Musicals101 Historical Calendar
Who's Who in Musicals: I To K
by John Kenrick
Irving, George S.
(b. George Shelasky)
b. Nov. 1, 1922 (Springfield, MA)
This beloved character actor made an auspicious debut in the original ensemble of Oklahoma! (1943), only to find himself drafted within days to serve in World War II. He returned, and eventually appeared in more than twenty two Broadway musicals. Irving's mellifluous voice and gift for broad comedy provided some of the brightest moments in both flops and hits. Call Me Mister (1946), Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1949), Me And Juliet (1953), Bells Are Ringing (1956), Irma La Douce (1960) and The Happy Time (1968) were among his hits. His most memorable moments in flops include the hilariously profane "Butler's Song" which he sang as "Marlowe" in So Long, 174th Street (1976).
Irving won a Tony as Best Featured Actor in a Musical playing the outrageous fashion designer "Madame Lucy" in the revival of Irene (1974). His brilliant performance as "Mr. Macawber" was not enough to save Copperfield (1981), but he won well-earned raves for his performances as "Sergei" in On Your Toes (1983) and "Sir John" in the NY production of Me And My Girl (1986). Irving was married to the late Maria Karnilova for over fifty years. They appeared as the "King" and "Queen" in NY City Opera's production of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella. At New Jersey's Paper Mill Playhouse, Irving appeared as "Pickering" in My Fair Lady (2002), "Merlin/Pellinore" in Camelot (2003) and "Mr. Marachek" in She Loves Me (2004). His delightful one man show toured briefly in the summer of 2004, and he once again played "Marlowe" in the York Theatre's Enter Laughing (2010), a revised version of So Long 174th Street).
(b. Elsie Bierbower)
b. Mar. 16, 1889 (Columbus, Ohio) - d. Feb. 26, 1956 (Los Angeles, CA)
Elsie made her stage debut at the age of 8, and an enchanting personality soon made her one of vaudeville's most popular stars. She was relentlessly encouraged by her mother Jane, who made the claim, "There are Elsie Janises born every day, but not mothers to give up their whole lives for them." When Elsie's father objected to the little girl having a career, her mother swiftly divorced him. Little Elsie was always noted for her celebrity impersonations and topical songs, which evolved over the years to reflect changing tastes.
Janis made her New York debut at age 16 in the New York Theatre roof garden revue When We Were Forty-One (1905). Her Broadway musical appearances included The Vanderbilt Cup (1906), The Fair Co-Ed (1908) and a Cinderella re-do called The Lady of the Slipper (1912). She triumphed in London on several occasions, including two editions of The Passing Show (1915-1916). Ziegfeld featured Janis in The Century Girl (1917). Although one of her biggest hit songs was "I Didn't Raise My Boy to Be a Soldier," she entertained troops during World War I so tirelessly that she became known as "The Sweetheart of the AEF."
After the war, Janis returned to vaudeville and re-conquered Broadway in a revue shamelessly called Elsie Janis and Her Gang (1919). She starred in the national tour of the Gershwin Brothers' hit Oh Kay in the late 1920s. When vaudeville faded, Janis became a story and talent consultant for Paramount Studios. She provided scripts and lyrics for various films, including the early screen musical Madam Satan (1930). Her only known talking film appearance was in Women in War (1939). When she died at age 66, childhood friend Mary Pickford was at her bedside.
(b. Asa Yoelson)
Minstrel, vaudevillian, singer, actor
Mar. 26, 1886? (Seredzius, Lithuania) - Oct. 23, 1950 (San Francisco, Cal.)
The exact date of his birth is in doubt, but his impact on popular culture is undeniable. The immigrant son of a Russian cantor, Jolson starred in various vaudeville acts before joining Lew Dockstader's Minstrels in 1909. While performing in blackface he introduced the "mammy songs" and jazz whistling which became his trademarks. His blackface character Gus had an "everyman" quality that appealed to audiences of the time, and his exuberant singing style was frequently imitated but never equaled. He made his Broadway debut at the Winter Garden Theatre in La Belle Paree (1911), beginning a long association with that house and its owners, Lee and Jacob Shubert. The Shuberts billed Jolson as "The World's Greatest Entertainer," a title Jolson readily embraced.
He starred in thirteen Broadway musicals, including Robinson Crusoe Jr. (1916), Sinbad (1918), Bombo (1921) and Big Boy (1925), none of which are revivable today. These loosely constructed shows were flexible enough for Jolson to interpolate new songs whenever he felt so inclined. His hits include "Mammy," "Swanee," "Rock-a-bye Your Baby" and "California, Here I Come." By the 1920s, thanks to Jolson's endless touring and numerous best-selling recordings, almost everyone in America knew his name and his voice. In a time before radio, sound film or television, that was an astounding accomplishment.
In 1927, Jolson starred on screen in The Jazz Singer, the landmark feature that made talking film a commercial sensation. He appeared in a dozen more movies, but the camera never did full justice to his bigger-than-life performance style. When his fourth wife Ruby Keeler became a major film star, Jolson's jealous behavior drove her to divorce. Two film bios based loosely on his life (and using his singing voice on the soundtrack) revived his flagging career The Jolson Story (1946) and Jolson Sings Again (1949). He was a popular presence on radio, both as a guest artist and as the star of his own variety series. A dedicated USO performer from World War I onwards, Jolson died of a heart attack shortly after an exhausting tour of US military camps in Korea. For more on this mercurial talent, see Herbert G. Goldman's Jolson: The Legend Comes to Life (Oxford Univ. Press, NY, 1988). You can also find more in our special site feature, Jolson 101.
b. Mar. 31, 1934 (Smithton, PA)
A warm soprano voice and wholesome beauty attracted the attention of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II, who personally selected Jones to play Laurie in the screen version of Oklahoma (1955) and Julie Jordan in Carousel (1956) both opposite handsome baritone Gordon MacRae. Jones made her final musical screen appearance as Marion the librarian in The Music Man (1960). A fine dramatic actress, she won an Oscar playing a prostitute in Elmer Gantry (1960). Married at one time to actor Jack Cassidy, she co-starred with him in Maggie Flynn (1968), a short-lived Broadway musical about New York's Civil War draft riots. Jones worked with stepson David Cassidy in the popular 1970s television sitcom The Partridge Family. She has continued to make frequent concert and television appearances, and hosted the PBS documentary Hollywood Singing and Dancing (2008).
b. June 17, 1869 (Leeds, UK) - d. Jan. 29, 1946 (Kew, Surrey, UK)
Though his works are rarely heard today, Jones was the one of the first British stage composers after Arthur Sullivan to enjoy international success. His early scores show Sullivan's stylistic influence, including such tuneful hits as A Gaiety Girl (1893) and The Geisha (1896), both with lyrics by Harry Greenbank. Jones was closely associated with producer George Edwardes, who is credited with popularizing musical comedy in Britain. One of Jones' last shows for Edwardes was The Girl From Utah (1913), a mediocre show which is primarily remembered because its 1916 Broadway production added the song which brought fame to composer Jerome Kern "They Didn't Believe Me." Unwilling to adapt to changing musical tastes, Jones stopped composing in 1916, opting for a prolonged retirement.
b. Feb. 17, 1928 (Littlefield, TX)
b. Sept 12, 1929 (Dallas TX)
The musicals of Schmidt and Jones offer a distinctive combination of sentiment and structural innovation. Their intimate masterpiece The Fantasticks (1960) ran for an astounding 41 years at New York's Sullivan Street Playhouse, introducing "Soon It's Gonna Rain" and "Try to Remember." For Broadway, this team fashioned 110 in the Shade (1963), the two person gem I Do, I Do (1966), and the less popular Celebration (1969). In the 1970s, they developed a experimental series of musicals at an off-Broadway theater of their own, resulting in Philemon (1975), among other shows. Their musical version of Thornton Wilder's Our Town has yet to be seen in New York.
b. Feb. 10, 1884 (New York City) - d. Sept. 18, 1947 (Los Angeles, CA)
Kalmar got his start working with various composers, but spent most of his career collaborating with Harry Ruby. They met in the 1910s, and went on to create songs for such Broadway revues as The Ziegfeld Follies (1920) and The Greenwich Village Follies (1922). Their successful scores for Five O'Clock Girl (1927) and Animal Crackers (1928) attracted major attention just as film made the switch to sound, and Kalmar and Ruby became one of Hollywood's first top songwriting teams.
Kalmar and Ruby's songs were often far more memorable than the films they adorned. Few recall the movie Check and Double Check, but the catchy "Three Little Words" remains a standard. "Only When You're in My Arms" and "A Kiss to Build a Dream On" are classic examples of the smooth blend of words and music that mark Kalmar and Ruby at their best. MGM immortalized the team in the entertaining and highly fictionalized biographical musical Three Little Words (1950).
b. March 18, 1927 (Kansas City, Mo.)
Kander started his theatrical career as the rehearsal pianist for Gypsy (1959). After working with James and William Goldman on the unsuccessful A Family Affair (1962), Kander began a collaboration with lyricist Fred Ebb that has lasted more than thirty five years. Their first show was Flora The Red Menace (1964), a moderate success that helped launch the career of a star who would be closely linked with many of Kander and Ebb's hit songs Liza Minnelli. The moderate success of Flora led to the triumph of Cabaret (1966), a landmark musical drama that featured Joel Grey as the leering Emcee. It received eight Tony Awards, including honors for Best Composer and Lyricist (the Best Score category did not exist that year), as well as Best Musical. The original production racked up 1,166 performances, and enjoyed successful runs in London and elsewhere.
Kander and Ebb's later scores included The Happy Time (1968), Zorba (1968), 70 Girls 70 (1971), Chicago (1975), Woman of the Year (1980), The Rink (1984), Kiss of the Spider Woman (1993), Steel Pier (1997) and the films Funny Lady (1975) and New York, New York (1977). Kander & Ebb's musicals are notable for their often startling originality, each score having a unique sound and style. Superb musical dramatists, they were masters at writing songs that can stand on their own while being fully integrated into the show they are written for. Liza Minnelli is closely identified with several of their biggest hit songs, including "Cabaret" and "New York, New York".
The film version of Chicago (2002) became the first musical in thirty five years to win the Academy Award for Best Picture. Kander & Ebb's four decade collaboration ended with Ebb's death in 2004, but several more of their works eventually reached Broadway -- Curtains (2007), The Scottsboro Boys (2010) and The Visit (2015).
(b. Maria Dovgolenko)
Dancer, singer, actress
b. Aug 3, 1920 (Hartford, CT) - d. Apr 20, 2001 (New York, NY)
Karnilova began her career as a dance soloist with The Ballet Theatre and The Metropolitan Opera. She danced in the Broadway ensembles of Stars in Your Eyes (1939), Call Me Mister (1946), Miss Liberty (1949) and Two's Company (1952). Her first speaking role was as stripper "Tessie Tura" in Gypsy (1959), where she helped introduce the show-stopping "You Gotta Get a Gimmick." Karnilova's charming performance as "Signora Pandolfi" in the short-lived Bravo Giovanni (1962) led to her most memorable role "Golde" in Fiddler on the Roof (1964). She shared the touching "Do You Love Me?" with Zero Mostel, and received the Tony for Best Featured Actress in a Musical. She was nominated again for her performance as "Madame Hortense" in the musical stage version of Zorba (1968), singing the disarming "No Boom Boom."
Karnilova played "Grandmama Inez" in the stage adaptation of Gigi (1973), and was "Mrs. Peterson" in the ill-conceived Bring Back Birdie (1981). She returned to the role of "Golde" in Hershel Bernardi's well-received revival of Fiddler (1981), and made her final stage appearance as "The Queen" in NY City Opera's production of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella. Her "King" in that production was her longtime husband, Tony-winning actor George S. Irving.
Kaufman, George S.
Librettist, director, lyricist
Nov. 14, 1889 (Pittsburgh, Pa.) - June 2, 1961 (New York, NY)
Mostly remembered for the comedies he wrote with Moss Hart, Edna Ferber, and others, Kaufman contributed all or part of the librettos for fifteen Broadway musicals, including Animal Crackers (1928), The Band Wagon (1931), the Pulitzer Prize-winning Of Thee I Sing (1931) and Silk Stockings (1955). He contributed lyrics to several unsuccessful projects, including Hollywood Pinafore (1945). Kaufman directed the acclaimed original productions of Of Thee I Sing and Guys and Dolls (1950).
(b. David Daniel Kaminskey)
Actor, singer, dancer
Jan. 18, 1913 (Brooklyn, NY) - Mar. 3, 1987 (Los Angeles, CA)
This gifted performer was a struggling nightclub comedian when he made his Broadway debut in The Straw Hat Revue (1939). Kaye's rendition of "Anatole of Paris" was one of the highlights of the show. Soon afterward, he married the song's author, Sylvia Fine, who continued to provide him with hilarious special material for the rest of his career. Kaye dazzled audiences as effeminate photograper "Russell Paxton" in Lady in the Dark (1940) singing Ira Gershwin and Kurt Weill's tongue-twisting showstopper "Tschaikowsky." Kaye then starred as soldier "Jerry Walker" in Let's Face It (1940), where he introduced Cole Porter's "Let's Not Talk About Love" and Fine's "Melody in 4-F."
After entertaining the troops on both fronts during World War II, Kaye starred in a series of films for producer Sam Goldwyn, including Up In Arms (1944), The Kid From Brooklyn (1946), The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (1947), The Inspector General (1949), Hans Christian Andersen (1952), and The Court Jester (1956). Kaye co-starred with Bing Crosby in White Christmas (1954), and made frequent nightclub and concert appearances in England and the US. Kaye starred in his own popular CBS television variety series in the 1960s, returning to Broadway as the Biblical character "Noah" in the Richard Rodgers -Martin Charnin musical Two By Two (1969). Kaye misbehaved shamelessly throughout the run, even turning a broken leg into an excuse to terrorize his fellow actors with his wheelchair and crutches. In Kaye's later years, he made frequent television appearances and toured the world as a spokesperson for UNICEF. He contracted Hepatitis C from a post surgical transfusion, and that condition eventually led to his death at age 74.
(b. Harold Clifford Leek)
b. April 13, 1917 (Gillespie, Illinois) - d. Nov. 7, 2004 (Palm Desert, CA)
This handsome, six foot three inch baritone came from an impoverished family that disapproved of his show business aspirations. After stints as a singing waiter and performing for factory workers during World War II, he made his stage debut taking over the role of "Billy Bigelow" in the 1945 national tour of Carousel. Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II then selected him to star as "Curly" in the London production of Oklahoma (1947). He reversed his last name to "Keel" when he was was hired by MGM to play "Frank Butler" in Annie Get Your Gun (1950) opposite Betty Hutton.
Keel's robust voice and easy comic acting brought him immediate big-screen stardom. Co-starring with some of the top female musical screen stars of the 1950s, he played "Gaylord Ravenal" in Show Boat (1951) opposite Kathryn Grayson, "Bill Hickock" in Calamity Jane (1953) opposite Doris Day, "Bill Graham" in Kiss Me Kate (1953) opposite Grayson, and "Sgt. Mike Malone" in a remake of Rose Marie (1954).
Keel's most memorable screen role was as "Adam Pontipee" in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954), introducing "Bless Your Beautiful Hide," "Sobbin' Women" and sharing "When You're In Love" with co-star Jane Powell. With screen musicals fading, Keel bid the form farewell after playing "Hajj" in Kismet (1955). On Broadway, he co-starred with Carol Lawrence in Harold Arlen's ill-fated Saratoga (1959), and took over the male lead in No Strings in 1963. He starred as "Lewis Lambert Strether" in the musical Ambassador (1971), which is possibly the only musical to flop resoundingly in both London and New York. Keel re-teamed with Jane Powell in 1977 for a record-setting US tour of South Pacific. In 1981, he joined the cast of TV's popular drama series Dallas, and played the role of "Clayton Farlow" for the next ten years. Keel continued to appear in concerts until shortly before his death due to colon cancer at age 85.
(b. Ethel Hilda Keeler)
Actress, dancer, singer
b. Aug. 25, 1909 (Halifax, Canada) - d. Feb. 28, 1993 (Rancho Mirage, CA)
Keeler's acting amounted to little more than awkwardly reciting dialogue and her singing talents were almost non-existent, but audiences found her unpolished sincerity appealing. She danced in the choruses of several speakeasies and minor Broadway musicals before her unaffected charm brought her to Hollywood for a screen test. While there, she met Al Jolson, who pursued her relentlessly until she agreed to marry him in 1928. The marriage was rocky from the start. When producer Florenz Ziegfeld starred Keeler as "Dixie Dugan" in Show Girl (1929), Jolson stole the opening night by unexpectedly standing in his aisle seat and singing the song "Liza" while his startled wife danced. When Keeler still won acclaim, a jealous Jolson talked her into quitting the show. She spent the next four years in the thankless role of housewife to the greatest egomaniac in show business.
Keeler came into her own when film mogul Darryl F. Zanuck cast her in the landmark Warner Brothers musical 42nd Street (1933). As chorine-turned-star Peggy Sawyer, she introduced the hit title tune and "Shuffle Off to Buffalo." Director Busby Berkeley starred her (frequently with handsome tenor Dick Powell) in a quick series of big screen hits, including Gold Diggers of 1933, Footlight Parade (1933), Dames (1934), and Flirtation Walk (1934). The public loved Keeler unlike more technically gifted stars, she was just a normal person, "one of us." When Jolson realized his wife's stardom was eclipsing his own, he pushed for a joint project, but Go Into Your Dance (1935) only affirmed his professional decline and her continuing popularity.
After dancing on a giant typewriter with Lee Dixon in Ready, Willing, and Able (1937), Keeler tired of both Jolson and Hollywood. She divorced Jolson, married a wealthy stock broker and made no more screen appearances after Sweetheart of the Campus (1941). She spent thirty contented years in private life before returning to Broadway as tap dancing housewife "Sue Smith" in an acclaimed revival of No, No, Nanette (1971), supervised (officially, at least) by an aging Busby Berkeley. Nostalgic audiences roared for Keeler, delighted to find her old "gee I hope you like me" screen persona intact. She spent her later years enjoying numerous tributes, always seeming a bit surprised by the lasting interest and affection she inspired. She died of cancer at age 83.
Keith, Benjamin Franklin
Vaudeville manager, Theater owner
b. Jan. 26, 1846 (Hillsboro, NH) - Mar. 26, 1914 (Palm Beach, FL)
A traveling circus lured this New England farm boy into the world of show business. Keith soon became involved in the management of variety shows presented in his Boston "museum," which he opened in 1883. He would often claim that this was the birthplace of continuous vaudeville, even though this clean form of variety was actually introduced by New York impresario Tony Pastor. Keith eventually joined forces with manager E.F. Albee, and the new team made a quick fortune with unauthorized productions of Gilbert and Sullivan operettas. Keith and Albee started presenting top class vaudeville at Boston's Bijou Theater in 1887. It proved so profitable that the team expanded into a chain of theaters, known as "The Keith Circuit." Keith and Albee took over several competitors, including the respected Orpheum Circuit and its legendary flagship theatre, New York's Palace.
Although Albee had the tougher reputation, Keith was equally ruthless. Keith's no-nonsense wife Mary traveled the circuit enforcing strict decency standards for all acts. Anyone she or Keith's local managers found offensive became unemployable in any Keith house nationwide. Keith often carried a hammer in his belt, and would delight in making minor repairs around his theaters. He was happy to leave management of the circuit to Albee, and withdrew altogether from involvement in the chain after 1909. Keith died five years later at age 68. After his son Andrew died in 1918, full control of the circuit fell to Albee, whose relentless greed helped to choke vaudeville to death.
(b. Eugene Curran)
Dancer, singer, actor, choreographer, director
b. Aug. 23, 1912 (Pittsburgh, PA) - d. Feb. 1, 1996 (Los Angeles, CA)
Though small in stature, this breezy, athletic dancer became one of the true giants in the history of musical film. He was a Pittsburgh dance instructor with a degree in economics when he made his Broadway debut in the chorus of Leave It to Me (1938). While winning acclaim playing the title role in Rodgers and Hart's Pal Joey (1939), Kelly made the acquaintance of dancer Stanley Donen. Impressed with Donen's enthusiasm, Kelly hired him as dancer and assistant choreographer for Best Foot Forward (1941).
MGM producer Arthur Freed brought Kelly out to Hollywood, where Donen was already seeking work. Together, Kelly and Donen collaborated in varying capacities on some of the finest musical films ever made. Kelly's film debut in For Me and My Gal (1942) costarring with Judy Garland brought Kelly immediate popularity. Loaned out to Columbia to choreograph and co-star with Rita Hayworth in Cover Girl (1944), Kelly danced with himself in a brilliant "shop window" sequence conceived by Donen. Kelly won so much acclaim that MGM refused to loan him out for any more musicals. He interrupted his career to serve in the Navy during World War II, and directed several Defense Department films before returning to Hollywood. Kelly co-starred with pop singer Frank Sinatra in Anchors Aweigh (1945) and Take Me Out to the Ballgame (1949). He re-teamed with Garland in The Pirate (1948) and Summer Stock (1950) -- the latter featuring Kelly's brilliant dance using a sheet of newsprint as a rhythmic prop.
Kelly's screen version of On the Town (1949) was such a success that Freed encouraged him to develop two of the greatest film musicals of all time. First came the Academy Award winning An American In Paris (1951), in which he played ex-GI/artist Jerry Mulligan, and staged the most ambitious and visually ravishing ballet Hollywood ever mounted. Then came the joyous Hollywood spoof Singin' in the Rain (1952), in which Kelly played silent movie star Don Lockwood, sharing the direction and choreography with Donen. Kelly, Donald O'Connor and Debbie Reynolds sang and danced their way through "Good Mornin'," and Kelly's rain soaked, blissful rendition of the title tune became one of the most familiar images in popular Western culture. As the studio system fell apart in the 50s, Kelly's musicals proved progressively less successful, ranging from the passable screen version of Brigadoon (1954) to the uneven It's Always Fair Weather (1955) to the ambitious but commercially disastrous Invitation to the Dance (1956). Audience tastes were drifting away from musicals. By the time Kelly starred as a nightclub singer in the charming Les Girls (1957), rave reviews were not enough to make the film a hit.
A versatile comic and dramatic actor, Kelly's many non-musical roles include the tragic war prisoner Victor in The Cross of Lorraine (1944), the dashing D'Artagnan in The Three Musketeers (1948) and the wise-cracking reporter Hornbeck in Inherit the Wind (1960). He also played Father O'Malley in a short-lived TV series based on the film Going My Way. Kelly played egotistical film star Pinky Benson in the Shirley MacLaine vehicle What a Way to Go (1964), and he was Andy Miller in the disappointing Young Girls of Rochefort (1967). His frequent television appearances include an acclaimed musical version of Jack and the Beanstalk (1966), as well as frequent TV specials. Kelly directed the Broadway production of Flower Drum Song (1954) and the lavish big screen version of Hello Dolly! (1969). After appearing in That's Entertainment (1974) and teaming with Fred Astaire for That's Entertainment II (1976), his final screen role was in the otherwise incoherent Xanadu (1980). In his final years, Kelly was delighted by the resurgent interest in classic musical film. He made his last public appearance when the Three Tenors paid musical tribute to him in Los Angeles. He died of a stoke soon afterward at age 83.
Jan. 27, 1885 (New York City) - Nov. 11, 1945 (NYC)
Kern was the first composer to approach the American musical comedy as an art form. A Tin Pan Alley song-plugger and Broadway rehearsal pianist, Kern's early songs found their way into imported British musicals in need of a musical boost. When his enchanting ballad "They Didn't Believe Me" (lyric by Herbert Reynolds) was interpolated into The Girl From Utah (1914), Kern's new, sophisticated sound caused a sensation. He teamed with Guy Bolton and P.G. Wodehouse to write a series of musicals for Broadway's intimate Princess Theatre. Very Good Eddie (1915), Oh Boy (1917) and Leave It To Jane (1917) offered believable characters and plots relating to everyday middle class life. While not quite as revolutionary as some scholars suggest, the Princess Theatre shows made it clear that Kern was the pre-eminent theatrical composer of his time.
Kern continued to turn out musical comedy hits through the next decade, including the Marilyn Miller vehicles Sally (1920) with "Look for the Silver Lining" and Sunny (1925). These two shows enjoyed similar success in Britain, making Kern the first American composer to see his shows win acclaim on both sides of the Atlantic. Collaborating with lyricist-librettist Oscar Hammerstein II, he composed the epic Show Boat (1927), a dazzling score which included "Make Believe," "Ol' Man River" and "Can't Help Lovin' That Man." Hammerstein also provided lyrics for Kern's Sweet Adeline (1929), Music in The Air (1932) with "I've Told Ev'ry Little Star," and Very Warm for May (1939) which included "All The Things You Are," a soaring ballad that experts as varied as Richard Rodgers and Stephen Sondheim have called a model of musical composition.
Kern's best music has a timeless appeal. He collaborated with lyricist Otto Harbach on The Cat and the Fiddle (1931) and Roberta (1933) the latter including the rapturous "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes." Kern's film scores include Swing Time (1936), High, Wide and Handsome (1937), Cover Girl (1944) and Centennial Summer (1946). He was working on the score for what would become Annie Get Your Gun when a stroke felled him on the streets of New York at age 60. Days later, Hammerstein quietly sang "I've Told Ev'ry Little Star" into Kern's ear, and knew by the lack of response that one of America's greatest composers was gone. But as The New York Times put it in an editorial headline, "His Music Will Not Die."
Choreographer, director, dancer
Aug. 12, 1915 (Brooklyn, NY) - Dec. 23, 2007 (Los Angeles, CA)
After winning attention as a ballet soloist, Kidd won acclaim with his dynamic choreography for the original Broadway productions of Finian's Rainbow (1947) and Guys and Dolls (1950), winning his first Tony for the latter. His choreography had an athletic quality that let men look masculine and women look strong yet still feminine a refreshing formula. One of the hottest choreographers of the 1950s, he also received Tonys for his dances in Can-Can (1953), Lil' Abner (1956) and Destry Rides Again (1959). In Hollywood, he created vibrant screen dances for The Band Wagon (1953), Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954), Star! (1968), Hello Dolly (1969) and Movie Movie (1978).
Kidd's made his big screen debut as ex-GI Angie Valentine in It's Always Fair Weather (1954), co-starring with Gene Kelly and Dan Dailey. He later played a choreographer in the film Smile (1975), and appeared in the PBS TV musical Actor (1978). His later work as a Broadway director/choreographer included Skyscraper (1965), The Rothschilds (1970), and short-lived productions of Good News (1974), Cyrano (1973) and The Music Man (1980). Kidd took over the direction of the musical version of The Goodbye Girl (1993), worked on several music videos, and staged a brief campfire dance for longtime friend Julie Andrews in a live television production of On Golden Pond (2001). At the time of Kidd's death due to cancer in 2007, his family confirmed that his birth date -- long announced as 1919 -- was actually 1915.
b. March 31, 1922 (Chicago, IL) - d. March 5, 1999 (Warwick, NY)
A powerful dramatic actor with a soaring baritone voice, Kiley made his musical Broadway debut as the Caliph in Kismet (1953) introducing "Stranger In Paradise" with soprano Doretta Morrow. He co-starred with Gwen Verdon in Redhead (1959), and with Diahann Carroll in the daring interracial love story No Strings (1962). Kiley also took over the role of Fred during the run of Here's Love (1963). His most memorable performance was as Don Quixote in Man of La Mancha (1965), introducing "Dulcinea" and "The Impossible Dream." He repeated this sensational Tony-winning performance in several tours and revivals through the 1970s.
Kiley's only major musical film appearance was as The Aviator in Lerner and Loewe's The Little Prince (1974), where he introduced "I Never Met a Rose." He made frequent non-musical appearances on stage and television, and his mellifluous voice made him a popular narrator of TV documentaries. His and co-star Leslie Uggams recreated their original roles for the delightful 1993 recording of their 1968 Broadway flop, Her First Roman. Although Kiley was over 70, his golden baritone soared with enviable ease as he gave yet another witty and sensitive performance. It was his last musical project before the long battle with cancer that marked his final years.
(b. Dennis Pratt)
Nov. 2, 1897 (Coventry, UK) - May 21, 1971 (New York City)
King starred in productions of Shakespeare and Chekov, but with an operatic baritone voice, dashing looks and a commanding stage presence, this Englishman became Broadway's top musical leading man in the 1920s and 30s. He got his training in the Birmingham Rep, and made his musical debut in London as "Townbrake" in Monsieur Boncaire (1919) before moving to the United States. His first musical triumph in New York was playing miner "Jim Kenyon" in Rose Marie (1924), introducing Rudolph Friml's "Indian Love Call" with co-star Mary Ellis.
King starred as "Francois Villion" in The Vagabond King (1925), stopping the show nightly introducing Friml's stirring "Song of the Vagabonds" (". . . and to hell with Burgundy!"). As "D'artagnan" in The Three Musketeers (1928), King introduced "Only a Rose" he repeated the role two years later in London. Florenz Ziegfeld cast him as "Gaylord Ravenal" in the first revival of Show Boat (1932). Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart selected King to play "Count Palafi" in I Married An Angel (1938), where he introduced the title ballad.
King's last musical stage role was the idealistic diplomat "Hugh Conway" in Shangri-la (1956), Harry Warren's unsuccessful adaptation of the film classic Lost Horizon. That same season, King saw his son Michael originate the role of "Freddy Eynsford-Hill" in the mega hit My Fair Lady. After appearing as "Emperor Chang" in Cole Porter's TV musical Aladdin (1958), King continued to appear in numerous non-musical roles. His last Broadway role was "Baron Von Epp" in John Osborne's drama A Patriot for Me (1969). He died three years later at age 73.