Ethel Merman
Actress, singer
Ethel Merman
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.
Biography
Ethel Merman's personal information overview.
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News
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Sally Goodgold, 82, Outspoken Civic Leader
NYTimes - over 5 years
Sally Goodgold was the Ethel Merman of land use: bold, brassy and capable of sounding notes that could be heard over any orchestra. As a civic leader, Mrs. Goodgold believed that New Yorkers deserved affordable housing and accommodating public environments; that private development ought to help create these things, not eradicate them; and that it
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Joy Behar: “The Wedding Ring Itches” - ShowBiz411.com
Google News - over 5 years
Last night's offerings came from Ivana Trump, Kenny Loggins, the boy band NSync, rocker Tommy Lee, Sylvester Stallone, Kathleen Turner, Ethel Merman, and Tallulah Bankhead. The books are badly written, the thoughts in them don't track
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FLASH FRIDAY: ANYTHING GOES & Any Which Way - Broadway World
Google News - over 5 years
After all, there have been two film versions - in 1936, starring Ethel Merman, as well as in 1956, starring Mitzi Gaynor - as well as the hour-long 1954 television production starring Merman, Frank Sinatra and Bert Lahr. There have been five major
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Anything Goes presented by Stolen Shakespeare Guild review - TheaterJones Performing Arts News in North Texas
Google News - over 5 years
Reno is always the star of this show (and has been played by Ethel Merman, Patti LuPone and Sutton Foster), and Tucker shows why. She has sharp timing and a killer smile. Her "I Get a Kick Out of You" is the production's highlight
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The Full Monticello - Wall Street Journal
Google News - over 5 years
He's designed yachts, governors' mansions, castles, a royal palace, exclusive resorts, television-show sets, a 15-car train and homes for Hollywood icons (Joan Crawford, Ethel Merman and Fay Wray among them). Lines of eyeglasses, china, potpourri and
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The opposite of Reaganomics - Waterbury Republican American
Google News - over 5 years
Recall Reagan's 1981 inaugural ball with Broadway star Ethel Merman belting out "Everything's Coming Up Roses" to a beaming, confident, respected president-elect. Despite his personal appeal as a decent family man, President Obama brings to mind a
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Q&A: David Coffee - TheaterJones Performing Arts News in North Texas
Google News - over 5 years
One of our most popular local actors talks about playing Edna Turnblad, being a working actor and killing Ethel Merman. Sort of. by Mark Lowry There are only a few local actors who have the star quality to sell tickets just on reputation alone,
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The raunchy revelations of 'The Book of Merman' - Boston Globe
Google News - over 5 years
PROVINCETOWN - If you're not familiar with Varla Jean Merman, nom du drag of the actor Jeffery Roberson, introductions are in order: The self-described love child of Ethel Merman and Ernest Borgnine, she's approximately 6 feet tall
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MUSIC REVIEW; Gun-Totin' Brünnhilde
NYTimes - over 5 years
COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- Not three months after singing her first Brünnhilde in the Metropolitan Opera's new production of Wagner's ''Walküre,'' the soprano Deborah Voigt is performing the title role in Irving Berlin's ''Annie Get Your Gun'' here at the Glimmerglass Festival. Though a wide-ranging repertory is an admirable quality in an artist, it is
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Opera Star Tries Doin' What Comes Natur'lly
NYTimes - over 5 years
COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. SAFE to say that Wagner's Brünnhilde would never brag about shootin' a wart off'n grandpappy's nose, despite the warrior that she is. But then maybe she would in an alternative singing universe, the kind Deborah Voigt, the soprano, has entered here at the Glimmerglass Festival. Ms. Voigt, a heralded interpreter of Wagner, Verdi
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Memorial Scheduled for Theatre Producer; Council Meets Tonight; Disappearing ... - Patch.com
Google News - over 5 years
... Jesus Christ Superstar), Rita McKenzie (Ruthless, Ethel Merman's Broadway), Karen Wilder, Catherine Hughes Black, Vickie Phillips, Jill Keating, Maria Day, Robert Zolli, Monique Lareau, Anne McKenna, Rich Flanders, and Arthur "Bucky" Walsh. 2
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A flurry of texts, a final meeting - Boston Globe
Google News - over 5 years
“I told her father after one of our teaching-coaching sessions, 'You have a little Ethel Merman on your hands,' and I sincerely meant it.'' Friends and teachers paint a portrait of Astley as a young woman passionate about social justice, human rights,
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Lyric Theatre in Oklahoma City has a big hit with 'Hairspray' - NewsOK.com
Google News - over 5 years
Listen as he deadpans his dislike for the von Tussles or his spot on homage to Ethel Merman. Devine's looks of quiet desperation are equally priceless, and he deftly uses the full range of his voice to get every laugh afforded his character
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Ethel Merman makes a (thankfully) rare appearance on Colorado Public Television - Westword (blog)
Google News - over 5 years
Tonight at 8 pm, it's Denver in 1951 -- and I'm playing Ethel Merman. (My other option: Mamie Eisenhower.) Previous CIO history shows have won regional Emmys; if this one does, it won't be because of my performance. Sorry, Ms. Merman
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Off center: Shira Z. Carmel and Jerusalem's musical dilemma - +972 Magazine - Independent commentary from Israel and the Palestinian territories
Google News - over 5 years
I came down to one of Tel-Aviv's steel and glass towers to meet one of Ethel Merman's favourite people, the show people who are in show business. More specifically, I stopped by the office of a talented music promoter to see what could be done to
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Alice Playten, an Actress of Small Frame, Big Voice, Dies at 63 - New York Times
Google News - over 5 years
Alice Playten, a versatile character actress and musical comedy voice whose piping wail earned her comparisons to a baby Ethel Merman, died on Saturday in Manhattan. She was 63 and lived in Manhattan. Alice Playten at 20,
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Timeline
Learn about memorable moments in the evolution of Ethel Merman
    THIRTIES
  • 1984
    Age 33
    The 56th Academy Awards, held on April 2, 1984, ended with a performance of "There's No Business Like Show Business" in tribute to Merman.
    More Details Hide Details Courtesy of NPR Windows Media Player Required
    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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  • 1983
    Age 32
    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.
    More Details Hide Details Merman was taken to Roosevelt Hospital, where doctors initially thought she had suffered a stroke. However, after undergoing exploratory surgery on April 11, Merman was diagnosed with stage 4 glioblastoma. The New York Times reported that she underwent brain surgery to have the tumor removed, but in fact, it was inoperable and her condition was deemed terminal (doctors had given Merman eight and half months to live). The tumor caused Merman to become aphasic, and, as her illness progressed, she lost her hair and her face swelled. According to Merman biographer Brian Kellow, Merman's family and manager did not want the true nature of her condition revealed to the public. Merman's son Robert, Jr., who took charge of her care, later said he chose not to publicly disclose his mother's true condition because Merman strove to keep her personal life private. He stated, "Mom truly appreciated fans' presence and their applause. But you shouldn't attempt to be personal—she drew lines, and she could cut you off."
  • TWENTIES
  • 1980
    Age 29
    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.
    More Details Hide Details In the cameo appearance, Merman leaps out of bed singing "Everything's Coming Up Roses" as orderlies restrain her. She also appeared in several episodes of The Love Boat (playing Gopher's mother), guested on a CBS tribute to George Gershwin, did a summer comedy/concert tour with Carroll O'Connor, played a two-week engagement at the London Palladium, performed with Mary Martin in a concert benefiting the theatre and museum collection of the Museum of the City of New York, and frequently appeared as a soloist with symphony orchestras. She also volunteered at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center working in the gift shop or visiting patients. Merman was known for her powerful, belting mezzo-soprano voice and precise enunciation and pitch. Because stage singers performed without microphones when Merman began singing professionally, she had a great advantage, despite that she never took any singing lessons. Broadway lore holds that George Gershwin advised her never to take a singing lesson after she opened in his Girl Crazy.
  • 1979
    Age 28
    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.
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  • 1975
    Age 24
    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.
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  • TEENAGE
  • 1970
    Age 19
    The seventh actress to portray the scheming matchmaker, she remained with the musical for 210 performances until it closed on December 27, 1970.
    More Details Hide Details Merman received the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Performance for what proved to be her last appearance on Broadway.
    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.
    More Details Hide Details On Merman's opening night, her performance was continually brought to a halt by prolonged standing ovations and the critics unanimously heralded her return to the New York stage. Walter Kerr in The New York Times described her voice: "Exactly as trumpet-clean, exactly as penny whistle-piercing, exactly as Wurlitzer-wonderful as it always was." He went on to say: "Her comic sense is every bit as authoritative, as high-handed, really, as her voice."
  • 1964
    Age 13
    She was granted a divorce on November 18, 1964.
    More Details Hide Details Borgnine later told fellow actor Frank Wilson that he spent most of his short marriage arguing with Merman. By the end, he recounted how she came back from a film one day and said, "The director said I looked sensational. He said I had the face of a 20-year-old, and the body and legs of a 30-year-old!". Borgnine replied, "Did he say anything about your old cunt?" "No" replied Merman, "he didn't mention you at all." In a radio interview, she said of her many marriages: "We all make mistakes. That's why they put rubbers on pencils, and that's what I did. I made a few lulus!" In her autobiography Merman (1978), the chapter entitled "My Marriage to Ernest Borgnine" consists of one blank page. Merman was notorious for her brash demeanour and for telling vulgar stories at public parties. For instance, she once shouted a dirty joke across the room at José Ferrer during a formal reception.
  • CHILDHOOD
  • 1961
    Age 10
    Following the Broadway closing of Gypsy on March 25, 1961, Merman half-heartedly embarked on the national tour.
    More Details Hide Details In San Francisco, she severely injured her back, but continued to play to packed houses. During the Los Angeles run, LeRoy visited her backstage and claimed Russell was so ill, "I think you're going to end up getting this part." Believing the film version of Gypsy was within her grasp, she generously gave him the many house seats he requested for friends and industry colleagues, only to discover she had been duped. Over the next several years, Merman was featured in two films, the successful It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963, in which she played Mrs. Marcus, the battle-axe mother in-law of Milton Berle) and the flop The Art of Love (1965). She made dozens of television appearances on variety series hosted by Perry Como, Red Skelton, Judy Garland, Dean Martin, Ed Sullivan, and Carol Burnett, talk shows with Mike Douglas, Dick Cavett, and Merv Griffin, and in episodes of That Girl, The Lucy Show, Match Game, Batman, and Tarzan, among others.
  • 1953
    Age 2
    In March 1953, Merman married Robert Six, the president of Continental Airlines. They separated in December 1959 and were divorced in 1960. Merman's fourth and final marriage was to actor Ernest Borgnine. They were married in Beverly Hills on June 27, 1964.
    More Details Hide Details They separated on August 7 and Borgnine filed for divorce on October 21. Merman filed a cross-complaint shortly thereafter charging Borgnine with extreme cruelty.
    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.
    More Details Hide Details He expected her public appearances to engender publicity for the airline, and her decision to forgo the limelight did not sit well with him. He urged her to accept the lead in Happy Hunting, with a book by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse (who had written Call Me Madam) and a score by the unknown team of Harold Karr and Matt Dubey. Merman acquiesced to her husband's demands, although she clashed with the composers from the start and soon was at odds with co-star Fernando Lamas and his wife, Arlene Dahl, who frequently attended rehearsals. Based on the Merman name, the show opened in New York with an advance sale of $1.5 million and, despite the star's dissatisfaction with it, garnered respectable reviews. Although Brooks Atkinson thought the score was "hardly more than adequate", he called Merman "as brassy as ever, glowing like a neon light whenever she steps on the stage." Several months into the run, she insisted that two of her least-favorite numbers be replaced by songs written by her friend Roger Edens, who, because of his exclusive contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, credited them to Kay Thompson. She lost the Tony Award to Judy Holliday in Bells Are Ringing, and the show closed after 412 performances, with Merman happy to see what she considered "a dreary obligation" finally come to an end.
  • 1952
    Age 1
    Merman and Levitt were divorced in 1952.
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    The couple eventually had two children and divorced in 1952 because of his excessive drinking and erratic behavior.
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  • 1950
    Born
    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.
    More Details Hide Details The following year, she appeared as the matriarch of the singing and dancing Donahue family in There's No Business Like Show Business, a film with a Berlin score.
  • OTHER
  • 1945
    Age -6
    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.
    More Details Hide Details During that time, Merman took only two vacations and missed only two performances because of illness. Merman lost the film version to Judy Garland, who eventually was replaced by Betty Hutton, but she did star in a Broadway revival two decades later at Lincoln Center with Bruce Yarnell, who was 27 years Merman's junior, cast as Annie Oakley's loyal husband and manager, Frank E. Butler.
  • 1943
    Age -8
    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.
    More Details Hide Details Her next project was Sadie Thompson, a Vernon Duke – Howard Dietz musical adaptation of a W. Somerset Maugham short story, but Merman found she was unable to retain the lyrics and resigned 12 days after rehearsals began.
  • 1940
    Age -11
    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.
    More Details Hide Details Later that same year, Merman married newspaper executive Robert Levitt. The couple had two children: Ethel (born July 20, 1942) and Robert, Jr. (born August 11, 1945). Ethel Levitt died on August 23, 1967, of a drug overdose that was ruled accidental.
  • 1939
    Age -12
    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.
    More Details Hide Details Merman followed this with two more Porter musicals. DuBarry Was a Lady, with Bert Lahr and Betty Grable, ran for a year, and Panama Hattie, with Betty Hutton (whose musical numbers were cut out of the show on opening night at Merman's insistence), June Allyson, and Arthur Treacher, fared even better, lasting slightly more than 14 months. Shortly after the opening of the latter, Merman—still despondent about the end of her affair with Stork Club owner Sherman Billingsley—married her first husband, Treacher's agent, William Smith. She later said she knew on their wedding night she had made "a dreadful mistake," and two months later she filed for divorce on grounds of desertion. Shortly after she met and married Robert D. Levitt, promotion director for the New York Journal-American.
  • 1934
    Age -17
    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."
    More Details Hide Details Although Merman always had remained with a show until the end of its run, she left Anything Goes after eight months to appear with Eddie Cantor in the film Strike Me Pink. She was replaced by Benay Venuta, with whom she enjoyed a long but frequently tempestuous friendship. Merman initially was overlooked for the film version of Anything Goes (1936). Bing Crosby insisted his wife Dixie Lee be cast as Reno Sweeney opposite his Billy Crocker, but when she unexpectedly dropped out of the project, Merman was cast in the role she had originated on stage. From the beginning, it was clear to Merman the film would not be the enjoyable experience she had hoped it would be. The focus was shifted to Crosby, leaving her very much in a supporting role. Many of Porter's ribald lyrics were altered to conform to the guidelines of the Motion Picture Production Code, and "Blow Gabriel Blow" was eliminated completely, replaced by a song, "Shang Hai-de-Ho", that Merman was forced to perform in a headdress made of peacock feathers while surrounded by dancers dressed as Chinese slave girls. The film was completed $201,000 over budget and 17 days behind schedule. Richard Watts, Jr., of the New York Herald Tribune described it as "dull and commonplace", with Merman doing "as well as possible", but unable to register "on screen as magnificently as she does on stage."
  • 1932
    Age -19
    Merman's next show, Humpty Dumpty, began rehearsals in August 1932 and opened—and immediately closed—in Pittsburgh the following month.
    More Details Hide Details Producer Buddy DeSylva, who also had written the book and lyrics, was certain it could be reworked into a success, and with a revamped script and additional songs by Vincent Youmans, it opened with the new title Take a Chance on November 26 at the 42nd Street Apollo Theatre, where it ran for 243 performances. Brooks Atkinson of The New York Times called it "fast, loud, and funny" and added Merman "has never loosed herself with quite so much abandon." Following the Broadway run, she agreed to join the show on the road, but shortly after the Chicago opening, she claimed the chlorine in the city's water supply was irritating her throat, and returned to Manhattan. Merman returned to Hollywood to appear in We're Not Dressing (1934), a screwball comedy based on the J. M. Barrie play The Admirable Crichton. Despite working with a cast including Bing Crosby, Carole Lombard, and Burns and Allen, under the direction of Academy Award–winning director Norman Taurog, Merman was unhappy with the experience, and she was dismayed to discover one of her musical numbers had been cut when she attended the New York opening with her family and friends. She also appeared on screen with Eddie Cantor in Kid Millions (also 1934), but her return to Broadway established her as a major star and cemented her image as a tough girl.
  • 1924
    Age -27
    After graduating from Bryant High School in 1924, Merman was hired as a stenographer by the Boyce-Ite Company.
    More Details Hide Details One day during her lunch break, she met Vic Kliesrath, who offered her a job at the Bragg-Kliesrath Corporation for a $5 increase above the weekly $23 salary she was earning, and Merman accepted the offer. She was eventually made personal secretary to company president Caleb Bragg, whose frequent lengthy absences from the office to race automobiles allowed her to catch up on the sleep she had lost the previous night when she was out late performing at private parties. During this period, Merman also began appearing in nightclubs, first hired by Jimmy Durante's partner Lou Clayton. At this time, she decided the name Ethel Zimmermann was too long for a theater marquee. She considered combining Ethel with Gardner or Hunter, which was her grandmother's maiden name. These considerations got her father's "German" ire worked up. Finally, she abbreviated Zimmermann to Merman to appease her father.
  • 1908
    Age -43
    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.
    More Details Hide Details Her father, Edward Zimmermann (1879–1977), was an accountant with James H. Dunham & Company, a Manhattan wholesale dry-goods company, and her mother, Agnes (Gardner) Zimmermann (1883–1974), was a teacher. Edward Zimmermann had been raised in the Dutch Reformed Church and his wife was Presbyterian. Shortly after they married, they joined the Episcopal congregation at Church of the Redeemer, where their daughter was baptized. Her parents were strict about church attendance, and she spent every Sunday there, at morning services, followed by Sunday school, an afternoon prayer meeting, and an evening study group for children. Her family was of German and Scottish ancestry. Merman attended P.S. 4 and William Cullen Bryant High School (which later named its auditorium in her honor), where she pursued a commercial course that offered secretarial training. She was active in numerous extracurricular activities, including the school magazine, the speakers' club, and student council, and she frequented the local music store to peruse the weekly arrivals of new sheet music. On Friday nights, the Zimmermann family would take the subway into Manhattan to see the vaudeville show at the Palace Theatre, where Merman saw Blossom Seeley, Fanny Brice, Sophie Tucker, and Nora Bayes. At home she tried to emulate their singing styles, but her own distinctive voice was difficult to disguise.
Original Authors of this text are noted here.
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