Who's Who in Musicals: D
by John Kenrick
Actor, singer, dancer
b. Dec. 14, 1914 (New York City) - d. Oct. 16, 1978 (Los Angeles, CA)
This tall, personable song & dance man got his start in minstrel shows
and vaudeville, reaching Broadway in Richard Rodgers
& Lorenz Hart's teen musical Babes in Arms
(1937). After a small role in Stars in Your Eyes (1939), he was featured in the
national tour of Rodgers and Hart's I Married an Angel (1939). Dailey's
dazzling smile and smooth manner made him a natural for big screen stardom. He headed out
to Hollywood for supporting screen roles in Hullabaloo (1940), Ziegfeld Girl
(1941), Lady Be Good (1941) and Panama Hattie (1942). After
interrupting his career to serve in World War II, he starred in a series of
20th Century Fox musicals, beginning with Mother Wore Tights (1947),
the first of four films Dailey made with Fox's blonde bombshell
Dailey's screen musicals include
Give My Regards to Broadway (1948), My Blue Heaven (1950),
Call Me Mister (1951), The Girl Next Door (1953),
There's No Business Like Show Business (1954),
It's Always Fair Weather (1955), Meet Me in Las Vegas (1956),
The Best Things in Life Are Free (1956) and Pepe (1960). His numerous
non-musical roles include a well-received performance as baseball star "Dizzy
Dean" in The Pride of St. Louis (1952). With the decline of big screen
musicals, Dailey worked as a character actor on stage and in television well into the
1970s. His heavy drinking and occasional comic cross-dressing caused
occasional murmurs in the press, but never threatened his long career.
Actor, singer, composer
b. Aug. 15, 1935 (Rothwell, UK)
This versatile Englishman first captivated Broadway in a revival of the classic
comedy Scapino (1974), for which Dale also provided the incidental music
and helped adapt the script. He scored the greatest success of his career in the title
role of Barnum (1980), introducing Cy Coleman
& Michael Stewart's "The Colors of My Life."
Dale's charismatic performance brought him the Tony Award as Best Actor in a Musical.
After starring in an acclaimed revival of the dark comedy Joe Egg (1985), Dale
took over the leading role of "Bill Snibson" in the long-running New York production of
Me and My Girl (1986). He also starred in Broadway revivals as "Dr. Pangloss" in
Candide (1997), and as the unscrupulous "Peachum" in The
Threepenny Opera (2006). In 2006, he starred as street performer "Charlie Baxter"
in a concert version of the Sherman Brothers musical Busker Alley which led to a CD
of the score. His only feature film musical to date has been Disney's
Pete's Gragon (1977), singing the tongue-twisting "Passamaquody."
Fans of the Harry Potter books have enjoyed Dale's popular audiobook versions,
for which he has received two Grammy Awards.
(b. Doris Von Kappelhoff)
b. April 3, 1924 (Cincinnati, Ohio)
A warm singing voice, fresh-scrubbed good looks and unaffected personality made Day
one of the most popular performers of the mid-20th Century. After winning fame singing
with Les Brown’s big band, she made her screen debut introducing "It’s Magic" in
Romance on the High Seas (1948). A natural screen actress with a gift for comedy,
she appeared in more than three dozen films over the next two decades, including the
musical hits Tea For Two (1950), West Point Story (1950) with
James Cagney, Lullaby of Broadway (1951),
On Moonlight Bay (1951) and By the Light of the Silvery Moon (1953)
with Gordon MacRae and the raucous
Calamity Jane (1953) with Howard Keel.
Day proved her dramatic ability playing
Ruth Etting in the musical bio
Love Me or Leave Me (1955), and joined members of the Broadway cast
to play "Babe Williams" in the film
version of The Pajama Game (1957). Her popular screen comedies
included a series costarring Rock Hudson that began
with Pillow Talk (1959). She made her final big screen musical appearance in
Jumbo (1962) with Jimmy Durante. Day filmed several more
comedies and starred in a popular 1960’s network TV sitcom. Long-retired from public
life, her films and recordings provide constant reminders of her often underestimated
b. April 3, 1861 (Middleton, CT) - d. Jan. 15, 1920 (Chicago, IL)
Although most of his shows are forgotten today, DeKoven composed two dozen popular
musicals during the formative years of the American musical theatre, thirteen of them in
collaboration with lyricist/librettist Harry B. Smith.
DeKoven's most enduring success was the "comic opera" Robin Hood (1890),
which featured the ballad "Oh, Promise Me" (lyric by
Clement Scott), still one of the few showtunes you are likely to hear performed in
a church. DeKoven's music was admired by some, but dismissed by others as
"stuffy." His imposing Manhattan mansion still stands on Park Avenue just
below 86th Street, where a plaque is the only existing public reminder of his fame.
De Mille, Agnes
b. Sept. 18, 1905 (NYC) - d. Oct. 6, 1993 (NYC)
This onetime classical dancer choreographed a regional revival of The Black Crook
in 1929. She staged numbers for Cole Porter's London musical Nymph Errant
(1933), and worked on several unremarkable Broadway projects before her
innovative work on Aaron Copeland's cowboy ballet Rodeo caught the attention of
Richard Rodgers and
Oscar Hammerstein II. They chose DeMille to choreograph
their landmark hit Oklahoma (1943).
Aside from blending modern and classical dance styles, she redefined the role of dance
in musical theatre. Instead of being thrown in as a diversion, dance was suddenly part
of the musical's story telling process. Her ingenious "dream ballets" brought
audiences into the inner minds and souls of key characters. These were often imitated
but never surpassed. Theatre wags still refer to dances reminiscent of her style as
"run of DeMille."
DeMille went on
to choreograph One Touch of Venus (1943), Bloomer Girl (1944),
Carousel (1945), Brigadoon (1947), Allegro (1947 - also directed),
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1949), Paint Your Wagon (1951) and
110 in the Shade (1963). Her working manner was often harsh, and earned her
as many enemies as admirers. DeMille's last new Broadway musical was the ill-fated
Come Summer (1969). She authored a series of books that offer unique insights
into the theatre and dance cultures of the 20th Century. A stroke left DeMille
wheelchair bound in her final years, but she remained active in modern dance
and staged revivals of her classic musicals until her death at age 88.
It is fair to say that by making dance a key storytelling element in musical theatre,
De Mille ushered in a new age, paving the way for what
Jerome Robbins, Gower
Champion, Bob Fosse,
Michael Bennett and others would do in years to
Dancer, singer, actress
b. July 25, 1893 (Kansas City, MO) – d. Sept. 26, 1995 (London, UK)
This American-born beauty became the longtime toast of London. She began her stellar
career in a ballroom dance act with husband Carl Hyson, appearing on Broadway in
composer Jerome Kern's Oh Boy (1917), two editions of
producer Florenz Ziegfeld's Follies (1917-18) and
George M. Cohan’s operetta spoof The Royal Vagabond
(1919). Dickson and Hyson traveled to London to dance in producer
Charles Cochran’s revue
London, Paris & New York (1921), but Ms. Dickson achieved solo
stardom later that year in the London version of Kern's
Sally (1921). This led to Dickson starring in Kern’s
The Cabaret Girl (1922) and The Beauty Prize (1923). She had
the honor of playing the title role in London's annual non-musical production of
Peter Pan in 1925 and 1926, and starred in the West End productions of
Gershwin’s Tip Toes (1926),
Richard Rodgers and
Lorenz Hart’s Peggy Ann (1927),
Hold Everything (1929), Wonder Bar (1930) and Casanova (1932).
When Irving Berlin's hit New York revue
As Thousands Cheer arrived in London as Stop Press (1935), Dickson
starred in it, singing "Easter Parade." She introduced "These Foolish
Things" in the British revue Spread It Abroad (1936) before co-starring
with composer Ivor Novello in his long-running hits
Careless Rapture (1936) and Crest of the Wave (1937) in the latter,
Dickson introduced the popular waltz "Music in May." During World War II, she
appeared in such revues as Diversion (1940) and Fine and Dandy (1942), and
organized the London Stage Door Canteen, a night club where British stars provided free
entertainment for allied troops. She appeared in several non-musicals after the war, and
made her final bow with Jack Buchanan in the comedy
As Long As They’re Happy (1953). A devout Christian Scientist, she resisted all
efforts to publicly celebrate her 100th birthday.
Feb. 24, 1930 (Cleveland, OH) - May 13, 2006 (NYC)
After making her Broadway debut in the short-lived revue Small Wonder (1948),
this shapely and attractive soprano with a three and a hal octave range met and
married director Albert Marre. He cast her
as the original "Lalume"
in Kismet (1953), where an astonishing vocal range and hourglass
figure made her a show-stopping favorite when she introduced "Not Since
Ninevah" and shared the randy "Rahadlakume" with co-star
Alfred Drake. Diener repeated the role in the 1955 London
production. After the first musical version of Grand Hotel (in which
she played an aging opera diva) closed on the road,
she was not seen in a new musical for a decade.
Marre then cast Diener as the original "Aldonza" in
Mitch Leigh and
Joe Darion's Man of La Mancha (1965), co-starring
with Richard Kiley. Opening off-Broadway, the show became
a surprise sensation. Diener repeated her searing portrayal in London and
Paris. She appeared as "Kathleen Stanton" in the ill-fated Cry For Us All
(1970) and as Odysseus' wife "Penelope" in the legendary
flop Home Sweet Homer (1975). When pop singer Sheena Easton left the 1992
Broadway revival of Man of La Mancha, Diener returned to the role of Aldonza
for the final weeks of the run, still delivering a powerful performance. She
remained out of the public eye in the years that followed, and died due to
complications of cancer at age 76.
Sept. 8, 1896 (New York City) - d. July 30, 1983 (NYC)
This imaginative lyricist got his start writing for several New York newspapers.
He worked in advertising, designing the roaring lion logo for MGM – and
was soon hired as that studio's publicity director, a position he held
for decades. While running the finest PR department in Hollywood, he contributed lyrics
to several Broadway scores, including Jerome Kern's
unsuccessful Dear Sir (1924). He collaborated with composer
Arthur Schwartz on songs for several Broadway
reviews. Their hit songs included "I Guess I'll Have to Change My Plan," from
The Little Show (1929), "Something to Remember You By," from
Three's a Crowd (1930), "Dancing in the Dark," from The Band
Wagon (1931), "Louisiana Hayride" from Flying Colors (1932) and
"By Myself" from Between the Devil (1937).
Dietz worked with composer Vernon Duke on two unsuccessful 1944 stage musicals,
Jackpot and Sadie Thompson. In the 1950s, Dietz created new
English translations for Metropolitan Opera productions of Die Fledermaus and
La Boheme. He re-teamed with Schwartz for the Broadway revue Inside USA
(1948). They also collaborated on the song "That's Entertainment"
for the film version of The Bandwagon (1953).
After scoring a TV musical version of A Bell for Adano (1956), they
composed two short-lived Broadway musicals The Gay Life
(1961) starring Barbara Cook, and Jennie (1963)
starring Mary Martin. Soon afterward, the
progressive effects of Parkinson's disease forced Dietz into retirement. For
more, see Dietz's entertaining (if occasionally harsh) autobiography
Dancing in the Dark: Words by Howard Dietz (Quadrangle: New York, 1974).
Dixey, Henry E.
Actor, singer, writer
Jan. 6, 1859 (Boston MA) - d. Feb. 25, 1943 (Atlantic City, NJ)
This muscular, handsome actor found lasting stardom in fifteen
Broadway musicals. His most memorable success was in the title role of
Adonis (1884), for which he co-authored the
book and lyrics with longtime associate Edward Rice.
As a marble statue that comes to life, Dixey became the top matinee idol
of his day. Adonis became the longest running Broadway production up to that
time, and Dixey toured in the role for several years.
In 1896, he produced and starred in a full season of Gilbert &
Sullivan operettas at Broadway's Herald Square Theatre. His other starring roles
included "Ravenne" in a popular revival of
Erminie (1898) and "Ali Baba"
in the New York production of Chu Chin Chow (1917). After some time
in vaudeville and non-musical roles, he made his final Broadway appearance as a
replacement in George M. Cohan's comedy The Merry
Malones (1928). After a long retirement, he was run down by an Atlantic
City bus at age 84.
Dancer, choreographer, stage & film director
b. April 13, 1924 (Colombia, SC)
In his boyhood, Donen fell in love with musical films while watching
Fred Astaire in Flying Down to Rio (1933).
Donen came to Broadway as a teenage dancer, and while working in the chorus of
Richard Rodgers and
Lorenz Hart's Pal Joey (1940), Donen met the
show's star, Gene Kelly. Donen worked as Kelly's assistant
choreographer for Best Foot Forward (1941), during which time he impressed Kelly
with his enthusiasm and imagination. Donen worked as a dancer and assistant to
choreographer Charles Walters in MGM's screen version of
Best Foot Forward (1943). When MGM loaned out Gene Kelly to Columbia for
Cover Girl (1944), Kelly asked Donen to be his assistant. The results (including
Kelly's innovative dance with his own mirror image, conceived by Donen) were so exciting
that MGM never loaned Kelly out for another musical. The studio also realized Donen was
a major asset, and placed him under extended contract.
Donen served as choreographer or co-choreographer on eighteen musical films,
including Anchors Aweigh (1945), A Date With Judy
(1948), and Take Me Out to the Ballgame (1949). He also acted as Gene Kelly's
co-director and co-choreographer for On the Town (1949), the timeless classic
Singin' in the Rain (1950), and the underrated
It's Always Fair Weather (1955). Donen gave fresh spirit and visual
sophistication to screen musical comedies, using knockout musical numbers
that enriched characterization while providing unequaled entertainment. Many
of these films featured Gene Kelly, who often went out of his way in later
years to minimize the importance of Donen's contribution to these films.
This much is beyond argument -- Kelly and Donen were gifted, and their
joint efforts clearly profited from having both men on hand.
Donen directed his boyhood idol Fred Astaire in
Royal Wedding (1951), Jane Powell and
Howard Keel in
Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954),
and Astaire and Audrey Hepburn in Funny Face
(1957). He helmed the big screen versions of The Pajama Game (1957) and
Damn Yankees (1958). As musical films became rare, Donen directed
such non-musical gems as Indiscreet (1958), Charade (1963) and
Two for the Road (1967). He directed and co-produced two 1970s screen
musicals, the moribund Little Prince (1973) and the enjoyable Movie, Movie
(1978). Donen directed the television broadcast of the
1988 Academy Awards, and staged Jule Styne's ill-fated
Broadway version of The Red Shoes (1993). Never nominated for an
Academy Award, he finally receive one for Lifetime Achievement in 1998.
Since directing the Off-Broadway comedy Adult Comedy (2002), he has been
in retirement. For more, see Stephen M. Silverman's delightful Dancing
On The Ceiling: Stanley Donen and His Movies (Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1996).
D'Oyly Carte, Richard
Producer, theater owner
b. May 3, 1844 (London, UK) - d. April 3, 1901 (London)
D'Oyly Carte was already a successful theatrical agent when he saw the
short-lived comic opera Thespis (1871). Sensing that this trifle had
the makings of a new kind of British musical theatre, he eventually hired its creators
composer Arthur Sullivan and librettist
William Gilbert to write the
one act "curtain raiser" Trial By Jury (1875). The brief
piece was so melodic and funny that it caused a sensation. D'Oyly Carte and
his authors then formed a partnership that spawned some of the most popular
musicals ever written, including H.M.S. Pinafore (1878), Pirates of
Penzance (1880), Iolanthe (1882), The Mikado (1885), Yeoman
of the Guard (1888) and The Gondoliers (1896).
D'Oyly Carte built The Savoy Theater (1881) -- the first in the world to be lit
by electricity -- then constructed The Savoy Hotel next door to provide quality
dinners to theatergoers. A deft businessman, he was sometimes referred to as "Oily
Carte." Plagued by "dropsy" (edema) and heart disease, he
died at his London home just short of his 57th birthday. Thanks to the
efforts of his second wife Helen and their descendants, The D'Oyly Carte Opera
Company kept the works of G&S popular for more than a century. For
more, see our subsite, Gilbert & Sullivan 101.
(b. Alfredo Capurro)
b. Oct. 7, 1914 (New York City) - d. July 25, 1992 (NYC)
Good looks, a striking stage presence and a robust baritone voice made Drake
Broadway's most sought-after musical leading man in the mid-20th Century.
After earning an AB at Brooklyn College, he won early attention
singing the stirring title tune in Richard Rodgers &
Lorenz Hart's Babes In Arms
(1937). Drake appeared in several revues before achieving stardom as the original
"Curly" in Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II's
Oklahoma (1943). In that landmark hit, Drake
introduced "Oh, What a Beautiful Morning," "Surrey With a Fringe on
Top," "People Will Say We're In Love" and the stirring title tune.
After co-starring with Burl Ives in the popular folk musical Sing Out Sweet Land
(1944), Drake played "Macheath" in Duke Ellington's updated but short-lived
version of The Beggars Opera (1946) and starred as union organizer "Larry
Foreman" in a revival of Marc Blitzstein's
The Cradle Will Rock (1947).
Drake originated the role of "Fred Graham" in Kiss Me Kate
(1947), co-starring with Patricia Morison and
introducing Cole Porter's "Where Is the Life That
Late I Led?" and "Were Thine That Special Face." He turned down the
chance to star in The King and I (1951), but won acclaim when he replaced a
vacationing Yul Brynner for several weeks. He
gave a charismatic, Tony Award winning performance as the lucky beggar
"Hajj" in Kismet (1955) and played the title role in the ill-fated but
impressive Kean (1961). His many non-musical roles included "King Claudius"
in Richard Burton's acclaimed modern dress staging of Hamlet (1964). Drake's
final musical role was "Honore" in the Broadway version of Gigi (1974),
a genial performance that earned a Tony nomination. In
later years he made occasional TV and film appearances, including a small role in
the film Trading Places (1983). When he died after a long battle with
cancer at age 77, Drake was lauded as one of the greatest and most admired stars
the musical theater has ever called its own.
b. June 10, 1891 (Zurich, Switzerland) - d. Feb. 11, 1945 (New York City)
Dubin's Swiss immigrant parents wanted him to pursue a career in medicine,
but that ended when he was expelled from school for gambling with "disreputable"
musicians. After limited success writing songs in New York, he headed out to
Hollywood in the 1920s and teamed with composer Joe Burke to create scores for
seven early musical films. The most successful, Gold Diggers of Broadway
(1929), included the hit songs "Tip-Toe Through the Tulips" and "Painting
the Clouds With Sunshine." In 1933, Dubin began working with composer
Harry Warren on the first of
twenty three film scores. Their 42nd Street (1933) revived the fading fortunes
of the big screen musical, and featured "Young and Healthy," "Shuffle Off
to Buffalo" and the popular title tune. These songs made no attempt to develop plot
or character they were stand-alone numbers Berkeley could build into eye-popping
Warren and Dubin's scores included Gold Diggers of 1933 ("We're In the
Money," "Remember My Forgotten Man"), Footlight Parade (1933)
("Honeymoon Hotel"), Roman Scandals (1933) ("Keep Young and
Beautiful") Dames (1934), and Gold Diggers of 1935 ("Lullaby
of Broadway"). The prolific Dubin turned out lyrics for as many as five
film scores a year, but an increasing reliance on drugs and alcohol soon dulled his
abilities. His professional relationship with Warren ended by 1938. Dubin
contributed some material to the film Stage Door Canteen in 1943, but was
already a broken man. He died due to a drug overdose two years later at age 54.
His lyrics made a dazzling comeback in the acclaimed stage version of
42nd Street (1980).
(b. Vladimir Dukelsky)
b. Oct. 10, 1903 (Parafianovo, Russia) - d. Jan. 16, 1969 (Santa Monica, CA)
The direct descendant of Russian (Georgian) nobility, Dukelsky was classically trained
in Russia. While there, he became so fascinated with the music of
Irving Berlin and
George Gershwin and that he emigrated to
the United States in 1921. He used his original name
for classical compositions and the Americanized "Vernon Duke" for his pop
songs. (The acerbic Oscar Levant once asked him, "For a man who's
destined for obscurity, why do you need two names?") After getting
melodies into several London shows, he landed songs in several
big 1930s Broadway revues, including the Garrick Gaities and Ziegfeld's
Follies. During these years, Duke worked with
several top lyricists, including Ira Gershwin
("I Can't Get Started") and E.Y.
"Yip" Harburg ("April in Paris"), writing his own
eloquent lyric for the popular "Autumn in New York."
Duke's pop melodies had a deft blend of musical sophistication and popular
appeal, but none of his shows ran for
long. His first book musical was Cabin in the Sky (1940), an innovative
fable with lyrics by John Latouche. It included the hit song "Taking a Chance
on Love," sung by Ethel Waters. He and Latouche then wrote the score for
Eddie Cantor's last Broadway show, Banjo Eyes
(1941) a hit that closed early due to Cantor's health. After turning out two
unsuccessful musicals with Howard Dietz, Duke worked with poet Ogden Nash on the
scores for Two's Company (1952) starring a singing
& dancing Bette Davis and The Littlest Revue (1956). When
popular musical tastes changed, Duke devoted his later years to classical projects.
(b. James Francis Durante)
b. Feb. 10, 1893 (New York City) - d. Jan. 29, 1980 (Santa Monica, CA)
Famous for his jaunty strut and the prominent nose that earned him the
nickname "Schnozzola," Durante made an art form of mangling the
English language with the thick Bowery accent of his childhood ("I trun'
a scare into 'im."). He got his start as a pianist in gangster hangouts,
then teamed with Lou Clayton and Eddie Jackson to present a wacky knockabout
comedy act. They appeared at their own speakeasy in the 1920s as well as
many top clubs and vaudeville houses. The trio made it to Broadway in Ziegfeld's
Show Girl (1929), and Cole Porter's The New Yorkers (1930).
Durante went solo in 1931, winning simultaneous popularity on stage,
screen and radio. He starred in the Broadway revue Strike Me Pink
(1933) and as circus owner "Claudius B. Bowers" the lavish circus
musical Jumbo (1935) before appearing as criminal "Policy Pinkle"
with Ethel Merman and young
Bob Hope in
Cole Porter's Red, Hot and Blue
(1936). Durante and Merman, who reunited for Stars In Your Eyes (1939),
remained friends for life. After Durante made his final Broadway
appearance in the short-lived revue Keep Off the Grass (1940),
he appeared in dozens of films, including such musicals as
Two Girls and a Sailor (1944) and It Happened In Brooklyn
(1947). He later starred in his own popular TV variety series, as well as
the screen version of Jumbo (1962). Durante both narrated and sang
the title tune on the animated Christmas special Frosty the Snowman
(1969), which has been shown annually ever since. With his signature cries
of "Everybody wants to get into the act!" and
"Ha-cha-cha-chaaaaaaa!" as his signature lines, this beloved
clown remained popular on television and in night clubs until a stroke
forced him into a wheelchair in 1972. He died of pneumonia eight years
later at age 87.
(b. Edna Mae Durbin)
Film actress, singer
b. Dec. 4, 1921 (Winnipeg, Canada)
Discovered and dropped by MGM by age 15, Durbin was immediately signed
by Universal Pictures. Beginning with her performance as
"Penny Craig" in Three Smart Girls (1936), she starred
in a series of musicals that showcased her lilting soprano voice and
spirited screen persona. The plots invariably cast her as (to use her
own phrase) "a little Miss Fix-It," solving problems for
anyone from a troubled family to a full symphony orchestra. She repeated
this formula as "Patricia Cardwel" in
One Hundred Men and a Girl (1937),
"Gloria Harkinson" in Mad About Music (1938)
and other films. Durbin's musicals were lifesaving moneymakers
for Depression-plagued Universal, earning the teenager a special
Oscar for juvenile achievement in 1938.
Durbin remained popular through the 1940s, making frequent concert
appearances and starring as "Ilonka Tolnay" in
Spring Parade (1940), as "Caroline Fost" in composer
Jerome Kern's Can't Help Singing (1944),
as "Rosie Moore" in the screen version of Up In Central Park
(1948) and eleven other films. After playing "Mary Peppertree"
in For the Love of Mary (1948), Durbin became disenchanted with
Hollywood and retired at the age of 27. She married film producer-director
Charles Henri David in 1950, and moved to a farm on the outskirts of Paris,
withdrawing permanently from show business. She resisted numerous projects
over the years, reputedly turning down the chance to create the role of Liza
in My Fair Lady.
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