Who's Who in Musicals:
Additional Bios XIII
by John Kenrick
b. July 2, 1892 (Bolton, UK) - d. Jan. 29, 1965 (London)
A popular dance band leader, Hylton became a successful West End producer, specializing in imported American musical hits such as Annie Get Your Gun (1947), Kiss Me Kate (1951), Call Me Madam (1952) and Paint Your Wagon (1953). His greatest homegrown success came with the long-running Salad Days (1954). Hylton's final production was the London staging of Camelot (1964). He died of a heart attack the following year at age 72.
(b. Georgia Campbell)
b. June 22, 1862 (Whitby, Ontario) - d. Oct. 22, 1938 (NYC)
Ample physical proportions and a powerhouse "coon shouter" voice made Irwin one of the most popular comediennes of her time. After getting her start as a child on the variety stage, Irwin toured extensively with her sister Flo. They became the top sister act in early vaudeville, performing with Tony Pastor in 1877. May went solo in 1884, interrupting her vaudeville career for a number of Broadway plays, musical comedies and revues. Her greatest musical hit was The Widow Jones (1895), in which she introduced "The Bully Song," a raucous comedy number that became her signature piece. Irwin and co-star John C. Rice performed a scene from that show for Thomas Edison's early silent film cameras -- widely known as "The Kiss," it ignited a scandalous (and profitable) public response. Irwin starred in several more profitable but now forgotten Broadway musicals, all designed as vehicles for her, but the bulk of her career was spent as a headliner in vaudeville. She retired in the 1920s. A shrewd investor, she owned several homes and was reputed to be one of the wealthiest women in show business up to that time.
b. Feb. 3, 1877 (New York City) - d. Nov. 23, 1957 (East Islip, NY)
This attractive American soprano was studying music in Europe when she joined the chorus of the D'Oyly Carte troupe, appearing in the original production of Gilbert & Sullivan's The Grand Duke (1896). She returned to America to appear in such forgettable Broadway musicals as Little Miss Nobody (1898), A Runaway Girl (1900) and Hotel Topsy Turvy (1902). She "retired" in frustration, but returned to the stage in The Blue Moon (1906). Soon afterward, she had the singular fortune to win the title role of "Sonia" in the original Broadway production of Franz Lehar's blockbuster hit The Merry Widow (1907). With handsome co-star Donald Brian, Jackson waltzed into immortality, but she was unable to parlay this success into lasting stardom. In the years that followed, she appeared intermittently in vaudeville, occasionally playing supporting roles in musicals and dramas. She made her final Broadway bow in the stage version of Key Largo (1939).
b. April 17, 1912 (Budapest)
b. May 6, 1902 (Sonowicz, Poland) - d. Aug. 15, 1966 (Rye, NY)
After early careers in Europe, this husband-wife team found joint stardom in a long-running Broadway revival of Franz Lehar's perennial favorite, The Merry Widow (1943). This Viennese classic struck a nostalgic chord with wartime audiences, and the production raised Eggerth & Kiepura to immediate American stardom. They later co-starred in the Broadway failure Polonaise (1945), a Paris production of Princess Czardas (1950), and Vienna productions of Der Zarewitsch (1954) and Paganini (1956). Eggerth and Kiepura brought their Merry Widow to London for a brief run in 1955. Eggerth also appeared in the short-lived Rodgers & Hart musical Higher and Higher (1940). She made occasional stage appearances in later years, including the Diana Rigg production of Colette (1982) and the Vienna production of Servus Du (1992).
Actor, singer, vaudevillian
b. Oct. 31, 1889 (New York) - d. Jan. 11, 1944 (London)
This song and dance man got his start in minstrel shows and vaudeville, making his Broadway debut in the chorus of The Yankee Prince (1908). He was featured opposite Elsie Janis in The Slim Princess (1911), then appeared in A Winsome Widow (1912) and such revues as The Passing Show (1913) and Watch Your Step (1914). Stardom came when he played Jerry Conroy in Little Nellie Kelly (1922), introducing George M Cohan's nostalgic "Nellie Kelly, I Love You." As Bilge Smith in Hit the Deck (1927), he sang Vincent Youmans's "Sometimes I'm Happy." He also starred in Present Arms (1928).
King was tapped by MGM to star in the landmark musical film Broadway Melody (1929), where he introduced "You Were Meant For Me," and sang the jaunty title tune surrounded by some well-fed chorines. King introduced "Happy Days Are Here Again" in Chasing Rainbows (1930), then returned to Broadway to appear in Cole Porter's The New Yorkers (1930). He made his last stage appearance in the short lived Sea Legs (1937), and was in London when he died from pneumonia.
(b. Elsa Marie Kirk)
Actress, singer, dancer
b. Feb. 25, 1926 (Brownsville, PA) - d. Nov. 11, 1990 (NYC)
This versatile comic actress won fame introducing Rodgers and Hammerstein's "The Gentleman is a Dope" in Allegro (1947). As the original Lois Lane/Biana in Kiss Me Mate (1948), she was the first to sing Cole Porter's "Why Can't You Behave," "Always True to You in My Fashion" and "Tom, Harry or Dick." Kirk remained active in nightclubs and regional theatre, returning periodically to musicals. She dubbed the songs for Rosalind Russell in the film version of Gypsy (1963), took over the female lead in Broadway's Here's Love (1964), and played "Lottie" in Mack and Mabel (1974) where she introduced Jerry Herman's "Tap You Troubles Away." She was featured in the musical Home Again, Home Again, which closed before reaching Broadway in 1979. A longtime smoker, Kirk died of lung cancer at age 62.
Producer, theatre owner
b. May 29, 1858 (Paducah, KY) - d. June 14, 1936 (Bracken Fell, Hassocks, UK)
An experienced attorney, Klaw formed a partnership with Abe Erlanger, owning and managing a nationwide chain of theatres. In 1896, they formed the Theatrical Syndicate, which gave them monopolistic control of the bookings for almost every theater in the USA. Over the next sixteen years, they set the rates and handled access to more than 700 houses. Klaw and Erlanger's shameless greed and ruthless business practices made them countless enemies among fellow managers as well as actors, musicians, etc. The duo also produced dozens of Broadway musicals, including George M Cohan's Forty-Five Minutes From Broadway (1906), Victor Herbert's Little Nemo (1908) and The Pink Lady (1911). They also financed the early editions of Florenz Ziegfeld's Follies, Broadway's first important revue series. After Klaw and Erlanger's partnership fell apart over the Actor's Equity strike of 1919, Klaw focused primarily on producing dramas until his retirement in 1926. He spent his final years in England.
(b. Henry George Lupino)
Actor, singer, dancer
b. June 16, 1892 (Hackney, London) - d. Nov. 10, 1959 (London)
This popular comic actor got his start in music halls, and made his West End debut as a dancer in Watch Your Step and other revues. He was featured in the London and New York casts of Afgar (1919), and made revue appearances in both cities -- including the Ziegfeld Follies of 1924. He appeared in approximately 40 silent films, and thanks to his stage backgroung had no difficulty making the transition to talkies, playing Maurice Chevalier's valet in the early screen musical Love Parade (1929).
Back in London, Lane directed and appeared in numerous films. He also produced and starred in Twenty to One (1935), a 383 performance West End hit in which he originated the character of cockney tout Bill Snibson. He played this street smart cockney again in a series of popular sequels, beginning with the long-running Me and My Girl (1937), in which Lane introduced Noel Gay's "The Lambeth Walk." He repeated the role in the film Lambeth Walk (1939), as well as in the stage sequels La-Di-Da-Di-Da (1943), Meet Me Victoria (1944) and Sweetheart Mine (1946). Lane spent his later years appearing in occasional revivals of Me and My Girl. Part of a large theatrical family, his niece was Hollywood star Ida Lupino.
Lang, Harold Richard
Dancer, actor, singer
b. Dec. 21. 1920 (Daly City, CA) - d. July 26, 1985 (Chico, CA)
After appearing with the Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo and American Ballet Theatre, this athletic dancer first won notice as one of the original sailors in the Jerome Robbins ballet Fancy Free (1944). Lang made his Broadway debut in the ensemble of Mr. Strauss Goes to Boston (1945), danced in Three To Make Ready (1946) and played "Edie Winkler" in Look Ma, I'm Dancin (1948). He won stardom as "Bill Calhoun" in Kiss Me Kate (1948), introducing Cole Porter's "Bianca." After playing "Ricky" in the short lived Make a Wish (1951), he played the title role in a long running revival of Pal Joey (1952), a happy task he repeated in London two years later. Lang was considered one of the handsomest actors in New York -- both Gore Vidal and Arthur Laurents would later boast in their memoirs of relationships with him. Unfortunately, he was unable to parlay his early dance-based success into a lasting Broadway career. He appeared in three disappointments -- playing "Robert Henderson" in Shangri-La (1956), appearing in a weak Ziegfeld Follies (1957), and playing a sailor in a short-lived Off-Broadway revival of On the Town (1959). After making his last New York appearance was as "Teddy Asch" in I Can Get It For You Wholesale (1962), Lang continued to make occasional appearances in regional theatre. From 1970 onwards, Lang taught dance at California State University in Chico, remaining there until his death due to pancreatic cancer at age 64.
Latouche, John Treville
b. Nov. 13, 1914 (Richmond, VA) - d. Aug. 7, 1956 (Calais, VT)
With a gift for literate rhyme, Latouche contributed individual lyrics to such shows as Pins and Needles (1938) before collaborating with Vernon Duke on the full scores of Cabin in the Sky (1940) and Banjo Eyes (1941). After a decade filled with such disappointments as Duke Ellington's Beggar's Holiday (1946), Latouche scored a critical triumph with composer Jerome Moross -- The Golden Apple (1954). After the unsuccessful Carol Channing vehicle The Vamp (1955), he collaborated with composer Douglas Moore on the acclaimed opera The Ballad of Baby Doe (1956). Latouche worked with Leonard Bernstein on the brilliant cult favorite Candide (1956), but at age 41 was felled by a heart attack at his Vermont home, several months before its premiere.
(b. Sara Stina Hedberg)
b. Mar. 15, 1907 (Lake Vaner, Sweden) - d. June 23, 1981 (Stockholm)
A low but attractive singing voice and exceptional, statuesque beauty took this performer from local Swedish productions to a starring role in the Vienna stage hit Axel and der Himmelstur (1936). She repeated this triumph on screen, landing a contract with UFA and becoming Germany's most popular musical film star. As World War II broke out, Leander refused offers from Britain and the US, preferring to remain #1 in Germany. She saved one or two useful colleagues from Nazi persecution, but looked the other way when friends were carted off to concentration camps.
With Adolph Hitler among her most devoted fans, Leander overcame the antagonism of propaganda minister Josef Goebbels and starred in a series of screen musicals designed to boost German morale. When Leander's producer could not find enough tall women for a production number in Die Grosse Liebe (The Great Love - 1942), Hitler's personal SS guards were ordered to become a living wall of long-limbed angelic "chorines," exchanging their uniforms for chiffon gowns and picture hats. Die Grosse Liebe became one of Germany's most popular wartime screen hits, and gay songwriter Bruno Baltz's ironic "Davon geht die Welt nicht unter" ("It Won't Be the End of the World") and "Ich weiß, es wird einmal ein Wunder gescheh'n" ("I Know One Day a Miracle Will Happen") became Reich favorites.
Leander left Germany before the Nazi's were defeated, but was forever labeled as one of Hitler's stars, the "Diva of the Third Reich." Unapologetic, she insisted she had no political connection to the Nazis, and eventually overcame public hostility, appearing in concerts (reprising her Nazi-era hits for nostalgic fans) and occasional stage musicals. Leander ended her career playing "Madame Armfeldt" in the Viennese (1975) and Swedish productions of A Little Night Music, retiring shortly before her death due to a stoke at age 74.
Lecocq, Charles Alexander
b. June 3, 1832 (Paris) - d. Oct. 24, 1918 (Paris)
A contemporary of Offenbach, Lecocq is not as well remembered, but he made a prolific contribution to the golden age of French operetta in a career that stretched from 1857 to 1910. Marked by sparkling, sophisticated scores, Lecocq's greatest hits included La Fille de Madame Angot (1872) and La Petit Duc (1878), the only two of his fifty-plus scores that are still heard with any regularity today.
Lee, Gypsy Rose
(b. Rose Louise Hovic)
b. Jan. 9, 1914 (Seattle) - d. Apr. 26, 1970 (Los Angeles)
A childhood in vaudeville followed by years as burlesque's stellar "intellectual" stripper led Ms. Lee to an occasional career in musical theatre. From the ensemble of Ziegfeld's Hot-Cha (1932), she graduated to major roles in Melody (1933) and shared the show-stopping "I Can't Get Started" with fellow burlesque veteran Bobby Clark in the Shubert produced Ziegfeld Follies of 1936. Lee took over the lead role of "May Daly" in DuDarry Was a Lady when Ethel Merman left in 1940, and co-starred with Bobby Clark in Mike Todd's burlesque-flavored hit Star and Garter (1942). Lee's inventive memoirs formed the basis for the frequently revived musical Gypsy (1959). Three times married and divorced, she hosted a popular television talk show in the 1960s. Her career was cut short by cancer at age 56.
Leigh, Carolyn Paula
b. Aug. 21, 1926 (Bronx, New York) - d. Nov. 19, 1983 (NYC)
Leigh went from copywriting for radio stations and advertising firms to pop lyric writing, providing the words to several Frank Sinatra hits ("Young at Heart," "Witchcraft," "The Best is Yet to Come," etc). Her first stab at Broadway came with several of the lyrics for Mary Martin's Peter Pan (1954), including "I Won't Grow Up" and "I'm Flying." Leigh contributed to several forgettable revues, including the so-called Ziegfeld Follies of 1957. She had better luck collaborating with composer Cy Coleman on several book musicals, starting with Wildcat (1960) -- in which Lucille Ball introduced the popular "Hey, Look Me Over." Little Me (1962) included the pop hits "I've Got Your Number" and "Real Live Girl." For her final Broadway project, Leigh teamed with film composer Elmer Bernstein for the poorly received How Now Dow Jones (1967), which included the catchy march "Step to the Rear." She died of a heart attack at age 57.
b. Jan. 30, 1928 (Brooklyn, NY)
The Yale graduate started his career as a jazz musician, composing radio and television commercials, including the popular "Nobody Doesn't Like Sara Lee" jingle. Leigh established the commercial production firm Music Makers Inc. in 1957 and served as its creative director. Collaborating with lyricist Joe Darion, he is credited with the score for Man of La Mancha (1965), including the popular anthem "The Quest" ("To Dream the Impossible Dream"). With veteran actor Richard Kiley in the title role, the show (based on Cervantes' classic novel Don Quixote) received the Tonys for Best Score and Best Musical in 1966 and enjoyed international popularity. Leigh and Darion's Cry For Us All (1970) closed quickly, and the costly Odyssey toured for more than a year before coming to Broadway as Home Sweet Homer (1976) -- and closing in one ignominious night.
Leigh's Sarava (1979) was kept open for months in an embarrassing and costly attempt to foil hostile critics. Chu Chem, about a fictional community of Chinese Jews, closed on the road in 1966, but made a forced, ill-advised appearance on Broadway in 1989. Leigh's final Broadway score was for the short-lived Ain't Broadway Grand (1993). He produced and took credit for directing Yul Brynner's prolonged and immensely profitable farewell tour of The King and I, which ended on Broadway in 1985.