Ethel Merman

Actress + Singer
Born Nov 10, 1950

Ethel Merman was an American actress and singer. Known primarily for her powerful voice and roles in musical theatre, she has been called "the undisputed First Lady of the musical comedy stage.

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1908 Birth Merman was born Ethel Agnes Zimmermann in her maternal grandmother's house located at 359 4th Avenue in Astoria, Queens, in New York City in 1908, though she would later emphatically insist that it was actually 1912. … Read More


1924 16 Years Old After graduating from Bryant High School in 1924, Merman was hired as a stenographer by the Boyce-Ite Company. … Read More


1932 24 Years Old Merman's next show, Humpty Dumpty, began rehearsals in August 1932 and opened—and immediately closed—in Pittsburgh the following month. … Read More
1934 26 Years Old …  It opened on November 21, 1934, at the Alvin Theatre, and the New York Post called Merman "vivacious and ingratiating in her comedy moments, and the embodiment of poise and technical adroitness" when singing "as only she knows how to do." … Read More


1939 31 Years Old …  She returned to the stage in Stars in Your Eyes, which struggled to survive while the public flocked to the 1939 New York World's Fair instead, and finally closed short of four months. … Read More
1940 32 Years Old Merman was married and divorced four times. Her first marriage was to theatrical agent William Smith, whom she married in 1940. They were divorced in 1941. … Read More
1943 35 Years Old In 1943, Merman was a featured performer in the film Stage Door Canteen and opened in another Porter musical, Something for the Boys, produced by Michael Todd. … Read More
1945 37 Years Old In August 1945, while in the hospital recovering from the Caesarean birth of her second child, Merman was visited by Dorothy Fields, who proposed she star as Annie Oakley in a musical her brother Herbert and she were writing with Jerome Kern. Merman accepted, but in November, Kern suffered a stroke while in New York City visiting Rodgers and Hammerstein (the producers of the show) and died a few days later. Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II invited Irving Berlin to replace him, and the result was Annie Get Your Gun, which opened on May 16, 1946, at the Imperial Theatre, where it ran for nearly three years and 1,147 performances. … Read More


1950 42 Years Old Merman and Berlin reunited for Call Me Madam in 1950, for which she won the Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical, and she went on to star in the 1953 screen adaptation, as well, winning the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy for her performance. … Read More
1952 44 Years Old 1 More Event
The couple eventually had two children and divorced in 1952 because of his excessive drinking and erratic behavior.
1953 45 Years Old 1 More Event
Merman returned to Broadway at the behest of her third husband, Continental Airlines executive Robert Six, who was upset she had chosen to become a Colorado housewife following their wedding in 1953. … Read More


1961 53 Years Old Following the Broadway closing of Gypsy on March 25, 1961, Merman half-heartedly embarked on the national tour. … Read More
1964 56 Years Old She was granted a divorce on November 18, 1964. … Read More


1970 62 Years Old 1 More Event
Producer David Merrick encouraged Jerry Herman to compose Hello, Dolly! specifically for Merman's vocal range, but when he offered her the role, she declined it. She finally joined the cast on March 28, 1970, six years after the production opened. … Read More
1975 67 Years Old Robert, Jr., was married to actress Barbara Colby, who, along with her boyfriend (she and Robert were estranged at the time), was shot and killed in a parking garage in Los Angeles in July 1975, by apparent gang members who had no apparent motive.
1979 71 Years Old For the remainder of her career, Merman worked as frequently as offers were made. In 1979, she recorded The Ethel Merman Disco Album, with many of her signature songs are set to a disco beat.
1980 72 Years Old Her last screen role was a self-parody in the 1980 comedy film Airplane!, in which she portrayed Lieutenant Hurwitz, a shell shocked soldier who thinks he is Ethel Merman. … Read More
1983 75 Years Old Merman began to become forgetful with advancing age, and on occasion, had difficulty with her speech. At times her behavior was erratic, causing concern among her friends. On April 7, 1983, she was preparing to travel to Los Angeles to appear on the 55th Academy Awards telecast, when she collapsed in her apartment. … Read More
On October 10, 1984, an auction of her personal effects, including furniture, artwork, and theatre memorabilia, earned in excess of $120,000 at Christie's East.
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