Ethel Merman

Composers

Biography

Born: January 16, 1908; Astoria, New York, NY   Died: February 15, 1984; NY  
Possessing one of the richest, most powerful voices in the history of theater, the Queen of Broadway strutted her way across the stage during five decades of show business success, beginning with her breakout in 1929's Girl Crazy and continuing on to memorable parts in Annie Get Your Gun and Gypsy, meanwhile recording several hits for Brunswick and Decca during the 1930s and '40s. Born in Astoria, Queens, in 1909, she first sang at weddings and Read more parties, gradually working her way up to nightclubs while working as a secretary. Brought to the attention of George Gershwin by producer Vinton Freedly in 1929, Merman auditioned and was picked for the part of casino wife Kate Fothergill in Girl Crazy. She was an immediate success, belting the brassy anthem of self-confidence, "I Got Rhythm," and stopping the show. The play earned rapturous critical praise and "I Got Rhythm" has been Merman's song ever since. Her recording career began in earnest as well in the early '30s, and she recorded several popular songs for Brunswick, including "Eadie Was a Lady" (from Take a Chance), "An Earful of Music" (Kid Millions), and "You're the Top"/"I Get a Kick Out of You" (Anything Goes).

After the tremendous success of Girl Crazy, Merman played several other career-making parts during the 1930s, including spots in George White's Scandals, Cole Porter's Red, Hot and Blue!, and Anything Goes, as well as Take a Chance and DuBarry Was a Lady. Merman's concurrent film career had already begun in 1930, but she failed to shine in most of the dozen or so she appeared in, including Kid Millions with Eddie Cantor, The Big Broadcast of 1936, and Alexander's Ragtime Band, plus the Hollywood version of Anything Goes with Bing Crosby in 1936.

Merman began the '40s with two minor stage works (Panama Hattie and Something for the Boys), but found the greatest success of her career with the mounting of Irving Berlin's Annie Get Your Gun. The 1946 production ran for more than 1,000 performances and gave her an undisputed theme song, "There's No Business Like Show Business," that lasted the length of her career. In a move that shocked critics and audiences, the completely inferior Betty Hutton was cast in the film versions of both Annie Get Your Gun (1949) and Red, Hot and Blue (1950). As a small consolation, Merman appeared in 1954's There's No Business Like Show Business, a film platform for the music of Irving Berlin. Her last major stage role was another important one: the antic stage mother Gypsy Rose Lee in 1959's Gypsy. (Of course, Merman was passed over for the 1962 film part in favor of Rosalind Russell.) She made small additions to several comedic films, including It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World, Airplane!, and The Art of Love, and made many television appearances. Ethel Merman died in 1984, just more than a year after her appearance at a Carnegie Hall benefit. Read less

There are 8 Ethel Merman recordings available.

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