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Mable Lee (1921–2019), tap-dancing "Queen of the Soundies"

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Star of musical short films and Broadway shows

Mable Lee was the "Queen of the Soundies," a dancer and singer who delighted 1940s audiences in more than 100 musical short films that were designed to be played on jukeboxes in nightclubs and restaurants. Lee's "million dollar legs" made her a tap-dancing star, and her success outlived that of the soundies. She traveled with the first all-black USO troupe during World War II, and after the war, she had a decades-long career in Broadway. She was inducted into the Tap Dance Hall of Fame in 2008, and she continued to dance until the last years of her life.

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Died: February 7, 2019 (Who else died on February 7?)

Details of death: Died in New York City at the age of 97.


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Cover girl: Lee's fame was at its peak in the postwar years. She was so popular that she was chosen to grace the cover of Ebony magazine's March 1947 issue.

Notable quote: “I have thought of myself as a star since I was about 15.” —Lee in a 1978 interview with the Atlanta Constitution

What people said about her: “She made a way for herself, and paved a way for others. She was a lover of life, but she took no tea for anybody's fever.” —Dancer Beverly Moore

“In a culture with so much vulgarity, she showed us how sexuality could be funny and tasteful.” —Tap dancer Michelle Dorrance, a member of Lee's Dancing Ladies chorus line

Full obituary: New York Times

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