Bea Arthur

BeatriceBeaArthur (May 13, 1922 – April 25, 2009), born Bernice Frankel, was an American actress, comedian and singer whose career spanned seven decades. Arthur achieved fame as the character Maude Findlay on the 1970s sitcoms All in the Family and Maude, and as Dorothy Zbornak on the 1980s sitcom The Golden Girls, winning Emmy Awards for both roles. A stage actress both before and after her television success, she won the Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical for her performance as Vera Charles in the original cast of Mame (1966). Arthur was born Bernice Frankel to Jewish[1] parents Philip and Rebecca Frankel in New York City on May 13, 1922.[2] In 1933 her family moved to Cambridge, Maryland, where her parents operated a women’s clothing shop. She attended Linden Hall High School, an all girls school in Lititz, Pennsylvania, before enrolling in the now-defunct Blackstone College for Girls in Blackstone, Virginia, where she was active in drama productions. From 1947, Bea Arthur studied at the Dramatic Workshop of The New School in New York with German director Erwin Piscator. Arthur began her acting career as a member of an off Broadway theater group at the Cherry Lane Theatre in New York City in the late 1940s. On stage, her roles included Lucy Brown in the 1954 Off-Broadway premiere of Marc Blitzstein‘s English-language adaptation of Kurt Weill‘s Threepenny Opera, Yente the Matchmaker in the 1964 premiere of Fiddler on the Roof on Broadway, and a 1966 Tony Award-winning portrayal of Vera Charles to Angela Lansbury‘s Mame. She reprised the role in the 1974 film version opposite Lucille Ball. In 1981, she appeared in Woody Allen‘s The Floating Light Bulb.[3] She made her debut at the Metropolitan Opera in 1994 portraying the Duchess of Krakenthorp, a speaking role, in Gaetano Donizetti‘s La fille du régiment.[4]

Angela Lansbury and Bea Arthur doing the classic duet from Mame

In 1971, Arthur was invited by Norman Lear to guest-star on his sitcom All in the Family, as Maude Findlay, the cousin of Edith Bunker. An outspoken liberal feminist, Maude was the antithesis to the bigoted, conservative Archie Bunker, who decried her as a “New Deal fanatic”. Then nearly 50, Arthur’s tart turn appealed to viewers and to executives at CBS, who, she would later recall, asked “‘Who is that girl? Let’s give her her own series.'”[5]

That show, previewed in her second All in the Family appearance, would be simply titled Maude. The show, debuting in 1972, would find her living in the affluent community of Tuckahoe, Westchester County, New York, with her husband Walter (Bill Macy) and divorced daughter Carol (Adrienne Barbeau). Her performance in the role garnered Arthur several Emmy and Golden Globe nominations, including her Emmy win in 1977 for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series.

Bea Arthur with Madam

It would also earn a place for her in the history of the women’s liberation movement.[6] The groundbreaking series didn’t shirk from addressing serious sociopolitical topics of the era that were fairly taboo for a sitcom, from the Vietnam War, the Nixon Administration and Maude’s bid for a Congressional seat to divorce, menopause, drug use, alcoholism, nervous breakdown and spousal abuse. A prime example, “Maude’s Dilemma”, was a two-part episode in which Maude’s character grapples with a late-life pregnancy, ultimately deciding to have an abortion. The episode aired two months before the U.S. Supreme Court legalized the procedure in the Roe v. Wade decision.[7] Though abortion was legal in New York State, it was illegal in many regions of the country and so controversial that dozens of affiliates refused to broadcast the episode. A reported 65 million viewers watched the two episodes either in their first run that November or the following summer as a re-run.[8] By 1978, however, Arthur decided to move on from the series.

Bea Arthur’s real life adopted son, Matthew Saks, appears as Cop #2 (the shorter one, without the mustache).

That year, she costarred in The Star Wars Holiday Special, in which she had a song and dance routine in the Mos Eisley Cantina. She hosted The Beatrice Arthur Special on CBS on January 19, 1980, which paired the star in a musical comedy revue with Rock Hudson, Melba Moore and Wayland Flowers and Madame.[9]

After appearing in the short-lived 1983 sitcom Amanda’s (an adaptation of the British series Fawlty Towers), Arthur was cast in the sitcom The Golden Girls in 1985, in which she played Dorothy Zbornak, a divorced substitute teacher living in a Miami house owned by Blanche Devereaux (Rue McClanahan). Her other roommates included widow Rose Nylund (Betty White) and Dorothy’s Sicilian mother, Sophia Petrillo (Estelle Getty). Getty was actually a year younger than Arthur in real life, and was heavily made up to look significantly older. The Arthur also sporadically appeared in films, reprising her stage role as Vera Charles in the 1974 film adaption of Mame, opposite Lucille Ball. Additionally, Arthur portrayed overbearing mother Bea Vecchio in Lovers and Other Strangers (1970), and had a cameo as a Roman unemployment clerk in Mel BrooksHistory of the World, Part 1 (1981).

Here Bea kids with Jerry Herman and sings the song that stopped the show every night.

After Arthur left The Golden Girls, she made several guest appearances on television shows and organized and toured in her one-woman show, alternately titled An Evening with Bea Arthur and And Then There’s Bea. She made a guest appearance on the American cartoon Futurama, in the Emmy-nominated episode “Amazon Women in the Mood“, as the voice of the Femputer who ruled the giant Amazonian women. She also appeared in an episode of Malcolm in the Middle as Mrs. White, Dewey’s babysitter, in a first-season episode. She was nominated for an Emmy for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series for her performance. She also appeared as Larry David‘s mother on Curb Your Enthusiasm.

Golden Girl Greatest Moments

In 2002, she returned to Broadway starring in Bea Arthur on Broadway: Just Between Friends, a collection of stories and songs (with musician Billy Goldenberg) based on her life and career. The show was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Special Theatrical Event. The previous year had been the category’s first, and there had been only one nominee. That year, Arthur was up against solo performances by soprano Barbara Cook, comedian John Leguizamo, and Arthur’s fellow student in Piscator’s program at The New School, actress Elaine Stritch, who won for Elaine Stritch: At Liberty.

In addition to appearing in a number of programs looking back at her own work, Arthur performed in stage and television tributes for Jerry Herman, Bob Hope, Peggy Lee, and Ellen DeGeneres. In 2005, she participated in the Comedy Central roast of Pamela Anderson, where she recited explicit passages from Anderson’s book Starstruck. In 1999, Arthur told an interviewer of the three influences in her career: Sid Caesar taught me the outrageous; [method acting guru] Lee Strasberg taught me what I call reality; and [original Threepenny Opera star] Lotte Lenya, whom I adored, taught me economy.”[10]

Arthur was married twice, first to Robert Alan Aurthur, a screenwriter, television, and film producer and director, whose surname she took and kept (though with a modified spelling), and second to director Gene Saks from 1950 to 1978 with whom she had two sons, Matthew (born in 1961), an actor, and Daniel (born in 1964), a set designer.

Bea Arthur’s Last Performance

In 1972 she moved to the Greater Los Angeles Area and sublet her apartment on Central Park West in New York City and her country home in Bedford, New York.[11]

Arthur was a committed animal rights activist and frequently supported People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals campaigns. Arthur joined PETA in 1987 after a Golden Girls anti-fur episode.[12] Arthur wrote letters, made personal appearances and placed ads against the use of furs, foie gras, and farm animal cruelty by KFC suppliers. She appeared on Judge Judy as a witness for an animal rights activist, and, along with Pamela Anderson insisted on a donation to PETA in exchange for appearing on Comedy Central. [13]

Arthur’s longtime championing of civil rights for women, the elderly, and the Jewish & LGBT communities—in her two television roles and through her charity work and personal outspokenness—has led her to be cited as an LGBT icon.[14][15][16]

I loved her! I miss her! Enjoy…..

Arthur died at her home in the Greater Los Angeles Area in the early morning hours of Saturday, April 25, 2009. She had been ill from cancer,[10][17][18] and her body was cremated after her death.[19]

On April 28, 2009, the Broadway community paid tribute to Arthur by dimming the marquees of New York City’s Broadway theater district in her memory for one minute at 8:00 P.M.[20][21]

Arthur’s co-stars from The Golden Girls, Rue McClanahan and Betty White, commented on her death via telephone on an April 27 episode of Larry King Live[22][23] as well as other news outlets such as ABC.[24] Longtime friends Adrienne Barbeau (with whom she had worked on Maude) and Angela Lansbury (with whom she had worked in Mame) released amicable statements: Barbeau said, “We’ve lost a unique, incredible talent. No one could deliver a line or hold a take like Bea and no one was more generous or giving to her fellow performers”;[25] and Lansbury said, “She became and has remained my Bosom Buddy […] I am deeply saddened by her passing, but also relieved that she is released from the pain”.[26]

Arthur bequeathed $300,000 to The Ali Forney Center, a New York City organization that provides housing for homeless LGBT youths.[27] [28]

Arthur won the American Theatre Wing‘s Tony Award in 1966 as Best Featured Actress in a Musical for her performance that year as Vera Charles in the original Broadway production of Jerry Herman‘s musical Mame.

Bea’s Final Interview

Arthur has received the most Emmy nominations for Leading Actress in a Comedy Series with 9. She later received the Academy of Television Arts & SciencesEmmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series twice, once in 1977 for Maude and again in 1988 for The Golden Girls.[29] She was inducted into the Academy’s Hall of Fame in 2008.[30]

On June 8, 2008, The Golden Girls was awarded the Pop Culture award at the Sixth Annual TV Land Awards. Arthur (in one of her final public appearances) accepted the award with co-stars Rue McClanahan and Betty White.[31]

Quick Bio Facts:

Bea Arthur

Bea ArthurAKA Bernice Frankel

Born: 13-May1922
Birthplace: New York City
Died: 25-Apr2009
Location of death: Los Angeles, CA
Cause of death: Cancer – Lung
Remains: Cremated

Gender: Female
Religion: Jewish
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Actor

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Maude and The Golden Girls

Bea Arthur first studied to become a medical lab technician, but found hospital work tedious. After a brief marriage to Robert Alan Aurthur (who later wrote Grand Prix for James Garner), she enrolled in a drama workshop, where her classmates included Harry Belafonte, Marlon Brando, and Gene Saks. Arthur and Saks were soon married, and he went on to a lengthy career as a Broadway director, and also directed several films. The husky-voiced Arthur appeared in amateur plays and got good notices, eventually working her way into paid performances and making her Broadway debut at 28, in a 1954 production of The Threepenny Opera with Charlotte Rae and John Astin. In the 1960s, she appeared in the original Broadway productions of Fiddler on the Roof with Zero Mostel and Mame with Angela Lansbury, for which Arthur won a Tony.

Her first TV appearance was a 1951 episode of Kraft Television Theatre, and her first regular work was on Caesar’s Hour, Sid Caesar‘s mid-1950s sketch comedy show. In the 1970s, she starred as the title character in Maude, a once-widowed, twice-divorced, remarried and very outspoken woman with a quick wit. Unlike most sitcoms then and now, Maude dealt with real-world issues from abortion to hysterectomies. Arthur was Emmy-nominated five years, but won just once.

In the 1980s, she roared back with the sitcom The Golden Girls, with Betty White, Rue McClanahan, and Estelle Getty. Much to Arthur’s surprise, the show was a hit. “I cannot believe what has happened with this show,” she said when the first ratings came in. “They’re telling us it’s a hit! And for the first time we’re seeing three older women who look good, dress well, live well and are bright. They’re not pushing wheelchairs. And they’re not playing crazed matriarchs of horrible families”. The program also won Arthur a second Emmy.

Father: Philip Frankel (owned a department store)
Mother: Rebecca Frankel (b. 1902, d. 1986)
Husband: Robert Alan Aurthur (b. 1922, div., d. 1978, author)
Husband: Gene Saks (Broadway director, b. 1921, m. 28-May-1950, div. 1978, two sons)
Son: Matthew Saks (adopted, actor, b. 14-Jul-1961)
Son: Daniel Saks (adopted, set designer, b. 8-May-1964)

High School: Linden Hall High School, Lititz, PA
University: Blackstone College, Blackstone, VA
University: Franklin Institute of Science and Arts

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

The Golden Girls Dorothy Zbornak (1985-92)
Maude Maude Findlay (1972-78)
All in the Family Maude Findlay (1971-72)
Caesar’s Hour Regular (1956-57)

For Better or Worse (18-Feb-1996)
The Star Wars Holiday Special (17-Nov-1978)
Mame (27-Mar-1974)
Lovers and Other Strangers (12-Aug-1970)

Sources: Wikipedia, YouTube,,,

Fanny Brice


Fanny Brice (October 29, 1891 – May 29, 1951) was a popular and influential American illustrated song “model,” comedienne, singer, theatre and film actress, who made many stage, radio and film appearances and is known as the creator and star of the top-rated radio comedy series, The Baby Snooks Show. Thirteen years after her death, she was portrayed on the Broadway stage by Barbra Streisand in the musical Funny Girl and its 1968 film adaptation.

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Fanny Brice (occasionally spelled Fannie Brice) was the stage name of Fania Borach, born in New York City, the third child of relatively well-off saloon owners of Hungarian Jewish descent.

In 1908, Brice dropped out of school to work in a burlesque revue, and two years later she began her association with Florenz Ziegfeld, headlining his Ziegfeld Follies from 1910 into the 1930s. In the 1921 Follies, she was featured singing “My Man” which became both a big hit and her signature song. She made a popular recording of it for Victor Records.

The second song most associated with Brice is “Second Hand Rose,” which she introduced in the Ziegfeld Follies of 1921.

She recorded nearly two dozen record sides for Victor and also cut several for Columbia. She is a posthumous recipient of a Grammy Hall of Fame Award for her 1921 recording of “My Man”.

Brice’s Broadway credits include Fioretta, Sweet and Low, and Billy Rose‘s Crazy Quilt. Her films include My Man (1928), Be Yourself! (1930) and Everybody Sing (1938) with Judy Garland. Brice, Ray Bolger and Harriet Hoctor were the only original Ziegfeld performers to portray themselves in The Great Ziegfeld (1936) and Ziegfeld Follies (1946). For her contribution to the motion picture industry, she has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at MP 6415 Hollywood Boulevard.

Fanny sings her trademark song on the show Good News, “My Man” 1938

From the 1930s until her death in 1951, Fanny made a radio presence as a bratty toddler named Snooks, a role she premiered in a Follies skit co-written by playwright Moss Hart. With first Alan Reed and then Hanley Stafford as her bedeviled Daddy, Baby Snooks premiered in The Ziegfeld Follies of the Air in February 1936 on CBS.

She moved to NBC in December 1937, performing the Snooks routines as part of the Good News show, then back to CBS on Maxwell House Coffee Time, the half-hour divided between the Snooks sketches and comedian Frank Morgan, in September 1944. Her longtime Snooks sketch writers—Philip Rapp, David Freedman—finally brought in partners like Arthur Stander and Everett Freeman to develop an independent, half-hour comedy program, launched on CBS in 1944 and moving to NBC in 1948, with Freeman producing. First called Post Toasties Time (named for the show’s first sponsor), the show was renamed The Baby Snooks Show within short order, though in later years it was often known colloquially as Baby Snooks and Daddy.

Judy Garland  and Fanny sing “Why? Because!” on Good News of 1938

Brice was so meticulous about the program and the title character that she was known to perform in costume as a toddler girl even though seen only by the radio studio audience. She was 45 years old when the character began her long radio life. In addition to Reed and Stafford, her co-stars included Lalive Brownell, Lois Corbet and Arlene Harris playing her mother, Danny Thomas as Jerry, Charlie Cantor as Uncle Louie and Ken Christy as Mr. Weemish. She was completely devoted to the character, as she told biographer Norman Katkov: “Snooks is just the kid I used to be. She’s my kind of youngster, the type I like. She has imagination. She’s eager. She’s alive. With all her deviltry, she is still a good kid, never vicious or mean. I love Snooks, and when I play her I do it as seriously as if she were real. I am Snooks. For 20 minutes or so, Fanny Brice ceases to exist.”

Fanny & Jack Benny perform a funny skit on Good News

Baby Snooks writer/producer Everett Freeman told Katkov that Brice didn’t like to rehearse the role (“I can’t do a show until it’s on the air, kid”) but always snapped into it on the air, losing herself completely in the character: “While she was on the air she was Baby Snooks. And after the show, for an hour after the show, she was still Baby Snooks. The Snooks voice disappeared, of course, but the Snooks temperament, thinking, actions were all there.” Brice had a short-lived marriage in her teens to a local barber, Frank White, whom she met in 1911 in Springfield, Massachusetts, when she was touring in “College Girl.” The marriage lasted only a few years and she brought suit for divorce.[1] Her second husband was professional gambler Julius W. “Nicky” Arnstein. Prior to their marriage, Arnstein served 14 months in Sing Sing for wiretapping, where Brice visited him every week. In 1918 they were married, after living together for six years. In 1924, Arnstein was charged in a Wall Street bond theft. Brice insisted on his innocence, and funded his legal defense at great expense. Arnstein was convicted and sentenced to the Federal penitentiary at Leavenworth where he served three years. Released in 1927, Arnstein disappeared from Brice’s life and that of his two children. Reluctantly, Brice divorced him. She went on to marry songwriter and stage producer Billy Rose and appeared in his revue Crazy Quilt, among others. That marriage also failed.

Fanny helps the unemployed in 1931 -Old clip!!

Brice and Stafford brought Baby Snooks and Daddy to television only once, an appearance in June 1950 on CBS-TV’s Popsicle Parade of Stars. This was Fanny Brice’s only appearance on television. Viewing the kinescope recording today, Fanny is a strange, but amusing sight: a middle-aged woman in a little girl’s outfit (and none of the other cast seem to find this unusual). Brice handled herself well on the live TV broadcast but later admitted that the character of Baby Snooks just didn’t work properly when seen.

with Hume Cronyn and William Frawley

She returned with Stafford and the Snooks character to the safety of radio for her next appearance, on Tallulah Bankhead‘s legendary big-budget, large-scale radio variety show, The Big Show, in November 1950, sharing the bill with Groucho Marx and Jane Powell. In one routine Snooks knocks on Bankhead’s dressing room door for advice on becoming an actress when she grew up in spite of Daddy’s warning that she already lacked what it took. Six months after her Big Show appearance, Fanny Brice died May 29, 1951, in Hollywood at the age of 59, of a cerebral hemorrhage. The May 29, 1951 episode of The Baby Snooks Show was broadcast as a memorial to the star who created the brattish toddler, crowned by Hanley Stafford’s brief on-air eulogy: “We have lost a very real, a very warm, a very wonderful woman.” Brice was later cremated, and was interred in the Chapel Mausoleum at the Jewish Home of Peace Cemetery in East Los Angeles, California. A half century later, at the time of Brice’s daughter Frances’ death in 1992, Fanny Brice was reinterred at Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles, some 20 miles west of her original final resting place. Today Brice and her daughter Frances Brice-Stark rest in an outdoor pavilion.

Tallulah Bankhead meets ‘Baby Snooks’ {Fanny Brice} & ‘Daddy’ {Hanley Stafford}. Radio performance with photographs.

Although the names of the principal characters were changed, the plot of the 1939 film Rose of Washington Square, in which the principal characters were portrayed by Tyrone Power and Alice Faye, was inspired heavily by Brice’s marriage and career, to the extent it borrowed its title from a tune she performed in the Follies and included “My Man.” She sued 20th Century Fox for invasion of privacy and won the case. Producer Darryl F. Zanuck was forced to delete several production numbers closely associated with the star.

Barbra Streisand starred as Brice in the 1964 Broadway musical Funny Girl, which centered on Brice’s rise to fame and troubled relationship with Arnstein. In 1968, Streisand won an Academy Award for Best Actress for reprising her role in the film version (sharing the Oscar with Katharine Hepburn, for The Lion in Winter, in the Academy’s only-ever tie vote). The 1975 sequel Funny Lady focused on Brice’s turbulent relationship with impresario Billy Rose and was as highly fictionalized as the original. Streisand also recorded the Brice songs “My Man,” “I’d Rather Be Blue Over You (Than Happy with Somebody Else)” and “Second Hand Rose,” which became a Top 40 hit.

Barbra Streisand sang this song in the movie version of Funny Girl, which is loosely based on the early life of Fanny Brice. Here’s Fanny singing the original version. The first photo is, of course, Streisand.

Funny Girl, and its sequel Funny Lady, took liberties with the events of Brice’s life. They make no mention of Brice’s first husband at all, and suggest that Arnstein turned to crime because his pride wouldn’t allow him to live off Fanny, and that he was wanted by the police for selling phony bonds. In reality, however, Arnstein sponged off Brice even before their marriage and was eventually named as a member of a gang that stole $5 million of Wall Street securities. Instead of turning himself in, as in the movie, Arnstein went into hiding. When he finally surrendered, he did not plead guilty as he did in the movie, but fought the charges for four years, taking a toll on his wife’s finances. It is thought that Ray Stark, the producer of the play and both movies and Brice’s son-in-law, changed Arnstein’s story in order to avoid a lawsuit, as Arnstein was still alive at the time. Brice’s son William was not mentioned in the play or movies by mutual agreement; other changes – such as the portrayal of Brice’s mother as living in modest means rather than well-off or the omission of Brice’s first husband – may have been done in the interest of compelling storytelling.

Two children were born of the Brice-Arnstein marriage. Daughter Frances (1919–1992) married Ray Stark, while son William (1921–2008) became an artist of note, using his mother’s surname.

The Stony Brook campus of the State University of New York (SUNY at Stony Brook) formerly had a Fannie Brice Theatre, a small 75-seat venue which has been used for a variety of performances over the years, including a 1988 production of the musical Hair, staged readings, and a studio classroom space. The building was razed in 2007 to make way for new dormitories.

The 1946 Warner Bros. cartoon Quentin Quail features a character based on Brice’s characterization of Baby Snooks.

Quick Bio Facts:

Fanny Brice AKA Fania Borach

Born: 29-Oct1891
Birthplace: New York City
Died: 29-May1951
Location of death: Beverly Hills, CA
Cause of death: Cerebral Hemorrhage
Remains: Buried, Westwood Memorial Park, Los Angeles, CA

Gender: Female
Religion: Jewish
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Singer, Actor

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: The Baby Snooks Show

Husband: Frank White (m. 4-Feb-1910, div. 1913)
Husband: Jules Arnstein (m. 1918, div. 17-Sep-1927, two children)
Daughter: Frances (b. 12-Aug-1919, d. 31-May-1992)
Son: William
Husband: Billy Rose (theatre director/impresario, m. 8-Feb-1929, div. 1938)

Hollywood Walk of Fame 6413 Hollywood Blvd. (television)

Ziegfeld Follies (8-Apr-1946)
Everybody Sing (4-Feb-1938)
The Great Ziegfeld (22-Mar-1936) Herself

Sources: Wikipedia, YouTube,,

Create a map starting with Fanny Brice

Shirley Bassey

Dame Shirley Veronica Bassey, DBE (born 8 January 1937[1] in Cardiff, Wales), is a Welsh singer who found fame in the late 1950s and has continued a successful career since then worldwide.[2] She is best known for recording the theme songs to the James Bond films Goldfinger (1964), Diamonds Are Forever (1971), and Moonraker (1979), and is a UNESCO Artist for Peace.[3][4][5] Shirley Bassey was born the seventh and last child of Eliza Jane (née Metcalfe) and Henry Bassey in Tiger Bay, Cardiff, Wales, of paternal Nigerian and maternal English heritage.[3][6][7] She grew up in the working-class dockside district of Splott, and sang at an early age in the youth choir of the local Salvation Army.[8] After leaving Moorland School at the age of fifteen, Bassey first found employment packing at a local factory while singing in local public houses and clubs in the evenings and weekends. In 1953, she signed her first professional contract, to sing in a touring variety show Memories of Jolson, a musical based on the life of Al Jolson.[9] She next took up a professional engagement in Hot from Harlem, which ran until 1954. By this time Bassey had become disenchanted with show business, and had become pregnant at 16 with her daughter Sharon, so she went back to waitressing in Cardiff. However, in 1955, a chance recommendation of her to Michael Sullivan, a Streatham-born booking agent, put her firmly on course for her destined career. He saw talent in Bassey, and decided he would make her a star. She toured various theatres until she got an offer of the show that put her firmly on the road to stardom, Al Read‘s Such Is Life at the Adelphi Theatre in London’s West End. While she starred in this show, Philips A&R and record producer Johnny Franz spotted her on television, was impressed, and offered her a recording deal. Bassey recorded her first single, entitled “Burn My Candle (At Both Ends)“, and Philips released it in February 1956, when Bassey was just nineteen. Owing to the suggestive lyrics, the BBC banned it, but it sold well nonetheless, backed with her powerful rendition of “Stormy Weather“. Further singles followed, and in February 1957, Bassey had her first hit with “Banana Boat Song“, which reached #8 in the UK Singles Chart.[10] During that year, she also recorded under the direction of American producer Mitch Miller in the US for the Columbia label, producing the single “If I Had a Needle and Thread” b/w “Tonight My Heart She Is Crying”. In mid-1958, she recorded two singles that would become classics in the Bassey catalogue. “As I Love You” was released as the B-side of another ballad, “Hands Across the Sea”; it did not sell well at first, but after a chance appearance at the London Palladium things began to pick up. In January 1959, it reached number one and stayed there for four weeks. It thus became the first number one single by a Welsh artist.[11] Bassey also recorded “Kiss Me, Honey Honey, Kiss Me” at this point, and while “As I Love You” raced up the charts, so too did this record, with both songs being in the top three at the same time. A few months later, Bassey signed to EMI‘s Columbia label, and the second phase in her recording career had begun.


In the early and mid 1960s, Bassey had numerous hits on the UK charts, and five albums in the top 15. Her 1960 recording of “As Long As He Needs Me” from Lionel Bart‘s Oliver! reached #2, and had a chart run of 30 weeks.[5] In 1962, Bassey’s collaboration with Nelson Riddle and his orchestra produced the album Let’s Face the Music (#12) and the single “What Now My Love” (#5). Other top ten hits of the period included her second #1, the double A-side “Reach for the Stars”/”Climb Ev’ry Mountain” (1961), “I’ll Get By” (also 1961), and a cover version of the Ben E. King hit “I (Who Have Nothing)” in 1963.[10] During this period, John F. Kennedy invited Bassey to sing at his Inaugural Ball. In 1965, Bassey enjoyed her first U.S. Top 10 chart hit with the title song of the James Bond film, Goldfinger – from the #1 original soundtrack in the U.S. that same year. Owing to the success of Goldfinger, she appeared frequently on many American television talk shows such as those hosted by Johnny Carson and by Mike Douglas. Also in 1965, she sang the title track for the spoof James Bond film The Liquidator, and had a Top 20 live album recorded during a sell-out run at London’s Pigalle.

From 1964 onwards the “Goldfinger” single had a lasting impact on her career: writing for the sleeve notes of Bassey’s 25th Anniversary Album, Clayton (1978) notes that: “Acceptance in America was considerably helped by the enormous popularity of (Goldfinger)…But she had actually established herself there as early as 1961, in cabaret in New York. She was also a success in Las Vegas…’I suppose I should feel hurt that I’ve never been really big in America on record since Goldfinger…But, concertwise, I always sell out.’…”[12] This was reflected in the fact that Bassey had only one solo LP to reach the Top 20 in a US chart (R&B, Live at Carnegie Hall), and she was technically a “one-hit wonder,” making only one appearance in the Top 40 of the Billboard Hot 100, “Goldfinger”. But in the aftermath of “Goldfinger” her UK sales started to falter as well: only two of her singles would enter the top 40 until 1970. She had signed to United Artists, and her first album on that label, 1966’s I’ve Got a Song for You, spent one week on the chart; from there until 1970, only two albums would enter the top 40, one of those a compilation. In 1967 came the release of one of her best-known singles “Big Spender“, although it charted just outside the UK Top 20.[10]

Her latest performance filmed live in Antwerp (Belgium) during the Diamond Awards Festival- “Diamonds Are Forever”

Bassey started living as a tax exile in 1968, and was not permitted to work in Britain for almost two years.[7][13] Also in 1968, at the Sanremo Festival in Italy, she performed “La vita”, an Italian song by Bruno Canfora and Antonio Amurri, with some lyrics re-written in English by Norman Newell for her performance. Her version of the song with chorus sung in Italian became a Top 40 hit on the Italian chart, and Bassey recorded several songs in Italian, some appearing on a 1968 Italian album titled La vita.[14] (Later, Newell would write English lyrics for the rest of “La vita”, and the result was “This Is My Life”.) But her UK sales continued to suffer.

Dame Shirley Bassey : ” I am what I am” Live. BBC Electric Proms 2009. London

Bassey’s UK comeback came in 1970, leading to one of the most successful periods of her career. In this year, she returned to the UK with a record breaking run of performances at the Talk of the Town nightclub. Also in that year, she released the album Something, which showcased a new Bassey style, a shift from traditional pop to more contemporary songs and arrangements (the single of the same name was more successful in the UK charts than the original Beatles recording – the only artist to have achieved this), though Bassey would never completely abandon what had been her forte, standards, show tunes, and torch songs. “Something” was also a Top 10 U.S. hit on the Adult Contemporary chart. Other singles of this period included top ten hits “For All We Know” (1971) and “Never Never Never” (1973) – the latter also reaching the Top 10 in the U.S. Adult Contemporary Chart. The success of “Something” (single #4, album #5) spawned a series of successful albums on the UA label, including Something Else (1971), And I Love You So (1972), I Capricorn (1972), Never Never Never (1973), Good, Bad but Beautiful (1975), Life, Love and Feelings (1976), You Take My Heart Away (1977) and Yesterdays (1978). Bernard Ighner wrote and duetted with Bassey for the track “Davy” on the Nobody Does It Like Me album (1974). Additionally, two of Bassey’s earlier LPs entered the charts, 1967’s And We Were Lovers (re-issued as Big Spender), and 1962’s Let’s Face the Music (re-issued as What Now My Love). Two compilations, The Shirley Bassey Singles Album (1975) and 25th Anniversary Album (1978) both made the UK top three: The Shirley Bassey Singles Album her highest charting album at No. 2 and earning a gold disc, and 25th Anniversary Album going platinum.[10][15]

“This Is My Life” sung by the one and only Dame Shirley Bassey in 1973 at Carnegie Hall.

Between 1970 and 1979, Bassey had 18 hit albums in the UK Albums Chart.[5] Her 1978 album The Magic Is You featured a portrait by the photographer, Francesco Scavullo. In 1973, her sold-out concerts at New York’s Carnegie Hall were recorded and released as a two-LP set, Shirley Bassey: Live at Carnegie Hall. This album and the majority of her recordings from this period have been re-mastered and released on CD by EMI and BGO Records. In 1971, she recorded the theme song for Diamonds Are Forever. The recording featured as part of Sydney, Australia’s 2007 New Year’s celebration.

Bassey appeared on the Morecambe and Wise Christmas Show, broadcast on Christmas Day in 1971.[16] In 1976 Bassey starred in the six-episode The Shirley Bassey Show, the first of her television programs for the BBC, followed by a second series of six episodes in 1979. The final show of the first series was nominated for the Golden Rose of Montreux in 1977. The series featured guests including Neil Diamond, Michel Legrand, The Three Degrees and Dusty Springfield; filmed in various locations throughout the world as well as in the studio.

In 1978 Bassey pleaded guilty to being drunk and disorderly “after shouting abuse in the street and pushing a policeman”.[4]

Bassey closed out the decade with her third title theme for the Bond films, Moonraker (1979).

Throughout most of the 1980s, Bassey focused on charitable work and performing occasional concert tours throughout Europe, Australia, and the United States, having ended her contract with EMI-United Artists and taking what she referred to as ‘semi-retirement’. In 1982 Bassey recorded an album entitled All by Myself and made a TV special for Thames Television called A Special Lady with guest Robert Goulet. In 1983 she recorded a duet with Alain Delon, “Thought I’d Ring You”, which became a hit single in Europe. Bassey was now recording far less often but released an album in 1984 of her most famous songs, I Am What I Am, performed with the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Carl Davis. In 1986, she released a single and video to support the London Tourist Board, There’s No Place Like London co-written by Lynsey de Paul and Gerard Kenny. In 1987 she recorded an album of James Bond themes, The Bond Collection, but was apparently unhappy with the results, as she declined to release it. (Five years later it was released anyway, Bassey sued in court, and all unsold copies were withdrawn.)[17] Also in 1987, Bassey provided vocals for Swiss artists Yello on “The Rhythm Divine“, a song co-written by Scottish singer Billy Mackenzie.[3] In 1989 she released an album sung entirely in Spanish, La Mujer. In the latter mid-1980s Bassey had started working with a vocal coach, a former opera singer, and her 1991 album Keep the Music Playing displayed a grand, operatic pop style on several songs (perhaps also influenced by her album with the LSO seven years earlier).

“Johnny One Note”

In 1994 EMI released the five-CD box set Bassey – The EMI/UA Years 1959 – 1979. The accompanying booklet opened with a poem by Marc Almond. In 1996, Bassey collaborated with Chris Rea in the film La Passione, appearing in the film as herself and releasing the single “‘Disco’ La Passione“. The remix of this single proved a major club hit throughout Europe[citation needed], though charting just outside the UK top 40.[10] Bassey released a new recording the following year, “History Repeating”, written for her by the Propellerheads and scoring a #1 on the UK Dance Chart, and #10 on the US Dance Chart.[18] It was a also a top ten hit in Italy.[14] The liner notes of the Propellerheads’ album Decksandrumsandrockandroll included the lines “We would like to extend our maximum respect to Shirley Bassey for honouring us with her performance. We are still in shock …” Bassey celebrated her 60th birthday in 1997 with two open-air concerts, at Castle Howard and Althorp Park, and another TV special. The resulting live album The Birthday Concert received a Grammy Award nomination for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Performance.[19] On 7 October 1998 in Egypt, Bassey performed for a benefit at an open air concert close to the Sphinx and the Great Pyramid.

In the 1998 film Little Voice, Bassey was one of three central figures along with Marilyn Monroe and Judy Garland, and Bassey’s track “Goldfinger” featured in the movie. Jane Horrocks, the lead actress in the film, went on to impersonate Bassey both on record and television, as well as during a UK tour.

“Fool On The Hill”

In 1998 Bassey was sued by her former personal assistant in a breach of contract case, who also accused Bassey of hitting her and making an ethnic slur. Bassey won the case.[4] The episode was lampooned by Alexander Baron in his one-act play, The Trial of Shirley Bassey.

In 1999, she performed the official song for the Rugby World Cup, “World in Union“, with Bryn Terfel at the opening ceremony at The Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, wearing a gown designed on the Welsh flag. Their single made the Top 40, and Bassey contributed two more songs to the official album Land of My Fathers, which reached #1 on the UK compilations chart, and went silver.[15][20]

In 2001, Bassey was principal artiste at the Duke of Edinburgh‘s 80th Birthday celebration. Then, in 2003, Bassey celebrated 50 years in show business, releasing the CD Thank You for the Years, which was another Top 20 album. A gala charity auction of her stage costumes at Christie’s, ‘Dame Shirley Bassey: 50 Years of Glittering Gowns’, raised £250,000 (US$500,000) for the Dame Shirley Bassey Scholarship at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama and the Noah’s Ark Children’s Hospital Appeal.[21] Bassey topped the bill at the 2005 Royal Variety Performance, introducing her new song “The Living Tree“.

Interview with Shirley Bassey 2009

Two popular Audiences with Shirley Bassey have aired on British TV, one in 1995 that attracted more than 10 million viewers in the UK, with the most recent in 2006. Bassey returned to perform in five arenas around the UK in June the same year, culminating at Wembley. She also performed a concert in front of 10,000 people at the Bryn Terfel Faenol Festival in North Wales broadcast by BBC Wales.

Marks & Spencer signed her for their Christmas 2006 ‘James Bond style’ TV advertising campaign. Bassey is seen in a glamorous Ice Palace singing a cover version of Pink‘s song “Get the Party Started“, wearing an M&S gown.

The Living Tree“, written, produced and originally recorded by the group Never the Bride, was released as a single on 23 April 2007, marking Bassey’s 50th anniversary in the UK Singles Chart – and the record for the longest span of Top 40 hits in UK chart history.[5] Bassey performed a 45 minute set at the 2007 Glastonbury Festival wearing a pink Julien MacDonald dress. A new album, Get the Party Started, was subsequently released on 25 June 2007 and entered the UK Albums Chart at #6.[10] The single of the title song reached #3 on the U.S. Dance Chart.[22] The same year, Bassey performed “Big Spender” with Elton John at his annual White Tie and Tiara Ball to raise money for The Elton John AIDS Foundation.[23] In 2007, Bassey performed in Fashion Rocks in aid of The Prince’s Trust at the Royal Albert Hall.

She was rushed to hospital in Monaco on 23 May 2008 to have an emergency operation on her stomach after complaining of abdominal pains. She was forced to pull out of the Nelson Mandela 90th Birthday Tribute concert because of her illness.[24] A biography, Diamond Diva, was published in 2008. In 2009 her granddaughter appeared on The X Factor.


In 2009 Bassey recorded a new album, The Performance, with James Bond composer David Arnold as producer. A number of artists wrote songs expressly for Bassey, including Manic Street Preachers, Gary Barlow, KT Tunstall, Pet Shop Boys, Nick Hodgson of the Kaiser Chiefs, John Barry and Don Black.

Bassey headlined at the BBC Electric Proms on 23 October, 2009, in her only full live set of 2009.[4][26]

In November 2009, she performed several of the new songs from The Performance on various TV shows: The Graham Norton Show, The Paul O’Grady Show and as the guest singer on Strictly Come Dancing.

Bassey performed at the Rainforest Foundation Fund 21st Birthday concert at Carnegie Hall, New York City on 13 May 2010.

Bassey’s first marriage was to Kenneth Hume (1961–65) and ended in divorce. In September 1965 Bassey announced her intention to re-marry Hume, but less than a year later revealed that this would not take place.[27] Her second husband was Sergio Novak. Bassey and Novak were married from 1968 until they divorced in 1977; Novak served as Bassey’s manager throughout this time. Bassey had two daughters, Sharon and Samantha. With Novak she also adopted her grandnephew, Mark.[6][7] In 1985, 21-year-old Samantha Novak was found dead in the River Avon in Bristol, England. Bassey has always maintained that the death of her daughter was not a suicide.[4] On 24 March 2010, Avon and Somerset Police confirmed they were undertaking fresh inquiries into the death of Novak, and specifically claims that the convicted killer Michael Moffat, was involved in her death.[28] Bassey currently resides in Monte Carlo.

Sources: Wikipedia, YouTube,


In recognition of her career longevity, and admiration from the British Royal Family, Bassey was created a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire (DBE) on 31 December 1999 by HM Queen Elizabeth II. She was invited to perform in 2002 at the Party at the Palace, a public celebration of the Queen’s Golden Jubilee. She was awarded France’s top honour, the Legion d’Honneur, to signify her popularity and importance in the culture of France.

  • 1972 – Best Female Singer – TV Times
  • 1973 – Best Female Singer – TV Times
  • 1974 – Best Female Entertainer – American Guild of Variety Artists
  • 1976 – Best Female Singer – Music Week
  • 1976 – 22-day British tour to mark twenty years as a recording artist
  • 1976 – EMI Award for twenty years as a recording artist – UK
  • 1977 – Best British Female Solo Artist in the previous 25 years – BRIT Award
  • 1977 – Golden Rose of Montreux nomination for The Shirley Bassey Show
  • 1991 – Walk of Fame, Star Boulevard – plaque unveiled in Rotterdam[29]
  • 1993 – CBE – Commander of the Order of the British Empire
  • 1995 – Showbusiness Personality of the Year – Variety Club of Great Britain
  • 1997 – Grammy nomination – The Birthday Concert (recorded live at Althorp Park)
  • 1998 – Longest run by a solo artist (ten shows) – Royal Festival Hall, London
  • 1999 – Légion d’Honneur – France
  • 1999 – Madam Tussaud’s waxwork unveiled in London (second model in Las Vegas)
  • 2000 – DBE – Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire
  • 2000 – Most Successful British Female Singer – Guinness Book of Records[citation needed]
  • 2003 – Outstanding Contribution to Music – National Music Awards, UK[30]
  • 2003 – Lifetime Achievement Award (inaugural award) – Western Mail Welsh Woman of the Year Awards[31]
  • 2004 – 100 Great Black Britons, Bassey voted into the top ten
  • 2004 – Artist for Peace Award – UNESCO
  • 2005 – Avenue of Stars – plaque unveiled in London
  • 2008 – “Goldfinger” – United Artists single (1964) inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame[32]

Ginger Rogers

Ginger Rogers (July 16, 1911 – April 25, 1995) was an American stage actress, dancer, and singer who appeared in film, radio, and television throughout much of the 20th century.

During her long career, she made a total of 73 films, and is noted for her role as Fred Astaire‘s romantic interest and dancing partner in a series of ten Hollywood musical films that revolutionized the genre. She also achieved success in a variety of film roles, and won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance in Kitty Foyle (1940).

She ranks #14 on the AFI’s 100 Years… 100 Stars list of actresses.

Rogers was born Virginia Katherine McMath in Independence, Missouri, the daughter of William Eddins McMath, an electrical engineer, and his wife Lela Emogene Owens (1891–1977).[1] Ginger’s parents separated soon after her birth, and she and her mother went to live with her grandparents, Walter and Saphrona (née Ball) Owens, in nearby Kansas City. Rogers’ parents fought over her custody, with her father even kidnapping her twice. After the parents divorced, Rogers stayed with her grandparents while her mother wrote scripts for two years in Hollywood.

Rogers was to remain close to her grandfather (much later, when she was already a star in 1939, she bought him a home at 5115 Greenbush Avenue in Sherman Oaks, California so that he could be close to her while she was filming at the studios).

One of Rogers’ young cousins, Helen, had a hard time pronouncing her first name, shortening it to “Ginga”; the nickname stuck.

When Rogers was nine years old, her mother married John Logan Rogers. Ginger took the name of Rogers, though she was never legally adopted. They lived in Fort Worth, Texas. Her mother became a theater critic for a local newspaper, the Fort Worth Record. Ginger attended but did not graduate from Fort Worth’s Central High School.

As a teenager, Rogers thought of becoming a schoolteacher, but with her mother’s interest in Hollywood and the theater, her early exposure to the theater increased. Waiting for her mother in the wings of the Majestic Theatre, she began to sing and dance along to the performers on stage.

Rogers’ entertainment career was born one night when the traveling vaudeville act of Eddie Foy came to Fort Worth and needed a quick stand-in. She then entered and won a Charleston dance contest which allowed her to tour for six months, at one point in 1926 performing at an 18-month old theater called The Craterian in Medford, Oregon. This theater honored her many years later by changing its name to the Craterian Ginger Rogers Theater.[2]

At 17, Rogers married Jack Culpepper, a singer/dancer/comedian/recording artist of the day who worked under the name Jack Pepper (according to Ginger’s autobiography, she knew Culpepper when she was a child, as her cousin’s boyfriend). They formed a short-lived vaudeville double act known as “Ginger and Pepper”. The marriage was over within months, and she went back to touring with her mother. When the tour got to New York City, she stayed, getting radio singing jobs and then her Broadway theater debut in a musical called Top Speed, which opened on Christmas Day, 1929.

Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers dance in the 1935 RKO film ‘Top Hat’, music and lyrics by Irving Berlin. “Cheek To Cheek”

Within two weeks of opening in Top Speed, Rogers was chosen to star on Broadway in Girl Crazy by George Gershwin and Ira Gershwin, the musical play widely considered to have made stars of both Ginger and Ethel Merman. Fred Astaire was hired to help the dancers with their choreography. Her appearance in Girl Crazy made her an overnight star at the age of 19. In 1930, she was signed by Paramount Pictures to a seven-year contract.

Rogers’ first movie roles were in a trio of short films made in 1929—Night in the Dormitory, A Day of a Man of Affairs, and Campus Sweethearts.

Rogers would soon get herself out of the Paramount contract—under which she had made five feature films at Astoria Studios in Astoria, Queens—and move with her mother to Hollywood. When she got to California, she signed a three-picture deal with Pathé. She made feature films for Warner Bros., Monogram, and Fox in 1932 and was named one of fifteen “WAMPAS Baby Stars“. She then made a significant breakthrough as “Anytime Annie” in the Warner Brothers film 42nd Street (1933). She went on to make a series of films with Fox, Warner Bros. (“Gold Diggers of 1933”), Universal, Paramount, and RKO Radio Pictures and, in her second RKO picture, Flying Down to Rio (1933), she worked for the first time with Fred Astaire.

Rogers was most famous for her partnership with Fred Astaire. Together, from 1933 to 1939, they made nine musical films at RKO: Flying Down to Rio (1933), The Gay Divorcee (1934), Roberta (1935), Top Hat (1935), Follow the Fleet (1936), Swing Time (1936), Shall We Dance (1937), Carefree (1938), and The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle (1939) (The Barkleys of Broadway (1949) was produced later at MGM). They revolutionized the Hollywood musical, introducing dance routines of unprecedented elegance and virtuosity, set to songs specially composed for them by the greatest popular song composers of the day.

Sung by Ginger Rogers
Accompanied by Jimmy Dorsey and His Orchestra
Words and Music by Irving Berlin
Recorded April 3, 1936

This is a studio recording of Ginger singing “Let Yourself Go” which was recorded after the film “Follow the Fleet” was released in January of 1936.

Arlene Croce, Hannah Hyam and John Mueller all consider Rogers to have been Astaire’s finest dance partner, principally due to her ability to combine dancing skills, natural beauty and exceptional abilities as a dramatic actress and comedienne, thus truly complementing Astaire: a peerless dancer who sometimes struggled as an actor and was not considered classically handsome. The resulting song and dance partnership enjoyed a unique credibility in the eyes of audiences. Of the 33 partnered dances she performed with Astaire, Croce and Mueller have highlighted the infectious spontaneity of her performances in the comic numbers “I’ll Be Hard to Handle” from Roberta (1935), “I’m Putting all My Eggs in One Basket” from Follow the Fleet (1936) and “Pick Yourself Up” from Swing Time (1936). They also point to the use Astaire made of her remarkably flexible back in classic romantic dances such as “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes” from Roberta (1935), “Cheek to Cheek” from Top Hat (1935) and “Let’s Face the Music and Dance” from Follow the Fleet (1936). For special praise, they have singled out her performance in the “Waltz in Swing Time” from Swing Time (1936), which is generally considered to be the most virtuosic partnered routine ever committed to film by Astaire. She generally avoided solo dance performances: Astaire always included at least one virtuoso solo routine in each film, while Rogers performed only one: “Let Yourself Go” from Follow the Fleet (1936).

Documentary on Top Hat

Although the dance routines were choreographed by Astaire and his collaborator Hermes Pan, both have acknowledged Rogers’ input and have also testified to her consummate professionalism, even during periods of intense strain, as she tried to juggle her many other contractual film commitments with the punishing rehearsal schedules of Astaire, who made at most two films in any one year. In 1986, shortly before his death, Astaire remarked, “All the girls I ever danced with thought they couldn’t do it, but of course they could. So they always cried. All except Ginger. No no, Ginger never cried”. John Mueller summed up Rogers’ abilities as follows: “Rogers was outstanding among Astaire’s partners not because she was superior to others as a dancer but because, as a skilled, intuitive actress, she was cagey enough to realize that acting did not stop when dancing began…the reason so many women have fantasized about dancing with Fred Astaire is that Ginger Rogers conveyed the impression that dancing with him is the most thrilling experience imaginable”. According to Astaire, when they were first teamed together in “Flying Down to Rio”, “Ginger had never danced with a partner before. She faked it an awful lot. She couldn’t tap and she couldn’t do this and that … but Ginger had style and talent and improved as she went along. She got so that after a while everyone else who danced with me looked wrong.”

Rogers also introduced some celebrated numbers from the Great American Songbook, songs such as Harry Warren and Al Dubin‘s “The Gold Diggers’ Song (We’re in the Money)” from Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933), “Music Makes Me” from Flying Down to Rio (1933), “The Continental” from The Gay Divorcee (1934), Irving Berlin‘s “Let Yourself Go” from Follow the Fleet (1936) and the Gershwins’Embraceable You” from Girl Crazy and “They All Laughed (at Christopher Columbus)” from Shall We Dance (1937). Furthermore, in song duets with Astaire, she co-introduced Berlin’s “I’m Putting all My Eggs in One Basket” from Follow the Fleet (1936), Jerome Kern and Dorothy Fields‘s “Pick Yourself Up” and “A Fine Romance” from Swing Time (1936) and the Gershwins’ “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off” from Shall We Dance (1937).

This is a excerpt from the 1949 Oscars, which took place on March 23, 1950.

Ginger Rogers presents Fred Astaire with a special award for his accomplishments in musical film.

After 15 months apart and with RKO facing bankruptcy, the studio hired Fred and Ginger for another movie called Carefree, but it lost money. Next came The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle, but the serious plot and tragic ending resulted in the worst box office receipts of any of their films. This was driven, not by diminished popularity, but by the hard 1930s economic reality. The production costs of musicals, always significantly more costly than regular features, continued to increase at a much faster rate than admissions. Everyone agreed it was time to stop.

Both before and immediately after her great dancing and acting partnership with Fred Astaire ended, Rogers, now on her own and one of the highest paid actresses in Hollywood, starred in more than a few very successful dramas and comedies. Stage Door (1937) demonstrated her skillful dramatic capacity, as the loquacious yet vulnerable girl next door, a tough minded, theatrical hopeful, opposite Katharine Hepburn. In Roxie Hart (1942), which served as the template for the 2002 production of Chicago, Ginger played a wise-cracking wife on trial for a murder her husband committed. In the neo-realist Primrose Path (1940), directed by Gregory La Cava, she played a prostitute’s daughter trying to avoid the fate of her mother. Further highlights of this period included Tom, Dick, and Harry, a pleasing 1941 comedy where she dreams of marrying three different men; I’ll Be Seeing You, an intelligent and restrained war time “weepie” with Joseph Cotten; La Cava’s 5th Avenue Girl (1939), where she played an out-of-work girl sucked into the lives of a wealthy family; and especially the sharp and highly successful comedies: Bachelor Mother (1939), where she played Polly Parrish, a shop girl who is falsely deemed to have abandoned her baby; and Billy Wilder’s first feature film: The Major and the Minor (1942), where she played herself as a 12-year-old, at her own real age, and pretended to be her own mother. Her greatest skills were as a comedienne, and, as a master of the deadpan and the sidelong glance, she became well established as one of the major actresses of the screwball comedy era.

Ginger on the Dean Martin Show

In 1941, Ginger Rogers won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her starring role in 1940’s Kitty Foyle. She enjoyed considerable success during the early 1940s, and was RKO’s hottest property during this period. Becoming a free agent, she made hugely successful films with other studios in the mid-’40s, including “Tender Comrade” (1943), “Lady in the Dark” (1944), and “Week-End at the Waldorf” (1945), and became the highest-paid performer in Hollywood. However, by the end of the decade, her film career had peaked. Arthur Freed reunited her with Fred Astaire in The Barkleys of Broadway in 1949, a delightful Technicolor MGM musical which succeeded in rekindling the special chemistry between them one last time.

Ginger Rogers’ film career entered a period of gradual decline in the 1950s, as parts for older actresses became more difficult to obtain, but she still scored with some solid films. She starred in Storm Warning (1950), with Ronald Reagan and Doris Day, the noir, anti Ku Klux Klan film by Warner Brothers, and in Monkey Business (1952), with Cary Grant and Marilyn Monroe, directed by Howard Hawks. In the same year, she also starred in We’re Not Married!, also featuring Marilyn Monroe, and in Dreamboat. She played the female lead in Tight Spot (1955), a mystery thriller, with Edward G. Robinson. Then, after a series of unremarkable films, she scored with a great popular success, playing Dolly Levi in the long running Hello, Dolly! on Broadway in 1965.

Ginger on the Jack Benny Show 1957

Ginger Rogers dances The Charlston with Lucy and Kim on the Lucy Show.

In later life, Rogers remained on good terms with Astaire: she presented him with a special Academy Award in 1950, and they were co-presenters of individual Academy Awards in 1967, during which they elicited a standing ovation when they came on stage in an impromptu dance. In 1969, she had the lead role in another long running popular production of Mame, from the book by Jerome Lawrence and Robert Edwin Lee, with music and lyrics by Jerry Herman, at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane in the West End of London, arriving for the role on the Liner QE2 from New York. Her docking there occasioned the maximum of pomp and ceremony at Southampton. She became the highest paid performer in the history of the West End up to that time. The production ran for 14 months and featured a Royal Command Performance for Queen Elizabeth the Second. The Kennedy Center honored Ginger Rogers in December 1992. This event, which was shown on television, was somewhat marred when Astaire’s widow, Robyn Smith, who permitted clips of Astaire dancing with Rogers to be shown for free at the function itself, was unable to come to terms with CBS Television for broadcast rights to the clips (all previous rights holders having donated broadcast rights gratis).[3]

Here’s a series of pictures presenting Ginger Rogers on the set and on location of different films she played in. The music track is a 1935 instrumental version of “The Continental”, from “The Gay Divorcee” (1934) starring Ginger and Fred Astaire.

From the 1950s onwards, Rogers would make occasional appearances on television. In the later years of her career, she made guest appearances in three different series by Aaron Spelling; The Love Boat (1979), Glitter (1984), and Hotel (1987) which would be her final screen appearance as an actress.

Rogers was an only child, and maintained a close relationship with her mother throughout her life. Lela Rogers (1891–1977), was a newspaper reporter, scriptwriter, and movie producer. She was also one of the first women to enlist in the Marine Corps, founded the successful “Hollywood Playhouse”, for aspiring actors and actresses on the RKO set, and was a founder of the Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals. Mother and daughter had an extremely close professional relationship as well. Lela Rogers was credited with many pivotal contributions to her daughter’s early successes in New York and in Hollywood, not to mention contract negotiations with R.K.O.

In her classic 1930s musicals with Astaire, Ginger Rogers not only was paid less than Fred (who also received 10% of the profits), but also less than many of the supporting “farceurs”. This in spite of her pivotal role in the films’ financial success. This was personally very grating and insulting to her, and had an effect upon her relationships at RKO, especially with director Mark Sandrich (whose denigration of Rogers prompted the famous sharp letter of reprimand from producer Pandro Berman to Sandrich, which Rogers deemed important enough to publish in her autobiography). Like many actresses of the time, Ginger Rogers fought hard for her contract and salary rights, and for better films and scripts. She also found it necessary to fight for respect and dignity as an actress, and against the type casting as just a “dancing girl” that came with the territory in the studio system of the era. She succeeded in all these endeavors.

Rogers’ first marriage was to her dancing partner Jack Pepper (real name Edward Jackson Culpepper) on March 29, 1929. They divorced in 1931, having separated soon after the wedding. She married again in 1934 to actor Lew Ayres (1908–1996). At a time when Rogers’ career was skyrocketing and Ayres’ career was faltering, they separated and were amicably divorced (to Rogers’ ongoing regret) seven years later. To add to Roger’s woes in 1934, Rogers sued Sylvia of Hollywood for a $100K defamation suit. Sylvia, Hollywood’s fitness guru and radio personality, had claimed that Rogers was on Sylvia’s radio show when, in fact, she was not.[4]

In 1940, Rogers purchased a 1000-acre (4 km²) ranch in Jackson County, Oregon between the cities of Shady Cove and Eagle Point. The ranch, located along the Rogue River, supplied dairy products to nearby Camp White, a cantonment established for the duration of World War II. While not performing or working on other projects, she would live at the ranch with her mother.

In 1943, Rogers married her third husband, Jack Briggs, a Marine. Upon his return from World War II, Briggs showed no interest in continuing his incipient Hollywood career. They divorced in 1949. She married once again in 1953, a Frenchman, Jacques Bergerac, 16 years her junior, whom she met on a trip to Paris. A lawyer in France, he came to Hollywood with her and became an actor. They divorced in 1957. Her fifth and final husband was director and producer William Marshall. They married in 1961, and divorced in 1971, after his bouts with alcohol, and the financial collapse of their joint film production company in Jamaica.

Rogers was good friends with Lucille Ball — a distant cousin on Rogers’ mother’s side — for many years until Ball’s death in 1989, at the age of 77. Another friend, Bette Davis, had in common with Rogers a close maternal relationship. As early Hollywood feminists, all three shared a common interest in directing and producing. In fact, Ginger Rogers starred in one of the earliest films co-directed and co-scripted by a woman: Wanda Tuchock’s Finishing School in 1934. In 1985, Rogers fulfilled a long-standing wish to direct by directing the musical Babes in Arms off-Broadway in Tarrytown, New York, when she was 74 years old. She appeared with Lucille Ball in an episode of Here’s Lucy on November 22, 1971, where, with Lucie Arnaz, Rogers gave a demonstration of the Charleston in her famous “high heels”.

Rogers maintained a close friendship with her cousin, actress/writer/socialite Phyllis Fraser (whom she aided in a brief acting career), but was not Rita Hayworth‘s natural cousin as has been reported. Hayworth’s maternal uncle, Vinton Hayworth, was married to Rogers’ maternal aunt, Jean Owens.

In 1977, Rogers’ mother died. Rogers remained at the 4-Rs (Rogers’s Rogue River Ranch) until 1990, when she sold the property and moved to nearby Medford, Oregon. Her last public appearance was on March 18, 1995 when she received the Women’s International Center (WIC) Living Legacy Award.[5]

For many years, Rogers regularly supported, and held in-person presentations, at the Craterian Theater, in Medford, Oregon, where she had performed in 1926 as a vaudevillian. The theater was comprehensively restored in 1997, and posthumously renamed in her honor, as the Craterian Ginger Rogers Theater.

Rogers would spend winters in Rancho Mirage and summers in Medford. She died in Rancho Mirage on April 25, 1995 of congestive heart failure at the age of 83. She was cremated; her ashes are interred in the Oakwood Memorial Park Cemetery in Chatsworth, California, with Lela’s, and just a short distance from the grave of Fred Astaire.

The Pied Pipers

The Pied Pipers were a popular singing group in the late 1930s and 1940s. Originally they consisted of eight members who had belonged to three separate groups: Jo Stafford from The Stafford Sisters, and seven male singers: John Huddleston, Hal Hopper, Chuck Lowry, Bud Hervey, George Tait, Woody Newbury, and Dick Whittinghill, who had belonged to two groups named The Four Esquires and The Three Rhythm Kings. Multi-instrumentalist Spencer Clark was also a member at one point.

Paul Weston and Axel Stordahl, who were arrangers for Tommy Dorsey‘s big band, heard of the group through two of The King Sisters, Alyce and Yvonne. Weston had a jam session at his home and a visiting advertising executive signed the octet for Dorsey’s radio program, broadcast in New York City. They sang with Dorsey’s orchestra for about six weeks before a British representative of the sponsor objected to some of the songs in their repertoire and fired them. They went back to California, but in the time they had been in New York had recorded two records for RCA Victor Records.

The Pied Pipers singing Johnny Mercer’s, “Dream”

In Los Angeles, the group was reduced to a quartet: Jo Stafford, her then-husband John Huddleston, and Chuck Lowry from the original eight, and Billy Wilson. They were getting very little work, however, and were on the threshold of disbanding when they received a call from Tommy Dorsey (in Chicago). Dorsey said he could not afford to hire eight Pipers but would be happy to have them join him if they could cut the number down to a quartet. As they had already done that, and with only one unemployment check remaining, they were happy to comply.

In 1939, they moved to Chicago, with Clark Yocum, who had played guitar and sung for Dorsey, replacing Wilson. Although Paul Weston left Dorsey to become Dinah Shore‘s music director about that time, he was to figure in the fortunes of the group again.

In 1940, Dorsey hired another vocalist, Frank Sinatra, who had previously sung in a quartet, The Hoboken Four, and later with Harry James‘ orchestra. Sinatra and the Pipers teamed to record a major hit, I’ll Never Smile Again, in that year. The group had twelve more chart hits with Dorsey, ten of them with Sinatra. Also, Jo Stafford herself had a solo hit, Yes Indeed, in 1941.

I’LL NEVER SMILE AGAIN ~ Tommy Dorsey & His Orchestra ~ Frank Sinatra~ The Pied Pipers~ 1940~ Victor Records.

Around Thanksgiving, 1942, Tommy Dorsey (who was prone to incidents of bad temper) became angry at one of the Pipers for sending him in the wrong direction at a railroad station in Portland, Oregon, and fired him. The Pipers, out of “team loyalty,” resigned en masse. At that moment, the #1 record on the charts was There Are Such Things sung by Frank Sinatra and the Pied Pipers, the last RCA record they did with Dorsey.

Frank’s first hit with the Dorsey Band backed by the Pied Pipers.
In 1939, “There Are Such Things”

They returned to Los Angeles and signed with Capitol Records, where Paul Weston was now working, and he became the arranger and orchestra leader for most of the Pipers’ recordings. Huddleston left to join the war effort (also about that time, he was divorced from Jo Stafford), and Hal Hopper rejoined the group to replace him. And in 1944 Jo Stafford had a hit on her own, ahead of the Pipers, and after a couple more hits, she left for good to pursue a solo career. June Hutton replaced her, leaving another group, The Stardusters.

The Pipers had twelve charted hit singles on Capitol, including Dream and ending up with My Happiness (biggest hit version by Jon and Sondra Steele, later made popular again by Connie Francis) in 1948. They also continued a relationship with Frank Sinatra, doing a number of tours with him starting in 1945, and becoming a regular on his radio program from 1945 to 1947.

ACCENTUATE THE POSITIVE by Johnny Mercer & The Pied Pipers: Though Johnny Mercer & The Pied Pipers did a studio version of this song on the Capitol Records label, located in Hollywood, this is a live version recorded in approx. 1944-45.

In 1950, June Hutton left the group, to be replaced by Sue Allen, and later Virginia Marcy. She married Axel Stordahl, the other half of Dorsey’s original arranging team. Just as Jo Stafford (who had married Paul Weston) had her husband’s orchestra accompany her on her solo hits, June Hutton’s solo hits on Capitol in the 1950s featured Stordahl’s orchestra as backing group.

The group was inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2001.

Alison Krauss

Alison Krauss (born July 23, 1971) is an American bluegrasscountry singer, songwriter and fiddler. She entered the music industry at an early age, winning local contests by the age of ten and recording for the first time at fourteen. She signed with Rounder Records in 1985 and released her first solo album in 1987. She was invited to join the band with which she still performs, Alison Krauss and Union Station (AKUS), and later released her first album with them as a group in 1989.

She has released eleven albums, appeared on numerous soundtracks, and helped renew interest in bluegrass music in the United States. Her soundtrack performances have led to further popularity, including the O Brother, Where Art Thou? soundtrack, an album also credited with raising American interest in bluegrass, and the Cold Mountain soundtrack, which led to her performance at the 2004 Academy Awards. During her career she has won 26 Grammy Awards, making her the most awarded female artist (and the third most awarded artist overall) in Grammy history.[1] Alison Krauss was born in Decatur, Illinois to parents originally from Columbus, Mississippi. Krauss was raised in Champaign, Illinois. She began studying classical violin at age five but soon switched to bluegrass. Krauss said she first became involved with music because “[my] mother tried to find interesting things for me to do” and “wanted to get me involved in music, in addition to art and sports.”[2] At age eight she started entering local talent contests, and at ten she had her own band. At 13 she won the Walnut Valley Festival Fiddle Championship,[3] and the Society for the Preservation of Bluegrass in America named her the Most Promising Fiddler in the Midwest. Krauss first met Dan Tyminski around 1984 at a festival held by the Society. Every current member of her band, Union Station, first met her at these festivals.[4]

Krauss made her recording debut in 1985 on the independent album, Different Strokes, featuring her brother Viktor, Swamp Weiss, and Jim Hoiles. From the age of 12 she performed with bassist and songwriter John Pennell in a band called “Silver Rail”. Pennell later formed Union Station,[5] and Krauss joined at his invitation, replacing their previous fiddler Andrea Zonn.[6] Pennell remains one of her favorite songwriters[7] and wrote some of her early work including the popular “Every Time You Say Goodbye.”

Remember this great song? “Baby, Now That I Found You.”

Later that year she signed to Rounder Records, and in 1987, at 16, she released her debut album Too Late to Cry. with Union Station as her backup. band.[8]

Krauss’ debut solo album was followed shortly by her first group album with Union Station in 1989 Two Highways.[9] Many traditional bluegrass numbers appeared on the album, along with a bluegrass interpretation of The Allman Brothers‘ “Midnight Rider.” Alison Krauss and Union Station would later perform at the 1989 Newport Folk Festival.

Krauss’ contract with Rounder required her to alternate between releasing a solo album and an album with Union Station, and she released the solo album I’ve Got That Old Feeling in 1990. It was her first album to rise onto the Billboard charts, peaking in the top seventy-five on the country chart. The album also was a notable point in her career as she earned her first Grammy Award, the single “Steel Rails” was her first single tracked by Billboard, and the title single “I’ve Got That Old Feeling” was the first song for which she recorded a music video.

Krauss’ second Union Station album Everytime You Say Goodbye was released in 1992, and she went on to win her second Grammy for Best Bluegrass Album of the year. She then joined the Grand Ole Opry in 1993 at the age of 21.[9] She was the youngest cast member at the time, and the first bluegrass artist to join the Opry in twenty-nine years. She also collaborated on a project with the Cox Family in 1994, a bluegrass album called I Know Who Holds Tomorrow. Mandolin and guitar player Dan Tyminski replaced Tim Stafford in Union Station in 1994. Late in the year, Krauss recorded with the band Shenandoah on its single “Somewhere in the Vicinity of the Heart,” which brought her to the country music Top Ten for the first time.

“Whiskey Lullaby”

Now That I’ve Found You: A Collection, a compilation of older releases and some covers of her favorite works by other artists, was released in 1995. Some of these covers include Bad Company‘s “Oh Atlanta,” The Foundations‘ “Baby, Now That I’ve Found You,” which was used in the Australian hit comedy movie The Castle, and The Beatles‘ “I Will.”[10] A cover of Keith Whitley‘s “When You Say Nothing at All” reached the top five on the Billboard country chart; the album peaked in the top fifteen on the all-genre Billboard 200 chart, and sold two million copies to become Krauss’ first double-platinum album. Krauss also was nominated for four Country Music Association Awards and won all of them.

“Oh Atlanta”

So Long So Wrong, another Union Station album, was released in 1997 and won the Grammy for Best Bluegrass Album. Some critics[who?] said it was “untraditional” and “likely [to] change quite a few . . . minds about bluegrass.”[11] Included on the album is the track “It Doesn’t Matter,” which was featured in the second season premiere episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer[12] and was included on the Buffy soundtrack in 1999.

Her next solo release in 1999, Forget About It, included one of her two tracks to appear on the Billboard adult contemporary chart, “Stay.”  The album was certified gold, and charted within the top seventy-five of the Billboard 200 and in the top five of the country chart. In addition, the track “That Kind of Love” was included in another episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.[13] Krauss was married to Pat Bergeson from 1997 to 2001, and they have one son, Sam, who was born in July 1999.

“When You Say Nothing At All”

Adam Steffey left Union Station in 1998, and was replaced with renowned Dobro player Jerry Douglas.[14] Douglas had provided studio back-up to Krauss’s records since 1987’s Too Late To Cry. Their next album, New Favorite, was released on August 14, 2001. The album went on to win the Grammy for Best Bluegrass Album, with the single “The Lucky One” winning a Grammy as well. New Favorite was followed up by the double platinum double album Live in 2002 and a release of a DVD of the same live performance in 2003. Both the album and the DVD were recorded during a performance at The Louisville Palace and both the album and DVD have been certified double Platinum.

Lonely Runs Both Ways was released in 2004, and eventually became another Alison Krauss & Union Station gold certified album. Ron Block described Lonely Runs Both Ways as “pretty much… what we’ve always done” in terms of song selection and the style in which those songs were recorded. Krauss believes the group “was probably the most unprepared we’ve ever been” for the album and that songs were chosen as needed rather than planned beforehand.[2] She also performed a duet with Brad Paisley on his album Mud on the Tires in the single “Whiskey Lullaby.” The single was quite ranked in the top fifty of the Billboard Hot 100 and the top five of the Hot Country Songs, and won the Country Music Association Awards for “Best Musical Event” and “Best Music Video” of the year.

“Let Me Touch You For A while”

Krauss recorded a collaborative album, Raising Sand with Robert Plant in 2007 which would ultimately be RIAA certified platinum. Raising Sand was nominated for and won 5 Grammys at the 51st Grammy Awards including Album of the Year, Best Contemporary Folk/Americana Album, and Record of the Year (“Please Read the Letter“). Krauss and Plant recorded a Crossroads special in October 2007 for the Country Music Television network which first aired on February 12, 2008. The pair are currently working on a new album.[15]

Krauss has made multiple guest appearances on other records with lead vocals, harmony vocals, or fiddle playing. In 1993 she recorded vocals for the Phish song “If I Could” in Los Angeles.[16] In 1997 she contributed harmony vocals in both English and Irish to Irish traditional band Altan‘s Runaway Sunday album. She has contributed to numerous motion picture soundtracks, most notably the soundtrack O Brother, Where Art Thou? in 2000. She and co-vocalist Dan Tyminski contributed multiple tracks to the soundtrack, including “I’ll Fly Away” (with Gillian Welch), “Down to the River to Pray”, and “I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow.”

In the film, Tyminski’s vocals on “I Am a Man of Constant Sorrow” were used for George Clooney‘s character.[17] The soundtrack sold over seven million copies and won the Grammy for Album of the Year in 2002.The unexpected  success of the album has been partially credited, as was Krauss herself,[18] with bringing a new interest in bluegrass to the United States. She has said, however, that she believes Americans already liked bluegrass and other less-heard musical genres, and that the film merely provided easy exposure to the music.[19] She did not appear in the movie, at her own request, as she was nine months pregnant during its filming.[20]

“Now And Forever”

In 2007, Krauss released the anthology A Hundred Miles Or More: A Collection which was a collection of soundtrack work, duets with artists such as John Waite, James Taylor, Brad Paisley and esteemed fiddle player Natalie MacMaster, and newer tracks. The album was very commercially successful, but was received with a lukewarm reception from critics. One of the tracks, “Missing You“, a duet with Waite (and a cover of his hit single from 1984), was similarly received as a single. On August 11, television network Great American Country aired a one-hour special, “Alison Krauss: A Hundred Miles or More” based on the album and featured many of the album’s duets and solo performances. Other soundtracks for which Krauss has performed include Twister, The Prince of Egypt, Eight Crazy Nights, Mona Lisa Smile, Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood, Alias, Bambi II and Cold Mountain. She also contributed the song “Jubilee” to the 2004 documentary Paper Clips. The Cold Mountain songs “The Scarlet Tide” by T-Bone Burnett and Elvis Costello, and “You Will Be My Ain True Love“, by herself and Sting were nominated for an Academy Award, and she performed both songs at the 76th Academy Awards, the first with Costello and Burnett and the other with Sting.[21] She also worked as a producer for Nickel Creek on their debut self-titled album in 2000 and the follow-up This Side in 2002, which won Krauss her first Grammy as a music producer.

Krauss’s earliest musical experience was as an instrumentalist, though her style has grown to focus more on her vocals[9] with a band providing most of the instrumentation. Musicians she enjoys include Lou Gramm of Foreigner and Paul Rodgers of Bad Company.[22][23][24] Krauss’ family listened to “folk records” while she was growing up, but she had friends who exposed her to groups such as AC/DC, Carly Simon, The Rolling Stones, Lynyrd Skynyrd, and ELO.[25] She cites Dolly Parton, with whom she has since collaborated a number of times, as a major influence. Some[who?] credit Krauss and Union Station, at least partially, with a recent[when?] revival of interest in bluegrass music in the United States.[18] Despite being together for nearly two decades and winning numerous awards, she said the group was “just beginning right now” (in 2002) because “in spite of all the great things that have happened for the band, [she] feel[s] musically it’s just really beginning.”[19] Although she alternates between solo releases and works with the band, she has said there is no difference in her involvement between the two.[20]

As a group, AKUS have been called “American favourites,” “world-beaters,”[26] and “the tightest band around.”[27] While they have been successful as a group, many reviews note Krauss still “remains the undisputed star and rock-solid foundation” and have described her as the “band’s focus”[28] with an “angelic”[27] voice that “flows like honey”.[28] Her work has been compared to that of The Cox Family, Bill Monroe, and Del McCoury, and has in turn been credited with influencing various “Newgrass” artists including Nickel Creek, for which she acted as record producer on two of their albums.[29] In addition to her work with Nickel Creek, she has acted as producer to the Cox Family, Reba McEntire and Alan Jackson.[30] Adam Sweeting of The Guardian has said Krauss and Union Station are “superb when they stick to hoedowns and hillbilly music, but much less convincing when they lurch towards the middle of the road,”[31] and Blender magazine has said the “flavorless repertoire [Krauss] sings… steers her toward Lite FM”.[32] In addition, Q magazine and The Onion AV Club have said their newer releases are “pretty much the usual,” and that although Krauss is generally “adventurous,” these recent releases contain nothing to “alienate the masses”.[33]

Sources: Wikipedia, YouTube,

Elaine Stritch

Elaine Stritch, born February 2, 1926,[1][2] is an American actress and vocalist. She has appeared in numerous stage plays and musicals, feature films, and many television programs. She is known for her performance of “The Ladies Who Lunch” in Stephen Sondheim‘s 1970 musical Company, her 2001 one-woman show Elaine Stritch at Liberty, and recently for her role as Jack Donaghy‘s mother Colleen on NBC‘s 30 Rock. She has been nominated for the Tony Award four times in various categories, and Elaine Stritch at Liberty won.

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Stritch was born in Detroit, Michigan, the daughter of Mildred (née Jobe), a homemaker, and George Joseph Stritch, an executive with B.F. Goodrich.[3] Her family was wealthy and devoutly Roman Catholic.[4][5] Stritch’s father was of Irish descent and her mother was of Welsh descent.[1] Stritch was a niece of Samuel Stritch, a former Cardinal Archbishop of Chicago.[6]

Stritch trained at the Dramatic Workshop of the New School for Social Research in New York City under Erwin Piscator;[7] other students at the Dramatic Workshop at this time included Marlon Brando and Bea Arthur.[8]

Stritch made her stage debut in 1944. However, her Broadway debut came in the revue Angel in the Wings in which she performed comedy sketches and the song Civilization (song). Stritch was also understudy to Ethel Merman for the Irving Berlin musical Call Me Madam and, at the same time, appeared in the 1952 revival of Pal Joey, singing “Zip,” a pivotal number. Stritch later starred in the national tour of Call Me Madam and appeared in a supporting role in the original Broadway production of William Inge’s play Bus Stop. She was the lead in Goldilocks and then was hand-picked by Noel Coward for one of the leads in Sail Away. Before the show got to Broadway, Coward had become disenchanted with the romantic lead, and, dismissing her, he rewrote the show to combine the romantic lead with Stritch’s role so that Stritch, triumphantly, brought the show to New York as its star.

Stritch became known as a singer with a brassy, rough voice who could portray brash characters, most notably originating on Broadway the role of Joanne in Company (1970). After over a decade of successful runs in shows in New York, Stritch moved in 1972 to London, where she starred in the West End production of Company.

“Here’s To The Ladies Who Lunch”

Her earliest television appearances were in The Growing Paynes (1949) and the Goodyear Television Playhouse (1953-55). She also appeared on episodes of The Ed Sullivan Show in 1954.

Stritch was also the original Trixie in the pilot for Honeymooners sketch with Jackie Gleason, Art Carney and Pert Kelton, but she was replaced.[7] Other television credits, include a number of dramatic programs in the 1950s and 1960s, including Studio One.

In the 1960-61 season, she costarred with Shirley Bonne, Jack Weston, Rose Marie, Raymond Bailey, and Stubby Kaye in the short-lived CBS sitcom My Sister Eileen. Stritch played magazine writer Ruth Sherwood, who shares an apartment in New York City with her younger sister, Eileen, an aspiring actress.

In the 1965-1966 season, she was Daniel J. O’Brien’s (Peter Falk‘s) secretary in the short-lived CBS drama The Trials of O’Brien, which also starred Joanna Barnes and David Burns.

In the 1970s, Stritch decided to stay in London to work on stage and in British television, having married John Bay, an actor she had met there.

In 1975, Stritch starred in the British LWT comedy series Two’s Company opposite Donald Sinden. She played Dorothy McNab, an American writer living in London who was famous for her lurid and sensationalist thriller novels. Sinden played Robert, her English butler, who disapproved of practically everything Dorothy did and the series derived its comedy from the inevitable culture clash between Robert’s very British stiff-upper-lip attitude and Dorothy’s devil-may-care New York view of life. Two’s Company was exceptionally well-received in Britain and ran for four seasons until 1979, despite being buried in the “graveyard slot” of Sundays at 10:30pm. Stritch and Sinden also sang the theme tune to the programme.

Her other British television appearances included Roald Dahl‘s Tales of the Unexpected (19781989). Although she appeared several times in different roles, perhaps her most memorable appearance was in the story “William and Mary,” in which she played the wife of a man who has cheated death by having his brain preserved. In his introduction to the episode, Dahl observed that humor should always be used in horror stories, in order to provide light to the shade, and that was why Stritch had been cast, as “an actress who knows a lot about humor.”

Performed in honor of Stephen Sondheim’s 75th Birthday on July 8, 2005 at the Hollywood Bowl, Los Angeles.

Stritch became a darling of the British chat show circuit, appearing with Michael Parkinson and Terry Wogan many times, usually ending the appearance with a song. She also appeared on BBC One‘s iconic children’s series, Jackanory, reading, amongst other stories, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl.

On returning to live in the United States, she was a regular on the short-lived The Ellen Burstyn Show in 1986, playing Burstyn’s character’s mother. She appeared as stern schoolteacher Mrs. McGee on three episodes of The Cosby Show (1989-1990). She followed later with appearances on Law & Order (1992, 1997) as Lainie Steiglitz; as Judge Grace Lema on Oz (1998); and as the character Martha Albright on two episodes of 3rd Rock From the Sun (1997, 2001).

Stritch was reportedly considered for the role of Dorothy Zbornak on The Golden Girls but, as she related in her show Elaine Stritch at Liberty, she “blew her audition.”[9] The role was subsequently cast with Bea Arthur (who had appeared with Stritch in 1956 in the television series Washington Square).

More recently, she has been seen on One Life to Live and recurring roles on Law & Order and 3rd Rock from the Sun. Recently she has also appeared as the mother of Jack Donaghy, Alec Baldwin‘s character on 30 Rock.

In 2008, Stritch appeared as herself in an episode during the second season of The Big Gay Sketch Show. She was spoofed during the first season as well as the second season. In 1982, Stritch appeared on an edition of the long running BBC Radio comedy series Just a Minute alongside Kenneth Williams, Clement Freud and Barry Cryer. The show has been described by long-time chairman Nicholas Parsons as being among the most memorable because of the way Stritch stretched the show’s rules. It was on this occasion that Stritch famously described Kenneth Williams as being able to make “one word into a three-act play.”[10] She also appeared as Martha in a radio adaptation of Edward Albee‘s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (she understudied Uta Hagen in the same role during the show’s original Broadway run, performing during matinees before taking over the role entirely).

Delightful comedy turn from “A Tree Grows In Brooklyn” originally written for TV’s Hazel, Shirley Booth. Performed here by Elaine Stritch on the PBS Series “Song by Song: Dorothy Fields”.

After John Bay’s death from brain cancer in 1982,[11] Stritch returned to America. After a lull in her career and struggles with alcoholism, Stritch began performing again in earnest in 1990. She appeared as Parthy in a successful Broadway revival of the musical Show Boat, a one-night only concert of Company and as Claire in a revival of Edward Albee‘s A Delicate Balance.

Her one-woman show, Elaine Stritch at Liberty, a summation of her life and career, began at New York’s Public Theatre in 2001 and ran on Broadway from February 21 to May 27, 2002. Newsweek noted:

Now we see how At Liberty, the amazing one-woman show Stritch is moving to Broadway from the Public Theater this week, acquired the credit “Constructed by John Lahr. Reconstructed by Elaine Stritch.” “The reconstruction means I had the last say,” she says. “Damn right I did.”… In case you didn’t notice, Stritch is not the kind of woman who goes in for the sappy self-indulgence that pollutes most one-person shows. In fact, At Liberty is in a class by itself, a biting, hilarious and even touching tour-de-force tour of Stritch’s career and life. Almost every nook and cranny of “At Liberty” holds a surprise. Turns out she dated Marlon Brando, Gig Young and Ben Gazzara, though she dropped Ben when Rock Hudson showed an interest in her. “And we all know what a bum decision that turned out to be,” she says. And then there were the shows. A British writer recently called Stritch “Broadway’s last first lady,” and when you see her performing her signature numbers from Company and Pal Joey and hear her tell tales of working with Merman, Coward, Gloria Swanson and the rest, it’s hard to argue. Especially since she does it all dressed in a long white shirt and form-fitting black tights. It’s both a metaphor for her soul-baring musical and a sartorial kiss-my-rear gesture to anyone who thinks there isn’t some life left in the 76-year-old diva. “Somebody said to me the other day, ‘Is this the last thing you’re going to do?’ ” says Stritch. “In your dreams! I can’t wait to get back into an Yves Saint Laurent costume that isn’t mine–but will be when the show is over.[12]

Elaine Stritch at Liberty played to British audiences in 2002-03. She reprised Elaine Stritch at Liberty at Hartford Stage in June 2008.[13]

She is appearing in the Broadway revival of Sondheim’s A Little Night Music, as Madame Armfeldt, starting on July 13, 2010. She replaced Angela Lansbury in the role.[14][15] Stritch has been performing a cabaret act at the Cafe Carlyle in New York City since 2005 (she is a resident of the Hotel Carlyle). Her first show was titled “At Home at the Carlyle.” The New York Times reviewer wrote that “Amazingly, none of the 16 songs she performs have ever been in her repertory, and just as amazingly, you don’t miss signature numbers… Letting them go has allowed her to venture into more sensitive emotional territory. Interpreting stark, talk-sing versions of Rodgers and Hart‘s “He Was Too Good to Me,” “Fifty Percent” from the show Ballroom, and Kurt Weill and Ogden Nash‘s “That’s Him,” she comes into her own as a dramatic ballad singer.[16] Between musical numbers, Stritch told stories from the world of stage and screen, tales from her everyday life and personal glimpses of her private tragedies and triumphs. She most recently performed at the Cafe Carlyle in January and February 2010, and again in March 2010 in a program titled “At Home at the Carlyle: Elaine Stritch Singin’ Sondheim…One Song at a Time”.[17]

This is a HILARIOUS selection from Elaine Stritch’s one woman show “At Liberty”! In this clip she is talking about how she was casted in Pal Joey, while still understudying for Ethel Merman and the hectic schedule she had to take up on account of it!

Her late husband, John Bay (Chicago, Illinois), was part of the family that owns Bay’s English Muffins, and Stritch sends English muffins as gifts to friends. Said John Kenley: “Every Christmas, she still sends me English muffins.”[18][19] When she was based in London, instead of renting or buying a property Stritch and her husband lived at the Savoy Hotel.[7] She is good friends with gossip columnist Liz Smith.[20]

Stritch has been candid about her struggles with alcohol. She took her first drink at 13, and began using it as a crutch prior to performances to vanquish her stage fright and insecurities. Her drinking worsened after Bay’s death, and she sought help after experiencing issues with effects of alcoholism, as well as the onset of diabetes. Elaine Stritch at Liberty discusses this topic at length.[5]

Stritch’s voice and vocal delivery are spoofed in the Forbidden Broadway songs “The Ladies Who Screech” and “Stritch,” parodies of “The Ladies Who Lunch” and “Zip,” songs she performed in the musicals Company and Pal Joey. In 2009, a parody by Bats Langley entitled “How the Stritch Stole Christmas” (loosely based on “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”) appeared on YouTube.

On The Big Gay Sketch Show, she was spoofed as a Wal-Mart greeter who’s still a theater gal at heart. (“I’m heeere. I’m still heeeerrre.” “Here’s to the ladies who shop… at Wal-Mart!“) This draws inspiration from footage of D.A. Pennebaker’s documentary film, Company: Original Cast Album, in which she says “I’m just screaming,” self-critiquing during recording “The Ladies Who Lunch.” The sketch also spoofs Elaine Stritch Live at Liberty in which she refers to her feat, as a young stage actress and understudy for Ethel Merman in ‘Call Me Madam’, where she had to check in with Ethel Merman at half hour to curtain in New York, then commute to Connecticut for the out of town tryout of ‘Pal Joey,’ and on some days make the round trip twice when there was a matinee and evening performance of both shows. In a subsequent episode of The Big Gay Sketch Show, Stritch is spoofed as an airport security guard, who’s still “on” and isn’t able to tone down her over-the-top antics. In yet another episode, “Stritch” (played by Nicol Paone) is promoting her self-titled perfume, “Stritchy,” in dramatic fashion when she’s confronted by the real-life Elaine Stritch, who makes a cameo appearance.

Elaine Stritch studied acting with Marlon Brando when she was 17 years old, in 1943. She describes here just how badly the date went.

Stritch has been nominated for the Tony Award four times:

  • Best Featured Actress in a Play for Bus Stop, 1956
  • Best Actress in a Musical for Sail Away, 1962, as Mimi Paragon
  • Best Actress in a Musical for Company, 1971
  • Best Actress in a Play for A Delicate Balance, 1996

In 2002, her one-woman show Elaine Stritch at Liberty won the Tony Award for Best Special Theatrical Event and the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding One-Person Show. In Elaine Stritch at Liberty she shared stories and songs from her life in theatre and observations on her experiences with alcoholism. The D.A. Pennebaker documentary of Elaine Stritch at Liberty (2004) combined rehearsal elements and her stage performance to win several Emmy Awards, including Outstanding Achievement in a Variety or Music Program. In 2007, at age 81, she began guest appearances on the NBC sitcom 30 Rock as Colleen Donaghy, mother of Alec Baldwin‘s lead character, Jack Donaghy. She received an Emmy Award in September 2007 for Best Guest Actress in a Comedy Series for her appearance on 30 Rock.

on “The Dino Vino Show”!
This is a hysterical skit from the Dean Martin Variety Show.


  • Loco (October 16 – November 16, 1946)
  • Angel in the Wings (December 11, 1947 – September 4, 1948)
  • Yes, M’Lord (October 4 – December 18, 1949)
  • Call Me Madam (October 12, 1950 – May 3, 1952) (understudy for Ethel Merman) (replaced by Nancy Andrews when on national tour)
  • Pal Joey (Revival) (January 3, 1952 – April 18, 1953) (replaced by Betty O’Neil)
  • On Your Toes (Revival) (October 11 – December 4, 1954)
  • Bus Stop (March 2, 1955 – April 21, 1956)
  • The Sin of Pat Muldoon (March 13 – March 16, 1957)
  • Goldilocks (October 11, 1958 – February 28, 1959)
  • Sail Away (October 3, 1961 – February 24, 1962)
  • Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (October 13, 1962 – May 16, 1964) (replacement for Uta Hagen starting in 1963)
  • Company (April 26, 1970 – January 1, 1972) (replaced by Jane Russell in 1971)
  • Love Letters (October 31, 1989 – January 21, 1990) (replacement for Kate Nelligan)
  • Company (April 11 and April 12, 1993) (concert staging)
  • Show Boat (Revival) (October 2, 1994 – January 5, 1997) (replaced by Carole Shelley)
  • A Delicate Balance (Revival) (April 21 – September 29, 1996)
  • Angela Lansbury – A Celebration (November 17, 1996) (benefit concert)
  • Elaine Stritch at Liberty (February 21 – May 27, 2002)
  • Endgame, Brooklyn Academy of Music, (April 25 – May 17, 2008)
  • The Full Monty, Papermill Playhouse, (June 10 – July 12, 2009)
  • A Little Night Music (Revival), (July 13, 2010 – not announced) (replacement for Angela Lansbury)


Stritch performed in more than 30 feature films and TV movies, including A Farewell to Arms, Woody Allen‘s September, Screwed, Out to Sea, Monster-In-Law, and Autumn in New York. She has also been seen in such documentaries as Broadway: The Golden Years, by the Legends Who Were There (2003) and The Needs of Kim Stanley (2005).

Quick Bio Facts

Elaine StritchBorn: 2-Feb1925

Birthplace: Detroit, MI

Gender: Female
Religion: Roman Catholic
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Actor

Nationality: United States
Executive summary: Two’s Company

Boyfriend: Gig Young (actor, broken engagement)
Boyfriend: Marlon Brando (dated briefly)
Boyfriend: Ben Gazzara (actor, cohabited two years)
Husband: John Bay (Irish actor, m. 1973, d. 1982)

University: New School for Social Research

Tony 2002 for Elaine Stritch At Liberty
Emmy 2003 for Law & Order
Emmy 2004 for Elaine Stritch at Liberty
Risk Factors: Diabetes

The Trials of O’Brien Miss G (1965-66)
Two’s Company Dorothy McNab (1975-79)
The Edge of Night Mrs. DeGroot (1984)
One Life to Live Wilma Bern (1993)

Romance & Cigarettes (6-Sep-2005)
Monster-in-Law (6-May-2005)
Autumn in New York (11-Aug-2000)
Small Time Crooks (19-May-2000)
Screwed (12-May-2000)
Krippendorf’s Tribe (27-Feb-1998)
Out to Sea (2-Jul-1997)
Chance of a Lifetime (18-Nov-1991)
Cadillac Man (18-May-1990)
Cocoon: The Return (23-Nov-1988)
September (18-Dec-1987)
Providence (25-Jan-1977)
Who Killed Teddy Bear (Oct-1965)
The Perfect Furlough (21-Jan-1959)
A Farewell to Arms (14-Dec-1957)
Three Violent People (Dec-1956)
The Scarlet Hour (Apr-1956)

Official Website:

Author of books:
Am I Blue (1984, memoir)

Sources: YouTube,, wikipedia,,

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