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Thursday, 16 January 2014

Ethel Merman born 16 January 1909

Ethel Merman (January 16, 1908 – February 15, 1984) was an American actress and singer. Known primarily for her belting voice and roles in musical theatre, she has been called "the undisputed First Lady of the musical comedy stage." Among the many standards introduced by Merman in Broadway musicals are "I Got Rhythm", "Everything's Coming Up Roses", "Some People", "Rose's Turn", "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 at 359 4th Avenue, Astoria, Queens, New York. Her father, Edward Zimmermann, was an accountant, and her mother, Agnes (née Gardner), was a school teacher. Merman's father was German American and Lutheran, and her mother was Scottish American and Presbyterian; she was baptized Episcopalian. She attended PS 4 on Steinway Street in Astoria. She used to stand outside the Famous Players-Lasky Studios and wait to see her favorite Broadway star, Alice Brady. Ethel loved to sing songs like "By the Light of the Silvery Moon" and "Alexander's Ragtime Band" while her adoring father accompanied her on the piano. William Cullen Bryant High School in Astoria named its auditorium Ethel Merman Theater.

Merman began singing while working as a secretary for the B-K Booster (automobile) Vacuum Brake Company in Queens. She eventually became a full time vaudeville performer and played the pinnacle of vaudeville, the Palace Theatre in New York City. She had already been engaged for Girl Crazy, a musical with songs by George and Ira Gershwin, which also starred a very young Ginger Rogers (19 years old) in 1930. Although third billed, her rendition of "I Got Rhythm" in the show was popular, and by the late 1930s, she had become the first lady of the Broadway musical stage. Many consider her the leading Broadway musical performer of the Twentieth Century, with her signature song being "There's No Business Like Show Business" (from Annie Get Your Gun 1946). 


Here is "I Get A Kick Out Of You" by Ethel Merman feat: Stanley Black / London Festival Orchestra and Chorus taken from above album

Merman starred in five Cole Porter musicals among them Anything Goes in 1934, where she introduced "I Get a Kick Out of You", "Blow Gabriel Blow", and the title song. Her next musical with Porter was Red, Hot and Blue, in which she co-starred with Bob Hope and Jimmy Durante. Merman was known for her powerful, belting mezzo-soprano voice, precise enunciation and pitch. 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

Perhaps Merman's most revered performance was in 1959’s Gypsy as Gypsy Rose Lee's mother Rose. Merman introduced "Everything's Coming Up Roses" and "Some People" and ended the show with the wrenching "Rose's Turn". Critics and audiences saw her creation of Madame Rose as the performance of her career. She did not get the role in the movie version, however, which went to movie actress Rosalind Russell, Merman decided to take Gypsy on the road and trumped the motion picture as a result. Merman retired from Broadway in 1970, when she appeared as the last Dolly Levi in Hello, Dolly!, a show initially written for her.

Merman's film career was not as distinguished as her stage roles. Though she reprised her roles in Anything Goes and Call Me Madam, film executives would not select her for Annie Get Your Gun or Gypsy. Some critics state the reason for losing the roles was that her outsized stage persona did not fit well on the screen. Merman's last movie role was a self-parody in the comedy movie Airplane!,

Merman began to become forgetful with advancing age, and on occasion had difficulty with her speech. At times her behavior was erratic, causing concern among her friends. In 1983, as she was preparing to go to Los Angeles to appear at the Oscars that year, Merman collapsed. Although the original physician assessment was that Merman had suffered a stroke, tests later revealed an inoperable brain tumor. The severity of her condition was kept out of the press, and only a few close friends were allowed to visit. As her condition deteriorated, she was cared for by her son, Bobby. She died February 15, 1984, less than a month after her 76th birthday. (info edited from Wikipedia)

One of her final appearances.

1 comment:

boppinbob said...

Slim pickins on the web, but I managed to find this compilation, so

For Hall Of Fame : Ethel Merman, Lyda Roberti, Mae West go here: