Tyne Daly

Tyne Daly (born February 21, 1946) is an American stage and screen actress, widely known for her work as Detective Lacey in the television series Cagney & Lacey. She has won six Emmy Awards for her television work,[1][2] and the Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical in Gypsy: A Musical Fable in 1989.

Daly was born Ellen Tyne Daly in Madison, Wisconsin, into a creative family; she is the daughter of actor James Daly.[3] Her younger brother is actor Timothy Daly. Her sister-in-law, Amy Van Nostrand, is also an actress. She was raised in Westchester County, New York, where she started her career by performing in summer stock with her family; she earned her Equity Card at age 15. She studied at Brandeis University and The American Musical and Dramatic Academy.[3]

Daly was married to actor/director Georg Stanford Brown from 1966 to 1990.[4]

“Some People” from Gypsy

Daly represented one half of the title characters in the legendary CBS cop drama Cagney & Lacey winning four Emmy Awards for her performance as Mary Beth Lacey, the married working mother. Between herself and co-star Sharon Gless, they took the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series for six straight years in a row, a winning streak unmatched in any major category by a show.

“Rose’s Turn”

She appeared as social worker Maxine Gray, who was also the mother to the show’s title character on the CBS drama Judging Amy, which ran from 1999 to 2005. Addressing a conference of the National Association of Social Workers in 2000, Daly said that she had learned from social workers and social work texts to improve her portrayal of her character. She added: “I take from you because you are the ones dealing with all the bad institutions of our society: institutionalized poverty, institutionalized racism, institutionalized cynicism.”[5]

She appeared in a made-for-TV movie for Lifetime in 2003 titled Undercover Christmas, as Anne Cunningham. She played the role of a traditional mother and peacemaker at Christmas time in a wealthy family of lawyers, who initially disapproves of her FBI agent son’s girlfriend.[6] Daly’s first Broadway role was in 1967 in a short-lived play, That Summer, That Fall.[3][7][8] In April 1989, she starred as Rose in a 14 city U.S. tour of the musical Gypsy which finally landed on Broadway in late 1989. This production was the second revival of the show to play Broadway (the first was in 1974 with Angela Lansbury). Daly won the 1990 Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical for her performance in Gypsy.[9] Daly left Gypsy in July 1990, with Linda Lavin playing Rose, and returned in April 1991 through closing in July 1991. Daly appeared in the Broadway revival of the Anton Chekhov play The Seagull in 1992 as Madame Arkadina.[3][10] She appeared as Sally Adams in the City Center Encores! staged concert of Call Me Madam in February 1995.[11] In regional theatre she played Lola in Come Back, Little Sheba at the Los Angeles Theatre Center, Los Angeles, California in April 1997.[12] She appeared on Broadway in the 2006 play Rabbit Hole, portraying the mother of the play’s protagonist, played by Cynthia Nixon.[13] In January 2008 she played the role of Mother in the world premiere production of the Edward Albee play Me, Myself & I at the McCarter Theatre, Princeton, New Jersey.[14]

Sharon Gless and Tyne Daly sing a Cagney and Lacey Tribute

Daly performed a cabaret act, Second Time Around, in January 2010 at Feinstein’s at Loews Regency, New York City. She had previously performed at Feinstein’s in May 2009.[15] Daly appeared in John and Mary (1969), the movie adaptation of Play It As It Lays (1972), and The Adulteress.[3][7] She was cast as Inspector Harry Callahan’s first female partner, Kate Moore, in the 1976 Dirty Harry film The Enforcer.[3] Although her performance was not widely praised, the concept was later used as the basis for the television show Hunter.[3][16] Daly has been identified as a feminist role model, particularly based on her television roles in Cagney and Lacey and Judging Amy. Her role as Lacey showed a woman detective at a time where the idea was still novel; the show was also novel in presenting Lacey primarily in a work environment, rather than always showing the character at home.[7] She has also been outspoken about maintaining a natural appearance as she ages, and for the run of Judging Amy, Daly’s hair was shown in its naturally gray state.[17] Daly was married to Georg Stanford Brown from 1966 to 1990. They have three daughters: Alisabeth (b. 1968), a potter; actress Kathryne (b. 1971); and Alyxandra (b. 1985).[4][18] A season one episode of The Cleveland Show, titled “Once Upon a Tyne in New York“, made repeated references to Daly. Her character was voiced by Alex Borstein.[19]

On Stage for the Royal Family. 50th Anniversary of the BBC

Sources: Wikipedia, youtube, nndb.com, imdb.com, tynedaly.com

Broadway

Year Production Playwright Role Notes and awards
1967 That Summer – That Fall[8]
1989 Gypsy[9][22] Rose
  • Won – 1990 Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical
  • Performances: Broadway and also US National tour, 1989
1992 The Seagull[10] Madame Arkadina
2006 Rabbit Hole[13] Nat

Off-Broadway

Year Production Playwright Role Notes and awards
2009 Love, Loss, and What I Wore[23] Nora Ephron and Delia Ephron

Other stage credits

Year Production Playwright Role Notes and awards
1963 Jenny Kissed Me[3] Jean Kerr
2008 Agamemnon[24] Aeschylus Clytaemnestra
2010 The Second Time Around[25] Cabaret
  • Performances: Feinstein’s at the Regency, New York City (January 2010)
Master Class[26] Terrence McNally Maria Callas

Awards and recognition

Daly has been nominated for the Emmy Award a total of 17 times; she has won 6 times, for the following television performances:[1][27]

  • Lead Actress in a Drama Series for Cagney and Lacey in 1983, 1984, 1985, and 1988
  • Supporting Actress in a Drama Series for Christy in 1996
  • Supporting Actress in a Drama Series for Judging Amy in 2003

She was also recognized for the following:

Filmography

Source:[3][18]

Film
Year Title Role Other notes
1970 Angel Unchained Merilee Biker film starring Don Stroud
1976 The Enforcer Insp. Kate Moore The third Dirty Harry film
Television
Year Title Role Other notes
1968 General Hospital Caroline Beale Unknown Episodes
1970 Ironside Joanna Leigh Episode: “The People Against Judge McIntyre”
1971 Mission: Impossible Saretta Lane Episode: “Nerves”
1974 The Streets of San Francisco Mrs. Carlino Episode # 42, “Commitment”
1982 Magnum, P.I. Kate Sullivan Episode: “The Jororo Kill”
1982–1988 Cagney & Lacey Det. Mary Beth Lacey Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series – 4 times
Nominated – Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series – 2 times
Nominated – Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Television Series Drama – 4 times
Nominated – TV Land Award – 3 times
1988 Dolly (TV series) herself Episode # 18
1991 Wings Mimsy Borogroves Episode: “My Brother’s Keeper”
Nominated – Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series
1992 Columbo (TV series) Dolores Episode: “A Bird in the Hand”
1994–1995 Christy Alice Henderson Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series
Nominated – Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series
Nominated – Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress – Series, Miniseries or Television Film
1995 The Nanny (TV series) Mona Episode: “Strange Bedfellows”
Bye Bye Birdie Mrs. Mae Peterson Made for TV movie
1999 Execution of Justice Goldie Judge
1999–2005 Judging Amy Maxine Gray Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series
Nominated – Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series – 5 times
2009 Grey’s Anatomy Carolyn Shepherd Episode: “Sympathy for the Devil”
Georgia O’Keeffe[20] Mabel Didge Stern Made for TV movie (Lifetime)
2010 Burn Notice [21] Tina Episode: “A Dark Road”

Carol Channing

Carol Elaine Channing (born January 31, 1921)[1] is an Americansinger, actress, and comedienne. She is the recipient of three Tony Awards (including one for lifetime achievement), a Golden Globe and an Oscar nomination. Channing is best remembered for originating, on Broadway, the musical-comedy roles of bombshell Lorelei Lee in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, and matchmaking widow Dolly Gallagher Levi in Hello, Dolly!

Channing was born in Seattle, Washington, the only child of George and Adelaide (née Glaser) Channing. Her father was a city editor at the Seattle Star; his newspaper career took the family to San Francisco when Carol was only two weeks old. Her father later became a successful Christian Science practitioner, editor, and teacher. Carol attended Aptos Middle School and Lowell High School in San Francisco. At Lowell, Channing was a member of its famed Lowell Forensic Society, the nation’s oldest high-school debate team.

“Jazz Baby”

According to Channing’s memoirs, when she left home to attend Bennington College in Vermont, her mother informed her that her father, a journalist who Carol had believed was born in Rhode Island, had in fact been born in Augusta, Georgia, to a German-American father and an African-American mother. According to Channing’s account, her mother reportedly didn’t want [Channing] to be surprised “if she had a black baby”.[2][3] Channing kept this a secret to avoid any problems on Broadway and in Hollywood, ultimately revealing it only in her autobiography, Just Lucky I Guess, published in 2002 when she was 81 years old. Channing’s autobiography, containing a photograph of her mother, does not have any photos of her father or son.[4] Her book also states that her father’s birth certificate was destroyed in a fire. (The November 4, 2002 issue of Jet magazine reported, based on her autobiography, that Carol Channing’s father was African-American.)

Channing was introduced to the stage while working for her mother. In a 2005 interview with the Austin Chronicle, Channing recounted this experience:

“My mother said, ‘Carol, would you like to help me distribute Christian Science Monitors backstage at the live theatres in San Francisco?’ And I said, ‘All right, I’ll help you.’ I don’t know how old I was. I must have been little. We went through the stage door alley (for the Curran Theatre), and I couldn’t get the stage door open. My mother came and opened it very well. Anyway, my mother went to put the Monitors where they were supposed to go for the actors and the crew and the musicians, and she left me alone. And I stood there and realized – I’ll never forget it because it came over me so strongly – that this is a temple. This is a cathedral. It’s a mosque. It’s a mother church. This is for people who have gotten a glimpse of creation and all they do is recreate it. I stood there and wanted to kiss the floorboards.”[5]

Channing’s first job on stage in New York was in Marc Blitzstein‘s No For an Answer, which was given two special Sunday performances starting January 5, 1941 at the Mecca Temple (later New York’s City Center). She was 19 years old. Channing then moved to Broadway for Let’s Face It!, in which she was an understudy for Eve Arden. Decades later, Arden would play “Dolly” in a road company after Channing finally relinquished the role. Five years later, Channing had a featured role in a revue, Lend an Ear. She was spotted by author Anita Loos and cast in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes as Lorelei Lee, the role that brought her to prominence. (Her signature song from the production was Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend.) In 1961, Channing became one of a very few Tony Award nominees to gain a nomination for work in a revue (rather than a traditional book musical), when she was nominated for Best Actress in a Musical, for the short-lived revue Show Girl.

Pearl Bailey and Carol Channing Together

Channing came to national prominence as the star of Jerry Herman‘s Hello, Dolly! She never missed a performance during her run, attributing her good health to her Christian Science faith. Her performance won her the Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical, in a year when her chief competition was Barbra Streisand for Funny Girl. She was deeply disappointed when Streisand, who many believed to be far too young for the role, was signed to play Dolly Levi in the film, which also starred Walter Matthau and Michael Crawford.

Channing reprised the role of Lorelei Lee in the musical Lorelei. She also appeared in two New York revivals of Hello, Dolly!, and toured with it extensively throughout the United States. She also appeared in a number of movies, The First Traveling Sales Lady (1956) with Ginger Rogers, the cult film Skidoo and Thoroughly Modern Millie, opposite Julie Andrews and Mary Tyler Moore. For Millie she received a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, and was awarded a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture.

In 1966, she won the Sarah Siddons Award for her work in Chicago theatre. During her film career she also made some guest appearances on television sitcoms and talk shows, including CBS‘s “What’s My Line?,” on which she appeared in eleven episodes from 1962 to 1966. Channing also did a fair amount of voice over work in cartoons, most notably as Grandmama Addams in an animated version of The Addams Family which ran from 1992 to 1995.

“Razzle Dazzle” at the Hollywood Bowl

Channing was inducted into the American Theatre Hall of Fame in 1981.[6] She was awarded a Lifetime Achievement Tony Award in 1995,[7] and an honorary doctorate in Fine Arts by California State University, Stanislaus in 2004.[8] That same year, she received the Oscar Hammerstein Award for Lifetime Achievement in Musical Theatre.[9] She and husband Harry Kullijian are active in promoting arts education in California schools with the Dr. Carol Channing and Harry Kullijian Foundation. The couple resides in Modesto, California.

She has been married four times. Her first husband, Theodore Naidish, was a writer. Her second husband, Alexander Carson, played center for the Ottawa Rough Riders Canadian football team. They had one son, Channing, who took his stepfather’s surname and is now a Pulitzer-prize-nominated cartoonist publishing under the name Chan Lowe.[10] In 1956, she married her manager and publicist, Charles Lowe. They remained married for 42 years, but she abruptly filed for divorce in 1998. He died before the divorce was finalized. After Lowe’s death and until shortly before her fourth marriage, the actress’s companion was Roger Denny, an interior decorator.[11]

On May 10, 2003, she married Harry Kullijian, her fourth husband and junior high school sweetheart, who reunited with her after she mentioned him fondly in her memoir. The two performed at their old junior high school, which had become Aptos Middle School, in a benefit for the school.

“Hello Dolly”

On “Whats My Line?”

At Lowell High School, they renamed the school’s auditorium “The Carol Channing Theatre” in her honor. The city of San Francisco, California, proclaimed February 25, 2002, to be Carol Channing Day, for her advocacy of gay rights and her appearance as the celebrity host of the Gay Pride Day festivities in Hollywood.

Sources: wikipedia.com, youtube.com, imdb.com, nndb.com, carolchanning.com

Theater credits

  • No For an Answer (January 5 and January 11, 1941)
  • Let’s Face It! (October 29, 1941 – March 20, 1943) (understudy for Eve Arden)
  • Proof Through the Night (December 25, 1942 – January 2, 1943)
  • Lend an Ear (December 16, 1948 – January 21, 1950)
  • Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (December 8, 1949 – September 15, 1951)
  • Wonderful Town (February 25, 1953 – July 3, 1954) (replacement for Rosalind Russell)
  • The Vamp (November 10 – December 31, 1955) (Best Actress in a Musical nominee)
  • Show Girl (January 12 – April 8, 1961) (Best Actress in a Musical nominee)
  • Hello, Dolly! (January 16, 1964 – December 27, 1970) (left show in 1967)
  • Four on a Garden (January 30 – March 20, 1971)
  • Lorelei (January 27 – November 3, 1974) (Best Actress in a Musical nominee)
  • Julie’s Friends at the Palace (May 19, 1974) (benefit performance)
  • Hello, Dolly! (March 15 – July 19, 1978) (revival)
  • Legends (January 7, 1986 – January 18, 1987) (national tour)
  • Hello, Dolly! (October 19, 1995 – January 28, 1996) (revival; farewell tour)

Filmography

Ethel Merman

Ethel Merman (January 16, 1908 – February 15, 1984) was an American actress and singer.[1] Known primarily for her powerful voice and roles in musical theatre, she has been called “the undisputed First Lady of the musical comedy stage.”[2] Among the many standards introduced by Merman in Broadwaymusicals are “I Got Rhythm“, “Everything’s Coming Up Roses“, “I Get a Kick Out of You“, “It’s De-Lovely“, “Friendship”, “You’re the Top“, “Anything Goes“, and “There’s No Business Like Show Business“, which later became her theme song.

Merman was born Ethel Agnes Zimmermann in her maternal grandmother’s house located at 26-5 4th Street in Astoria, Queens, in New York City in 1908, though she would later emphatically declare that it was actually 1912.[3] Her father, Edward Zimmermann (1879–1977), was an accountant with James H. Dunham & Company, a Manhattan wholesale dry-goods company, and her mother, Agnes (née Gardner) (1883–1974), was a school teacher. Zimmermann had been raised in the Dutch Reformed Church and his wife was Presbyterian, but shortly after they were wed they joined the Episcopalian congregation at Church of the Redeemer, where Merman was baptized. Her parents were strict about church attendance, and every Sunday she spent the day there, first at morning services, followed by Sunday school, an afternoon prayer meeting, and an evening study group for children.[4]

“There’s No Business Like Show Business”

Merman attended P.S. 4 and William Cullen Bryant High School (which later named its auditorium in her honor), where she pursued a commercial course that offered secretarial training.[5] She was active in numerous extracurricular activities, including the school magazine, the speakers’ club, and student council, and she frequented the local music store to peruse the weekly arrivals of new sheet music.[6] On Friday nights the Zimmermann family would take the subway into Manhattan to see the vaudeville show at the Palace Theatre, where Merman discovered Blossom Seeley, Fanny Brice, Sophie Tucker, and Nora Bayes. At home she would try to emulate their singing styles, but her own distinct voice was difficult to disguise.[7]

After graduating from Bryant in 1924, Merman was hired as a stenographer by the Boyce-Ite Company. One day during her lunch break, she met Vic Kliesrath, who offered her a job at the Bragg-Kliesrath Corporation for a $5 increase above the weekly $23 salary she was earning, and Merman accepted the offer. She eventually was made personal secretary to company president Caleb Bragg, whose frequent lengthy absences from the office allowed her to catch up on the sleep she had lost the previous night when she was out late performing at private parties. During this period Merman also began appearing in nightclubs, and it was at this time she decided the name Ethel Zimmermann was too long for a theater marquee. She considered combining Ethel with Gardner or Hunter, her grandmother’s maiden name, but finally abbreviated Zimmermann to Merman to appease her father.[8]

Ethel, Barbara and Judy together

During a two-week engagement at Little Russia, a club in midtown-Manhattan, Merman met agent Lou Irwin, who arranged for her to audition for Archie Mayo, a contract director at Warner Bros. He offered her an exclusive six-month contract, starting at $125 per week, and Merman quit her day job, only to find herself idle for weeks while waiting to be cast in a film. She finally urged Irwin to try to cancel her agreement with Mayo; instead, he negotiated her a better deal allowing her to perform in clubs while remaining on the Warners payroll. Merman was hired as a torch singer at Les Ambassadeurs, where the headliner was Jimmy Durante, and the two became lifelong friends. She caught the attention of columnists such as Walter Winchell and Mark Hellinger, who began giving her publicity. Soon after Merman underwent a tonsillectomy she feared might damage her voice, but after recovering she discovered it was more powerful than ever.[9]

“Everything’s Coming Up Roses”

While performing on the prestigious Keith Circuit, Merman was signed to replace Ruth Etting in the Paramount film Follow the Leader, starring Ed Wynn and Ginger Rogers. Following a successful seven-week run at the Brooklyn Paramount, she was signed to perform at the Palace for $500 per week. During the run, theatre producer Vinton Freedley saw her perform and invited her to audition for the role of San Francisco café singer Kate Fothergill in the new George and Ira Gershwin musical Girl Crazy. Upon hearing her sing “I Got Rhythm”, the Gershwins immediately cast her, and Merman began juggling daytime rehearsals with her matinee and evening performance schedule at the Palace.[10]

Girl Crazy opened on October 14, 1930 at the Alvin Theatre, where it ran for 272 performances.[11]The New York Times noted Merman sang “with dash, authority, good voice and just the right knowing style,” while The New Yorker called her “imitative of no one.”[12] Merman was fairly blasé about her notices, prompting George Gershwin to ask her mother, “Have you ever seen a person so unconcerned as Ethel?”, and he made her promise never to work with a singing teacher.[13]

During the run of Girl Crazy, Paramount signed Merman to appear in a series of ten short musical films, most of which allowed her to sing a rousing number as well as a ballad. She also performed at the Central Park Casino, the Paramount Theatre, and a return engagement at the Palace. As soon as Girl Crazy closed, she and her parents departed for a much-needed vacation in Lake George in Upstate New York, but after their first day there Merman was summoned to Atlantic City to help salvage the troubled latest edition of George White’s Scandals. Because she was still under contract to Freedley, White was forced to pay the producer $10,000 for her services, in addition to her weekly $1,500 salary. Following the Atlantic City run, the show played in Newark and then Brooklyn before opening on Broadway, where it ran for 202 performances.[14]

Merman’s next show, Humpty Dumpty, began rehearsals in August 1932 and opened—and immediately closed—in Pittsburgh the following month. Producer Buddy DeSylva, who also had written the book and lyrics, was certain it could be reworked into a success and, with a revamped script and additional songs by Vincent Youmans,[15] it opened with the new title Take a Chance on November 26 at the Apollo, where it ran for 243 performances.[16] Brooks Atkinson of The New York Times called it “fast, loud, and funny” and added Merman “has never loosed herself with quite so much abandon.” Following the Broadway run, she agreed to join the show on the road, but shortly after the Chicago opening she claimed the chlorine in the city’s water supply was irritating her throat, and Merman returned to Manhattan.[12]

On “Loveboat”

Merman returned to Hollywood to appear in We’re Not Dressing, a 1934 screwball comedy based on the J. M. Barrie play The Admirable Crichton. Despite working with a cast that included Bing Crosby, Carole Lombard, and Burns and Allen, under the direction of Academy Award–winning director Norman Taurog, Merman was unhappy with the experience, and she was dismayed to discover one of her musical numbers had been cut when she attended the New York opening with her family and friends. That same year she also appeared on screen with Eddie Cantor in Kid Millions, but it was her return to Broadway that would establish her as a major star and cement her image as a tough girl with a soft heart.[17]

Anything Goes proved to be the first of five Cole Porter musicals in which Merman starred. In addition to the title song, the score included “I Get a Kick Out of You“, “You’re the Top“, and “Blow Gabriel Blow”. It opened on November 21, 1934 at the Alvin Theatre,[18] and the New York Post called Merman “vivacious and ingratiating in her comedy moments, and the embodiment of poise and technical adroitness” when singing “as only she knows how to do.” Although Merman always had remained with a show until the end of its run, she left Anything Goes after eight months to appear with Eddie Cantor in the film Strike Me Pink. She was replaced by Benay Venuta, with whom she enjoyed a long but frequently tempestuous friendship.[19]

Merman initially was overlooked for the 1936 screen adaptation of Anything Goes when Bing Crosby insisted his wife Dixie Lee be cast as Reno Sweeney opposite his Billy Crocker, but when she unexpectedly dropped out of the project Merman was given the opportunity to reprise the role she had originated on stage. From the beginning, it was clear to Merman the film would not be the enjoyable experience she had hoped it would be. The focus was shifted to Crosby, leaving her very much in a supporting role. Many of Porter’s ribald lyrics were altered to conform to the guidelines of the Motion Picture Production Code, and “Blow Gabriel Blow” was eliminated completely, replaced by a song Merman was forced to perform in a headdress made of peacock feathers while surrounded by dancers dressed as Chinese slave girls. The film was completed $201,000 over budget and seventeen days behind schedule, and Richard Watts, Jr. of the New York Herald Tribune described it as “dull and commonplace,” with Merman doing “as well as possible” but unable to register “on the screen as magnificently as she does on the stage.”[20]

Ethel and Mary Martain

Merman returned to Broadway for another Porter musical, but despite the presence of Jimmy Durante and Bob Hope in the cast, Red, Hot and Blue closed after less than six months.[21] Back in Hollywood, Merman was featured in Happy Landing, a minor comedy with Cesar Romero, Don Ameche, and Sonja Henie; the box office hit Alexander’s Ragtime Band, a pastiche of Irving Berlin songs interpolated into a plot that vaguely paralleled the composer’s life; and Straight, Place or Show, a critical and commercial flop starring the Ritz Brothers.[22] She returned to the stage in Stars in Your Eyes, which struggled to survive while the public flocked to the 1939 New York World’s Fair instead and finally closed short of four months.[23] Merman followed this with two more Porter musicals. DuBarry Was a Lady, with Bert Lahr and Betty Grable, ran for a year,[24] and Panama Hattie, with Betty Hutton, June Allyson, and Arthur Treacher, fared even better, lasting slightly more than fourteen months.[25] Shortly after the opening of the latter, Merman—still despondent about the end of her affair with Sherman Billingsley—married her first husband, Treacher’s agent William Smith. She later said she knew on their wedding night she had made “a dreadful mistake,” and two months later she filed for divorce on grounds of desertion.[26] Shortly after she met and married Robert D. Levitt, promotion director for the New York Journal-American. The two eventually had two children and divorced in 1952 due to his excessive drinking and erratic behavior.[27]

Ethel Merman sings Cole Porter

In 1943, Merman was a featured performer in the film Stage Door Canteen and opened in another Porter musical, Something for the Boys, produced by Michael Todd. Her next project was Sadie Thompson, a Vernon Duke/Howard Dietz musical adaptation of a W. Somerset Maugham short story, but Merman found she was unable to retain the lyrics and resigned twelve days after rehearsals began.[28]

In August 1945, while in the hospital recovering from the Caesarean birth of her second child, Merman was visited by Dorothy Fields, who proposed she star as Annie Oakley in a musical she and her husband Herbert were writing with Jerome Kern. Merman accepted, but in November Kern suffered a heart attack while in New York City visiting Rogers and Hammerstein (the producers of the show) and died a few days later. Producers Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II invited Irving Berlin to replace him,[29] and the result was Annie Get Your Gun, which opened on May 16, 1946 at the Imperial Theatre, where it ran for nearly three years and 1,147 performances.[30] During that time, Merman took only two vacations and missed only two performances due to illness.[31] Merman lost the film version to Judy Garland, who eventually was replaced by Betty Hutton, but she did star in a Broadway revival two decades later.

An Evening With Ethel Merman

Merman and Berlin reunited for Call Me Madam in 1950, for which she won the Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical, and she went on to star in the 1953 screen adaptation as well, winning the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy for her performance. The following year she appeared as the matriarch of the singing and dancing Donahue family in There’s No Business Like Show Business, a film with a Berlin score.

Merman returned to Broadway at the behest of her third husband, Continental Airlines executive Robert Six, who was upset she had chosen to become a Colorado housewife following their wedding in 1953. He expected her public appearances to engender publicity for the airline, and her decision to forgo the limelight did not sit well with him. He urged her to accept the lead in Happy Hunting, with a book by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse (who had written Call Me Madam) and a score by the unknown team of Harold Karr and Matt Dubey. Merman thought the songs were weak but grudgingly acquiesced to her husband’s demands. She clashed with the composers from the start and soon was at odds with co-star Fernando Lamas and his wife Arlene Dahl, who frequently attended rehearsals. Based on the Merman name, the show opened in New York with an advance sale of $1.5 million and, despite the star’s dissatisfaction with it, garnered respectable reviews. Although Brooks Atkinson thought the score was “hardly more than adequate”, he called Merman “as brassy as ever, glowing like a neon light whenever she steps on the stage.” Several months into the run, she insisted two of her least favorite numbers be replaced by songs written by her friend Roger Edens who, because of his exclusive contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, credited them to Kay Thompson. She lost the Tony Award to Judy Holliday in Bells Are Ringing, and the show closed after 412 performances, with Merman happy to see what she considered “a dreary obligation” finally come to an end.[32]

1931 Early Film Clip (you can already hear the unmistakable voice)

What many consider Merman’s greatest triumph as a stage performer opened on May 21, 1959 at The Broadway Theatre. Gypsy was based on the memoirs of Gypsy Rose Lee and starred Merman as her domineering stage mother Rose Hovick. Although Arthur Laurents, who wrote the book, was deeply unhappy with her interpretation of the role, she was lauded by the critics. In the New York Post, Richard Watts called her “a brilliant actress,” and Brooks Atkinson of the New York Times said “she gives an indomitable performance, both as actress and singer.” Despite the acclaim, Merman lost the Tony Award to her close friend Mary Martin in The Sound of Music and jokingly quipped, “How are you going to buck a nun?” Shortly after she divorced Six when his affair with television actress Audrey Meadows became public, and she found solace in her work.[33]

Throughout the 702-performance run of Gypsy, Mervyn LeRoy saw it numerous times, and he repeatedly assured Merman he planned to cast her in the film adaptation he was preparing. Shortly prior to the show’s closing, however, it was announced Rosalind Russell had been signed to star instead. Russell’s husband, theatre producer Frederick Brisson, had sold the screen rights to the Leonard Spigelgass play A Majority of One to Warner Bros. with the stipulation his wife star in both films. Because Russell was still a major box office draw, with the success of Auntie Mame a few years earlier, and Merman having never had established herself as a popular screen presence, the studio agreed to Brisson’s terms. Merman was devastated at this turn of events and called the loss of the role “the greatest professional disappointment of her life.” [34]

1930 Betty Boop (Ethel Merman)

Following the Broadway closing of Gypsy on March 25, 1961, Merman half-heartedly embarked on the national tour. In San Francisco, she severely injured her back but continued to play to packed houses. During the Los Angeles run, LeRoy visited her backstage and claimed Russell was so ill “I think you’re going to end up getting this part.” Believing the film version of Gypsy was within her grasp, she generously gave him the many house seats he requested for friends and industry colleagues, only to discover she had been duped.[35]

Over the next several years, Merman was featured in two films, the wildly successful It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World and the flop The Art of Love, and made dozens of television appearances, guesting on variety series hosted by Perry Como, Red Skelton, Dean Martin, Ed Sullivan, and Carol Burnett, on talk shows with Mike Douglas, Dick Cavett, and Merv Griffin, and in episodes of That Girl, The Lucy Show, Batman, and Tarzan, among others. Producer David Merrick encouraged Jerry Herman to compose Hello, Dolly! specifically for Merman’s vocal range, but when he offered her the role she declined it. She finally joined the cast on March 28, 1970, six years after the production opened. On her opening night, her performance continually was brought to a halt by prolonged standing ovations, and the critics unanimously heralded her return to the New York stage. Walter Kerr described her voice “exactly as trumpet-clean, exactly as pennywhistle-piercing, exactly as Wurlitzer-wonderful as it always was.” The seventh actress to portray the scheming matchmaker, she remained with the musical for 210 performances until it closed on December 27. She received the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Performance for what proved to be her last appearance on Broadway.

Ethel Merman and Bing Crosby

For the remainder of her career, Merman worked as frequently as offers were made. In 1979, she recorded The Ethel Merman Disco Album, with many of her signature show-stoppers set to a disco beat. Her last screen role was a self-parody in the 1980 comedy film Airplane!, in which she portrayed Lieutenant Hurwitz, a shell shocked soldier who thinks he is Ethel Merman. She appeared in multiple episodes of The Love Boat, guested on a CBS tribute to George Gershwin, did a summer comedy/concert tour with Carroll O’Connor, played a two-week engagement at the London Palladium, performed with Mary Martin in a concert benefitting the theatre and museum collection of the Museum of the City of New York, and frequently appeared as a soloist with symphony orchestras. She also volunteered at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center, working in the gift shop or visiting patients. She began to become forgetful, on occasion had difficulty with her speech, and at times her behavior was erratic, causing concern among her friends. On April 7, 1983, she was preparing to leave for Los Angeles to appear on the 55th Academy Awards telecast when she collapsed in her apartment. She was diagnosed with glioblastoma and underwent brain surgery to have the malignant tumor removed. Early on the morning of February 15, 1984, she died in her sleep. Her private funeral service was held in a chapel at St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church, where she frequently had worshiped. On October 10, 1984, an auction of her personal effects, including furniture, artwork, and theatre memorabilia, earned in excess of $120,000 at Christie’s East.[36] Merman was known for her powerful, beltingmezzo-soprano voice, precise enunciation and pitch.[37] Because stage singers performed without microphones when Merman began singing professionally, she had a great advantage, despite the fact that she never took any singing lessons. In fact, Broadway lore holds that George Gershwin advised her never to take a singing lesson after she opened in his Girl Crazy.[38]Stephen Sondheim, who wrote the lyrics for Merman’s Gypsy, remembered that she could become “mechanical” after a while. “She performed the dickens out of the show when the critics were there,” he said. He added, “or if she thought there was a celebrity in the audience. So we used to spread a rumor that Frank Sinatra was out front. That whoever, Judy Garland was out front. I’ll tell you one thing [Merman] did do, she steadily upstaged everybody. Every night, she would be about one more foot upstage, so finally they were all playing with their backs to the audience. I don’t think it was conscious. But she sure knew her way around a stage, and it was all instinctive.”[39]

Tallulah and Ethel

Merman was married and divorced four times:

  1. William Smith, theatrical agent (1940–1941)
  2. Robert Levitt, a newspaper executive (1941–1952)
  3. Robert Six, President, Continental Airlines (1953–1960)
  4. Ernest Borgnine, the actor, in 1964. They announced the impending nuptials at P.J. Clarke’s, in New York, but Merman filed for divorce after just 32 days.

With Levitt, Merman had two children: Ethel (born July 20, 1942). and Robert Jr. (born August 11, 1945), they divorced in 1952. Ethel Levitt died in 1967 of a drug overdose that was ruled accidental.

“I Got Rhythm”

Merman co-wrote two memoirs, Who Could Ask for Anything More in 1955 and Merman in 1978. In a radio interview, Merman commented on her many marriages, saying that “We all make mistakes, that’s why they put rubbers on pencils, and that’s what I did. I made a few loo-loos!”[40] In the latter book, the chapter entitled “My Marriage to Ernest Borgnine” consists of one blank page.

Merman was notorious for her love of vulgar jokes. She delighted in telling dirty jokes and vulgar stories at public parties, and once shouted a dirty joke across the room at José Ferrer during a formal reception. She also enjoyed sending out greeting cards with obscene jokes in them. She was known for swearing during rehearsals and meetings. Reportedly, the first time she heard the title of the song “Everything’s Coming Up Roses”, she quipped “Everything’s coming up Rose’s what?”

Ethel Merman and Frank Sinatra “You’re The Top”

The character “Helen Lawson” in Jacqueline Susann’s novel Valley of the Dolls is based on Ethel Merman

The British Psychobilly band The Meteors recorded an instrumental called “Return Of The Ethel Merman” for their 1986 album Sewertime Blues.

In the play “Red Herring” by Michael Hollinger, one of the lead characters comments on his marriage to a ‘different’ Ethel Merman than the one who sang “There’s No Business Like Show Business.”

Merman is mentioned a lot in the musical series Forbidden Broadway making fun of the wireless microphones and soft singing used in The Phantom of the Opera (1986 musical).

In the 1987 film Good Morning, Vietnam, USAF radio disc jockey Adrian Cronauer (played by Robin Williams) alluded to Merman’s distinctive, brassy style and powerful voice during one of his improvised comic news bulletins. “Ethel Merman has been used to jam Russian radar systems. {belting in imitation of Merman} ‘I’ve got a feeling that love is here to stay!’ When asked for a reply, the Russians said ‘Vat de hell vas dat?'”

“Way Down Yonder In New Orleans”

Robin Williams imitates Merman again in the song “Prince Ali” from the Disney animated feature Aladdin.[citation needed]

In a 1990 Seinfeld episode “The Robbery”, Elaine complains about her actress roommate by telling Jerry she is “living with Ethel Merman without the talent.”

In the early 1990s the television programme Sesame Street created a parody character called “Miss Ethel Mermaid” (voiced and puppeteered by Louise Gold) she sang “I Get A Kick Out Of U” (a parody of Merman singing “I Get A Kick Out Of You“).[citation needed]

In the 2005 film The Producers, the actor playing the part of Adolf Hitler, Roger de Bris, sings the lyric “I’m the German Ethel Merman, don’tcha know.”[citation needed]

In the song “Change the World” by Nellie McKay, off her debut album “Get Away from Me“, she sings “Please Ethel Merman help me out this jam”.[citation needed]

Merman’s final on-screen appearance is in the 1980 film Airplane!, in which she has a cameo as shell-shocked soldier “Lt. Hurwitz”, who believes he is Ethel Merman. She briefly sings her classic “Everything’s Coming Up Roses“.

Ethel Merman is mentioned in the 1983 film Terms of Endearment, and even appears on the soundtrack.

In a year 2000 Episode of Saturday Night Live, a segment called “The Ladies Man” featuring Dwayne Johnson and Tim Meadows where Meadows was Leon Phelps described Johnson’s cross-dressing undercover police lady character that when he first saw him she was dressed up like a young Ethel Merman. “It was wall to wall: big sexy ladies” Meadows character Leon described. “Tell them who you were” said Leon and Johnson responded back “I was Ethel Merman”. “A Young Ethel Merman, she was sexy!”[citation needed]

“Call Me Madam”

Popular blogger, Ree Drummond of award-winning blog, The Pioneer Woman, frequently mentions Merman in her posts, and says she “channels Lucille Ball, Vivien Leigh, and Ethel Merman”.

Sources: Wikipedia, youtube, imdb.com, nndb.com

Theater Performances:

Films:

Television:

  • The Ford 50th Anniversary Show (1953)
  • Panama Hattie (1954)
  • Merman On Broadway (1961)
  • The Lucy Show, two-parter, as herself (1963)
  • The Judy Garland Show, two episodes (1963)
  • Maggie Brown (1963) (unsold pilot)
  • An Evening with Ethel Merman (1965)
  • Annie Get Your Gun (1967)
  • Tarzan and the Mountains of the Moon (1967)
  • Batman, “The Sport of Penguins”, two-parter as Lola Lasagne (1967)
  • That Girl, two episodes, as herself (1967–1968)
  • S Wonderful, ‘S Marvelous, ‘S Gershwin (1972)
  • Ed Sullivan’s Broadway (1973)
  • The Muppet Show (1976)
  • Match Game PM (1976), (1978)
  • You’re Gonna Love It Here (1977) (unsold pilot)
  • A Salute to American Imagination (1978)
  • A Special Sesame Street Christmas (1978)
  • Rudolph and Frosty’s Christmas in July (1979) (voice)
  • The Love Boat, five episodes, (1979–1982)
  • Night of 100 Stars (1982)