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William A. Everett and Lee Snook

[Edna Mae]

(b Winnipeg, MB, Dec 4, 1921; d Paris, ?20 April, 2013). Canadian actress and singer. At the age of 14, Durbin caught the attention of MGM producers, who cast her in Every Sunday (1935) alongside Judy Garland. She then signed on with Universal Pictures and became the effervescent teenager who sang like an angel but frequently found mischief. Her sunny disposition and gleeful songs would rescue her from any of her ill-fated schemes. Her 21 films included Three Smart Girls (1936), One Hundred Men and a Girl (1937), Mad About Music (1938), That Certain Age (1938), First Love (1939), Three Smart Girls Grow Up (1939), It's a Date (1940), Spring Parade (1940) and Can't Help Singing (1944). Although her Hollywood career lasted only 13 years, she made a lasting impression as the quintessential precocious innocent with a natural vocal charm. She received a special Academy Award in ...


Robert Skinner

(b Providence, RI, June 29, 1901; d Miami Beach, FL, March 6, 1967). American baritone and actor. He moved with his family in 1915 to Philadelphia, where he studied singing with David Bispham. He made his début in a musical play (The Marriage Tax) at the Philadelphia Academy of Music in 1922, and also sang roles with the Philadelphia Civic Opera and the Philadelphia Operatic Society before appearing at the Metropolitan Opera House in 1924. He spent the years 1928 to 1933 giving concert tours throughout the USA. He made his first film in 1933 and achieved fame two years later when he starred with Jeanette MacDonald in Naughty Marietta, the success of which led to their appearing together in seven further film musicals, including Rose Marie (1936), Maytime (1937), New Moon (1940) and Bitter Sweet (1940). Eddy made several recordings and continued to perform on radio, television and in concerts up to the time of his death....


Walter Starkie

revised by Charles Fox and Alyn Shipton


(b Manila, Dec 12, 1907; d Manila, Jan 16, 1979). Filipino bandleader, pianist, conductor and composer of Spanish parentage. He studied at the Madrid Conservatory, with, among others, Trago and Perez Casas. In 1921 he went to England for two years' study at St Joseph's College, London, and later entered Stanford University, California, where his parents intended him to study law. However, under the influence of Bloch, with whom he had composition lessons, he left in 1926 to give his attention to music. At this point his fascination for jazz and dance music began, and he led the Stanford University Band for a season at the Biltmore Hotel, Los Angeles, while continuing formal composition studies. After cutting his first discs with his Cinderella Roof Orchestra in Hollywood, he returned to England to read law at Cambridge University (where his brother, the saxophonist Manuel (Lizz) Elizalde, was also a student) in ...


Paul Webb

(b New York, June 15, 1900; d London, Jan 30, 2003). American soprano. After an operatic training she appeared in New York at the Metropolitan Opera House during the last days of World War I, where she created the role of the Novice in Suor Angelica and later also sang Lauretta (Gianni Schicchi) during the first run of performances of Il trittico. She sang Giannetta to Caruso’s Nemorino and Fyodor to Chaliapin’s Boris before turning to lighter music in 1924, when she created the title role in Hammerstein and Friml’s Rose Marie, and then began acting in plays and films. Admired by Ivor Novello, she came to London to take the leading female role, that of opera singer Militza Hajos, in the first of his Drury Lane musicals, Glamorous Night (1935), whose success was partly due to Ellis’s varied talents. Her operatic training showed in the strength and quality of her higher notes, and made her ideal as opera singer Maria Ziegler in Novello’s ...


John Snelson

(John Herman)

(b Hampstead, Oct 29, 1903; d London, June 19, 1996). English composer, lyricist and pianist. His grandmother Julia Woolf (1831–93) was a pianist and composer, publishing piano pieces, songs and the comic opera Carina (1888), and his mother was a violin pupil of Ysaÿe. He won a music scholarship to Cheltenham College and later studied the piano with Myra Hess at the RAM; his recordings of piano medleys of his own work, especially that from Streamline (1934), reveal a strong technique. Inspired by the music of Paul Rubens, particularly after seeing a revival of Tonight's the Night, he turned to composing light music, contributing additional songs to shows including The Curate's Egg (1922) and By the Way (1923). He learned about songwriting styles as a song plugger for Francis, Day & Hunter, and in 1928 became a composer for Chappell. His first transatlantic hit was achieved with ‘I never dreamt’ in the revue ...


Robert Stevenson

(b Mount Vernon, OH, Oct 29, 1815; d Mount Vernon, June 28, 1904). American composer and minstrel performer. He had little formal education, but in early youth learned popular tunes from his musical mother and taught himself to play the fiddle. At the age of 13 he became an apprentice printer and in 1834 enlisted in the US Army. At Jefferson Barracks, Missouri, he became an expert fifer and drummer, publishing his own Fifer’s and Drummer’s Guide in 1862 in cooperation with George Brace. On receiving his discharge from the army on 8 July 1835 he joined a Cincinnati circus, for one member of which he wrote the words of his first ‘black song’ (to the tune of Gumbo Chaff). In 1840–42 he toured with the Angervine and other circuses as a blackface banjoist and singer.

In November 1842 Emmett and Frank Brower (1823–74), a blackface dancer and singer who was the first black impersonator to play the bones, formed a fiddle and bones duo in New York. From ...


(b Vienna, Oct 20, 1853; d New York, Sept 13, 1914). American composer and conductor of Austrian birth. He received his musical education in his native city, where he reportedly studied with Jacques Offenbach. He emigrated to the USA in 1882, became conductor at the Thalia Theatre, New York, and began arranging other composers’ works. His own first published score was 1776, a three-act romantic comic opera in German (1884), but his first (and greatest) success was The Passing Show (1894), the earliest of the lavish topical American revues. Englander composed scores for about 55 shows, principally comic operas, writing as many as four a year during the period 1895 to 1904. More than 50 of his songs and a handful of piano pieces (mostly from the shows) were published. Although he was a prolific composer of well-crafted songs and dances, Englander’s thorough grounding in Viennese operetta prevented him from adapting, towards the end of his career, to the Tin Pan Alley and musical comedy styles. The most popular songs in some of his shows were in fact written by other men: for example, ‘Sweet Annie Moore’ (...


Michael J. Budds

(b Toronto, April 7, 1908; d Los Angeles, Feb 9, 1976). Canadian conductor, arranger and composer, active in the USA. He studied music at the Canadian Academy and the Toronto Conservatory, and made his début as a pianist in Massey Music Hall in 1923. After he badly burnt his hands he began to concentrate on composition and, while continuing to accompany silent films (1920–27), formed his own string ensemble and began writing arrangements for dance bands. He was first engaged as an arranger and conductor of popular music for radio in 1927, and had his own programme, ‘Music by Faith’, from 1938 to 1940. From then on he worked in the USA, and he became an American citizen in 1945. He presented such radio programmes as ‘The Carnation Contented Hour’ (NBC, 1940–47), ‘The Pause that Refreshes’ (CBS, 1946–9), and ‘The Woolworth Hour’ (CBS, 1955–7...


Simon Collier

[La Joyita Argentina ]

(b Buenos Aires, Aug 17, 1905). Argentine tango singer. She started singing and acting as a young girl, winning the nickname of La Joyita Argentina (the Little Argentine Jewel). After 1925 she made over 200 recordings for the RCA-Victor and Odeon labels, many with the band of Francisco Canaro. She was one the most popular of Argentine radio artists in the first half of the 1930s and also appeared in films; her legendary green eyes gave her the allure of a femme fatale. After ...


David Ades


(b Toronto, ON, July 24, 1917; d Guernsey, April 22, 2005). Canadian arranger, composer and conductor. He began his career as a trumpet player in dance bands, and then for Percy Faith's CBC Orchestra. By 1942 he had composed two symphonies and in 1944 he came to Britain as conductor of the Canadian Band of the Allied Expeditionary Force, alongside Glenn Miller and George Melachrino fronting the US and British bands. He took his army discharge in Britain, and Decca contracted him to work with their leading singers such as Vera Lynn and Gracie Fields; the BBC gave him a radio series with his own orchestra. He began composing for the cinema, and early successes out of some 40 scores included Spring in Park Lane, Maytime in Mayfair and Captain Horatio Hornblower R.N.. The arrival of LPs gave orchestra leaders such as Farnon the opportunity to develop their arranging and composing talents more fully, and his Decca albums from the 1950s have become highly prized by admirers, especially fellow musicians in the USA. Many have acknowledged his influence, including John Williams, Henry Mancini, Quincy Jones and Johnny Mandel. Farnon’s light orchestral cameos are among the finest to have been written since World War II, notably ...