Alice Jeanne Faye (née Leppert; May 5, 1915 – May 9, 1998) was an American actress and singer. She made her film debut in the musical film George White's Scandals (1934). Faye is described by The New York Times as "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 Faye introduced in the musical film Hello, Frisco, Hello (1943).
Alice Faye in 1944
Alice Jeanne Leppert
May 5, 1915
New York City, U.S.
|Died||May 9, 1998 (aged 83)|
|Resting place||Forest Lawn Cemetery, Cathedral City, California|
(m. 1937; div. 1941)
(m. 1941; died 1995)
Alice Jeanne Leppert was born on May 5, 1915, in Manhattan, New York, the daughter of Alice (née Moffit; 1886–1959) and Charles Leppert (1886–1935), a police officer. She had an older brother, Charles (1909–1977). Faye was raised an Episcopalian. Faye's entertainment career began in vaudeville in 1929 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's Yeast Hour.
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, and yet somewhat motherly figure, such as her roles 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. In the film, she appeared with two of her most frequent co-stars, Tyrone Power and Don Ameche, as it was customary for studios to pair their 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, who 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 an 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 careerEdit
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. Although designed ostensibly as Faye's vehicle, Zanuck, tried to build his new protégé Linda Darnell, ordered many of Faye's 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.
Marriage and radio careerEdit
Faye's first marriage, to Tony Martin in 1937, ended in divorce in 1941. The following year, 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.
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 deathEdit
Faye and Harris continued various projects, individually and together, for the rest of their lives. In 1974, 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 Phil Harris' death, Alice Faye died of stomach cancer in Rancho Mirage, California, 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 legacyEdit
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.
|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|
|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|
|1978||Every Girl Should Have One||Kathy||Robert Hyatt|
|1978||The Magic of Lassie||The Waitress ("Alice")||Don Chaffey|
|1995||Carmen Miranda: Bananas is My Business||Herself||Helena Solberg||Documentary and final film role|
|1950||Lux Radio Theatre||Alexander's Ragtime Band|
|1951||Suspense||Death on My Hands|
- "Rudy Vallee (1901-1986)". Riverside Cemetery Journal. Retrieved 17 March 2017.
- Elder, Jane Lenz, Alice Faye: a life beyond the silver screen, (2002), p. 83.
- The New York Times, (1998).
- Brooks, Patricia; Brooks, Jonathan (2006). "Chapter 8: East L.A. and the Desert". Laid to Rest in California: a guide to the cemeteries and grave sites of the rich and famous. Guilford, CT: Globe Pequot Press. p. 245. ISBN 978-0-7627-4101-4. OCLC 70284362.
- Palm Springs Walk of Stars by date dedicated
- The New York Times.
- "Those Were the Days". Nostalgia Digest. 39 (1): 32–41. Winter 2013.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Alice Faye.|
- Alice Faye on IMDb
- Alice Faye at the Internet Broadway Database
- Alice Faye profile, PlaybillVault.com; accessed September 7, 2014.
- Alice Faye photos, accessed September 7, 2014.
- Alice Faye's appearance on This Is Your Life
- Phil Harris − Alice Faye Arrangements at the Great American Songbook Foundation