- 1928-01-10 -
Showing 14 resultsAuthority record
- 1915-05-05 - 1998-05-09
- 1903-05-03 - 1977-10-14
Harry Lillis "Bing" Crosby Jr. was an American singer, actor, and entrepreneur who remains one of the best-selling recording artists of all time. Crosby's career spanned almost 50 years, and in that time he recorded almost 400 charting singles, among which 41 reached #1—actually 43, since “White Christmas” reached #1 in 1945 and 1947 as well as 1942 (its original release). His most common recording partners were the Andrews Sisters, and onscreen he appeared in multiple films with Bob Hope.
Hope was born in Spokane, Washington. He got his famous nickname, Bing, at about age 7, from a parody hillbilly newsletter in the local paper. Although he graduated from high school and attended Gonzaga University, he never graduated. Instead, he sang in a series of singing groups and bands through the early 1920s until he and friend Al Rinker decided to try their fortunes in Los Angeles in 1925. In 1926, both were hired to sing with the Paul Whiteman Orchestra. Touring with the band and his own singing group, The Rhythm Boys, cemented Crosby's reputation and eventually led to a solo recording contract with Brunswick and a weekly radio show with CBS. Crosby made his national broadcast debut in September 1931. Fame quickly followed.
Crosby would appear in his first full-length film, "The Big Broadcast", in 1932. He signed a recording contract with the brand-new company Decca, who he would remain with for much of his career, in 1934. In 1936 he became the host of NBC's "Kraft Music Hall", a post he would hold for the next decade. Crosby was one of the first singers to take advantage of the invention of the microphone, which enabled him to "croon" instead of "belt" and set the musical standard for the stars that followed him: Perry Como, Frank Sinatra, and Dean Martin, among many others. As with many other singers of the era, Crosby toured extensively entertaining American troops during World War II. In 1942, Crosby starred in the movie "Holiday Inn" and recorded the song that still stands as the best-selling single of all time: "White Christmas". The song was issued and reissued so many times that Crosby had to rerecord it in 1947, as the original master had been damaged from repeated additional pressings.
In the 1950s and '60s Crosby continued to record and act, and appeared on nearly all of the television music variety programs of the era. He also changed the face of both radio and television broadcasting by, first in one medium and then the other, insisting on being able to pre-record his performances at times when each medium was typically performed live. As an avid investor in recording technology, Crosby appreciated and understood the value of being able to edit his performances to improve their quality. He pushed his contract studios to invest in the latest sound equipment and recording technology, particularly magnetic tape recorders, and his production studio pioneered many editing techniques that would be come industry standards.
Crosby died suddenly from a heart attack at the age of 74.
- 1903-05-29 - 2003-07-27
- 1899-05-10 - 1987-06-22
Frederick Austerlitz, Jr., also known as Fred Astaire, was an American dancer of stage and motion pictures who was best known for a number of highly successful musical comedy films in which he starred with Ginger Rogers. He is regarded by many as a pioneer in the serious presentation of dance on film and the greatest popular-music dancer of all time. Astaire entered show business at age 5. He was successful both in vaudeville and on Broadway in partnership with his sister, Adele. After Adele retired to marry in 1932, Astaire headed to Hollywood and made a screen test, receiving an discouraging verdict from executives: “Can’t act, can’t sing. Balding. Can dance a little.” Signed to RKO, he was loaned to MGM to appear in Dancing Lady (1933) before starting work on RKO's Flying Down to Rio (1933) with Ginger Rogers. The two were a sensation, stealing the picture from stars Delores del Rio and Gene Raymond. Public demand compelled RKO to feature the pair in a classic series of starring vehicles throughout the 1930s, with The Gay Divorcee (1934), Top Hat (1935), and Swing Time (1936) often cited as the best of the lot. Although Astaire worked well with several leading ladies throughout his career, including Eleanor Powell, Rita Hayworth (whom Astaire cited as his favorite on-screen partner) and Lucille Bremer, his partnership with Rogers had a special chemistry.
Astaire retired temporarily in 1946, during which he opened Fred Astaire Dance Studios, but returned to the screen in 1948 and appeared in a series of Technicolor musicals for MGM that, next to his films with Rogers, constitute his most highly regarded body of work. Several of Astaire’s most-famous dance routines appear in these films, such as the slow-motion dance in Easter Parade (1948), which also featured Judy Garland; the dance with empty shoes in The Barkleys of Broadway (1949), which was his 10th and final film with Rogers; the ceiling dance and the duet with a hat rack in Royal Wedding (1951); and the dance on air in The Belle of New York (1952). The best of Astaire’s films during this period was The Band Wagon (1953), often cited as one of the greatest of film musicals; it featured Astaire’s memorable duet with Cyd Charisse to the song “Dancing in the Dark.”
Astaire’s run of classic MGM musicals ended with Silk Stockings (1957), after which his screen appearances were mostly in non-dancing character roles. He continued to dance with new partner Barrie Chase for several Emmy Award-winning television specials throughout the 1950s and ’60s, and he danced again on-screen in Finian’s Rainbow (1968) and for a few steps with Gene Kelly in That’s Entertainment, Part II (1976). He subsequently performed a number of straight dramatic roles in film and TV, most notably in On the Beach (1959); The Pleasure of His Company (1962); The Towering Inferno (1974), for which he received an Oscar nomination for best supporting actor; and Ghost Story (1981), his final film.
Astaire was awarded an honorary Academy Award for his contributions to film in 1950, and he received a Life Achievement Award from the American Film Institute in 1981. He revolutionized the movie musical by simplifying it: Solo dancers or couples were shot in full-figure, and dances were filmed with a minimum of edits and camera angles. He was also noted for his quintessentially American vocal style; although possessing a rather thin-toned tenor voice, Astaire received much praise from jazz critics for his innate sense of swing and his conversational way with a song. His best vocal recordings were those he undertook in the early 1950s with jazz combos led by pianist Oscar Peterson.
Fred Astaire passed away from pneumonia on June 22, 1987, in Los Angeles, CA, at the age of 88.
- 1922-04-03 -
- 1913-12-1 - 1990-11-04
- 1899-12-16 - 1973-03-26
Noël Coward was an English playwright and composer who is best known in the United States for his plays, musical comedies, and operettas. His writing was famous for its sharp wit and often risque subject matter.
Born in southwest London, Coward got into acting as a young child. His first official performance was in "The Goldfish" at age 11. He continued acting onstage through World War I, and began writing his own plays as well. In 1921 Coward visited the United States for the first time and, although he failed to interest any serious producers in his work at that time, took a number of lessons away from his observations of Broadway. He achieved his first real success in 1924 with "The Vortex". For the rest of the 1920s Coward was writing and producing his plays, often acting in them as well, and also performing in others' works. He worked on both sides of the Atlantic, and the Great Depression did little to slow him. He wrote, performed, and added recording his songs to his repertoire as well. Some of his better-known works are "Fallen Angels", "Hay Fever", "Private Lives", the revue "On with the Dance", and the operetta "Bitter Sweet". Coward spent much of World War II touring and entertaining Allied troops.
Compared to his early career, Coward's post-war works were only moderately successful. He became better known for his cabaret act, performing in London and then in Las Vegas in 1954 and 1955. He also had parts in several movies. However, he achieved new prominence after a wave of revivals of his plays in the 1960s and '70s, as well as revues of his significant musical repertoire. Coward's image became synonymous with 20th century English theater, an association that amused him. He referred to his renewed popularity as "Dad's Renaissance."
Coward died of heart failure at the age of 73.
- 1925-12-08 - 1990-05-16
Sammy Davis Jr. was an American actor, singer, and dancer. He also had several comedic routines and was noted for his impressions of other celebrities. Born to and raised by vaudevillian parents, Davis learned to act, sing, and dance at a young age. He toured with his father for much of his childhood and performed as part of the Will Mastin Trio until World War II. During the war he belonged to an integrated entertainment unit. After the war he returned to performing with the Will Mastin Trio, and recorded blues albums for Capitol. In 1954 he performed the title song for the film "Six Bridges to Cross"; two years later he starred in the Broadway musical "Mr. Wonderful."
In 1959 Davis became a part of Frank Sinatra's "Rat Pack" and appeared in several movies as part of the group, such as 1960's "Ocean's 11". They performed regularly together in Las Vegas, where Davis had to deal with the effects of continued segregation. He continued to act and record through the 1960s and '70s.
Davis was in a car accident in 1954 in which he lost his left eye. He wore a glass eye for the rest of his life. He also converted to Judaism in 1961. Davis died from throat cancer at the age of 64.
- 1904-01-24 - 1995-08-11
- 1909-01-16 - 1984-02-15
- 1928-05-23 - 2002-06-29
Rosemary Clooney was an American singer and actress. Born in Kentucky, she and her sister Betty became radio performers in the early 1940s. Clooney's first recordings were with Columbia in 1946 with Tony Pastor's band; she began recording independently in 1949. Within a few years, she was a regular performer on CBS's "Songs for Sale" on both television and radio, and her career was firmly established. In 1954 she starred in "White Christmas" with Bing Crosby, one of her best-known roles. In 1956 she starred in her own television variety show, and continued acting and recording through the 1960s. Despite the declining fortunes of many other performers of her era, Clooney signed with Concord Jazz in 1977 to produce an album a year, an arrangement which continued until her death.
Clooney was also a noted philanthropist in her later years. In honor of her sister, who died in 1976 of a brain aneurysm, she created and chaired the Betty Clooney Foundation for the Brain-Injured. She died of lung cancer at the age of 74.
- 1931-09-04 -
- 1912-05-18 - 2001-05-12
Pierino Ronald Como, known professionally as Perry Como, was an American singer and television personality that dominated the early broadcast era. Como continually hosted a music variety show from 1948 to 1967. He was famous for his insistence on keeping the content of his shows clean, as well as his natural demeanor on and off screen.
Como was the first American-born child of Italian parents who immigrated to Canonburg, Pennsylvania in 1910. He didn't learn English until he started school, but quickly learned to play a variety of instruments including the organ, piano, trombone, and guitar. Ironically, he never had formal voice lessons. Beginning at the age of 10 Como trained to be a barber; by the time he was 14, he had his own shop. He was extremely popular around town because he would sing while he worked. A career as a musician was not what Como had in mind for his life, but in 1933 he was offered a job as the vocalist for a traveling dance band headed by Freddy Carlone. Despite the fact that he would make only a quarter of what he did as a barber, Como's father urged him to accept, and he did.
Como toured with Freddy Carlone for the next 3 years. He then received an offer to become a vocalist for the nationally renowned Ted Weems Orchestra, which he accepted at Carlone's insistence. The position came with a raise and a change of location to Chicago, although the band also toured regularly. It was with the Weems orchestra that Como did his first recording work. Despite his incredible success as a vocalist, in 1942 Como left the music business and returned to Pennsylvania so that he could spend more time with his wife and young child. Offers for radio and recording contracts followed him all the way there. Como was reluctant to take any but was convinced by his wife to accept an offer for a no-sponsored radio show and recording contract from CBS. He went live in March 1943; he began performing at the Copacabana Night Club later that year, and signed a recording contract with RCA. The live performances didn't last very long, but in 1944 he moved to NBC to front the sponsored radio musical variety program "Chesterfield Supper Club". He would also continue recording with RCA for the remainder of his career, an arrangement that proved to be so profitable for the label that it eventually stopped trying to tally how many Como hits had been sold.
In 1948, NBC decided to try something new: they simulcast "Chesterfield Supper Club" on both radio and television. The experiment proved successful, and Como became a television staple for the next 20 years. In 1950, his show moved to CBS and became the "Perry Como Chesterfield Show". In 1955 he returned to NBC, where he would remain for the next 12 years with "The Perry Como Show" (1955-59) and "Perry Como's Kraft Music Hall" (1959-67). In addition to his regular shows, Como recorded constantly. Nearly every year, from 1948 to 1994, he recorded an annual Christmas special for broadcast. When "Perry Como's Kraft Music Hall" went off air in 1967, Como began limiting his television appearances until his holiday specials were his only major broadcasts. He returned to radio in the 1990s, but for the most part he enjoyed his later life out of the public eye.
Como died a few days before his 89th birthday.