Dean Collins



With so much talk about him, I thought him having his own
thread to only appropriate! I'm interested to hear what
you all know about him, or have seen him dance in, or
any questions or more info that pops up from everyone.

This is a biography from the California Historical Jazz Dance
Foundation, I thought it a suitable way to start off. Please visit
their website for even more information, the links are
included below as reference rights.

Dean Collins

Born as Saul Cohen in Columbus, Ohio on May 29th
1917 he grew up in Newark, New Jersey where he
began dancing at the age 14 with his two older sisters.
Along with many other young Jewish and Italian early
teenagers, he was soon attracted by the dance styles
coming out of Harlem, which inevitably propelled him
on his way to the Savoy Ballroom. By then an avid
enthusiast he danced everywhere he could, especially
to the Jimmy Lunceford band, which he was a devoted
fan of.

Saul recalled Young people in those days took their
dancing very seriously. They spent a lot of time with
their partners, learned the steps, invented new ones.
It was more than a hobby; it was a real passion. He
must have made rapid progress, for he became the
"New Yorker" magazine's dancer of the year in 1935,
at the age of 18. It is said that he entered the first and
second Harvest Moon Ball competitions, in 1935 and
1936 but no record of his participation has surfaced so

Saul's curiosity on the history of swing dancing caused
him to explore it roots, thus he traveled from NY to
New Orleans in 1937 where he claimed he discovered
that this was actually the birthplace of "Swing Dancing."
Saul landed a job performing with an Orchestra (at this
time it is not clear which orchestra, there have been a
couple different ones mentioned) and the job took him
to Los Angeles. Apparently Saul thought his Jewish
name would limit his ability to find work and when he
came across a wallet someone had dropped he used it
for his new name, Dean Collins.

Totally broke he moved into the back of a drive-in diner
called Simons located on the corner of Wilshire Blvd and
La Brea, where he did janitorial duties and hung out. The
owner of Simons was Danny Apple who owned a number
of Night Clubs and was able to help Dean out with small
gigs and such to get by. From here he started venturing
out to various ballrooms. The places Dean was
remembered for frequenting around Los Angeles were
the Diana Ballroom, the Tuesday night hot spot and
Casino Gardens, the Sunday night spot for the best

In 1938 Dean met Johnny Archer who became a life long
friend and the two became room mates in Venice Beach
on the corners of Venice and Hoover. Also at this time
Dean got together with two dancers by the name Jack
Maddis and Bill Alcorn, whom he taught and performed
with for a short while. He got his first lucky break in
1939 when RKO called him for an interview. He showed
up for what he thought would be an $11 a day extra job,
and walking away with a $100 a day job to choreograph
the dance sequences in "Let's Make Music," which came
out in 1940. This started his long career dancing in
small bit dance scenes, making him one of the most
filmed "Lindy Hoppers" on the movie screen.

Dean was most famous dancing with Jewel McGowan,
who was the most popular female dancer in Los Angeles.
When I've talked to "Old Timers," Jewel's name almost
always comes up as the best that ever lived. Dean and
Jewel were partners for 11 years, she is can be seen in
"Pot o' Gold" (James Stewart, 1941.) Dean's style was
different from the other dancers in his era, as in the
movie "Hellzapoppin" (1941). While the world famous
"Whitey's Lindy Hoppers" performed an awesome routine,
earlier in the movie Dean socially dances to "Watch the
Birdie," and takes Martha Ray for a spin! Dean had great
dance musicality, as seen in "Chool Song" (3/23/42),
"Buck Privates" (1941), and many, many others. His air
steps were very precise and normally always an 8 count
pattern which was unusual for the time. Check out "Ride
'Em Cowboy" (1942), "Springtime In The Rockies" (1942),
and "Lets Make Music" (1940).

Dean was also a talented choreographer who did a
wonderful job on movies such as "Let's Make Music"
(1940) and "Junior Prom" (1945). Dean's personal touch
was great to see in the movie "The Powers Girl." Here he
dances in the rain with an umbrella to Benny Goodman's
Orchestra. He actually leads with the umbrella handle,
not touching Jewels hand. Although few people were doing
the Lindy Hop in Los Angeles before Dean arrived, it was
Dean who brought the formula of the Lindy Hop from the
Savoy Ballroom. Dean was without a doubt a technician of
dance, who not only had the dance broken down into it's
various patterns but was also able to teach it. At a time
when Lindy Hop was street dance and the only way to learn
was through trial and error practice, Dean Collins was an
influential pioneer in the field of Lindy Hop instruction which
started in the 1930's. Mary Collins told me that Dean's love
was really in teaching, he had hundreds of students across
the country but his more famous students were Shirley
Temple, Ronald Coleman, Cesar Romero, Abbot and
Costello, Patti Andrews, Joan Crawford and yes . . . he gave
private lessons to Arthur Murray!

Dean Collins was, and still is possibly the most influential
swing dancer that ever lived, who danced till the day he left
us, leaving behind his stamp on the world of swing dancing.

The California Historical Jazz Dance Foundation is the home
of the Dean Collins archive and collection.

© California Historical Jazz Dance Foundation

Thank you! this has been really interesting reading. I'll have to look up other names I should know. I haven't been dancing long and I already should know more than I do!

Dean was certainly a very influential dancer he touched thousands upon thousands of dancers both in the Golden Age of Swing in the 40's and in this new renaissance.

The bio we have up on CallJazzDance is of course just a snapshot of Dean's life in the Lindy Hop. We are working on gathering and editing more information for the web site. My current two projects arethe solo jazz dances and expanding the information on the Texas Tommy. However we all get so busy with just the collection and archiving of information that the web site updates tend to be infrequent. I'll see if I have anything Dean related that I think needs to get put up.

Steve Pastor

Staff member
Time for some Jewel McGowan facts:

She was born on March 30, 1921 in San Francisco County to a father from Oklahoma and a mother from Michigan, but by the time she was 9 was living in Los Angeles, where she attended Belmont High School.

Her middle name was Eleanor.

She married "soundman" Klarence Frederick Krone in 1947. "Truck" Krone went on to become a lighting director and was awarded a Primetime Emmy in 1972.

She passed away in 1962.

Hug a librarian, say, Sean Dixon, for helping me find this information.

Steve Pastor

Staff member
I don't plan to turn this into the Dean and Jewel film clips thread, but I just saw this one for the first time.

See why you shouldn't do aerials in a social setting?

Steve Pastor

Staff member
It's easy to find the broad outlines of Dean's career on the web.
Peter Loggins has been the main contributor to those efforts.
As, usual, though, I like to dig deeper to try and fill in the details, and figure out what is verifiable, and what has been conjured up by whoever to fill in the broad outlines. One example is that the film that clip is taken from was actually playing in December, 1941.
Another is that Dean's original name was Solomon Ruddosky.
And I'm about as sure as I can be that he was born in Cleveland, not Columbus, although his family was in Newark by the time he was three.

There are three interviews with Dean that I know of, that have details about his career, and Lauré Haile has some information about him in her book that I was lucky enough to acquire. (Well, I pretty much pounced on it when I saw it was for available.)
Dean told Kenny Wetzel (in a clip on youTube) that he first arrived in LA in 1936. There, he doesn't mention how long it took him to get someone to dance with him, but says that he won a contest with a girl from New York, and she knew a little bit about Lindy hop. And some people were impressed "And the first thing you know kind of a clique formed."
Although Dean was dancing in contests in the area, and, he told Joe Lanza, performing at the Palamar (sic) for 18 weeks, he didn't get a movie job until the fall of 1940 when RKO hired him for 14 days to choreograph the dances for the film “Let’s Make Music”.
Since this film came out in December of the following year, I'd guess that lots of LA dancers knew who he was by then. But, they probably didn't know how famous he would become.

Steve Pastor

Staff member
I suppose this one could be filed under the "What made you smile today?" thread, but I found it looking in a
City Directory in researching Dean's history.
The year was 1917 and the place was Cleveland, Ohio.


Drink Erin Brew Brewed and Bottled by
Ehren Brau The Standard Brewing Co., Cleveland
Direct Through Government Pipe Line.

Steve Pastor

Staff member
Jewel was secretary of the National Jitterbug Association in 1941.
(at least according to one published account)
Who knew?

The young dancing lady was snapped up by the movies last Summer while demonstrating her skill before the national jitterbug convention. (which was really in June of 1939)

Steve Pastor

Staff member
Dean's social security application lists Cleveland as his birth place. So now there is no doubt about the city in Ohio where he was born.
He used the name Sol Rudy for his filing, and was working at 60 Park Place in Newark. He listed the same house his family was living as his place of residence. Now there is no doubt that he didn't stay in LA after first going there in 1936.
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Steve Pastor

Staff member
I was also able to determine that Sol was working for a New York City area chain that could be described as a department store. This is interesting, because in 1938 they opened a new store in Brooklyn. Solomon was still listed at the same residence as his family in 1938, but... The 1940 census lists Brooklyn as the former residence of Dean Collins. I'm pretty sure it's THAT Dean Collins in Los Angeles because the listed occupation is dance teacher, and he was at the same address as someone with whom he was known to be friends. There's another interesting wrinkle here, and I'm trying to find more information.

Steve Pastor

Staff member
It's "official" now. Dean and Jewel first appeared on film in the Soundie, "Hold That Tiger," not Dean in "Let's Make Music," or Jewel in "Pot o Gold," which were filmed months later, and with Dean and Jewel each dancing with other partners.

It's fair to note, though, that their 10 seconds on screen in "Hold That Tiger" as 2 of the Six Jitterbugs, were in a 3 minute Soundie, not a "full length" film.

Steve Pastor

Staff member
OK, DF. You get this first before I paste it into Wikipedia.

I think I posted something about this before, thinking it was the Betty Grable film.

Looks to me like Dean and the other guys are doing "jazz dance" moves rather than hula.


Steve Pastor

Staff member
I've actually been going through all the pre Dean on film swing scenes I can find, to see what was around before he was filmed.
But, we know that Astaire and Hayworth were doing it in '42.

I THINK it was a standard way? before that, but maybe just with pros.
I'll be looking for confirmation...

Jazz Dance by Stearns p 323..
"For example, the Shorty George, a step which was well known in Harlem, I just made it up during a breakaway in the Lindy. They also called it the Sabu... " Shorty Snowden
But, he doesn't really say WHEN it was well know in Harlem, and says nothing about how widely dispersed it was.
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Steve Pastor

Staff member
How about this?

"Now it's the Shorty George that come into the terpischorean limelight....I'm just crazy to get down to Old Orchard to see the gay girls dance the Shorty George."

Biddeford Daily Journal May 31, 1929 p 14 !!! (Maine)

Steve Pastor

Staff member
Then, in 1940 Arthur Murray imports Harlem steppers to introduce the new terpsicraze, "Shorty George and His Brother Joe," in Hollywood night spots.


Well-Known Member
I've actually been going through all the pre Dean on film swing scenes I can find, to see what was around before he was filmed.
But, we know that Astaire and Hayworth were doing it in '42.

I THINK it was a standard way? before that, but maybe just with pros.
I'll be looking for confirmation...

Jazz Dance by Stearns p 323..
"For example, the Shorty George, a step which was well known in Harlem, I just made it up during a breakaway in the Lindy. They also called it the Sabu... " Shorty Snowden
But, he doesn't really say WHEN it was well know in Harlem, and says nothing about how widely dispersed it was.

Ive seen the movie ( several times ), and just now, thought about RHs dancing. She never got enough cred.

Steve Pastor

Staff member
Jewel McGowan, elected jitterbug queen of American (sic) in a recent contest, who played in the Jolson Story and other pictures is vacationing with her husband, T. Krone, sounds effect man at Columbia
May 1949

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