Who's Who in Musicals:
Additional Bios XIV
by John Kenrick
(b. Karoline Wilhelmina Blamauer)
b. Oct. 18, 1898 (Vienna) - d. Nov. 27, 1981 (NYC)
Lenya originated the role of the prostitute "Jenny" in husband Kurt Weill's original Berlin production of Die Dreigroschenoper (The Threepenny Opera - 1928), introducing the stunning ballad known in English as "Pirate Jenny" -- a task she repeated in the 1930 German screen version. She also starred as "Lucy" in the world premiere of Aufstief und Fall der Stast Mahagonny (1931). Weill and Lenya left Germany to avoid Nazi persecution, and eventually relocated in New York. Both engaged in marital infidelities, and they were even divorced for a time -- but the couple remarried soon after moving to the United States, where Lenya starred as "The Duchess" in Weill's short-lived Broadway original The Firebrand of Florence (1954).
After Weill's death, Lenya starred as "Jenny" in a landmark Off-Broadway English language production of The Threepenny Opera (1954), bringing Weill's masterwork long-overdue recognition in America. Married multiple times, Lenya was actively bisexual and had passionate affairs with members of both sexes. A versatile talent, she appeared in several Hollywood films, earning an Academy Award nomination for her performance as the earthy "Contessa" in The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone (1961). She enjoyed a fresh stage triumph originating the role of "Frau Schneider" in Cabaret (1966), and spent her final years promoting Weill's memory, establishing a foundation to protect and preserve his works. Lenya died of cancer at age 83, and was buried next to Weill in Haverstraw, NY. The Lenya-Weill romance was dramatized in the Broadway musical Lovemusik (2007).
(b. Ethelia Fowler)
b. Nov. 22, 1880 (San Francisco) - d. Feb. 27, 1955 (NYC)
Born and raised a Roman Catholic, this versatile performer took her stage surname from her Jewish stepfather. She toured in variety, burlesque and vaudeville, where she met George M. Cohan, who she married in 1900. Levey had prime featured roles in Cohan's early Broadway musicals, including the Governor's Son (1901) and Little Johnny Jones (1904) -- in which she introduced "I Was Born in Virginia." Soon after George Washington Jr. (1906), Cohan and Levy divorced, a decision which neither discussed publicly in future years. Levy remained one of vaudeville's most popular performers, and enjoyed a London success in Hullo Ragtime (1912). Levey's occasional Broadway appearances included the acclaimed Irving Berlin revue Watch Your Step (1914). She made her final New York bow as "Mme. Sacher" in Marinka (1945).
b. Sept. 27, 1885 (Somerville, MA) - d. Dec. 18, 1943 (NYC)
Tierney, Harry Austin
b. May 21, 1890 (Perth Amboy, NJ) - d. Mar. 22, 1965 (NYC)
McCarthy was a little-known Tin Pan Alley lyricist until Al Jolson introduced "You Made Me Love You" in Honeymoon Express (1913). Other interpolations eventually led to McCarthy's collaborating on a full score for the now-forgotten Oh Look! (1918) starring the Dolly Sisters. It included the hit ballad "I'm Always Chasing Rainbows."
In 1918, McCarthy formed a profitable collaboration with Tierney, who had already contributed melodies to forgettable shows on both sides of the Atlantic. Their first full score was for Irene (1919), which included "Alice Blue Gown" and became the longest running Broadway musical up to that time. They had further success with the Eddie Cantor vehicle Kid Boots (1923) and the Ziegfeld spectacle Rio Rita (1927). McCarthy & Tierney also co-authored songs for several editions of the Follies. After a brief time in Hollywood adapting their works for the screen, both men faded from the scene. Their best songs outlived them. The 1973 revival of Irene starring Debbie Reynolds augmented parts of the original score with other McCarthy songs.
MacGregor, Edgar J.
b. 1879 (Rochester, NY) - d. April 3, 1957 (NYC)
Beginning with The Kiss Burglar (1918), MacGregor was one of Broadway's most prolific directors during the first half of the 20th Century, staging more than 40 musical comedies and operettas. Critics did not credit MacGregor with any particular style, but he was an efficient organizer who could bring together the chaotic elements of a new musical comedy -- which was no small thing, and all anyone expected from directors at that time. His hits included The Gingham Girl (1922), The Desert Song (1926), Good News (1927), Funny Face (1927), The New Moon (1928), and Take A Chance (1932). He also staged three Cole Porter hits -- DuBarry Was a Lady (1939), Panama Hattie (1940) and Let's Face It! (1941). After Oklahoma, expectations changed, and following the failures of Nellie Bly (1946) and Louisiana Lady (1947), MacGregor retired.
McGuire, William Anthony
b. July 9, 1885 (Chicago) - d. Sept. 16, 1940 (Beverly Hills)
After contributing sketches to minor revues like Frivolities of 1920, this former journalist was chosen by producer Florenz Ziegfeld, Jr. to write the libretto for Eddie Cantor's hit vehicle Kid Boots (1923). For the next seven years, McGuire was part of Ziegfeld's main production team. He provided sketches for the Follies of 1924, and the next edition, which reached Broadway under the title No Foolin' (1926).
After assisting on Rodgers and Hart's ill-fated Betsy (1926), McGuire was both librettist and director for three smash hits in one year -- the Marilyn Miller vehicle Rosalie (1928), Rudolph Friml's operetta The Three Musketeers (1928) and the Cantor laugh fest Whoopee (1928). After that exhausting year, heavy drinking paved the way to a swift decline. The quick failure of Show Girl (1929), Ripples (1930) and the all-star Smiles (1930) marked the end of Maguire's stage career. He had only one noteworthy screen credit, but it was a whopper, authoring the screenplay for MGM's Academy Award winner The Great Ziegfeld (1936).
(b. Julia Kathleen Nancy McKenzie)
b. Feb. 17, 1941 (Enfield, UK)
This versatile actress made her first impact in West End musical theatre as an understudy in Maggie May (1964), followed by appearances in Joey, Joey (1966) and A Present From the Corporation (1967). She scored with a hilarious performance as "Gloria Upson" in the London cast of Mame (1969). She was a replacement in the West End casts of Promises, Promises (1970) and Company (1972), and was featured in the retrospective revues Cowardy Custard (1972) and Cole (1974). McKenzie scored an international success in the intimate revue Side By Side By Sondheim (1976), appearing in the London and New York productions with Millicent Martin and David Kiernan. (Due to union requirements, her American stage name was "Julie N. McKenzie.")
McKenzie alternated musical theatre with numerous dramatic roles on stage and television. Her musical West End roles included "Lily Garland" in On the 20th Century (1980), "Adelaide" in a triumphant revival of Guys and Dolls (1982), "Sally Plummer" in Sondheim's Follies (1987), the "The Witch" in Into the Woods (1990), the London cast of Putting It Together (1992) and "Mrs. Lovett" in the National Theatre production of Sweeney Todd (1994). She has directed several West End productions, as well as the 1999 Tokyo production of A Little Night Music. Well-known on British television, she took over the lead in ITV's popular Miss Marple series in 2008.
b. May 31, 1884 (San Francisco) - d. April 20, 1958 (Hollywood)
b. Dec. 17, 1893 (Boston) - d. May 29, 1951 (Southampton, NY)
Onetime journalist Mandel got into theatre as librettist for several forgettable musical comedies, including Tickle Me (1920) and The O'Brien Girl (1921). But he hit his stride when he teamed up with Schwab to turn the troubled No, No, Nanette (1925) into a lasting hit. Mandel and Schwab then served as producers and sometimes librettists for a series of hit musical comedies and operettas, including Captain Jinks (1925), The Desert Song (1926), Good News! (1927), The New Moon (1928) and Follow Thru (1929). After the failures of East Wind (1931) and Romberg's operetta May Wine (1935), Schwab left show business. Mandel spent several years directing films before retiring in 1942.
(b. Albert Moshinski)
b. Sept. 20, 1925 (New York City) - d. Sept. 4, 2012 (NYC)
This versatile director guided a number of musicals to Broadway, many starring his wife, soprano Joan Diener. The unexpected success of Kismet (1953) was followed by a series of embarrassing flops -- Shangri-La (1956), The Conquering Hero (1961), and a version of Grand Hotel that closed on the road. Marre redeemed himself with Milk and Honey (1961), then enjoyed a career-defining triumph with his environmental staging of Man of La Mancha (1965). He and Deiner (the original Aldonza) re-created that staging all over the world in years to come. They had far less success with the ambitious Cry For Us All (1970), and their year-long tour of Odyssey reached New York as Home Sweet Homer (1975) -- closing on its opening night. In later years, Marre helmed several major revivals of La Mancha, as well as the short-lived Broadway production of Chu Chem (1989). After a long illness, he died at Mt. Sinai Hospital at age 86.
Marsh, Howard Warren
b. Bluffton, IN - d. Aug. 7, 1969 (Long Branch, NJ)
Handsome features and a strong tenor voice made Marsh one of Broadway's stellar leading men in the 1920s. Featured as "Jacques" in the New York production of The Grass Widow(1917), he joined the cast of Sigmund Romberg's long-running Maytime (1918) and remained with it for an extensive tour. A surprise success in The Greenwich Village Follies (1920) led to Marsh being cast as "Franz Schubert" in Romberg's adaptation of Blossom Time (1921), where he introduced the hit "Serenade" ("You are my song of love").
Marsh found even greater acclaim originating the role of "Prince Karl Franz" in Romberg's The Student Prince in Heidelberg (1924), introducing "Deep In My Heart," "Golden Days" and yet another "Serenade" ("Overhead the moon is beaming"). After the short-lived Cherry Blossoms (1927), Marsh was cast as the original "Gaylord Ravenal" in Show Boat (1927), where he introduced "Make Believe," "You Are Love" and "Why Do I Love You" with soprano Norma Terris. After co-starring with Terris in the ill-fated The Well of Romance (1930), Marsh appeared as lead tenor with New York's Civic Light Opera Company until 1935. Sensing that tastes were changing, he left show business to become a banker.
(b. Ralph Uriah Hunsecker)
b. July 26, 1914 (Broken Arrow, OK)
b. Aug. 11, 1914 (Birmingham, AL)
As part of a vocal quartet called "The Martins," this talented duo sang in such Broadway musicals as Hooray For What and Louisiana Purchase. They collaborated on the score for Best Foot Forward (1941), which included the popular march "Bucle Down, Winsocki," then traveled to Hollywood to work on the 1943 film version, remaining to provide songs for several films. Martin & Blane had their greatest success with the score to Meet Me in St. Louis (1944), giving Judy Garland three memorable hits -- "The Trolley Song," "The Boy Next Door" and "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas."
Blane remained in Hollywood, contributing lyrics to such projects as Summer Holiday (1948) and My Blue Heaven (1950). Martin composed occasional films scores, but concentrated on works for the stage, including Look Ma, I'm Dancin' (1948), Make a Wish (1951) and High Spirits (1964). The duo reunited to prepare a lavish but ill-advised Broadway adaptation of Meet Me in St. Louis (1989).
(b. Alvin Morris)
b. Dec. 25, 1912 (Oakland, CA)
This handsome baritone balanced a successful pop recording career with twenty years of musical screen stardom. He made his film debut as a sailor in Follow the Fleet (1936), quickly graduating to featured roles in such hits as Pigskin Parade (1936), and Sing and Be Happy (1937). He co-starred with first wife Alice Faye in Sally, Irene & Mary (1938), and had leading roles in Music In My Heart (1940), and Ziegfeld Girl (1941). Martin was also a popular presence on network radio and early television.
More a singer than an actor, the handsome Martin appeared opposite many of the most glamorous leading ladies of his time. In Deep in My Heart (1954), he shared a number with his second wife, dancer Cyd Charisse. Hit the Deck (1955) was the last of Martin's two dozen Hollywood films. After the weak British screen tuner Let's Be Happy (1957), Martin concentrated on a long and successful concert career, often sharing the stage with Charisse, to whom he was married for 60 years until her death in 2008.
b. June 8, 1934 (Romford, UK)
A child in the London production of Lute Song, Martin appeared in the London and New York productions of The Boyfriend (1954). She played "working girls" in Expresso Bongo (1958) and The Crooked Mile (1959), after which a succession of stage flops led her to several seasons in British television. Her one musical big screen role was opposite Tony Tanner in the 1969 film version of Stop the World I Want to Get Off.
Martin co-starred with Jim Dale in The Card (1975), and she appeared with Julia McKenzie and David Kiernan in the London and New York revue Side By Side By Sondheim (1976). She concentrated on non-musical roles, returning to the stage to take over the role of "Dorothy Brock" in the New York cast of 42nd Street, and later as "Phyllis" in the London production of Sondheim's Follies (1987).