Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Birthday Greetings to the Great Beyond

No history of World War II would be quite complete without reference to the many hundreds of performers who toured the front lines and trenches entertaining the troops. Bob Hope is the name that most readily springs to mind, but running a close second is, undoubtedly, blonde, honey-voiced (and highly underrated) vocalist Frances Langford (1914-2005). During the wars years, every possible moment away from her busy film-recording-radio career was spent boosting the morale of service men and women. she sang in many far off locales (often with exotic names like Bizerte and Kairoun) too numerous to mention. She was the sweetheart of hundreds of battalions, squadrons and fleet units, and few were the soldiers who did not see and hear her in person sometime during the war. As for her professional life stateside, it included appearances in several dozen films with such evocative titles as "Too Many Girls," "Swing It, Soldier," "Dixie Jamboree," and "Hollywood Hotel"---as well as continued radio performances, most notably with Rudy Vallee. In more recent years, Langford is fondly (?) remembered as the nagging shrew (opposite Don Ameche and, later, Lew Parker) of the popular radio, TV and recording series, The Bickersons.

In 2002 I visited my sister in south Florida and was happy to learn that Langford was still with us and resting comfortably on her patriotic laurels, a very rich lady (she married well) living on a forty acre estate on the Indian River, overrun with peacocks. She died a few years later, but not before waging her own personal zoning war to allow the peacocks to remain on her grounds. I’m not sure who won, but I was rooting for Frances and her birds. Here’s a rare track that demonstrates how good a singer she was. (mp3 links for a limited time only)

No comments: