Who's Who in Musicals: Ca-Cl
by John Kenrick
Actor, singer, dancer
b. July 17, 1899 (New York City) - d. March 30, 1986 (Stanfordville, NY)
Hollywood's favorite screen gangster was also one of its most engaging musical
stars. Raised on Manhattan's then-impoverished Upper East Side, Cagney made
his Broadway debut in the chorus of the otherwise forgotten musical
Pitter Potter (1920), where he met his future wife, dancer
Frances Willard Vernon (whom he affectionately called "Bill"). They
toured in vaudeville for several seasons before Cagney won solo attention in
The Grand Street Follies of 1928 and 1929. Warner Brothers brought
him out to Hollywood, where his street-smart personality led to quick
stardom in such popular dramatic films as Public Enemy and
The Roaring Twenties.
Although Warner Brothers classified Cagney
as a gangster-type, he also pushed for song & dance roles, earning praise in
Busby Berkeley's classic Footlight Parade
(1933), where he performed "Shanghai Lil" with co-star
Ruby Keeler. After the less memorable
Something to Sing About (1937), Cagney received an Academy Award for his inspired
portrayal of George M. Cohan in Yankee Doodle Dandy
(1942). His renditions of the title tune and "Give My Regard to
Broadway" remain highlights of what is arguably the most entertaining musical
biography ever filmed. He played Cohan again briefly in The Seven Little Foys
(1955), dancing atop a banquet table with Bob Hope.
Cagney co-starred with Doris Day in the lighthearted
West Point Story (1950), his last full-length musical role. A few years later,
he nearly stole the powerful Ruth Etting bio
Love Me or Leave Me (1955) from Day with his performance as the non-singing
Martin "Gimp" Snyder. Cagney retired from the screen in 1960, reputedly
turning down the screen roles of Harold Hill in The Music Man a'nd Alfie
Doolittle in My Fair Lady. In his autobiography, Cagney insisted that he had
always remained a song and dance man" in his heart. He returned to the big
screen for a small role in Ragtime (1981), and appeared in several TV movies
before his death at age 1986. For more, see John McCabe's superb biography Cagney
(New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1997).
b. Feb. 7, 1870 (Brooklyn, NY) - d. Aug. 23, 1933 (New York, NY)
This popular stage comedienne came from a strict Irish Catholic family that
disapproved of her theatrical ambitions. Cahill learned her craft in amateur
productions and touring companies, making her musical debut in Broadway's A Tin
Soldier (1889). In Sally In Our Alley (1902), the plump and spirited Cahill
introduced "Under the Bamboo Tree," a song which became her trademark.
Cahill was so well received singing "Nancy Brown" in The Wild Rose
(1902) that she inspired the composers to build another
musical around the character. Nancy Brown (1903) was the biggest
hit of Cahill's career. Aside from appearances in 20 Broadway musicals, she made her
vaudeville debut at The Palace in 1919, and remained a big-time circuit favorite for
years afterward. Audiences delighted in her telephone skits and renditions of "It's
Right Here For You" and "Under the Bamboo Tree." A
non-singing role in
Cole Porter's The New Yorkers (1930)
marked Cahill's final Broadway appearance. She is buried alongside husband
Daniel V. Arthur in Holy Cross Cemetery, Brooklyn. A handful of silent films
and archival recordings are all that remain of this once beloved
(b. Samuel Cohen)
b. June 18, 1913 (New York City) - d. Jan. 15, 1993 (Los Angeles, CA)
With composer Saul Chaplin, Cahn wrote songs for jazz bands and vaudeville
acts. Their breakthrough hit was an adaptation of the Yiddish favorite "Beir Mir
Bist Du Schoen," which the Andrew Sisters turned into a hit. Heading out
to Hollywood, Cahn began collaborating with composer
Jule Styne, turning out
such hit songs as "I've Heard That
Song Before" and the poignant "I'll Walk Alone."
Cahn worked with a variety of composers, contributing numbers to more than
forty five films and winning four Academy Awards. He specialized in custom tailored
hits for singing stars, such as "Be My Love" (music by Nicholas
Brodsky) for tenor Mario Lanza, and both
"Love and Marriage" and "High Hopes" (music by Jimmy Van
Heusen) for Frank Sinatra. Cahn's Broadway efforts include
the Jule Styne hit High Button Shoes
("Papa, Won't You Dance With Me?") and the less successful Van Heusen
scores for Skyscraper (1965) and Walking Happy (1966). In his later years,
Cahn remained an active songwriter and performer. His touring concert Words and
Music had extended runs in New York and London in 1974. He served as
president of the Songwriter's Hall of Fame, and toured to fresh acclaim
in the late 1980s.
(b. Edward Israel Iskowitz)
b. Jan. 31, 1892 (New York City) - d. Oct. 10. 1964 (Hollywood, CA)
Orphaned at age 2, Eddie was raised by his maternal grandmother. He dropped out
of the sixth grade and had various odd jobs before becoming a singing waiter in a
saloon where Jimmy Durante played
piano. As a young vaudeville performer, Cantor appeared in Gus Edwards'
Kid Kabaret ensemble, where his wide-eyed comic persona earned him
the nickname "Banjo Eyes." Like his longtime friend and competitor
Al Jolson, Cantor got his start performing in
minstrel-style black face. Recognizing this newcomer's potential, producer
Florenz Ziegfeld featured him in three
consecutive editions of the Follies (1917-19), later starring him in
the 1927 installment.
Cantor graduated to book musicals, where he played a succession
of quivering hypochondriacs
who somehow outwitted menacing enemies and wound up with the girl. These included
the title role in Ziegfeld's long running musical Kid Boots (1923) and
the timorous "Henry Williams" in Whoopee (1928). Cantor
performed "How You Gonna Keep 'Em Down on the Farm," "If You
Knew Susie," "My Baby Just Cares for Me," "Makin' Whoopee,"
"Yes Sir, That's My Baby" and other hits with nervous abandon, hands flying
as he jumped all over the stage.
When sound came to Hollywood, Cantor soon followed, starring in a series of big
screen hits produced by Sam Goldwyn, including Roman Scandals (1932),
Kid Millions (1934) and Strike Me Pink (1936). For a time he was the
highest paid star in show business. Cantor returned to Broadway for
Banjo Eyes (1941), but realized he was no longer up to the physical strain of
eight performances a week. A top radio star in the 1930s and 40s, he starred
on TV's Colgate Comedy Hour in the early 1950s. In his spare time, Cantor
published two autobiographies, raised millions for various charities, and helped
found the March of Dimes. It was ironic that this man, nicknamed "The Apostle
of Pep," spent his final years slowed by a series of illnesses. He died
of a heart attack at age 72. For more, see
Herbert Goldman's Banjo Eyes: Eddie Cantor and the Birth of Modern Stardom
(New York: Oxford University Press, 1997).
b. Sept. 30, 1939 (St. Boniface, Manitoba)
This accomplished actor built his reputation on the Canadian stage in a
mix of classical, contemporary and musical roles a blend that would endure
throughout his long career. He made his Broadway debut in Tyrone Guthrie's production of
The House of Atreus (1968), and played the title role in an ANTA production of
Shakespeare's King Henry V (1969). With his solid stage presence and powerful
baritone voice, Cariou quickly became one of Broadway's most popular leading men.
He created the role of Lauren Bacall's boyfriend Bill Sampson in the hit musical
Applause (1970), earning his first Tony
nomination. He then received rave reviews and another Tony nomination as amorous
attorney Fredrick Egerman in Stephen Sondheim's
A Little Night Music (1973) an elegant,
understated performance that he repeated in the uneven 1977 film version.
Perhaps the greatest triumph of Cariou's stage career came when he originated the
title role of Sondheim's Sweeney Todd
(1979). He gave a brilliant, chilling performance as the murderous barber,
introducing "Epiphany" and "Little Priest" (the latter with
co-star Angela Lansbury),
and winning the Tony for Best Actor in a musical. He starred as cynical nightclub
entertainer Harry Aikens in the ill-fated Dance a Little Closer (1983), and
played Theodore Roosevelt in Teddy and Alice (1987) his last Broadway musical
to date. Cariou's non-singing Broadway appearances include leading roles in
Cold Storage (1977), The Speed of Darkness (1991), The Dinner Party
(2000) and the replacement cast of Proof (2001). He has
been featured in more than a dozen films, including
Executive Decision (1996) and About Schmidt (2002). Cariou's many TV
appearances include guest shots on The Practice, West Wing, a recurring
role on Angela Lansbury's long-running mystery series Murder She Wrote,
and a featured role on the police drama Blue Bloods.
b. July 1, 1931 (Paris, France)
Although she appeared in only a half dozen screen musicals, Caron was one of
the most unique lights of Hollywood's late golden age. The daughter of an
American ballerina and a French chemist, Caron embarked on a career in dance
after World War II. Gene Kelly saw her dance in
the Ballet des Champs Elysees and brought her to Hollywood to co-star as shop
girl "Lise Bourvier" in MGM's Academy Award
winning An American in Paris (1951).
Caron's enchanting gamine quality won further acclaim in
Lili (1952), where she and Mel Ferrer introduced the hit song
"Hi-Lili, Hi-Lo." She danced in the boxing musical
Glory Alley (1952) and appeared as "Ella" in
The Glass Slipper (1955). After co-starring with
Fred Astaire in
Daddy Long Legs (1955) she took a break from her screen career,
returning to MGM to play the title role in Alan
Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe's acclaimed
Gigi (1958). It was her greatest
musical screen role, and her last. With the demise of big-screen musicals,
Caron happily moved on to dramatic film roles. In later years,
she made several musical stage appearances, starring in American tours
of On Your Toes and Grand Hotel. A recipient of France's
Legion d'Honneur, her most recent screen role was
in the Merchant-Ivory comedy Le Divorce (2003). Caron's
autobiography, Thank Heaven: A Memoir, was published in 2009.
Producer, director, lyricist
b. Sept. 16, 1893 (Pittsburgh, PA) - d. June 17, 1948 (Mount Carmel, PA)
As a staff lyricist for the Feist music publishing company, Carroll
contributed songs to several forgettable musicals before moving into theatrical
management. A lifelong aviation enthusiast, he interrupted his theatre career to fly
for the US Army in World War I. On his return, he produced several trashy
melodramas and made a fortune presenting the racy stage hit White Cargo.
Carroll then built a 1,026 seat Broadway theater named after himself, where
he produced a series of revues from 1923 to 1932 -- some were called Sketchbooks,
and some Vanities. Relying on raucous comedians and lovely, under-dressed chorus
girls, these were the first revues to present full female nudity on a Broadway stage.
Considered tasteless by most critics, Carroll's lavish revues had tremendous
appeal and offered lively competition to
Florenz Ziegfeld's lavish Follies and
George White's Scandals. Carroll's shows introduced "I've Got a Right to
Sing the Blues" and "Goodnight Sweetheart," and showcased the talents of
Sophie Tucker, Milton Berle, Jack Benny and
director Vincente Minnelli.
At the backstage entrance to the Earl Carroll Theater, a sign boasted,
"Through these portals pass the most beautiful girls in the world."
Claiming he was obsessed with feminine beauty, Carroll was the only Broadway
producer who forced women to audition in the nude, claiming that he selected his
chorines based on "the sway of their hips." Publicity
antics and an unbridled private life got Carroll in occasional trouble with the
law, including a stint in federal prison for perjury.
In 1931, despite the crippling effects of the Great Depression, Carroll rebuilt
his theater as an extravagant 3,000 seat art deco showplace. Billed as "the
largest legitimate theater in the world," it proved so costly to run that Carroll
was forced into foreclosure after six months. Ziegfeld took over the theater and
renamed it The Casino an expensive gesture of revenge that helped
force Ziegfeld into bankruptcy too. (After stints as a movie theater and cabaret,
the space was converted into a Woolworth's department store. Parts of the forgotten
theatre decor were briefly uncovered at the time of the building's demolition in 1990.)
The resilient Carroll opened a successful nightclub in Hollywood, where he also produced
screen and radio revues. His films included Murder at the Vanities (1933),
A Night at Earl Carroll's (1940) and Earl Carroll's Sketchbook (1946).
He died in a commercial plane crash at age 54.
(b. Felix Tilken)
b. 1860 (Liege, Belgium) - d. Nov. 29, 1921 (New York City)
Although rarely discussed today, Caryll was one of the most prominent
London stage composers of the early 20th Century. At a time when 200
performances made a musical a hit, he had no less than five musicals pass the
500 performance mark The Shop Girl (1894), A Runaway Girl (1898),
The Toreador (1901) The Orchid (1903) and Our Miss Gibbs (1909).
Although none of these shows achieved great success in America, Caryll relocated to
New York in 1911. He composed more than a dozen musicals for Broadway, including
the highly successful The Pink Lady (1911), as well as Chin-Chin (1914)
and Jack O'Lantern (1917). He worked with many lyricists over the years,
including Adrian Ross and
P.G Wodehouse. While rehearsing Miss
Raffles (1921), he suffered a stroke and died at age 60.
b. Mar. 5, 1927 (Richmond Hill, NY) - d. Mar. 12, 1976 (Los Angeles, CA)
A powerful high baritone voice and exceptional acting ability made this strikingly handsome
actor an audience favorite on both stage and television. Cassidy got his start in
the chorus of Something for the Boys (1943), winning attention
in the revues Small Wonder (1948) and Alive and Kicking (1950).
After a replacement stint in South Pacific, he starred as "Chick Miller" in
Wish You Were Here (1952), where the popular title tune and a revealing
bathing suit both showed him to excellent advantage. The failures of Sandhog
(1954) and Shangri-la (1956) led to several years in provincial theater, but
Cassidy returned to Broadway to create the role of the womanizing "Kodaly" in
She Loves Me (1963), winning the Tony for Best Featured Actor in a Musical.
Cassidy appeared with Carol Burnett in
Fade Out-Fade In (1964), then played cynical columnist "Max Mencken" in the
unsuccessful It's a Bird, It's a Plane, It's Superman (1966), and co-starred with
then-wife Shirley Jones in the ill-fated Civil
War musical Maggie Flynn (1968). Cassidy performed in numerous films and
TV shows, including several memorable guest villain role on the Columbo mystery
series. A heavy drinker in his later years, he fell asleep with a lit cigarette in his
hand and died in the subsequent fire at age 49. His talented sons David, Shaun and Patrick all
went on to show business careers, including musical roles on Broadway.
(b. Irene Foote)
b. April 7, 1893 (New Rochelle, NY) - d. Jan. 25, 1969 (Lake Forest, IL)
(b. Vernon Blythe)
b. May 2, 1887 (Norwich, England) - d. Feb. 15, 1918 (Houston, Texas)
Vernon made his Broadway debut dancing in About Town (1906), and appeared
in several musical farces with comic Lew Fields.
He met Irene while both were appearing on Broadway in The Summer Widowers
(1910). Forming a personal and professional partnership, they began a series of tours
in Paris in 1912, introducing and popularizing the "Turkey Trot,"
"Grizzly Bear," "Bunny Hug," "Fox Trot,"
"Maxixe," and other popular dances. Their bouncy version of the one-step came
to be known as "The Castle Walk." The Castles became an international
sensation, bringing a refreshing American sense of fun to the European-born art of
ballroom dancing. They became trend setters as women everywhere started copying
Irene's tastes in hair and clothing.
The couple reached their peak in 1914, simultaneously co-starring on Broadway in
Irving Berlin's revue Watch Your Step,
opening a nationwide chain of dance schools, and running their own popular Times Square
nightclub. When World War I broke out in Europe, Vernon joined the
Canadian Air Force and served with distinction while Irene continued performing.
Vernon achieved the rank of Captain, and was working
as a flying instructor when an airplane crash killed him in 1918. Irene
toured in vaudeville through the 1920s, and acted as dance consultant for
The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle (1939), a musical screen bio starring
Fred Astaire and
Ginger Rogers. After creating "The
World's Fair Hop" for the 1939 World's Fair, Irene devoted the
remaining decades of her life to running a sanctuary for abandoned
and abused pets. The Castles are buried side by side at Woodlawn Cemetery in
New York City.
b. June 22, 1920 (Geneva, IL.) - d. August 25, 1980 (New York City)
Teamed with Jeanne Turner, the handsome and nimble Champion danced his way to
fame in nightclubs and Broadway revues with a fresh and energetic
blend of ballroom and show dancing. After serving in the armed forces during
World War II, he formed a new partnership with Marjorie Bell. Popular on
stage and in early television, they married in 1947. Marge and Gower Champion
appeared on the big screen in Showboat (1951) and several other feature
films, but they hit their stride just as original Hollywood musicals died out.
Champion made his real mark as a Broadway director/choreographer. Not coming from
the usual show biz dance tradition (tap, kick lines, etc.), Champion used his ballroom
background to give musical numbers a fresh, seamless look. He staged the hit revue
Lend and Ear (1948), winning the first-ever Tony Award for choreography.
After Small Wonder (1948) came the book musical Make a Wish (1951),
as well as choreography for several 1950s films and television specials. The Broadway smash
Bye Bye Birdie (1960)
brought Champion Tony Awards for both direction and choreography, and delighted audiences
with a mix of traditional musical comedy with Elvis Presley-style rock n' roll.
Champion received another nomination for his direction of Carnival
(1961), in which he placed every prop, set piece and performer into a
dynamic flow of song, story and motion. This approach
worked wonders with Hello Dolly! (1964),
turning Jerry Herman's musicalization of Thornton Wilder's
The Matchmaker into a stunning vehicle for Carol Channing.
Over the years, countless stars have danced through Champion's rousing conception of the
title tune, with a phalanx of waiters following around a runway. Hello Dolly!
brought Champion another set of Tonys for both direction and choreography.
Champion's intense concentration and demanding rehearsals earned him a reputation
as a hit maker and a martinet -- librettist Michael Stewart and producer David Merrick
both referred to him as "the Presbyterian Hitler." Champion staged
I Do, I Do (1966), a warm-hearted two-character musical about marriage
starring Mary Martin and
Robert Preston. Champion's innovative use of lighting
and photography earned him another set of Best Director/Choreographer Tonys for
Kander and Ebb's
The Happy Time (1968), which starred Robert Goulet
as a world-class photographer whose visit disrupts the quiet life of his French
Canadian family. Champion's direction of Sugar (1972) and Irene (1973) won
varying degrees of acclaim, but the brief runs of Mack and Mabel (1974) and
Rockabye Hamlet (1976), coupled with the mixed response to The Act (1977),
made the 1970s a time of increasing disappointment for Champion. Despite the
effects of a rare blood disease, he created the spectacular stage version of
42nd Street (1980), dying hours before the
opening performance of what proved to be his most ingenious (and longest running)
hit. Champion received a posthumous Tony for Best Choreography.
Channing, Carol Elaine
Actress, comedienne, singer
b. Jan. 31, 1921 (Seattle, WA)
With her huge eyes, outrageous blonde coiffure and distinctive voice,
Channing became one of the great stage comediennes of the 20th century. The
only child of devout Christian Scientists, she knew from childhood that
she wanted to work on stage, and majored in modern dance and drama at
Bennington College. In
1941, Channing made her Broadway debut understudying Eve Arden in the Cole Porter
hit Let's Face It (1941). She was featured in Lend An Ear (1948),
a successful revue directed by newcomer Gower Champion.
Channing originated the unforgettable 1920s flapper Lorelei Lee in
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1948), introducing Jule
Styne and Leo Robbins' "I'm Just a Little Girl From Little
Rock" and "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend." She won
fresh acclaim taking over the lead role of Ruth Sherwood in the original
production of Leonard Bernstein's Wonderful
Town (1951), and won personal raves appearing in short-lived
productions of The Vamp (1955) and
The Show Girl (1961). Channing toured the nightclub circuit, where her
impersonations of Marlene Dietrich and Tallulah Bankhead, and her
hilarious routine about a former silent film star ("Cecilia
Sisson") made her a perennial favorite.
The greatest triumph of Channing's career came when she created the
role of Dolly Gallagher Levi in David Merrick's
production of Jerry Herman and
Hello Dolly! (1964).
Director Gower Champion's vibrant staging
delighted audiences and critics, and Channing's renditions of "Before
the Parade Passes By" and the hit title tune helped to make the show
a runaway hit. Dolly brought Channing a richly deserved Tony for Best Actress
in a Musical. She returned to the role in tours and revivals, eventually playing
Dolly more than 4,000 times.
Channing revisited the role of Lorelei
Lee in the heavily revised Lorelei (1973), touring and
enjoying a successful run on Broadway. Her oversized personality, so effective on
stage, was considered too big for the intimacy of the camera.
Channing's only major film appearance was as the outlandish "Muzzy" in
Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967). She won fresh acclaim in a farewell
1995 tour of Hello Dolly (1995), after which she withdrew from performing
to write her entertaining autobiography Just Lucky I Guess. In
her 80's, Channing married childhood sweetheart Harry Kullijan (her
fourth husband), and appeared in a one-woman revue entitled
The First Eighty Years Are the Hardest.
(b. Tulla Ellice Finklea)
b. Mar. 8, 1921 or 1923 (Amarillo, Texas) - June 17, 2008 (Los Angeles, CA)
After recovering from polio as a child, this long-legged beauty pursued a
career in dance. She appeared with the Ballet Russe before making her film
debut in Something to Shout About (1943). MGM producer
featured her in Ziegfeld Follies (1946), The Harvey Girls (1946)
and other films. Her sexy dance duet with Gene Kelly in
Singing in the Rain's
(1952) "Broadway Rhythm Ballet" led to full-fledged stardom. Although
one of Hollywood's greatest dance talents, Charisse was no singer,
and all of her screen singing was dubbed by others. Charisse co-starred with
Fred Astaire in
The Bandwagon (1953),
sharing the memorable "Dancing in the Dark." She re-teamed
with Kelly for the screen version of Brigadoon (1955) and It's Always
Fair Weather (1955). Her dances were a highlight of the all-star Meet Me
in Las Vegas (1956), and she scored another hit with Astaire in the film
version of Cole Porter's Silk Stockings (1956).
Russian emissary Ninotchka Yoshenko was Charisse's best role and, thanks to the
collapse of the old studio system, her last starring appearance in a musical film.
Charisse joined her husband, singer Tony Martin, for frequent nightclub
appearances. She starred in the London revival of Charlie Girl (1986), singing
live and in person. When in 1992, at age 71, she made her Broadway debut by
joining the cast of Grand Hotel, taking over the role of aging ballerina
Grushinskaya, Charisse was credited with re-energizing the
long-running show's ticket sales. Charisse's physical grace and stellar charm
outweighed her vocal limitations. Unwilling to let arthritis hold her back, she
continued to make public appearances, still delighting fans with her elegance,
glamour and unaffected sense of humor. After suffering a heart attack,
she died at age 86.
(b. André Eugene Maurice Charlot
b. July 26, 1882 (Paris, France) – d. May 20, 1956 (Woodland, CA)
With more than 45 productions to his name, Charlot was one of the most prolific
West End producers of the 20th Century. He is best remembered for
creating a series of intimate 1920s revues. Where others stressed
lavish production values, Charlot relied on elegance and simplicity, showcasing
the finest British stage talents of his time.
Binnie Hale and
Jessie Matthews were among
Charlot's most memorable discoveries, and he was one of the first to use
Noel Coward's songs. Charlot
brought his best material and stars to Broadway in 1924 and 1925, earning tremendous
acclaim and handsome profits. Like many, he was ruined by the
Great Depression. Forced into temporary bankruptcy after the failure of
Wonder Bar (1930), Charlot produced several lesser 1930s London
revues. He resettled in Hollywood, working as a technical adviser and making
appearances in several films through the 1940s. He also organized a
traveling revue for the troops during World War II, but was a
forgotten man by the time of his death at age 73.
Actor, dancer, lyricist, director
b. Nov. 24, 1934 (New York City)
Charnin was Broadway's original Big Deal in West Side Story (1957), and
appeared in the revue The Girls Against the Boys (1959). From that point on,
his primary focus was on writing well-crafted, character-driven lyrics with a
variety of talented theatrical composers. He collaborated with Mary Rodgers on
the ill-fated Judy Holliday vehicle
Hot Spot (1963), and with Mary's father
Richard Rodgers on Two By Two (1970).
Charnin provided lyrics for the ambitious Mata Hari, which
closed on the road in 1967. He was both lyricist and director for
Annie (1977), a surprise hit that
became an international favorite and made Charnin and composer
millionaires. Charnin's later career brought a series of promising but ultimately
frustrating projects, including lyrics for I Remember Mama (1979), lyrics
and direction for The First (1981) and the unlucky sequel Annie Warbucks.
His Off-Broadway projects include the lyrics and direction for the long running revue
Upstairs at O'Neals. Charnin also directed the 1997 revival of Annie.
b. Sept. 12, 1888 (Menilmontant, France) – d. Jan. 1. 1972 (Paris, France)
Chevalier developed his charismatic performing style in French cafes and
music halls before starring in revues at the Folies Bergere. From
early on, he wore a combination of tuxedo and straw boater that became a
personal trademark. Chevalier's Hollywood
debut singing "Louise" in Innocents of Paris (1929) made him the big
screen's first male musical star. One of the most imitated celebrities
of his time, he starred in several early sound hits,
including The Love Parade (1929) with Jeanette
MacDonald, The Smiling Lieutenant (1931), and One Hour With You
(1932). He re-teamed with MacDonald for Richard Rodgers
and Larry Hart’s innovative Love Me Tonight
(1932), introducing the title tune, "Isn't It Romantic" and the popular
"Mimi." MGM’s Irving Thalberg featured
Chevalier and MacDonald in a lavish version of Lehar’s The Merry Widow (1934).
After starring in Folies Bergere (1935), Chevalier sensed that tastes
were changing, so he returned to fulltime nightclub work in France.
Chevalier remained semi-secluded during the German occupation of France.
He made two appearances in exchange for the release of political prisoners,
and forever afterward denied the accusations of Nazi collaboration that plagued him
after the war. He continued appearing in France, but it took a smash-hit
run at New York's Palace Theater in the early 1950s to revive Chevalier's
international career. After more than two decades away from the big screen, his
enchanting performance as Audrey Hepburn’s father in the romantic comedy
Love in the Afternoon (1957) led to Chevalier's most memorable screen
role the aging playboy Honore in Gigi
(1958), singing Alan Jay Lerner and
Frederick Loewe’s "Thank Heaven for Little
Girls" and "I’m Glad I’m Not Young Anymore." At 70, his screen persona
was as irresistible as ever, winning him new fans and a special Academy Award.
Chevalier appeared on screen in Can Can (1959), the non-musical version of
Fanny (1961) and several comedies before retiring from film work.
He toured Europe and the United Stated through the 1960’s to consistent
acclaim. Chevalier retired from the stage in 1968, making occasional TV
appearances and recording the title song for Disney's animated The Aristocats
(1970). Long plagued by emotional demons, he died in his beloved Paris at age 83.
b. June 16, 1888 (Springfield, OH) – d. Feb. 12, 1960 (New York City)
One of the great stage clowns of the mid-20th Century, Clark formed a comedy
team with schoolmate Paul McCullough in 1900. They played minstrel shows and
circuses, and toured in vaudeville before achieving fame as burlesque
comedians with bawdy sketches that delighted
audiences nationwide. Clark & McCullough made their musical stage debut in the
London revue Chuckles of 1922, and became Broadway stars that same year in
Music Box Revue (1922). They returned in the 1924 edition, starred
in the short-lived Ramblers (1926) and George
and Ira Gershwin's satirical musical
Strike Up the Band (1930). In all these shows, Clark retained the trademarks
of his burlesque career -- a cigar, cane, painted-on glasses, and leering looks
at underdressed showgirls. In the early 1930s, Clark & McCullough made numerous films
and stage appearances, including the Broadway revue Thumbs Up (1934).
After the troubled McCullough committed suicide in 1936, Clark went on to a long
and successful solo career. He shared the show-stopping "I Can't Get Started"
with fellow burlesque veteran Gypsy Rose Lee in the Ziegfeld Follies
of 1936, starred in the revues Streets of Paris (1939) and Star and Garter
(1942), and introduced Cole Porter's raucous "Count
Your Blessings" with June Havoc in Mexican Hayride (1944). Clark's comic performance
turned a production of Victor Herbert's Sweethearts
(1947) into the first Broadway revival ever to outrun an original
production. He mugged his way to similar acclaim in producer Michael
revues As The Girls Go (1948) and Peep Show (1950). Clark discarded his
painted-on glasses to play Applegate in the national tour of Damn Yankees in the
mid 1950s, winning rave reviews in what became his farewell to the stage.
(b. Jane Byral)
b. Aug. 26, 1917 (Alamogordo, NM) – d. Aug. 28, 1983 (West Hollywood, CA)
This attractive soprano made her Broadway debut creating the role of Julie
Jordan in Richard Rodgers
and Oscar Hammerstein II's Carousel (1945),
introducing "What's The Use of Wond'rin" and sharing the lush ballad "If
I Loved You" with co-star John Raitt. She starred as
Magnolia in the1946 Broadway revival of Show Boat, and later appeared in the
replacement casts of Guys and Dolls (1951) and Follies (1972). Her many
non-musical TV appearances include playing the original mother in Lassie,
as well as guest appearances on Gunsmoke, Love Boat and the mini-series
Scruples (1980). She co-authored a biography of Richard Rodgers and
Lorenz Hart entitled Bewitched, Bothered
and Bewildered (1976). Following a long battle with cancer, she died just two
days after her 66th birthday.
Back to: Who's Who In Musicals