Dorothy Putnam was born in Massachusetts in 1895. As a young woman, Putnam moved to Los Angeles, where she developed an interest in automobiles. In 1918, she became the first licensed female chauffeur in California, her clients including Carole Lombard, Clark Gable and Charlie Chaplin. She also won a number of driving contests in L.A. during the 1920s.
In the 1930s Dorothy met her lifelong partner Lois Mercer. They both served in the Air Force during WW2 and moved into a Los Angeles apartment together after the war. Louis became a bookkeeper and Dorothy started working for the LA Sheriff’s Department. They stayed together for the rest of their lives.
Louis died in 1989 at the age of 94, Dorothy less than two years later at the age of 95. They were together for over 50 years.
screen couples: Fred Astaire & Eleanor Powell: Broadway Melody of 1940
“She ‘put ‘em down like a man’ no ricky-ticky-sissy stuff with Ellie. She really knocked out a tap dance in a class by herself. […] I had 29 dance partners… I could hold my own with 28 of them..I met my match with Ellie. No male dancer can keep up with her and it was apparent to me she should be featured in solos.”