Meet the Montreal dancer whose flying feet landed him right into a Hollywood starring role
SOME years ago, Montrealers in the vicinity of a well-known dancing school used to be edified by the weekly spectacle of a nine-
year-old boy in kilts racing through the streets a few jumps ahead of a pursuing group of derisive children. He generally arrived at dancing school seconds ahead of his tormentors, his ears filled with insults and his soul with outrage. He was always in a hurry. He still is. He’s Montreal’s Johnny Coy, new dancing star of Paramount Studio.
Coy will soon be seen in Canada in his first picture, “Bring On the Girls,” a Technicolor production starring Veronica Lake. And studio officials, studying the first rushes, believe they have in Johnny an acrobatic dancer the equal of any in Hollywood today.
Johnny was christened John Maver Ogilvie in Montreal, the son of Mr. and Mrs. George Ogilvie. He was the only boy in a family of seven children. His parents, of Scottish blood, were anxious for him to carry on the family Highland tradition, so hè was early taught to play the bagpipes, and—at the age of nine—was sent to Carrie Biggers Dancing School in Montreal.
Johnny had to attend dancing class in kilts— that was part of the family idea too—and his subsequent rages probably established what psychologists describe as a conditioned reflex. During his formative years Johnny somehow danced his best when he was in a towering temper-.
His mother, having discovered this, used to accompany him to competitions, see that he was properly arrayed, then send him to the platform with a brisk and infuriating smack. Thus stimulated, Johnny won three gold medals in his first three competitions. Properly seasoned by four years of such contests, at the age of 13 he
won a North American championship in New York. His mother asked him to make a decision; he might continue his education through college, or he could continue his dancing studies in New York. He chose the latter.
At this point John Maver Ogilvie became Johnny Coy; reason: it sounded younger and the surname Coy (derived from the Scottish name McCoy, borne by a family of distinguished dancers) was more easily remembered and more economical on theatre marquees.
There were occasions during Johnny’s training
period when he rehearsed for eight hours a day, but this training resulted in a series of vaudeville bookings, then 3 weeks at the Copacabana, big New York night club. Mary Martin, searching for a spectacular dancer to play opposite her in “Dancing In The Streets,” saw Johnny at the Copacabana and engaged him. The play collapsed after three weeks—not for lack of talent in the cast—but because of an inferior book. However, Paramount talent scouts saw the show and signed Johnny. He arrived in Hollywood in 1943 and was put to work in “Bring On the Girls.”
Unmarried, Johnny lives in an apartment with his older sister, Molly, who keeps him in order and prepares his meals.
His personality is distinguished by a restlessness almost contagious. His legs, the implements of his success, are at once his pride and his worry. They are insured for $50,000.
Up And Over
IN SPITE of this concern, one afternoon during rehearsal he was told by a fellow actor that B, G. De Sylva (production director of Paramount) was in the audience that always gathers on a set where Johnny is dancing. Coy felt
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Local Coy Makes Good
Continued, from page 20
impelled to outdo himself. After having completed a whirling encirclement of the dance space, he terminated the spin by leaping toward the top of a grand piano. He miscalculated his distance, leaped completely over the grand piano and collapsed between a tuba and a bass viol. He sprained his ankle seriously, but De Sylva was properly impressed by the virtuosity of a man who could hurdle a piano.
Johnny’s left knee, the one on which he alights after one of his spectacular leaps, is calloused to the depth of an inch. It is, as a matter of fact, covered with scar tissue because it has blistered, bled, healed, and blistered again until it has reached shoe-leather toughness. During rehearsal he wears out the knees of a pair of trousers each week.
Because everything about this young Canadian seems particularly alive— his eyes sparkle, his smile is ready it is somewhat surprising to see him sitting quietly in a noisy group at a party. He seldom talks in a crowd. Socially,
there is one thing that irritates him: being asked to perform one of his dance specialties. Concealing his irritation behind his deceptively soft voice, he is said to have once countered such a suggestion by asking, “The gentleman I just met—the surgeon—is he going to perform an operation for us this evening?”
Another noteworthy fact about Coy is his deep devotion to his family. His telephone bill on calls to his mother in Canada amounts to $50 or $60 per month. His holiday expenditures for his family are also great. For Christmas, 1944, Johnny gave his mother a diamond wrist watch, a gift that represented long savings and some personal sacrifice.
His single theatrical handicap is his height, five feet five inches, which will make it somewhat difficult for his studio to find leading ladies for him, but this problem is counteracted by his assets; he is a dancer of breath-taking agility; he is young, so will appeal to millions of young movie-goers; his features are rugged, always a Hollywood advantage; finally, he has the competitive inclination leading toward success.
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