard, and Karen Rodriguez. They divorced in 1963.
Following her divorce, Bremer moved to La Jolla, California, where she owned a clothing boutique for children. She balanced her time between La Jolla and Baja, traveling frequently, until her passing from a heart attack on April 16, 1996, at a La Jolla hospital. She was 79 years old.
Today, very few tributes or locations of relevance in relation to Bremer remain. Her 1920 home at 1135 Miller St. in Utica, New York is long-gone.
In 1940, she lived in an apartment at 307 79th St in New York, New York, which does remain today.
Bremer’s ashes were partially scattered in the Sea of Cortez as well as next to the church that she and her husband had built on the resort property. A plaque honoring Bremer as well as Desi Arnaz is affixed to the church.
While Bremer left behind a brief filmography, her work continues to entertain fans of classic Hollywood musicals.