Alice Faye: Actress, singer (1915 - 1998) | Biography
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Alice Faye
Actress, singer

Alice Faye

Alice Faye
The basics

Quick Facts

Intro Actress, singer
Was Actor Film actor Singer
From United States of America
Field Film, TV, Stage & Radio Music
Gender female
Birth 5 May 1915, New York City
Death 9 May 1998, Rancho Mirage (aged 83 years)
Spouse: Tony MartinPhil Harris
Alice Faye
The details (from wikipedia)


Alice Faye (May 5, 1915 – May 9, 1998) was an American actress and singer, called by The New York Times "one of the few movie stars to walk away from stardom at the peak of her career".
She is often associated with the Academy Award–winning standard "You'll Never Know", which she introduced in the 1943 musical film Hello, Frisco, Hello.

Early life

Born Alice Jeane Leppert in New York City, she was the daughter of a New York police officer of German descent, Charles Leppert, and his Irish-American wife, Alice (née Moffit) Leppert. She was raised an Episcopalian. Faye's entertainment career began in vaudeville as a chorus girl (she failed an audition for the Earl Carroll Vanities when it was revealed she was too young), before she moved to Broadway and a featured role in the 1931 edition of George White's Scandals. By this time, she had adopted her stage name and first reached a radio audience on Rudy Vallée's The Fleischmann Hour

Film career

Alice Faye (center) with Jack Haley (left), Don Ameche, and Tyrone Power (right), in a trailer for Alexander's Ragtime Band (1938)
Alice Faye's handprint/signature in front of the Grauman's Chinese Theatre.
Faye, Phil Baker and Carmen Miranda in The Gang's All Here (1943).

Faye got her first major film break in 1934, when Lilian Harvey abandoned the lead role in a film version of George White's 1935 Scandals, in which Vallee was also to appear. Hired first to perform a musical number with Vallee, Faye ended up as the female lead. She became a hit with film audiences of the 1930s, particularly when Fox production head Darryl F. Zanuck made her his protégée. He softened Faye from a wisecracking show girl to a youthful, yet somewhat motherly figure such as she played in a few Shirley Temple films. Faye also received a physical makeover, going from a version of Jean Harlow to a wholesome appearance, in which her platinum hair and pencil-line eyebrows were swapped for a more natural look.

In 1938, Faye was cast as the female lead in In Old Chicago. Zanuck initially resisted casting Faye, as the role had been written for Jean Harlow. However, critics applauded Faye's performance. The film was extremely memorable for its twenty-minute ending, a recreation of the Great Chicago Fire, a scene so dangerous that women, except for the main stars, were banned from the set. Her co-stars in that film were Tyrone Power and Don Ameche, two of Faye's most frequent co-stars, as it was customary for studios to pair its contract players together in more than one film.

Faye, Power, and Ameche were reunited for the 1938 release Alexander's Ragtime Band, which was designed to showcase more than twenty Irving Berlin songs, Faye again received strong reviews. One of the most expensive films of its time, it also became one of the most successful musicals of the 1930s.

By 1939, Faye was named one of the top ten box office draws in Hollywood. That year she made Rose of Washington Square with Tyrone Power. Although a big hit, the film was supposedly based on the real life of comedian Fanny Brice, and Brice sued Fox for stealing her story.

Because of her bankable status, Fox occasionally placed Faye in films that were put together more for the sake of making money than showcasing Faye's talents. Films like Tail Spin and Barricade (both 1939) were more dramatic in nature than regular Faye films and often did not contain any songs. But due to her immense popularity, none of the films that she made in the 1930s and 1940s lost money.

In 1940, Faye played one of her most memorable roles, the title role in the musical biopic Lillian Russell. Faye always named this film as one of her favorites, but it was also her most challenging role. The tight corsets Faye wore for this picture caused her to collapse on the set several times.

After declining the lead role in Down Argentine Way, because of illness, Faye was replaced by the studio's newest musical star, Betty Grable. She was paired as a sister act opposite Grable in the film Tin Pan Alley later that same year. During the making of the picture, a rumor arose that there was a rivalry between Faye and Grable. In a Biography interview, Faye admitted that the Fox publicity department built up the rumor; in reality, the two actresses were close friends and got along famously during the making of the picture.

In 1941, Fox began to place Faye in musicals photographed in Technicolor, a trademark for the studio in the 1940s. She frequently played a performer, often one moving up in society, allowing for situations that ranged from the poignant to the comic. Films such as Week-End in Havana (1941) and That Night in Rio (1941), in which she played a Brazilian aristocrat, made good use of Faye's husky singing voice, solid comic timing, and flair for carrying off the era's starry-eyed romantic story lines.

In 1943, after taking a year off to have her first daughter, Faye starred in the Technicolor musical Hello, Frisco, Hello. Released at the height of World War II, the film became one of her highest-grossing pictures for Fox. It was in this film that Faye sang "You'll Never Know". The song won the Academy Award for Best Song for 1943, and the sheet music for the song sold over a million copies. However, since there was a clause in her contract (as was the case with most other Fox stars) stating that she could not officially record any of her movie songs, other singers, such as Dick Haymes (whose version hit #1 for four weeks), Frank Sinatra, and Rosemary Clooney have been more associated with the song than Faye. However, it is still often considered Faye's signature song. That year, Faye was once again named one of the top box office draws in the world.

End of motion picture career

Faye in 1941

As Faye's star continued to ascend during the war years, family life became more important to her, especially with the arrival of a second daughter, Phyllis. After her birth, Faye signed a new contract with Fox to make only one picture a year, with the option of a second one, to give Faye a chance to spend more time with her family.

Faye finally accepted the lead role in Fallen Angel, whose title became only too telling, as circumstances turned out. Designed ostensibly as Faye's vehicle, the film all but became her celluloid epitaph when Zanuck, trying to build his new protege Linda Darnell, ordered many Faye scenes cut and Darnell emphasized. When Faye saw a screening of the final product, she wrote a note to Zanuck, went straight to her car, gave her dressing room keys to the studio gate guard, and drove home, vowing never to return to Fox. Faye was still so popular that thousands of letters were sent to Faye's home and the Fox studios from around the world, begging her to return for another picture. In 1987 she told an interviewer, "When I stopped making pictures, it didn't bother me because there were so many things I hadn't done. I had never learned to run a house. I didn't know how to cook. I didn't know how to shop. So all these things filled all those gaps."

After Fallen Angel, Faye's contract called for her to make two more movies. Zanuck hit back by having her blackballed for breach of contract, effectively ending her film career. Released in 1945, Fallen Angel was Faye's last film until 1962. Zanuck nonetheless, under public pressure, tried to bring Faye back onto the screen in such films as The Dolly Sisters and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, which she declined.

Faye went before the cameras again in 1962's State Fair. While she received good reviews, the film was not a success, and she made only infrequent cameo appearances in films thereafter, most notably playing a secretary in Won Ton Ton, the Dog Who Saved Hollywood in 1976.

She was the subject of This Is Your Life for British television in 1984 when she was surprised by Eamonn Andrews at Hollywood’s Metromedia Studios.

Marriage and radio career

Faye's first marriage, to Tony Martin in 1937, ended in divorce in 1940. A year later she married Phil Harris. Their marriage became a plot line on the hit radio comedy, The Jack Benny Program where, for sixteen years, Harris was a regular cast member.

Faye, Harris, and their two daughters, Alice and Phyllis, in 1948.

The couple had two daughters, Alice (b. 1942) and Phyllis (b. 1944), along with Harris's adopted son from his first marriage, Phil Harris, Jr. (1935–2001). Faye and Harris began working in radio together as Faye's film career declined. First, they teamed to host a variety show on NBC, The Fitch Bandwagon, in 1946. The Harrises' gently tart comedy sketches made them the show's stars. By 1948, Fitch was replaced as sponsor by Rexall, the pharmaceutical company, and the show, now a strictly situation comedy with a music interlude each from husband and wife, was renamed The Phil Harris-Alice Faye Show.

Harris's comic talent was already familiar through his tenure on Jack Benny's radio shows for Jello and Lucky Strike. From 1936 to 1952 he played Benny's wisecracking, jive-talking, hipster bandleader. With their own show revamped to a sitcom, bandleader-comedian Harris and singer-actress Faye played themselves, raising two precocious children in slightly zany situations, mostly involving Harris's band guitarist Frank Remley (Elliott Lewis), obnoxious delivery boy Julius Abruzzio (Walter Tetley, familiar as nephew Leroy on The Great Gildersleeve), Robert North as Faye's fictitious deadbeat brother, Willie, and sponsor's representative Mr. Scott (Gale Gordon), and usually involving bumbling, malapropping Harris needing to be rescued by Faye.

The Harrises' two daughters were played on radio by Jeanine Roos and Anne Whitfield; written mostly by Ray Singer and Dick Chevillat, the show stayed on NBC radio as a fixture until 1954.

Faye's singing ballads and swing numbers in her honey contralto voice, was a regular highlight of the show, as was her knack for tart one-liners equal to her husband's. The show's running gags also included references to Alice's wealth from her film career ("I'm only trying to protect the wife of the money I love" was a typical Harris drollery) and occasional barbs by Faye aimed at her rift with Zanuck, usually referencing Fallen Angel.

In its early years, the Harris-Faye radio show ranked among the top ten radio programs in the country. The radio show also provided Faye with the perfect balance between show business and home life: since radio only required her to be present for a read-through and the live broadcast, Faye was still able to spend most of her time at home with her daughters.

Later life and death

Faye and Harris continued various projects, individually and together, for the rest of their lives. Faye made a return to Broadway after forty-three years in a revival of Good News, with her old Fox partner John Payne (who was replaced by Gene Nelson). In later years, Faye became a spokeswoman for Pfizer Pharmaceuticals, promoting the virtues of an active senior lifestyle. The Faye-Harris marriage endured until Harris's death in 1995. Faye admitted in an interview that when she married Harris, most of the Hollywood elite had predicted the marriage would only last about six months.

Three years after her husband's death, Alice Faye died in Rancho Mirage, California from stomach cancer, four days after her 83rd birthday. She was cremated and her ashes rest beside those of Phil Harris at the mausoleum of the Forest Lawn Cemetery (Cathedral City) near Palm Springs, California. She has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in recognition of her contribution to Motion Pictures at 6922 Hollywood Boulevard. In 1994, a Golden Palm Star on the Palm Springs, California, Walk of Stars was dedicated to her. The Phil Harris-Alice Faye Show remains a favorite of old-time radio collectors.

Popularity and legacy

Alice Faye's star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Her voice, The New York Times wrote in her obituary, was "inviting". Irving Berlin was once quoted as saying that he would choose Faye over any other singer to introduce his songs, and George Gershwin and Cole Porter called her the "best female singer in Hollywood in 1937". During her years as a musical superstar, Alice Faye managed to introduce twenty-three songs to the hit parade, more than any equivalent to Bing Crosby.

Although Faye has always had many fans around the globe, she was never more popular anywhere else than she was in Great Britain. In The Alice Faye Movie Book, a particular article is devoted to Faye's popularity there. The author of the article, Arthur Nicholson, mentions that Faye was enormously popular there even in her Harlow days. As opposed to other films shown in England, which were usually shown for three days a week, all of Faye's films were given the rare privilege of being played for an entire week. The article goes on to mention that, even after Faye retired in 1945, her old films still made as much money (in some cases, even more) as current releases. When Faye returned to the screen for State Fair in 1962, the film broke records in England. In 1966, the BBC aired Alexander's Ragtime Band on television and soon other Faye films followed. As of the writing of the article, the BBC stated that there were more requests for Faye's pictures than any other star.

Film appearances

Year Movie title Role Director Notes
1934 George White's Scandals Kitty Donnelly/Mona Vale George White Film debut
1934 Now I'll Tell Peggy Warren Edwin J. Burke
1934 She Learned About Sailors Jean Legoi George Marshall
1934 365 Nights in Hollywood Alice Perkins George Marshall
1935 George White's 1935 Scandals Honey Walters George White Follow-up to 1934's George White's Scandals
1935 Every Night at Eight Dixie Foley/Dixie Dean Raoul Walsh Faye on loan-out from Fox to Paramount
1935 Music Is Magic Peggy Harper George Marshall
1936 King of Burlesque Pat Doran Sidney Lanfield
1936 Poor Little Rich Girl Jerry Dolan Irving Cummings Co-starred Shirley Temple
1936 Sing, Baby, Sing Joan Warren Sidney Lanfield Oscar-nominated song When Did You Leave Heaven?
1936 Stowaway Susan Parker William A. Seiter Co-starred Shirley Temple
1937 In Old Chicago Belle Fawcett Henry King Known as her best acting performance
1937 On the Avenue Mona Merrick Roy Del Ruth
1937 You Can't Have Everything Judith Poe Wells Norman Taurog
1937 Wake Up and Live Alice Huntley Sidney Lanfield
1937 You're a Sweetheart Betty Bradley David Butler Faye on loan-out from Fox to Universal
1938 Sally, Irene and Mary Sally Day William A. Seiter Remake of 1925 film of the same name
1938 Alexander's Ragtime Band Stella Kirby Henry King Oscar-nominated song Now It Can Be Told
1939 Tail Spin Trixie Lee Roy Del Ruth
1939 Rose of Washington Square Rose Sargent Gregory Ratoff
1939 Hollywood Cavalcade Molly Adair Hayden Irving Cummings
1939 Barricade Emmy Jordan Gregory Ratoff
1940 Little Old New York Pat O'Day Henry King
1940 Lillian Russell Lillian Russell Irving Cummings Faye named the film as one of her personal favorites
1940 Tin Pan Alley Katie Blane Walter Lang Co-starred newcomer Betty Grable
1941 That Night in Rio Baroness Cecilia Duarte Irving Cummings First film with Carmen Miranda
1941 The Great American Broadcast Vicki Adams Archie Mayo
1941 Week-End in Havana Miss Nan Spencer Walter Lang Went on maternity leave for a year after this film
1943 Hello, Frisco, Hello Trudy Evans H. Bruce Humberstone Oscar-winning song You'll Never Know
1943 The Gang's All Here Edie Allen Busby Berkeley
1944 Four Jills in a Jeep Herself William A. Seiter Cameo appearance
1945 Fallen Angel June Mills Otto Preminger Her last film as a major Hollywood star
1962 State Fair Mrs. Melissa Frake José Ferrer Her "come-back" film
1976 Won Ton Ton, the Dog Who Saved Hollywood Secretary at Gate Michael Winner Cameo appearance
1978 Every Girl Should Have One Kathy Robert Hyatt
1978 The Magic of Lassie The Waitress ("Alice") Don Chaffey Final film appearance
1995 Carmen Miranda: Bananas is My Business Herself Helena Solberg Documentary

Radio appearances

Year Program Episode/source
1950 Lux Radio Theatre Alexander's Ragtime Band
1951 Suspense Death on My Hands

The contents of this page are sourced from Wikipedia article. The contents are available under the CC BY-SA 4.0 license.
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