Monica Lewis (born May 5, 1925) is an American singer and actress.
For nearly two decades throughout the 1940's and 50's Monica Lewis reigned as one of America's most popular songbirds, with a career that encompassed not only nightclubs and recordings, but also movies, theatres, radio and TV. An accomplished pop and jazz stylist, her blonde beauty graced magazine covers and her million dollar legs helped get U.S. troops through two of its greatest wars. She even enjoyed 14 years as the singing cartoon voice of the popular advertising character known as Chiquita Banana!
Having studied voice with her mother since a mere toddler, Monica quit junior college at 17 to work as a vocalist on THE GLOOM DODGERS, a popular radio wake-up program on New York’s WHN. This and other early airwaves successes led to her debut at Manhattan’s legendary Stork Club and subsequent discovery by the “King of Swing,” Benny Goodman, whose imprimatur hastened her ascent as a vocalist/co-host on nationally broadcast programs including BEAT THE BAND, THE CHESTERFIELD HOUR: MUSIC THAT SATISFIES and THE REVERE CAMERA SHOW. Monica quickly became one of the country’s highest-flying songbirds, working with record labels such as Signature, Decca and Capitol to create timeless hits like “Autumn Leaves,” “Fools Rush In,” “I Wish You Love” and “A Tree in the Meadow.” She was the first to record “Put the Blame on Mame.” The musicians heard on these sessions included such greats as Billy Butterfield, Yank Lawson, Bob Haggart and Teddy Wilson.
Along a route that took her to famed music venues, on-air programs and movie studios from New York to Los Angeles and back again, Monica made numerous TV appearances. These included Ed Sullivan’s very first broadcast in 1948 and variety shows hosted by the likes of Bob Hope, Danny Thomas and the comedy duo of Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis, with whom she first appeared at New York’s Copacabana nightclub.
Monica eagerly volunteered her talent for the war effort, becoming the darling of U.S. servicemen worldwide through the war bond drive, military radio broadcasts and a 1951 tour of South Korea with celebrated entertainer Danny Kaye. Back at home she delighted the masses as a chart-topping jukebox chanteuse and Burlington Mills hosiery’s “Miss Leg-O-Genic.” Glamorous gams aside, she was the advertising world’s favorite face: Piel’s Light Beer, Camel Cigarettes and General Electric were among the many major companies that pitched their products with Monica’s visage. Her commercial work culminated with her 14 years as the tuneful voice of the animated “Miss Chiquita” for the famed banana brand.
Monica's success brought her a movie contract with MGM as their new "threat" to Lana Turner. She romanced Victor Mature in "Affair With a Stranger," and danced with Gower Champion in "Everything I Have Is Yours". She joined a roster of jazz stars including Louis Armstrong in "The Strip" from which we include her rare recording of "La Bota" and sang to the marines in Jack Webb's "The D.I." In 1957, at the height of her career, Monica temporarily gave it all up to become the wife of producer Jennings Lang. When she married this colorful and innovative MCA/Universal Studios production executive in 1956, she not only became his partner but the mother of his children: Michael, a jazz pianist, and Robert, an attorney. Monica and
Jennings had a third child together, Rocky Lang, now a noted Hollywood screenwriter, director, producer and author whose credits include the 2010 novel, THE BIG NASTY.
Monica herself became a supporting player in her husband’s blockbuster Universal movies, including CHARLEY VARRICK, AIRPORT ’77, THE CONCORDE—AIRPORT ’79 and the Top 100 box-office hit EARTHQUAKE. Her stunt-filled performance as a heroic secretary in the latter picture is one of the disaster film genre’s most memorable turns.
Although she exchanged the rigors of a touring girl singer for the challenges of motherhood and running an executive household in the 1960s and 1970s, Monica never stopped performing. After appearing in countless television shows (NIGHT GALLERY, IRONSIDE, FALCON CREST and REMINGTON STEELE, to name a few) and the aforementioned feature films, she managed—following her husband’s devastating stroke in 1983—to make a triumphant 1987 comeback as a melodist at Hollywood’s famous Cinegrill. Her popularity has remained unflagging overseas, where her recordings have been pressed and retailed continuously for the past two decades. A lifelong philanthropist, Monica has in recent years contributed to a number of causes, including the American Diabetes Association.
An indelible icon of entertainment’s early years, Monica Lewis is proof that a great voice—and a vivacious spirit—can survive the ages.(Info edited mainly from monicalewis.com)
Monica Lewis, singer and actress sings on The Alan Young Show. This rare footage is from Monica's personal collection. Monica has a new book which came out in the Spring of 2011, called Hollywood Through My Eyes. To learn more about Monica, visit www.monicalewis.com