Julie London (née Nancy Gayle Peck; September 26, 1926 – October 18, 2000) was an American singer and actress, whose career spanned more than 40 years. Born in Santa Rosa, California to Vaudevillian parents, London was discovered while working as an elevator operator in downtown Los Angeles, and began her career as an actress. London's 35-year acting career began in film in 1944, and included roles as the female lead in numerous Westerns, co-starring with Rock Hudson in The Fat Man (1951), with Robert Taylor and John Cassavetes in Saddle the Wind (1958), and opposite Robert Mitchum in The Wonderful Country (1959).
London in 1958
Nancy Gayle Peck
September 26, 1926
|Died||October 18, 2000 (aged 74)|
|Cause of death||Cardiac arrest|
|Burial place||Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Hollywood Hills, California|
(m. 1947; div. 1954)
(m. 1959; died 1999)
In the mid-1950s, she signed a recording contract with the newly established Liberty Records, and released a total of 32 albums of pop and jazz standards during the 1950s and 1960s, with her signature song being "Cry Me a River", which she introduced in 1955. London was noted by critics for her husky, smoky voice and languid vocal style. She released her final studio album in 1969, but achieved continuing success playing the female starring role of Nurse Dixie McCall, in the television series Emergency! (1972–79), in which she appeared opposite her real-life husband, Bobby Troup. The show was produced by her ex-husband, Jack Webb.
A shy and introverted woman, London rarely granted interviews, and spent the remainder of her life out of the public sphere. In 1995, she suffered a stroke, which left her with permanent health problems, and died five years later of a heart attack.
Julie London was born Julie Peck[a] on September 26, 1926, in Santa Rosa, California, the only child of Josephine (née Taylor; 1905 – 1976) and Jack Peck (1901 – 1977), who were a vaudeville song-and-dance team. At one time, her mother worked in a pharmacy. In 1929, when she was three years old, the family moved to San Bernardino, where she made her professional singing debut on her parents' radio program. Throughout her early life, both London and her mother were admirers of Billie Holiday. London was described by friends and family as a shy child "without much self-confidence."
In 1941, when she was 14, her family moved to Hollywood. In her teenaged years, she began to sing in local nightclubs in Los Angeles. She graduated from the Hollywood Professional School in 1945, and worked as an elevator operator in downtown Los Angeles throughout high school.
Discovery and early film rolesEdit
In 1943, London met Sue Carol, a talent agent and then-wife of actor Alan Ladd, while operating the elevator at Roos Bros., an upscale clothing store on Hollywood Boulevard. Struck by London's features, Carol facilitated a screen test for the inexperienced actress, and London signed a contract with her. London subsequently met Esquire photographer Henry Waxman while working her second job as a clerk at a menswear store, and he shot photographs of her that appeared in the magazine's November 1943 issue. These photos helped establish her as a pin-up girl prized by GIs during World War II.
She made her film debut while still in high school, appearing under the name Julie London in the exploitation film Nabonga in 1944. After a series of uncredited roles, she signed a contract with Warner Bros. Pictures, appearing in the war film Task Force (1949) and the Western Return of the Frontiersman (1950). She was then cast in the lead role of Pat Boyd in the William Castle-directed film noir The Fat Man (1951), opposite J. Scott Smart and Rock Hudson. London completed shooting the film in August 1950. After Warner Bros. dropped her contract, London was offered a contract with Universal Pictures based on the role, but turned it down, opting instead to focus on her marriage to actor Jack Webb.
Mainstream films and musicEdit
After divorcing Webb in 1954, London resumed her career, appearing in the drama film The Fighting Chance, which was filmed in May 1955 and released by 20th Century Fox. Earlier in 1955, London was spotted singing at a jazz club in Los Angeles by record producer Simon Waronker, who was recommended to her by her friend (and future husband) Bobby Troup. Despite her notable stage fright, Waronker was impressed by London's vocals and delivery, and later recalled that "The lyrics poured out of her like a hurt bird." Waronker convinced London to pursue a recording career, and signed her with the then-newly established Liberty Records. London recorded 32 albums in a career that began in 1955 with a live performance at the 881 Club in Los Angeles. Her debut album, Julie Is Her Name, was released in December of that year after a self-titled single, and Billboard named her the most popular female vocalist for 1955, 1956, and 1957. She was the subject of a 1957 Life cover article in which she was quoted as saying, "It's only a thimbleful of a voice, and I have to use it close to the microphone. But it is a kind of oversmoked voice, and it automatically sounds intimate."
London's debut recordings (which appeared on her self-titled extended play) were completed under the New York-based Bethlehem Records label. Four additional tracks recorded during these sessions were later included on the album Bethlehem's Girlfriends, a compilation album released in 1957. Bobby Troup was one of the session musicians on the album. London recorded the standards "Don't Worry About Me", "Motherless Child", "A Foggy Day", and "You're Blasé". London's most famous single, "Cry Me a River", was written by her high-school classmate Arthur Hamilton and produced by Troup. The recording became a million-seller after its release on her debut album in 1955.
While her music career earned her public notice, London also continued to appear in films, with lead roles in the film noir Crime Against Joe (1956), as well as appearing as herself in the Jayne Mansfield musical comedy The Girl Can't Help It (1956), in which London performs three songs, including "Cry Me a River". The film was a box-office success, and became one of the top-30 highest-grossing films of 1956. London subsequently appeared in a television advertisement for Marlboro cigarettes, singing the "Marlboro Song". She went on to appear in several Westerns: In 1957, she appeared in Drango playing a Southern belle harboring fugitives, followed by a starring role opposite Gary Cooper in Man of the West, a Western drama in which her character, the film's only woman, is abused and humiliated by an outlaw gang. The same year, she appeared as a pending bride in the Western Saddle the Wind, opposite Robert Taylor and John Cassavetes; London's performance received critical acclaim in The New York Times. She subsequently appeared in The Wonderful Country in 1959, opposite Robert Mitchum, in which she plays a downtrodden wife of an army major.
In 1960, London released the album Julie...At Home, which was recorded at her residence in Los Angeles. The same year, she released Around Midnight, which incorporated a larger backing band in comparison to her previous releases. She continued to release numerous albums on Liberty Records throughout the 1960s, including Whatever Julie Wants (1961), Love Letters (1962), The End of the World (1963), and All Through the Night (1965), the latter a collection of songs by Cole Porter.
Television work and final recordingsEdit
London appeared on numerous television series in the 1960s, including guest appearances on Rawhide (1960), Laramie (1960), I Spy (1965), and The Big Valley (1968). Second husband Bobby Troup and she also frequently appeared as panelists on the game shows Tattletales, Hollywood Squares, and Masquerade Party, among others, in the 1970s. On May 28, 1964, Troup and she recorded a one-hour program for Japanese television in Japan. London sang 13 of her classic songs, including "Bye Bye Blackbird", "Lonesome Road", and "Cry Me a River". She continued to release studio albums until the end of the decade, with her final studio album being Yummy, Yummy, Yummy (1969), a collection of contemporary covers of tracks by Laura Nyro, The Doors, Bob Dylan, The Beatles, and others. After this, London stopped singing professionally, as she had lost significant vocal control due to years of smoking and drinking.
London remained close with ex-husband Jack Webb, and in 1972, he cast her and Troup in his television series Emergency!, on which he was executive producer. London played Rampart General Hospital's chief emergency-room nurse, Dixie McCall, while Troup was cast as emergency-room physician Dr. Joe Early. They also appeared in the same roles in an episode of the Webb-produced series Adam-12. The on-screen friendship between London, Troup, Randolph Mantooth, and Kevin Tighe, who played paramedics Johnny Gage and Roy DeSoto, carried over into real life. London maintained her friendship with Mantooth and Tighe after the series ended.
In 1977, after a six-year run of 128 episodes, Emergency! was cancelled, despite good ratings. London, the only actress to appear in every episode of the series, was invited back for two of the four subsequent TV movie specials, before the show finally ended in 1979. During this time, London appeared in television advertisements for Rose Milk Skin Care Cream. Later, Webb offered London a position as executive producer of future television projects, but she chose to retire from the television industry work to spend more time with her family. She completed her last musical recording "My Funny Valentine" for the soundtrack of the Burt Reynolds film Sharky's Machine, in 1981.
Predominantly a torch singer, London possessed a contralto vocal range, described by critics as both "sultry" and "low-keyed." Her recordings were often noted by critics for being "intimate," typically featuring sparse guitar and bass arrangements. A BBC Legends episode noted: "Some singers sing as though they are addressing a crowd; some sing as though they are in a bar with a lot of people—[London] sings as though she's in one room, with you—and that's the difference."
Music journalist Lucy O'Brien said of London: "[In] the mid-'50s... pop [was] in a period of transition from big band swing to small jazz combos; you've got rock'n'roll, you've got R&B—and she managed to incorporate all those influences and feed that into her music. She was very much of her time." As her career progressed into the 1960s, London's recordings incorporated more elaborate instrumentation, with her vocals backed by larger ensembles.
In 1947, London married actor Jack Webb (of Dragnet fame). Their relationship was based partly on their common love of jazz. They had two daughters, Stacy and Lisa Webb. London and Webb divorced in 1954. Webb died December 23, 1982, and the couple's first daughter, Stacy, died in a traffic accident in 1996.
In 1959, London married jazz composer and musician Bobby Troup, and they remained married until his death in 1999. They had one daughter, Kelly Troup, who died in 2002, and twin sons, Jody and Reese Troup. Jody Troup died in 2010. London was also the stepmother of Cynthia and Ronne Troup, Bobby's daughters from his marriage to Cynthia Hare.
London was a chain smoker from the age of 16 onward, at some periods smoking in excess of three packs of cigarettes per day. She suffered a stroke in 1995 and was in poor health for the following five years. She died of cardiac arrest in the early morning hours of October 18, 2000, at the Encino-Tarzana Regional Medical Center in Encino, age 74. London was buried next to Troup in the Courts of Remembrance Columbarium of Providence, at Forest Lawn-Hollywood Hills Cemetery in Los Angeles. Her star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame (for recording) is at 7000 Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles.
London performed "Cry Me a River" in the film The Girl Can't Help It (1956), and her recording gained later attention for its use in the films Passion of Mind (2000) and V for Vendetta (2006). The track was ranked number 48 in NPR's list of the 50 Greatest Jazz Vocals of all time. Her albums Julie...At Home and Around Midnight (both released in 1960) were both included in the book 1,000 Recordings to Hear Before You Die. She has been named as an influence by several contemporary artists, including Lana Del Rey. Music journalist Will Friedwald referred to London as "one of the most influential stylists of the early 20th century."
Her cover of the Ohio Express song "Yummy Yummy Yummy" was featured on the HBO television series Six Feet Under and appears on its soundtrack album. London's "Must Be Catchin'" was also featured in the 2011 premiere episode of the ABC series Pan Am.
|1945||On Stage Everybody||Vivian Carlton|||
|1946||Night in Paradise||Palace Maiden||Uncredited|||
|1947||The Red House||Tibby|||
|1948||Tap Roots||Aven Dubney|||
|1949||Task Force||Barbara McKinney|||
|1950||Return of the Frontiersman||Janie Martin|||
|1951||The Fat Man||Pat Boyd|||
|1955||The Fighting Chance||Janet Wales|||
|1956||Crime Against Joe||Frances 'Slacks' Bennett|||
|1956||The Girl Can't Help It||Herself|||
|1956||The Great Man||Carol Larson|||
|1958||Saddle the Wind||Joan Blake|||
|1958||A Question of Adultery||Mary Loring|||
|1958||Voice in the Mirror||Ellen Burton|||
|1958||Man of the West||Billie Ellis|||
|1959||Night of the Quarter Moon||Ginny O'Sullivan Nelson|||
|1959||The Wonderful Country||Helen Colton|||
|1960||The 3rd Voice||Corey Scott|||
|1961||The George Raft Story||Sheila Patton|||
|1968||The Helicopter Spies||Laurie Sebastian|||
|1954||Armstrong Circle Theatre||Episode: "Hit a Blue Note" (5.15)|
|1956||The Rosemary Clooney Show||Episode 2|
|1957||The Ed Sullivan Show||(10.27)|
|1957||Zane Grey Theater||Julie||Episode: "A Time to Live" (1.25)|
|1957||Shower of Stars||Episode: "Jazz Time" (3.7)|
|1957||Playhouse 90||Angela||Episode: "Without Incident (1.36)|
|1957||Person to Person||Season 5 premiere|
|1957||The Big Record||Herself||Episode 3|
|1957–61||What's My Line?||Herself – Mystery Guest||3 episodes|
|1959||The David Niven Show||Maggie Malone||Episode: "Maggie Malone" (1.9)|
|1959||Adventures in Paradise||Dalisay Lynch||Episode: "Mission to Manilla" (1.7)|
|1960||The Red Skelton Show||Up and Coming Vocalist||Episode: "Clem the Disc Jockey" (9.13)|
|1960||Laramie||June Brown||Episode: "Queen of Diamonds" (2.1)|
|1960||Rawhide||Anne Danvers||Episode: "Incident at Rojo Canyon" (3.1)|
|1960||Michael Shayne||Anita||Episode: "Die Like a Dog" (1.3)|
|1960||Dan Raven||June Carey||Episode: "Tinge of Red" (1.12)|
|1961||Hong Kong||Penny Carroll||Episode: "Suitable for Framing" (1.14)|
|1961||The Barbara Stanwyck Show||Julie||Episode: "Night Visitors" (1.14)|
|1961||Checkmate||Libby Nolan||Episode: "Goodbye, Griff" (1.28)|
|1961||Follow the Sun||Jill Rainey||Episode: "Night Song" (1.11)|
|1962||The Jack Benny Program||Herself-Singer||Episode: "March 4, 1962"|
|1963||The Eleventh Hour||Joan Ashmond||Episode: "Like a Diamond in the Sky" (1.19)|
|1963||The Dick Powell Theatre||Linda Baxter||Episode: "Charlie's Duet" (2.25)|
|1965||The Alfred Hitchcock Hour||Barbara||Episode: "Crimson Witness" (3.12)|
|1965||The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson||Herself – Singer||Episode: "October 19, 1965"|
|1965||I Spy||Phyllis||Episode: "Three Hours on a Sunday Night" (1.12)|
|1967||The Man from U.N.C.L.E.||Laura Sebastian||Episode: "The Prince of Darkness Affair: Part II" (4.5)|
|1968||The Hollywood Squares||Herself||5 episodes|
|1968||The Big Valley||Julia Saxon||Episode: "They Called Her Delilah" (4.2)|
|1972||Adam-12||Dixie McCall, R.N.||Episode: "Lost and Found" (5.4)|
|1972–78||Emergency!||Dixie McCall, R.N.||126 episodes, (final television appearance)|
- Though some sources list her birth name as Nancy Peck, the California Birth Index corroborates her birth name as being Julie, listing the birth of Julie Peck on September 26, 1926, in Sonoma County, California, to a Mrs. Taylor. A Time magazine profile as well as her obituaries in both The Guardian and The New York Times also confirm this.
- Hal Leonard Corporation 2007, p. 20.
- Owen 2017, p. 1.
- "The Birth of Julie Peck". California Birth Index. Retrieved January 22, 2018.
- "LIFE". Time Inc. 24 February 1947: 87–. ISSN 0024-3019.
- Bergan, Ronald (October 20, 2000). "Obituary: Julie London". The Guardian. Retrieved December 30, 2017.
- Summerfield 2008, p. 43.
- "Julie London Profile". Metacritic. Retrieved December 15, 2012.
- Heaton, Lewis (dir.) (2009). "Julie London: The Lady's Not a Vamp". Legends. BBC4.
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- Owen 2017, pp. 42–7.
- Moon 2008, p. 454.
- McKnight-Trontz 1999, p. 77.
- LIFE. Time Inc. February 18, 1957. p. 74. ISSN 0024-3019.
- Owen 2017, pp. 36, 42–50.
- "Bethlehem Records - Just Out". Billboard: 56. April 13, 1957.
- Cason 2004, p. 102.
- Murrells 1978, p. 75.
- Owen 2017, pp. 56-58.
- Owen 2017, p. 58.
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- Owen 2017, p. 123.
- Loy 2004, p. 63.
- Owen 2017, pp. 76–7.
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- Owen 2017, p. 98.
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- Owen 2017, p. 243.
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- Owen 2017, p. 204.
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- Haywood, Ebony. "What is a true contralto?". Our Pastimes. Leaf Group Ltd. Archived from the original on January 22, 2018.
- Scott, John L. (February 16, 1967). "Julie Gives Her Fans an Earful". Los Angeles Times.
- Owen 2017, p. 168.
- Owen 2017, p. 173.
- Owen 2017, p. xviii.
- Staggs 2003, p. 289.
- Owen 2017, pp. 224–5.
- "Julie London". Nndb.com. Retrieved 5 August 2012.
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- Bergan, Ronald. "Obituary: Julie London". The Guardian. Guardian Media Group. Retrieved January 18, 2017.
- Owen 2017, p. 223.
- Errico, Marcus (October 18, 2000). "Emergency! Star Julie London Dies". E! News. Retrieved January 22, 2018.
- Martin, Douglas (October 19, 2000). "Julie London, Sultry Singer and Actress of 50's, Dies at 74". The New York Times. Retrieved January 5, 2011.
- "A small voice to make a big stir: Julie London gets back to movies". Life. 18 February 1957. pp. 74–78.
- "Julie London". The Times. October 19, 2000. Retrieved October 25, 2009.
- For the original niche, see Julie London at Find a Grave. See: Julie London at Find a Grave.
- Cohn, Joey (February 5, 2013). "The Mix: 50 Great Jazz Vocals". National Public Radio. Retrieved January 22, 2018.
- Dodero, Camille (December 3, 2015). "Billboard Women in Music 'Trailblazer' Lana Del Rey: 'There's Not Such a Narrow Lane for 'Pop". Billboard. Retrieved January 22, 2018.
- Friedwald 2008, p. 300.
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- Cason, Buzz (2004). Living the Rock 'n Roll Dream: The Adventures of Buzz Cason. Hal Leonard Corporation. ISBN 978-1-61780-116-7.
- Friedwald, Will (2010). A Biographical Guide to the Great Jazz and Pop Singers. Pantheon Books. ISBN 978-0-375-42149-5.
- Hal Leonard Corp. (2007). The Great American Songbook - The Singers: Music and Lyrics for 100 Standards from the Golden Age of American Song. Hal Leonard. ISBN 978-1-4584-8195-5.
- Loy, R. Philip (2004). Westerns in a Changing America, 1955–2000. McFarland. ISBN 978-0-7864-8301-3.
- McKnight-Trontz, Jennifer (1999). Exotiquarium: Album Art from the Space Age. St. Martin's Press. ISBN 978-0-312-20133-3.
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