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Saturday, 4 May 2013

Frances Langford born 4 April 1913

Julia Frances Langford (April 4, 1913 – July 11, 2005) was an American singer and entertainer who was popular during the Golden Age of Radio and also made film appearances over two decades. She earned a special place in the hearts of American servicemen by performing in combat zones with Bob Hope during the Second World War, and later in the Korean and Vietnam conflicts.

Known as the "Florida Thrush" because listeners were astonished that such a powerful voice could emanate from a girl of 5 ft 1 in tall, she would sweetly sing the ballad I'm in the Mood for Love in a way that reminded GIs of the girls they had left at home - and had them singing along with her. At the next moment she would switch to a rousing You are My Lucky Star, which she later claimed had
led thousands of girls to drop their factory tools to try their luck in Hollywood.

For Hope, Frances Langford was one of his "three gipsies" (along with the bulgy-eyed comic Jerry Colonna, a singer of On the Road to Mandalay, and Tony Romano, a guitarist and arranger) who were prepared to travel anywhere with him. But there were occasions when her enthusiasm got the better of her, as when she hitched a ride in a fighter plane with a pilot who attacked a Japanese ship. Hope denied that she had been seen in a clinch in the air; but, the dubiousness of the incident notwithstanding, it drew a flood of publicity which led to the pilot appearing on stage with her.

Such experiences led Frances Langford to be offered a regular column by the Hearst newspaper chain. Called "Purple Heart
Diary", this recounted her life on tour and included interviews with such minor members of the show as Marilyn Monroe, Jayne Mansfield and Ricky Nelson. In 1951, she starred in a film of the same name. But the disadvantage in later life was that she was always better known for playing herself than for any role she might be given.

A carpenter's daughter, she was born Frances Newbern on April 4 1913 in Citrus County, Florida (other sources state April 6). She had hoped to become an opera singer, but dropped out of music college after a throat operation changed her voice.

Her first break came in New Orleans at 16, when her mother convinced the crooner Rudy Vallee to listen to her. He invited
young Frances to sing on his radio show and helped her to get a start in New York, where she was briefly in the Broadway musical Here Goes the Bride. She then moved to California, where she appeared on Louella Parsons's radio show Hollywood Hotel before making her her first film, The Subway Symphony (1932). Some 30 pictures followed, in most of which she sang and often appeared as herself.

Frances Langford was in Rambling Round Radio Row No 5 (1933) with Vera Van and the Happiness Boys, and Every Night at Eight (1935), which starred George Raft. In the latter she formed a trio

with Alice Faye and Patsy Kelly, and also sang I'm in the Mood for Love for the first time on film. In the same year she sang You are my Lucky Star; Broadway Rhythm; and Hooray for Hollywood in Broadway Melody of 1936, in which she appeared alongside Jack Benny, June Knight and Robert Taylor.

She was also a vocalist on Dick Powell's weekly radio show, appeared in Palm Springs (1936), with David Niven, and Born to Dance (1936) with James Stewart and Virginia Bruce. She had the lead role in Hit Parade of 1937 (1936), and was with Buster Keaton, Johnny Weissmuller and Betty Grable in Sun-Kissed Stars at Palm Springs (1936). She then partnered Dick Powell in the screen version of his radio show, Hollywood Hotel (1937). Here's a 1937 recording of Frances singing "Sweet Someone" from the film Love & Hisses.

Five years later, she made an appearance in the showy Yankee Doodle Dandy with James Cagney, before playing the lead alongside Robert Taylor in the crime thriller Mississippi Gambler (1942), and starring in the musical western Cowboy in Manhattan (1943). After the war ended, Frances Langford played a singer in Beat the Band (1947) with the virtuoso drummer Gene Krupa,

starred with her husband Jon Hall in the western Deputy Marshal (1949), and had a television show with Don Ameche. Her last film of note was The Glenn Miller Story (1953), in which James Stewart played the band leader.

Frances Langford was married three times. Her first husband, Hall, had been married to the actress Raquel Torres. When Frances Langford's marriage to Hall broke up after some 20 years later he went back to Raquel Torres, and Frances Langford married Ralph Evinrude, a manufacturer of outboard motors. The couple settled in Florida to start a marina, Polynesian restaurant and gift shop, the "Frances Langford Outrigger Resort" near her 400-acre estate at Jensen Beach. After her television variety programme, The
Frances Langford Show, ended in 1960, she became more interested in sailing and fishing, though she would occasionally perform a few numbers at the restaurant.

Following Evinrude's death, Frances Langford married Harold Stuart, an assistant secretary of the Air Force in the Truman administration, with whom she enjoyed sailing from Florida to Canada aboard her 110 ft yacht. Health problems plagued her in the last years of her life with periodic hospital stays. She died at her Jensen Beach home at age 92 from congestive heart failure. 

According to her wishes, she was cremated and the ashes strewn off the coast of Florida near her residence. In 2006, the Frances Langford Heart Center, made possible by a bequest from her estate, opened at Martin Memorial Hospital in Stuart, Florida. (Info edited from various sources mainly The Telegraph)

 Here's a clip from the hit movie Broadway Melody of 1936, released August 1935. Primary stars, Jack Benny, Eleanor Powell (her first lead role) and Robert Taylor, but this movie had a terrific supporting cast of Frances Langford, Buddy Ebsen and his sister Vilma, Una Merkel and Sid Silvers.

1 comment:

boppinbob said...

For Frances langford CD "So Many memories" go here: