Dancer Vilma Ebsen, sister of Buddy, dies at 96

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Vilma Ebsen, who danced in the film "Broadway Melody of 1936" with her brother Buddy long before he became famous on "The Beverly Hillbillies," has died. She was 96.

Vilma Ebsen, a dance instructor and co-owner of the old Ebsen School of Dancing in Pacific Palisades, died March 12 at the Thousand Oaks Health Care Center, her son Robert Dolan said.

As she grew up, she taught at her father's Orlando, Fla., dance school, then joined her brother in New York for the Broadway run of the musical "Whoopee."

They teamed up and Vilma and Buddy Ebsen were featured in the vaudeville revue "Broadway Stars of the Future." The song and dance team also appeared in the Broadway musical revue "Flying Colors," in which they introduced "A Shine on Your Shoes." They were featured in the 1934 edition of "Ziegfeld Follies," in which they sang "I Like the Likes of You."

They came to Hollywood the following year to appear in the 1935 MGM movie musical "Broadway Melody of 1936," in which the Ebsens introduced "Sing Before Breakfast" on a brownstone rooftop with Eleanor Powell. They also performed "On a Sunday Afternoon" and danced in the big "Broadway Rhythm" finale.

It was her only movie appearance.

Buddy Ebsen went on to appear in other movies and Vilma returned to New York where husband Robert Emmett Dolan was a Broadway conductor. She appeared in the musical comedy "Between the Devil," which ran on Broadway from 1937 to 1938.

Vilma and her husband moved to Pacific Palisades in 1941 with their toddler son Robert. Dolan, who became a seven-time Academy Award-nominated film composer, and Ebsen later divorced.

In 1948, she married tennis player Stanley Briggs and the couple had a a son, Michael.

Vilma Ebsen and sister Helga started the Ebsen School of Dancing in 1943, focusing on ballet and tap dancing for children. It operated until the mid-1990s.

"It really became her life," son Robert Dolan said. "She's got adoring students that go back for decades."

Vilma's brother Buddy died in 2003.

"She absolutely adored Buddy," her son said.

Besides her two sons, Vilma Ebsen is survived by two granddaughters and four great-grandchildren.

Her sons said a memorial celebration for family and friends will be held later. Instead of flowers, the family asked that donations in Ebsen's name be made to the Music Center Performing Arts Center of Los Angeles County, where money will go to fund children's dance education.
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