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Alice Faye

A Life Beyond the Silver Screen

Publication Year: 2002

Alice Faye's sweet demeanor, sultry glances, and velvety voice were her signatures. Her haunting rendition of "You'll Never Know" has never been surpassed by any other singer. Fans adored her in such films as Alexander's Ragtime Band, Rose of Washington Square, Tin Pan Alley, Week End in Havana, and Hello, Frisco, Hello. In the 1930s and 1940s she reigned as queen of 20th Century Fox musicals. She co-starred with such legends as Shirley Temple, Tyrone Power, Carmen Miranda, and Don Ameche and was voted the number-one box-office attraction of 1940, placing ahead of Bette Davis and Myrna Loy. To a select cult, she remains a beloved star. In 1945 at the pinnacle of her career she chose to walk out on her Fox contract. This remarkable episode is unlike any other in the heyday of the big-studio system. Her daring departure from films left Fox mogul Darryl F. Zanuck and the rest of the movie industry flabbergasted. For years she had skirmished with him over her roles, her health, and her private life. His heavy-handed film editing of her fine work in Otto Preminger's drama Fallen Angel, a role she had fought for, relegated Faye to the shadows so that Zanuck could showcase the younger Linda Darnell. After leaving Fox, Faye (1915­1998) devoted herself to her marriage to radio star Phil Harris, to motherhood, and to a second career on radio in the Phil Harris­ Alice Faye Show, broadcast for eight years. She happily gave up films in favor of the independence and self-esteem that she discovered in private life. She willingly freed herself of the "star-treatment" that debilitated so many of her contemporaries. In the 1980s she emerged as a spokeswoman for Pfizer Pharmaceuticals, touring America to encourage senior citizens to make their lives more meaningful and vital. Before Betty Grable, before Marilyn Monroe--Alice Faye was first in the lineup of 20th Century Fox blondes. This book captures her special essence, her work in film, radio, and popular music, and indeed her graceful survival beyond the silver screen. Jane Lenz Elder, a librarian at Southern Methodist University, is the author of Across the Plains to Santa Fe and The Literature of Beguilement: Promoting America from Columbus to Today. She is co-editor of Trading in Santa Fe: John M. Kingsbury's Correspondence with James Josiah Webb, 1853-1861.

Published by: University Press of Mississippi

Contents

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pp. vii-viii

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Acknowledgments

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pp. ix-xi

When I was a teenager my mother chided me for spending my free time watching old movies. “You’ll never get anywhere doing that,” she said repeatedly. Perhaps not. Nevertheless, as adolescence recedes and forty looms ever larger on the horizon, I still relish the hours I have spent in the world of celluloid. Writing a film biography merely provides focus, a sense of legitimacy,...

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Introduction

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pp. 3-10

Alice Faye may be remembered by film historians as much for her abrupt exit from the movies in 1945 as for her preceding eleven years of Hollywood stardom. Tired of dancing, literally, to the tunes that mogul Darryl F. Zanuck put on the silver screen in the lavish musicals produced by Twentieth Century-Fox, she sought meatier roles, the first of which was in...

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Chapter 1: Broadway Baby

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pp. 11-29

The showers that had fallen off and on throughout the day were the only reliable harbinger of spring in the sea of tenements on the Manhattan West Side neighborhood known as Hell’s Kitchen. Here the unmistakable odors of the neighborhood’s slaughterhouses and factories obliterated the fresh scent of the rain, mingling instead with smoke from the trains that delivered the...

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Chapter 2: Vallée’s Satin Doll

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pp. 30-47

George White’s Scandals opened at the Apollo Theatre, on Forty-second Street west of Broadway, on September 14, 1931. It was just as Alice had always imagined it would be: the sense of anticipation, the electric lights, the long, elegant cars gliding to a stop before the theater. George White, resplendent in evening clothes with his dark hair carefully slicked back in the fashion of the day,...

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Chapter 3: Scandals

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pp. 48-67

While Alice toured the country, sang on the radio, and coped with her small share of the limelight, her friend Betty King continued to work in the chorus and began dating Alice’s brother Sonny. Alice did not approve. She loved Betty and knew how hard Betty had worked to support her mother and stepfather. Alice wanted the best for her friend, and, to her way of thinking,...

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Chapter 4: New Studio, New Star

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pp. 68-82

The upheavals occurring at the top reaches of the studio’s administration had little immediate effect on the day-to-day lives of the contract players. During most of 1935 Alice Faye continued to work in the Sheehan productions to which she had been assigned. The studio released these films at regular intervals throughout the year: George White’s 1935 Scandals in March,...

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Chapter 5: Breakthrough [Includes Image Plates]

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pp. 83-98

On November 25, 1936, Rudy Vallée’s ex-wife, Fay Webb, died suddenly following an abdominal operation. Even the press in Los Angeles, where she died, barely mentioned it. The media apparently considered the woman who caused Alice so much misery old news, missing a potentially sensational story. As Rudy Vallée’s secretary Evelyn Langfeldt wrote to Hyman Bushell,...

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Chapter 6: Treadmill

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pp. 99-117

Before the end of shooting In Old Chicago in the summer of 1937, Alice began seeing Tony Martin again. Alice’s brother Sonny and her friend Betty Scharf had interceded on Tony’s behalf, and Sonny arranged to bring Alice to Sugie’s Tropics one night when he knew Tony would be there. Martin had resolved his own qualms and persuaded his mother to overlook Alice’s religion.

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Chapter 7: Queen of the Lot

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pp. 118-137

If they are to be believed, stories released from the set of Tail Spin by the Fox publicity department reflect a distracted Alice. One stated she found it difficult to throw herself wholeheartedly into her fight scene with Constance Bennett, instead pulling her punches and worrying excessively about any injury she might cause. Another reported that Tony Martin always sent her roses...

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Chapter 8: So This Is Harris

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pp. 138-156

At the beginning of June 1940 Darryl Zanuck had an Alice Faye Technicolor extravaganza on his hands and no Alice Faye to star in it. His solution to the problem, typical of Hollywood in that era, eliminated the short-term problem of replacing Alice in Down Argentine Way. It also solved the long-term question of how to prevent Alice Faye from causing this kind of problem again.

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Chapter 9: Movies and Motherhood

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pp. 157-174

Weekend in Havana, shot during the summer in which she bided time between weddings to Phil, became one of Alice’s happiest movies. It showed. She found herself surrounded with her favorite costars, including John Payne, Carmen Miranda, and Cesar Romero. Zanuck also assigned director Walter Lang, with whom she worked in Tin Pan Alley, to the project. Alice also felt...

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Chapter 10: Goodbye Fox

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pp. 175-192

America would win the war in Europe before Alice Faye won her war with Twentieth Century-Fox. Faced with the prospect of losing his Alice-based revenue altogether, Darryl Zanuck ultimately conceded. In mid-July 1945, word trickled out through the columns that Alice had returned to Fox. She had chosen to appear in a modern drama directed by Otto Preminger called...

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Chapter 11: Return to Radio

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pp. 193-212

As Alice forged her new life, she discovered that through Phil and his work a new niche awaited her in a medium with which she was entirely comfortable: radio. She and Phil had begun performing together on Fitch Bandwagon, sponsored by Fitch Shampoo. The program was initially conceived as a Sunday afternoon bandstand series on NBC to showcase popular music...

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Chapter 12: Celebrity Fulfilled

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pp. 213-234

In 1961, at Phil’s suggestion, Alice decided to make another motion picture. Phil continued to pursue an intense travel schedule, Alice Jr. had just married New Orleans stockbroker Ted Alcus, and Phyllis was about to begin courses at the University of Arizona in the fall. Alice’s family life was fairly settled. So when producer Charles Brackett began phoning Alice “out of the blue” urging...

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Epilogue

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pp. 235-247

Alice emerged from the limousine wearing an elegant black knit suit and full-length mink coat and looking less than thrilled. Due to appear on a new talk show being launched in England, she had grown increasingly anxious as the driver went on and on driving all over Los Angeles. “Are we still in California?” she asked her companion, Jewel Baxter, in irritation. Alice remained...

Filmography

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pp. 249-261

Bibliographical Essay

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pp. 263-294

Bibliography

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pp. 295-300

Index

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pp. 301-313


E-ISBN-13: 9781604735864
E-ISBN-10: 1604735864
Print-ISBN-13: 9781578062102
Print-ISBN-10: 1578062101

Publication Year: 2002

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