Frances Langford

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Frances Langford
Frances Langford circa 1946.JPG
promo photo 1946
Born
Julia Frances Newbern-Langford

(1913-04-04)April 4, 1913
DiedJuly 11, 2005(2005-07-11) (aged 92)
OccupationSinger, actress
Years active1931–1956
Spouse(s) Jon Hall (1934–1955)
Ralph Evinrude (1955–1986)
Harold Stuart (1994–2005; her death)

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 for over two decades.

Golden Age of Radio

The old-time radio era, sometimes referred to as the Golden Age of Radio, was an era of radio programming in the United States during which radio was the dominant electronic home entertainment medium. It began with the birth of commercial radio broadcasting in the early 1920s and lasted through the 1940s, when television gradually superseded radio as the medium of choice for scripted programming, variety and dramatic shows.

Contents

Birth

Born in Hernando, Florida, a small town in Citrus County, Florida, she was the daughter of Anna Rhea Newbern and her husband, Vasco Cleveland Langford. The Langford family later moved to Lakeland, Florida, where Frances grew up. She graduated from Lakeland High School and studied music at Florida Southern College, also in Lakeland.

Hernando, Florida Census-designated place in Florida, US

Hernando is a census-designated place in Citrus County, Florida, United States. The population was 9,054 at the 2010 census. At one time it was a city but it was disincorporated in the 1970s.

Citrus County, Florida County in Florida, United States

Citrus County is a county located in the U.S. state of Florida. As of the 2010 census, the population was 141,236. Its county seat is Inverness, and its largest community is Homosassa Springs.

Lakeland, Florida City in Florida, United States

Lakeland is a city in Polk County, Florida, along Interstate 4 east of Tampa. The westernmost city in Polk County, it is part of the Tampa Bay Area. According to the 2013 U.S. Census Bureau estimate, the city had a population of 100,710. Lakeland is a principal city of the Lakeland–Winter Haven Metropolitan Statistical Area.

Discovery and radio

Frances grew up in the Mulberry, Florida area, a tiny community near Lakeland. She attended Lakeland High School. Langford originally trained as an opera singer. While a young girl she required a tonsillectomy that changed her soprano range to a rich contralto. As a result, she was forced to change her vocal style to a more contemporary big band, popular music style. At age 17, she was singing for local dances. Cigar manufacturer Eli Witt heard her sing at an American Legion party and hired her to sing on his local radio show. [1] After a brief stint in the Broadway musical "Here Goes the Bride" in 1931, she moved to Hollywood appearing on the Louella Parsons' radio show "'Hollywood Hotel' while starting a movie career. While singing for radio during the early 1930s, she was heard by Rudy Vallee, who invited her to become a regular on his radio show. [2] From 1935 until 1938 she was a regular performer on Dick Powell's radio show. From 1946 to 1951, she performed with Don Ameche as the insufferable wife, Blanche, on The Bickersons .

Mulberry, Florida City in Florida, United States

Mulberry is a city in Polk County, Florida, United States. The population was 3,817 at the 2010 census. Mulberry is home to Badcock Home Furniture. It is part of the Lakeland–Winter Haven Metropolitan Statistical Area, with parts of unincorporated Lakeland on its northern boundary. Mulberry is home to the 334 acre Alafia River Reserve.

Opera artform combining sung text and musical score in a theatrical setting

Opera is a form of theatre in which music has a leading role and the parts are taken by singers, but is distinct from musical theater. Such a "work" is typically a collaboration between a composer and a librettist and incorporates a number of the performing arts, such as acting, scenery, costume, and sometimes dance or ballet. The performance is typically given in an opera house, accompanied by an orchestra or smaller musical ensemble, which since the early 19th century has been led by a conductor.

Tonsillectomy surgical removal of the tonsils

Tonsillectomy is a surgical procedure in which both palatine tonsils are fully removed from the back of the throat. The procedure is mainly performed for recurrent throat infections and obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). For those with frequent throat infections, surgery results in fewer sore throats in the following one to two years, but unclear long term benefits. In children with OSA it results in improved quality of life.

Films

With her film debut in Every Night at Eight (1935) the diminutive five-foot-one-inch (155 cm) star introduced what became her signature song: "I'm in the Mood for Love". She then began appearing frequently in films such as Broadway Melody of 1936 (1935) (in which she popularized "Broadway Rhythm" and "You Are My Lucky Star"), Born to Dance (1936), Too Many Girls (1940) (in which she acted alongside her childhood schoolmate from Lakeland Dan White (actor)), and Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942) with James Cagney, in which (portraying Nora Bayes) she performed the popular song "Over There". She also appeared on screen in Dixie Jamboree and Radio Stars on Parade .

Every Night at Eight is a 1935 American comedy musical film starring George Raft and Alice Faye and made by Walter Wanger Productions Inc. and Paramount Pictures. It was directed by Raoul Walsh and produced by Walter Wanger from a screenplay by C. Graham Baker, Bert Hanlon and Gene Towne based on the story Three On a Mike by Stanley Garvey.

"I'm in the Mood for Love" is a popular song published in 1935. The music was written by Jimmy McHugh, with the lyrics by Dorothy Fields. The song was introduced by Frances Langford in the movie Every Night at Eight released that year.

<i>Broadway Melody of 1936</i> 1935 film by W. S. Van Dyke, Roy Del Ruth

Broadway Melody of 1936 is a musical film released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in 1935. In New York, the film opened at the Capitol Theatre, the site of many prestigious MGM premieres. It was a follow-up of sorts to the successful The Broadway Melody, which had been released in 1929, although, there is no story connection with the earlier film beyond the title and some music.

In a Western movie, Deputy Marshal, she co-starred with her first husband, matinee idol Jon Hall. In several of Langford's films, such as Broadway Melody, she appeared as herself, as in 1953 in The Glenn Miller Story , where she sang "Chattanooga Choo Choo" with the Modernaires and the movie orchestra.

Jon Hall (actor) American actor

Jon Hall was an American film actor known for playing a variety of adventurous roles, as in 1937's The Hurricane, and later when contracted to Universal Pictures, including Invisible Agent and The Invisible Man's Revenge and six movies he made with Maria Montez. He was also known to 1950s fans as the creator and star of the Ramar of the Jungle television series which ran from 1952 to 1954. Hall directed and starred in two 1960's sci-fi films in his later years, The Beach Girls and the Monster (1965) and The Navy vs. the Night Monsters (1966).

<i>The Glenn Miller Story</i> 1954 film by Anthony Mann

The Glenn Miller Story is a 1954 American biographical film about the eponymous American band-leader, directed by Anthony Mann and starring James Stewart in their first non-western collaboration. Universal-International's first public announcements, early in 1953, employed the soon-discarded title, "Moonlight Serenade."

Chattanooga Choo Choo Glenn Miller Orchestra song

"Chattanooga Choo Choo" is a 1941 song written by Mack Gordon and composed by Harry Warren. It was originally recorded as a big band/swing tune by Glenn Miller and His Orchestra and featured in the 1941 movie Sun Valley Serenade. It was the first song to receive a gold record, presented by RCA Victor in 1942, for sales of 1.2 million copies.

World War II

Hal Block, Bob Hope, Barney Dean, General George S. Patton, Langford and Tony Romano HopewithGroupMeetsPattonWW2.jpg
Hal Block, Bob Hope, Barney Dean, General George S. Patton, Langford and Tony Romano

From 1941, Langford was a regular singer on Bob Hope's The Pepsodent Show [3] when he held his first military entertainment program at March Field in Riverside, California in 1941. The show was so positive, he continued broadcasting from training bases around the country and asked Langford to join him. During World War II, she joined Hope, Jerry Colonna, guitarist Tony Romano, and other performers on USO tours through Europe, North Africa, and the South Pacific, entertaining thousands of GIs throughout the world. During a USO tour in the Pacific theater she was invited to take a ride in a P-38 fighter plane. During the flight, a Japanese ship was spotted and the joy ride was postponed until the pilot finished strafing the ship. [4]

Bob Hope American comedian, actor, singer and dancer

Leslie Townes Hope, KBE, KC*SG, KSS, known professionally as Bob Hope, was a British-born American stand-up comedian, vaudevillian, actor, singer, dancer, athlete, and author. With a career that spanned nearly 80 years, Hope appeared in more than 70 short and feature films, with 54 feature films with Hope as star, including a series of seven "Road" musical comedy movies with Bing Crosby as Hope's top-billed partner.

The Pepsodent Show is an American radio comedy program broadcast during the Golden Age of Radio. The program starred comedian Bob Hope and his sidekick Jerry Colonna along with Blanche Stewart and Elvia Allman as high-society crazies Brenda and Cobina as well as a continuously rotating supporting cast and musicians which included, for a time, Judy Garland, Frances Langford and Desi Arnaz and his orchestra.

World War II 1939–1945 global war

World War II, also known as the Second World War, was a global war that lasted from 1939 to 1945. The vast majority of the world's countries—including all the great powers—eventually formed two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis. A state of total war emerged, directly involving more than 100 million people from over 30 countries. The major participants threw their entire economic, industrial, and scientific capabilities behind the war effort, blurring the distinction between civilian and military resources. World War II was the deadliest conflict in human history, marked by 50 to 85 million fatalities, most of whom were civilians in the Soviet Union and China. It included massacres, the genocide of the Holocaust, strategic bombing, premeditated death from starvation and disease, and the only use of nuclear weapons in war.

In his memoir, Don't Shoot! It's Only Me!, Bob Hope recalled how Frances Langford got the biggest laugh he had ever heard. At a USO show in the South Pacific, Langford stood up on a stage to sing before a huge crowd of GIs. When Langford sang the first line of her signature song, "I'm in the Mood for Love," a soldier in the audience stood up and shouted, "You've come to the right place, honey!"

Also, during the war, Langford wrote the weekly "Purple Heart Diary" column for Hearst Newspapers, in which she described her visits to military hospitals to entertain wounded GIs. She used the weekly column as a means of allowing the recovering troops to voice their complaints, and to ask for public support for making sure that the wounded troops received all the supplies and comforts they needed.

Her association with Hope continued into the 1980s. In 1989 she joined him for a USO tour to entertain troops in the Persian Gulf.

Television

Langford and guest star Jerry Colonna on Frances Langford Presents, 1959. Frances Langford Jerry Colonna Frances Langford Presents 1959.JPG
Langford and guest star Jerry Colonna on Frances Langford Presents, 1959.

She worked for several years in the late 1940s on The Spike Jones Show and starred in a short-lived DuMont variety show Star Time (1950). As a guest on early television shows such as Perry Como and Jackie Gleason she was motivated to venture into television. She was the host of two self-titled variety television programs. She then teamed with Don Ameche for the ABC television program, The Frances Langford/Don Ameche Show (1951), a spin-off of their successful radio series The Bickersons in which the duo played a feuding married couple. Langford was also the host of the NBC musical variety program Frances Langford Presents (1959), which lasted one season, as did a later program The Frances Langford Show (1960). Another notable appearance was in The Honeymooners lost episode "Christmas Party" which first aired December 19, 1953.

Marriages and later life

Frances Langford married three times. Her first husband (1934–55) was actor Jon Hall. In 1948, they donated 20 acres (81,000 m2) of land near her estate in Jensen Beach, Florida, to the Martin County Board of County Commissioners, which named it Langford Hall Park. Located at 2369 N.E. Dixie Highway, just south of the Stuart Welcome Arch, it is known today simply as Langford Park and is one of the county's major parks. [5]

In 1946, Langford was honored by the hometown of her youth, Lakeland, Florida, for her work with the United Service Organizations (USO) and her music and acting career. The City of Lakeland dedicated the Lake Mirror Promenade as the Frances Langford Promenade. The Promenade was originally built in 1928 and was designed by renowned landscape architect Charles W. Leavitt of New York.

After leaving Hollywood life, she kept up her pastimes of boating and sport fishing. As a nightclub singer in 1955, she married Outboard Marine Corporation President Ralph Evinrude. They lived on her estate in Jensen Beach and built a Polynesian-themed restaurant and marina on the Indian River they named The Frances Langford Outrigger Resort, where Langford frequently performed. Locals and celebrities flocked to the site. Evinrude died in 1986. In 1994, she married Harold C. Stuart, who had served as Assistant Secretary for Civil Affairs of the United States Air Force (1949–51) under President Harry S. Truman. They spent the summers at Baie Fine in Georgian Bay, Ontario, Canada. They journeyed to the Bay, from their home in Florida aboard their 110-foot yacht "The Chanticleer", which was a popular tourist attraction when moored at the Outrigger Resort. Stuart survived Langford (who had no children) and died in 2007 at the age of 94.

Langford was a supportive member of the Jensen Beach community and constantly donated money to the community. She was a great philanthropist and her generosity to the Florida Oceanographic Society located on Hutchinson Island, Stuart, Florida was well known. The site provides education and research of the ocean, reefs and environment in the Florida area. The visitor's center bears her name and also houses some of her artifacts. Her collection of mounted tuna, marlin and other fish adorn the walls.

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. [6]

Hollywood Walk of Fame

Langford has two stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, one at 1500 Vine Street, which acknowledges her contribution to motion pictures and one at 1525 Vine Street for her work in radio. Both were dedicated February 8, 1960. [7]

Filmography

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DVD release

Frances Langford is featured on the DVD Entertaining the Troops with Bob Hope.

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References

  1. Parish, James Robert; Pitts, Michael R (2003). Hollywood Songsters: Garland to O'Connor. Routledge. p. 485.
  2. Hemming, Roy; Hajdu, David (1999). Discovering Great Singers of Classic Pop. Newmarket Press. pp. 108–109. ISBN   978-1-55704-148-7.
  3. "President Will Speak On Labor Day Broadcast". The Fresno Bee The Republican. August 31, 1941. p. 10. Retrieved March 28, 2015 via Newspapers.com. Open Access logo PLoS transparent.svg
  4. Freedland, Michael (11 Jul 2005). "Obituary: Frances Langford". The Guardian. Retrieved 2018-06-23.
  5. Palm Beach Post guide to area parks
  6. Martin Memorial Health Systems – Frances Langford Heart Center Celebrates One Year! Archived 2007-10-13 at the Wayback Machine
  7. "Frances Langford". Hollywood Walk of Fame. Retrieved 9 July 2016.