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Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Russ Columbo born 14 January 1908

Ruggiero Eugenio di Rodolpho Colombo (January 14, 1908 – September 2, 1934), better known as Russ Columbo, was an American singer, violinist and actor, most famous for his signature tune, "You Call It Madness, But I Call It Love," his compositions "Prisoner of Love" and "Too Beautiful For Words", and the legend surrounding his early death. He was dubbed as the “Vocal Valentine” and “The Romeo of Song.”

Columbo was born in Camden, New Jersey, the twelfth child of Italian immigrant parents, Nicola and Giulia (Julia) Colombo. He started playing the violin while still very young, and debuted professionally at the age of 13. He left high school at 17 to travel with various bands around the country. He sang and played violin in numerous nightclubs.
By 1928, at the age of 20, Columbo began to participate in motion pictures, including a Vitaphone short in which Columbo appeared with Gus Arnheim and His Orchestra. Eventually, he did obtain some feature work in front of the camera, but he slowed down his activities in cinema to pursue other interests.
Columbo tried to run a nightclub for a while, but the venture was unsuccessful. In 1931, he traveled to New York with his manager, songwriter Con Conrad. Conrad secured a late-night radio slot with NBC.

This led to numerous engagements, a recording contract with RCA Victor records, and tremendous popularity with legions of mostly female fans.
The type of singing that was popularized by the likes of Columbo, Rudy Vallee, and Bing Crosby is called crooning. Columbo disliked the label, but it caught on with the general public. It gained popular credence, despite its initial use as a term of derision for the singers employing their low, soothing voices in romantic songs.

Russ Columbo composed the songs "Prisoner of Love", "You Call It Madness (But I Call It Love)" with Con Conrad, Gladys Du Bois, and Paul Gregory, "Too Beautiful For Words", recorded by the Teddy Joyce Orchestra in 1935, "When You're in Love", "My Love", "Let's Pretend There's a Moon", recorded by Fats Waller and Tab Hunter, and "Hello Sister".

Public interest in Columbo was further hyped by his romance with actress Carole Lombard. In the fall of 1933, a short time after her divorce from actor William Powell,
Lombard fell in love with the singer. For his part, Columbo responded favorably to her zany behavior as well as accepting her salty language, something which had offended a number of her male friends in the past. Although marriage seemed a distinct possibility, Lombard’s close associates doubted that the affair would come to that.

Columbo and Lombard continued to date up to his death; they could be seen dining and dancing at the Cocoanut Grove most Wednesday nights. His last recording session took place on August 31, 1934; he concluded with the Allie Wrubel and Mort Dixon composition, "I See Two Lovers."

On September 2, 1934, Columbo was shot under peculiar circumstances by his longtime friend, photographer Lansing Brown. Columbo was visiting him at the studio one day. In lighting a cigarette, Brown lit the match by striking it against the wooden stock of an antique French dueling pistol. The flame set off a long-forgotten charge in the pistol chamber containing a lead ball. The ball ricocheted off a nearby table and hit Columbo in the left eye, killing him almost instantly. Columbo's death was ruled an accident, and Brown exonerated from blame.
Three-thousand people attended Columbo’s funeral at Hollywood’s Blessed Sacrament Church. Pallbearers included Columbo’s friendly rival Bing Crosby, director Walter Lang, actors Gilbert Roland and Zeppo Marx. Lansing Brown was seen in the back of the church, kneeling and crying.
However, the news was withheld from his mother by his brothers and sisters for ten years due to her previous heart condition that may be fatal if informed (She died in 1944). They used all manner of subterfuges of him still alive, including faked letters from him and records used to simulate his radio program.
In 1958, singer Jerry Vale recorded a tribute album, I Remember Russ. In 1995, 61 years after Columbo's death, singer Tiny Tim released an entire album in tribute to Columbo, titled Prisoner Of Love (A Tribute to Russ Columbo), which he recorded with the group Clang.
Columbo is interred in the Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Glendale, California. (Info mainly edited from Wikipedia)

Here’s a clip from the 1934 film “Moulin Rouge.”  Russ Columbo, Constance Bennett and the Boswell Sisters sing “Coffee in the Morning (Kisses at Night).”

1 comment:

boppinbob said...

Go here for the Russ Columbo collection: