Anne H. Leitch, ice skater, dies

She had performed with the Ice Capades

  • Anne H. Leitch
Anne H. Leitch
March 31, 2011|By Frederick N. Rasmussen, The Baltimore Sun | Baltimore Sun reporter

Anne H. Leitch, a former professional skater who performed during the 1930s and 1940s with Shipstads & Johnson Ice Follies and the Ice Capades, died March 20 of pneumonia at St. Agnes Hospital.

She was 94.

Anne Haroldson, who was born and raised in Duluth, Minn., began ice skating when she was 5. During the 1928 Minneapolis-St. Paul Winter Carnival, which starred world champion and Olympic skater Sonja Henie, she filled in at the last minute for a professional skater.

"Sonja would not allow any pros on the program with her," Mrs. Leitch wrote in unpublished autobiographical notes.

In 1933, when she was 15, she won the Midwestern Championship, held at the Winter Garden in St. Louis.

In 1936 when Eddie Shipstad and Oscar Johnson formed Shipstad & Johnson Ice Follies, the first professional ice show, much of the cast was drawn mainly from skaters who lived in Duluth and the Twin Cities, including Mrs. Leitch, who was hired as a soloist and earned fame skating as "The Lady in Red."

Mrs. Leitch went to Hollywood in 1939 with the Ice Follies when they performed in the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer film "The Ice Follies of 1939," which starred Joan Crawford, James Stewart, Lew Ayres and Lewis Stone.

"One of the skating scenes was the story of Cinderella, and I was chosen to be Cinderella. All of the skating was done in one-inch of water on the ice and on the screen it looked like a mirror," she wrote.

Mrs. Leitch recalled such Hollywood stars as Clark Gable, Spencer Tracy, Walter Pidgeon, Gary Cooper and Tyrone Power dropping by the set to watch the Ice Follies rehearse and perform.

After skating for three years with the Ice Follies, Mrs. Leitch left to perform with new ice shows that played in cities such as New York, Chicago, Dallas and Cincinnati, where she and a partner brought jitterbugging to the ice.

She retired from skating in the late 1940s. In 1952, she married John Clabaugh "Clay" Leitch, a paintbrush salesman, who died in 1999.

In retirement, she taught skating for several years at the Baltimore Sports Center.

Mrs. Leitch, who lived in Ten Hills for nearly 60 years, enjoyed golfing at Rolling Road Golf Club. She was a member of Ten Hills Woman's Club and the Mount Washington Garden Club.

At Mrs. Leitch's request, no services will be held.

Surviving are a son, Richard B. Bush of Wilmington, Del.; a daughter, Margaret L. Coleman of Toronto, Ohio; six grandchildren; and six great-grandchildren. An earlier marriage ended in divorce.

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