Who's Who in Musicals: Ca-Cl
Although Warner Brothers classified Cagney as a gangster-type, he also pushed for song & dance roles, earning praise in Busby Berkeley's classic Footlight Parade (1933), where he performed "Shanghai Lil" with co-star Ruby Keeler. After the less memorable Something to Sing About (1937), Cagney received an Academy Award for his inspired portrayal of George M. Cohan in Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942). His renditions of the title tune and "Give My Regard to Broadway" remain highlights of what is arguably the most entertaining musical biography ever filmed. He played Cohan again briefly in The Seven Little Foys (1955), dancing atop a banquet table with Bob Hope.
Cagney co-starred with Doris Day in the lighthearted West Point Story (1950), his last full-length musical role. A few years later, he nearly stole the powerful Ruth Etting bio Love Me or Leave Me (1955) from Day with his performance as the non-singing Martin "Gimp" Snyder. Cagney retired from the screen in 1960, reputedly turning down the screen roles of Harold Hill in The Music Man a'nd Alfie Doolittle in My Fair Lady. In his autobiography, Cagney insisted that he had always remained a song and dance man" in his heart. He returned to the big screen for a small role in Ragtime (1981), and appeared in several TV movies before his death at age 1986. For more, see John McCabe's superb biography Cagney (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1997).
Cahill was so well received singing "Nancy Brown" in The Wild Rose (1902) that she inspired the composers to build another musical around the character. Nancy Brown (1903) was the biggest hit of Cahill's career. Aside from appearances in 20 Broadway musicals, she made her vaudeville debut at The Palace in 1919, and remained a big-time circuit favorite for years afterward. Audiences delighted in her telephone skits and renditions of "It's Right Here For You" and "Under the Bamboo Tree." A non-singing role in Cole Porter's The New Yorkers (1930) marked Cahill's final Broadway appearance. She is buried alongside husband Daniel V. Arthur in Holy Cross Cemetery, Brooklyn. A handful of silent films and archival recordings are all that remain of this once beloved entertainer's work.
Cahn worked with a variety of composers, contributing numbers to more than forty five films and winning four Academy Awards. He specialized in custom tailored hits for singing stars, such as "Be My Love" (music by Nicholas Brodsky) for tenor Mario Lanza, and both "Love and Marriage" and "High Hopes" (music by Jimmy Van Heusen) for Frank Sinatra. Cahn's Broadway efforts include the Jule Styne hit High Button Shoes ("Papa, Won't You Dance With Me?") and the less successful Van Heusen scores for Skyscraper (1965) and Walking Happy (1966). In his later years, Cahn remained an active songwriter and performer. His touring concert Words and Music had extended runs in New York and London in 1974. He served as president of the Songwriter's Hall of Fame, and toured to fresh acclaim in the late 1980s.
Cantor graduated to book musicals, where he played a succession of quivering hypochondriacs who somehow outwitted menacing enemies and wound up with the girl. These included the title role in Ziegfeld's long running musical Kid Boots (1923) and the timorous "Henry Williams" in Whoopee (1928). Cantor performed "How You Gonna Keep 'Em Down on the Farm," "If You Knew Susie," "My Baby Just Cares for Me," "Makin' Whoopee," "Yes Sir, That's My Baby" and other hits with nervous abandon, hands flying as he jumped all over the stage.
When sound came to Hollywood, Cantor soon followed, starring in a series of big screen hits produced by Sam Goldwyn, including Roman Scandals (1932), Kid Millions (1934) and Strike Me Pink (1936). For a time he was the highest paid star in show business. Cantor returned to Broadway for Banjo Eyes (1941), but realized he was no longer up to the physical strain of eight performances a week. A top radio star in the 1930s and 40s, he starred on TV's Colgate Comedy Hour in the early 1950s. In his spare time, Cantor published two autobiographies, raised millions for various charities, and helped found the March of Dimes. It was ironic that this man, nicknamed "The Apostle of Pep," spent his final years slowed by a series of illnesses. He died of a heart attack at age 72. For more, see Herbert Goldman's Banjo Eyes: Eddie Cantor and the Birth of Modern Stardom (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997).
Perhaps the greatest triumph of Cariou's stage career came when he originated the title role of Sondheim's Sweeney Todd (1979). He gave a brilliant, chilling performance as the murderous barber, introducing "Epiphany" and "Little Priest" (the latter with co-star Angela Lansbury), and winning the Tony for Best Actor in a musical. He starred as cynical nightclub entertainer Harry Aikens in the ill-fated Dance a Little Closer (1983), and played Theodore Roosevelt in Teddy and Alice (1987) his last Broadway musical to date. Cariou's non-singing Broadway appearances include leading roles in Cold Storage (1977), The Speed of Darkness (1991), The Dinner Party (2000) and the replacement cast of Proof (2001). He has been featured in more than a dozen films, including Executive Decision (1996) and About Schmidt (2002). Cariou's many TV appearances include guest shots on The Practice, West Wing, a recurring role on Angela Lansbury's long-running mystery series Murder She Wrote, and a featured role on the police drama Blue Bloods.
Considered tasteless by most critics, Carroll's lavish revues had tremendous appeal and offered lively competition to Florenz Ziegfeld's lavish Follies and George White's Scandals. Carroll's shows introduced "I've Got a Right to Sing the Blues" and "Goodnight Sweetheart," and showcased the talents of Sophie Tucker, Milton Berle, Jack Benny and director Vincente Minnelli. At the backstage entrance to the Earl Carroll Theater, a sign boasted, "Through these portals pass the most beautiful girls in the world." Claiming he was obsessed with feminine beauty, Carroll was the only Broadway producer who forced women to audition in the nude, claiming that he selected his chorines based on "the sway of their hips." Publicity antics and an unbridled private life got Carroll in occasional trouble with the law, including a stint in federal prison for perjury.
In 1931, despite the crippling effects of the Great Depression, Carroll rebuilt his theater as an extravagant 3,000 seat art deco showplace. Billed as "the largest legitimate theater in the world," it proved so costly to run that Carroll was forced into foreclosure after six months. Ziegfeld took over the theater and renamed it The Casino an expensive gesture of revenge that helped force Ziegfeld into bankruptcy too. (After stints as a movie theater and cabaret, the space was converted into a Woolworth's department store. Parts of the forgotten theatre decor were briefly uncovered at the time of the building's demolition in 1990.) The resilient Carroll opened a successful nightclub in Hollywood, where he also produced screen and radio revues. His films included Murder at the Vanities (1933), A Night at Earl Carroll's (1940) and Earl Carroll's Sketchbook (1946). He died in a commercial plane crash at age 54.
Cassidy appeared with Carol Burnett in Fade Out-Fade In (1964), then played cynical columnist "Max Mencken" in the unsuccessful It's a Bird, It's a Plane, It's Superman (1966), and co-starred with then-wife Shirley Jones in the ill-fated Civil War musical Maggie Flynn (1968). Cassidy performed in numerous films and TV shows, including several memorable guest villain role on the Columbo mystery series. A heavy drinker in his later years, he fell asleep with a lit cigarette in his hand and died in the subsequent fire at age 49. His talented sons David, Shaun and Patrick all went on to show business careers, including musical roles on Broadway.
The couple reached their peak in 1914, simultaneously co-starring on Broadway in Irving Berlin's revue Watch Your Step, opening a nationwide chain of dance schools, and running their own popular Times Square nightclub. When World War I broke out in Europe, Vernon joined the Canadian Air Force and served with distinction while Irene continued performing. Vernon achieved the rank of Captain, and was working as a flying instructor when an airplane crash killed him in 1918. Irene toured in vaudeville through the 1920s, and acted as dance consultant for The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle (1939), a musical screen bio starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. After creating "The World's Fair Hop" for the 1939 World's Fair, Irene devoted the remaining decades of her life to running a sanctuary for abandoned and abused pets. The Castles are buried side by side at Woodlawn Cemetery in New York City.
Champion made his real mark as a Broadway director/choreographer. Not coming from the usual show biz dance tradition (tap, kick lines, etc.), Champion used his ballroom background to give musical numbers a fresh, seamless look. He staged the hit revue Lend and Ear (1948), winning the first-ever Tony Award for choreography. After Small Wonder (1948) came the book musical Make a Wish (1951), as well as choreography for several 1950s films and television specials. The Broadway smash Bye Bye Birdie (1960) brought Champion Tony Awards for both direction and choreography, and delighted audiences with a mix of traditional musical comedy with Elvis Presley-style rock n' roll. Champion received another nomination for his direction of Carnival (1961), in which he placed every prop, set piece and performer into a dynamic flow of song, story and motion. This approach worked wonders with Hello Dolly! (1964), turning Jerry Herman's musicalization of Thornton Wilder's The Matchmaker into a stunning vehicle for Carol Channing. Over the years, countless stars have danced through Champion's rousing conception of the title tune, with a phalanx of waiters following around a runway. Hello Dolly! brought Champion another set of Tonys for both direction and choreography.
Champion's intense concentration and demanding rehearsals earned him a reputation as a hit maker and a martinet -- librettist Michael Stewart and producer David Merrick both referred to him as "the Presbyterian Hitler." Champion staged I Do, I Do (1966), a warm-hearted two-character musical about marriage starring Mary Martin and Robert Preston. Champion's innovative use of lighting and photography earned him another set of Best Director/Choreographer Tonys for Kander and Ebb's The Happy Time (1968), which starred Robert Goulet as a world-class photographer whose visit disrupts the quiet life of his French Canadian family. Champion's direction of Sugar (1972) and Irene (1973) won varying degrees of acclaim, but the brief runs of Mack and Mabel (1974) and Rockabye Hamlet (1976), coupled with the mixed response to The Act (1977), made the 1970s a time of increasing disappointment for Champion. Despite the effects of a rare blood disease, he created the spectacular stage version of 42nd Street (1980), dying hours before the opening performance of what proved to be his most ingenious (and longest running) hit. Champion received a posthumous Tony for Best Choreography.
Channing, Carol Elaine
Channing originated the unforgettable 1920s flapper Lorelei Lee in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1948), introducing Jule Styne and Leo Robbins' "I'm Just a Little Girl From Little Rock" and "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend." She won fresh acclaim taking over the lead role of Ruth Sherwood in the original production of Leonard Bernstein's Wonderful Town (1951), and won personal raves appearing in short-lived productions of The Vamp (1955) and The Show Girl (1961). Channing toured the nightclub circuit, where her impersonations of Marlene Dietrich and Tallulah Bankhead, and her hilarious routine about a former silent film star ("Cecilia Sisson") made her a perennial favorite.
The greatest triumph of Channing's career came when she created the role of Dolly Gallagher Levi in David Merrick's production of Jerry Herman and Michael Stewart's Hello Dolly! (1964). Director Gower Champion's vibrant staging delighted audiences and critics, and Channing's renditions of "Before the Parade Passes By" and the hit title tune helped to make the show a runaway hit. Dolly brought Channing a richly deserved Tony for Best Actress in a Musical. She returned to the role in tours and revivals, eventually playing Dolly more than 4,000 times.
Channing revisited the role of Lorelei Lee in the heavily revised Lorelei (1973), touring and enjoying a successful run on Broadway. Her oversized personality, so effective on stage, was considered too big for the intimacy of the camera. Channing's only major film appearance was as the outlandish "Muzzy" in Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967). She won fresh acclaim in a farewell 1995 tour of Hello Dolly (1995), after which she withdrew from performing to write her entertaining autobiography Just Lucky I Guess. In her 80's, Channing married childhood sweetheart Harry Kullijan (her fourth husband), and appeared in a one-woman revue entitled The First Eighty Years Are the Hardest.
Charisse joined her husband, singer Tony Martin, for frequent nightclub appearances. She starred in the London revival of Charlie Girl (1986), singing live and in person. When in 1992, at age 71, she made her Broadway debut by joining the cast of Grand Hotel, taking over the role of aging ballerina Grushinskaya, Charisse was credited with re-energizing the long-running show's ticket sales. Charisse's physical grace and stellar charm outweighed her vocal limitations. Unwilling to let arthritis hold her back, she continued to make public appearances, still delighting fans with her elegance, glamour and unaffected sense of humor. After suffering a heart attack, she died at age 86.
Charnin provided lyrics for the ambitious Mata Hari, which closed on the road in 1967. He was both lyricist and director for Annie (1977), a surprise hit that became an international favorite and made Charnin and composer Charles Strouse millionaires. Charnin's later career brought a series of promising but ultimately frustrating projects, including lyrics for I Remember Mama (1979), lyrics and direction for The First (1981) and the unlucky sequel Annie Warbucks. His Off-Broadway projects include the lyrics and direction for the long running revue Upstairs at O'Neals. Charnin also directed the 1997 revival of Annie.
Chevalier remained semi-secluded during the German occupation of France. He made two appearances in exchange for the release of political prisoners, and forever afterward denied the accusations of Nazi collaboration that plagued him after the war. He continued appearing in France, but it took a smash-hit run at New York's Palace Theater in the early 1950s to revive Chevalier's international career. After more than two decades away from the big screen, his enchanting performance as Audrey Hepburn’s father in the romantic comedy Love in the Afternoon (1957) led to Chevalier's most memorable screen role the aging playboy Honore in Gigi (1958), singing Alan Jay Lerner and Frederick Loewe’s "Thank Heaven for Little Girls" and "I’m Glad I’m Not Young Anymore." At 70, his screen persona was as irresistible as ever, winning him new fans and a special Academy Award. Chevalier appeared on screen in Can Can (1959), the non-musical version of Fanny (1961) and several comedies before retiring from film work. He toured Europe and the United Stated through the 1960’s to consistent acclaim. Chevalier retired from the stage in 1968, making occasional TV appearances and recording the title song for Disney's animated The Aristocats (1970). Long plagued by emotional demons, he died in his beloved Paris at age 83.
After the troubled McCullough committed suicide in 1936, Clark went on to a long and successful solo career. He shared the show-stopping "I Can't Get Started" with fellow burlesque veteran Gypsy Rose Lee in the Ziegfeld Follies of 1936, starred in the revues Streets of Paris (1939) and Star and Garter (1942), and introduced Cole Porter's raucous "Count Your Blessings" with June Havoc in Mexican Hayride (1944). Clark's comic performance turned a production of Victor Herbert's Sweethearts (1947) into the first Broadway revival ever to outrun an original production. He mugged his way to similar acclaim in producer Michael Todd's revues As The Girls Go (1948) and Peep Show (1950). Clark discarded his painted-on glasses to play Applegate in the national tour of Damn Yankees in the mid 1950s, winning rave reviews in what became his farewell to the stage.
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