Hubert Prior "Rudy" Vallée (July 28, 1901 – July 3, 1986) was an American singer, actor, bandleader and radio host.
|Birth name||Hubert Prior Vallée|
July 28, 1901|
Island Pond, Vermont, United States
|Died||July 3, 1986
Los Angeles, California, United States
|Occupation(s)||Singer, actor, bandleader, entertainer|
|Labels||Harmony, Victor, Hit of the Week, Columbia, Bluebird, Melotone|
He was one of the first modern pop stars of the teen idol type. In the words of a magazine writer in 1929, "At the microphone he is truly a romantic figure. Faultlessly attired in evening dress, he pours softly into the radio's delicate ear a stream of mellifluous melody. He appears to be coaxing, pleading and at the same time adoring the invisible one to whom his song is attuned."
Rudy Vallée was born Hubert Prior Vallée in Island Pond, Vermont, the son of Charles Alphonse Vallée and Catherine née Lynch. Both of his parents were born and raised in Vermont; but his grandparents were immigrants. The Vallées were Francophone Canadians from neighboring Quebec, while the Lynches were from Ireland. Vallée grew up in Westbrook, Maine.
In 1917, he decided to enlist for World War I, but was discharged when the Navy authorities found out that he was only 15. He enlisted in Portland, Maine, on March 29, 1917, under the false birthdate of July 28, 1899. He was discharged at the Naval Training Station, Newport, Rhode Island, on May 17, 1917, with 41 days of active service.
After playing drums in his high school band, Vallée played clarinet and saxophone in various bands around New England as a teenager. From 1924 through 1925, he played with the Savoy Havana Band at the Savoy Hotel in London, where his fellow band members discouraged his attempts to become a vocalist. He then returned to the United States, briefly attending the University of Maine, before going on to obtain a degree in philosophy from Yale University, where he played in the Yale Collegians with future New Yorker cartoonist Peter Arno.
After graduation, he formed his own band, "Rudy Vallée and the Connecticut Yankees", having named himself after influential saxophonist Rudy Wiedoeft. With this band, which featured two violins, two saxophones, a piano, a banjo and drums, he started singing (supposedly reluctantly at first). He had a rather thin, wavering tenor voice and seemed more at home singing sweet ballads than jazz numbers. However, his singing, together with his suave manner and boyish good looks, attracted great attention, especially from young women. Vallée was given a recording contract and in 1928, he started performing on the radio.
Vallée became the most prominent, and arguably the first, of a new style of popular singer, the crooner. Previously, popular singers needed strong projecting voices to fill theaters in the days before the electric microphone. Crooners had soft voices that were well suited to the intimacy of the new medium of the radio. Vallée's trombone-like vocal phrasing on "Deep Night" would inspire later crooners such as Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, and Perry Como to model their voices on jazz instruments.
Vallée also became what was perhaps the first complete example of the 20th century mass media pop star. Flappers mobbed him wherever he went. His live appearances were usually sold out, and even if his singing could hardly be heard in those venues not yet equipped with the new electronic microphones, his screaming female fans went home happy if they had caught sight of his lips through the opening of the emblematic megaphone he often sang through. A brief caricature of him in the Fleischer Brothers' color Betty Boop theatrical short cartoon from 1934 Poor Cinderella depicts him singing through a megaphone. Another caricature is found in Crosby, Columbo, and Vallee, a cartoon which parodies the popularity of himself, Bing Crosby, and Russ Columbo.
His success was marveled and scoffed at during its height. Radio Revue, a radio fan magazine, held a contest in which people wrote letters explaining his success. The winning letter, written by a gentleman who did not particularly care for Vallee's music, said: "Rudy Vallee is reaping the harvest of a seed that is seldom sown this day and age: LOVE. The good-looking little son-of-a-gun really and honestly LOVES his audience and his art. He LOVES to please listeners—LOVES it more than he does his name in the big lights, his mug in the papers. He loved all those unseen women as passionately as a voice can love, long before they began to purr and to caress him with two-cent stamps."
Vallée's recording career began in 1928 recording for Columbia Records' cheap labels (Harmony, Velvet Tone, and Diva). He signed to Victor in February 1929 and remained with them through to late 1931, leaving after a heated dispute with company executives over title selections. He then recorded for the short-lived, but extremely popular "Hit of the Week" label (which sold records laminated onto cardboard). In August 1932, he signed with Columbia (where they gave him a special designed label) and stayed with them through 1933; he returned to Victor in June 1933. His records were issued on Victor's new budget label, Bluebird, until November 1933 when he was moved up to the full-priced Victor label. He stayed with Victor until signing with ARC in 1936, who released his records on their Perfect, Melotone, Conqueror and Romeo labels until 1937 when he returned to Victor.
Along with his group, The Connecticut Yankees, Vallée's best-known popular recordings included: "The Stein Song" (aka University of Maine fighting song) in 1929 and "Vieni, Vieni" in the latter 1930s. Vallée sang fluently in three Mediterranean languages,[which?] and always varied the keys, thus paving the way for later pop crooners such as Dean Martin, Andy Williams and Vic Damone. Another memorable rendition of his is "Life Is Just a Bowl of Cherries", in which he imitates Willie Howard's voice in the final chorus. One of his record hits was "The Drunkard Song", popularly known as "There Is a Tavern in the Town." Vallée couldn't stop laughing for the last couple of verses – supposedly he struggled to keep a straight face at the corny lyrics, and the band members egged him on. He managed a second take reasonably well. The "laughing" version was so infectious, however, that Victor released both takes (take 1 was issued on Victor 24721 with a regular Victor label, and take 2 was issued on Victor 24739 on a special white label that read in bright red: "Dear Rudy, What do you say we let the public have this one? The slip-up makes the record sound funnier" – E. Wallerstein" and "O.K. – R. Vallée".)
Vallée's last hit song was the 1943 reissue of the melancholy ballad "As Time Goes By", popularized in the feature film Casablanca in 1943 (due to the mid-1940s recording ban, Victor reissued the version he had recorded 12 years earlier). During World War II, Vallée enlisted in the United States Coast Guard to help direct the 11th district Coast Guard band as a Chief Petty Officer. Eventually he was promoted to Lieutenant and led the 40 piece band to great success. In 1944 he was placed on the inactive list and he returned to radio.
Vallée's song compositions and adaptations included "Oh! Ma-Ma! (The Butcher Boy)" in 1938, recorded by Glenn Miller and his Orchestra, "Deep Night", which was recorded by Duke Ellington and his Orchestra, "If You Haven't Got a Girl", "Violets", "Where To", "Will You Remember Me?", "We'll Never Get Drunk Any More", "Sweet Summer Breeze", "Actions Speak Louder Than Words", "Ask Not", "Forgive Me", "Charlie Cadet", "Somewhere in Your Heart", "You Took Me Out of This World", "Old Man Harlem" with Hoagy Carmichael, which was recorded by the Dorsey Brothers band, "I'm Just a Vagabond Lover", and "Betty Co-Ed".
By the late 1930s, Vallée's voice had grown considerably deeper and more robust, noticeable when compared to the gentle tenor voice of his early recordings. His voice had shifted to baritone by middle age. In 1967 he recorded a new record album called "Hi-Ho Everybody." It was produced by Snuff Garrett and Ed Silvers for Dot Records on its Viva label; arranged by Al Capps. The engineers were Dave Hassinger and Henry Leroy. Included on the album were songs: "Winchester Cathedral", "Michelle", "My Blue Heaven", "Sweetheart of Sigma Chi", "Who Likes Good Pop Music?", "Bluebird", "Who", "Lady Godiva", "Mame", "The Whiffenpoof Song", "Strangers in The Night", and "One of Those Songs".
In 1929, Vallée began hosting The Fleischmann's Yeast Hour, a very popular radio show at the time that featured various film performers of the era, such as Fay Wray and Richard Cromwell in dramatic skits. Vallée continued hosting popular radio variety shows through the 1930s and 1940s, such as the Royal Gelatin Hour, Vallee Varieties, and The Rudy Vallee Show.
When Vallée took his contractual vacations from his national radio show in 1937, he insisted his sponsor hire Louis Armstrong as his substitute (this was the first instance of an African-American fronting a national radio program). Vallée also wrote the introduction for Armstrong's 1936 book Swing That Music.
In 1929, Vallée made his first feature film, The Vagabond Lover for RKO Radio. His first films were made to cash in on his singing popularity. While his initial performances were rather wooden, his acting greatly improved in the late 1930s and 1940s, and by the time he began working with Preston Sturges in the 1940s, he had become a successful comedic supporting player. He appeared opposite Claudette Colbert in Sturges's 1942 screwball comedy The Palm Beach Story. Other films in which he appeared include I Remember Mama, Unfaithfully Yours and The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer.
In 1955, Vallée was featured in Gentlemen Marry Brunettes, co-starring Jane Russell, Alan Young, and Jeanne Crain. The production was filmed on location in Paris. The film was based on the Anita Loos novel that was a sequel to her acclaimed Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Gentlemen Marry Brunettes was popular throughout Europe at the time and was released in France as A Paris Pour les Quatre ("Paris for the Four"), and in Belgium as Tevieren Te Parijs.
Vallée performed on Broadway as J.B. Biggley in the 1961 musical How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying and reprised the role in the 1967 film version. He appeared in the campy 1960s Batman television show as the villain Lord Marmaduke Ffogg and in 1971 made a television appearance as a vindictive surgeon in the Night Gallery episode "Marmalade Wine." He toured with a one-man theater show into the 1980s, occasionally opening for The Village People.
Vallée was married four times:
- Leonie Cauchois (May 11, 1928 – 1928)
- Fay Webb (July 6, 1931 – May 20, 1936) (divorced)
- Jane Greer (December 2, 1943 – July 27, 1944) (divorced)
- Eleanor Norris (September 3, 1949 – July 1986) (his death)
Eleanor wrote a memoir, My Vagabond Lover.
Vallée was known for possessing a quick temper and for using foul language, especially during rehearsals. Longtime NBC announcer George Ansbro wrote in his memoirs that Vallée "had quite a temper and a very foul mouth...Almost always the butt of his nastiness was the orchestra...his outbursts were mean-spirited, and he didn't care who overheard". Alton Cook, however, wrote that "Rudy Vallee may be fuming at his orchestra, but a Vallee hour rehearsal never quite loses its air of being a gathering of old friends...Rudy is grimly serious about rehearsal. He sometimes has his band spend a quarter-hour going over one short passage that doesn't satisfy him. On those occasions his temper wears thin..."
During his divorce from Fay Webb, Webb alleged that "Vallee is possessed of a violent, vicious and ungovernable temper, and given to the use of blasphemy and the use of intemperate, vile and vituperative language, particularly when applied to [her]". She also accused him of committing adultery with three women, including actress Alice Faye. Vallée denied the allegations and the judge found that Vallée "was not guilty of any misconduct or maltreatment of [Webb] which detrimentally affected [her] health, physical or medical condition".
Vallée got into a fistfight with producer George White on the set of George White's Scandals. Dorothy Brooks wrote in 1936, "Other stars on the air have their troubles, their disagreements, and yet you don't read about their ending in black eyes. Only Rudy Vallee seems to figure in endings of this kind." In an interview with Brooks, Vallée claimed he found fighting "savage and stupid" and "the wrong way to try to solve problems, because it never solves them." When asked why he got into fights, he replied, "I just lost my temper. I'll admit I have a too-quick temper."
Vallée died of cancer at his home on July 3, 1986 while watching the televised centennial ceremonies of the restored Statue of Liberty. His wife said his last words were: "I wish we could be there; you know how I love a party". He is interred in St. Hyacinth's Cemetery in Westbrook, Maine.
|1929||Rudy Vallee and His Connecticut Yankees||Himself||Vitaphone Varieties #771;
Lost film (soundtrack survives, containing the songs "Deep Night" and "Outside")
|1929||The Vagabond Lover||Rudy Bronson|
|1929||Glorifying the American Girl||Himself|
|1931||Kitty from Kansas City||Himself|
|1932||The Musical Doctor||Dr. Vallee|
|1932||Rudy Vallee Melodies||Himself|
|1934||George White's Scandals||Jimmy Martin|
|1934||Hollywood on Parade # B-9||Himself|
|1935||Sweet Music||Skip Houston|
|1938||Gold Diggers in Paris||Terry Moore||Alternative title: The Gay Impostors|
|1939||Second Fiddle||Roger Maxwell|
|1941||Time Out for Rhythm||Daniel "Danny" Collins|
|1942||The Palm Beach Story||John D. Hackensacker III|
|1943||Happy Go Lucky||Alfred Monroe|
|1945||Man Alive||Gordon Tolliver|
|1946||People Are Funny||Ormsby Jamison|
|1946||The Fabulous Suzanne||Hendrick Courtney, Jr.|
|1947||The Sin of Harold Diddlebock||Lynn Sargent||Alternative title: Mad Wednesday|
|1947||The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer||Tommy||Alternative title: Bachelor Knight|
|1948||I Remember Mama||Dr. Johnson|
|1948||Unfaithfully Yours||August Henshler|
|1949||Mother Is a Freshman||John Heaslip||Alternative title: Mother Knows Best|
|1949||The Beautiful Blonde from Bashful Bend||Charles Hingleman|
|1949||Father Was a Fullback||Mr. Roger "Jess" Jessup|
|1949||My Dear Secretary||Charles Harris|
|1950||The Admiral Was a Lady||Peter Pedigrew (Jukebox king)|
|1954||Ricochet Romance||Worthington Higgenmacher|
|1955||Gentlemen Marry Brunettes||Himself|
|1957||The Helen Morgan Story||Himself||Alternative titles: Both Ends of the Candle
Why Was I Born?
|1967||How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying||J.B. Biggley|
|1968||Live a Little, Love a Little||Louis Penlow|
|1968||The Night They Raided Minsky's||Narrator|
|1975||Sunburst||Proprietor||Alternative title: Slashed Dreams|
|1976||Won Ton Ton, the Dog Who Saved Hollywood||Autograph Hound|
|1956–1957||December Bride||Himself||2 episodes|
|1957||The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour||Himself||1 episode|
|1967||Batman||Lord Marmaduke Ffogg||3 episodes|
|1969||Petticoat Junction||Herbert A. Smith||Episode: "But I've Never Been In Erie, Pa"|
|1970||Here's Lucy||Himself||1 episode|
|1971||Night Gallery||Dr. Francis Deeking||1 episode|
|1971–1972||Alias Smith and Jones||Winford Fletcher||2 episodes|
|1976||Ellery Queen||Alvin Winer||Episode: "The Adventure of the Tyrant of Tin Pan Alley"|
|1979||CHiPs||Arthur Forbinger||Episode: "Pressure Point"|
|1984||Santa Barbara||Elderly Con||1 episode|
In the process of being painted by Rolf Armstrong on November 21, 1929
1930 caricature from Photoplay
Advertisement for Old Gold Cigarettes with a fabricated biography
Kitty from Kansas City (1931)
- "What is the Secret of Rudy Vallee's Success?". Radio Revue. New York: Radio Revue, Inc. December 1929. Retrieved November 7, 2015.
- Maine Military Men, 1917–1918 [database online available through . This database was abstracted from "Roster of Maine in the Military Service of the U.S. and Allies in the World War, 1917–1919." Vol I–II. Augusta, Maine, U.S.A., n.p., 1929].
- Rust, Brian, "The Savoy Havana at the Savoy Hotel, London", sleeve notes to disc 2 of World Record Club LP set SH165/6, issued 1971
- "Cartoonist Peter Arno of the New Yorker Dies". The Milwaukee Journal. February 23, 1968. Part 1, p. 20.
- How Rudy Wiedoeft's Saxophobia Launched the Saxual Revolution
- Whitcomb, Ian. "The Coming of the Crooners". Sam Houston University. Retrieved June 24, 2010.
- Vallée's cameo in Poor Cinderella is at 7:10–7:24, viewable at https://archive.org/details/Betty_Boop_Poor_Cinderella_1934
- Hansen, Martin (January 1930). "Mere Man Wins First Prize in Rudy Vallee Contest". Radio Revue. New York: Radio Revue, Inc. Retrieved November 7, 2015.
- Grace, Mary P. (May 1935). "An Open Letter to Mrs. Rudy Vallee". Radio Stars. New York: Dell Publishing, Co. Retrieved December 2, 2015.
- "The Maine Stein Song by Rudy Vallée Songfacts".
- Gilliland, John (1994). Pop Chronicles the 40s: The Lively Story of Pop Music in the 40s (audiobook). ISBN 978-1-55935-147-8. OCLC 31611854. Tape 1, side A.
- USCG: Frequently Asked Questions. Uscg.mil. Retrieved on 2012-01-30.
- Palm Springs Walk of Stars by date dedicated Archived October 13, 2012, at the Wayback Machine.
- Features Archives. onhifi.com (March 1, 2002). Retrieved on 2012-01-30.
- Skelton, Scott; Astin, Jim Benson ; with a foreword by John (1999). Rod Serling's Night gallery : an after-hours tour (1st ed.). Syracuse, New York: Syracuse University Press. p. 159. ISBN 0-8156-0535-8.
- "Rudy Vallee – Biography". IMDb. IMDb.com, Inc. 2016. Retrieved February 14, 2016.
- C. Stewart Doty, "Rudy Vallee: Franco-American and Man from Maine", Maine Historical Society Quarterly 1993 33(1): 2–19
- Ansbro, George (2000). I Have a Lady in the Balcony: Memoirs of a Broadcaster in Radio and Television. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company. p. 89. ISBN 9780786443185. Retrieved January 15, 2016.
- Cook, Alton (April 18, 1937). "Rudy Accts Like Real Tough Guy". The Pittsburgh Press. Retrieved January 15, 2016.
- Fay Webb Vallee v. Hubert Prior Vallee. Retrieved January 15, 2016.
- Brooks, Dorothy (August 1936). "Why I Always Have to Fight". Radio Mirror. Broadway, New York: Macfadden Publications, Inc. Retrieved December 31, 2015.
- LA Times, July 4, 1986
- Rudy Vallée at Find a Grave
- Picking, Patrick (2007). "Vitaphone Thrills the World During Event-Filled Year". The Vitaphone Project. Patrick J. Picking. Retrieved February 14, 2016.
- "Rudy Vallee & His Connecticut Yankees Vitaphone". SoundCloud. Vitaphone. 2012. Retrieved February 14, 2016.
- McCracken, Allison. "Real Men Don't Sing Ballads (Section:The Rise and Fall of Rudy Vallée)". In Wojcik, Pamela Robertson; Knight, Arthur. Soundtrack Available: Essays on Film and Popular Music. Duke University Press. pp. 113–. ISBN 0-8223-2797-X. Retrieved December 21, 2016.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Rudy Vallee.|
- Rudy Vallée Official Website
- Rudy Vallée on IMDb
- Rudy Vallée at the Internet Broadway Database
- Rudy Vallée at AllMusic
- Rudy Vallee Collection at the American Radio Archive located at the Thousand Oaks Library
- Rudy Vallée at Virtual History
- A collection of rare aluminum transcription discs of some of Vallée's radio broadcasts is housed in the Great American Songbook Foundation archives
- Rudy Vallée interviewed by Mike Wallace on The Mike Wallace Interview February 22, 1958
- The Royal Desserts Hour with Rudy Vallée (May 5, 1938) (one hour in)
- Recordings on Standard Labels at the Internet Archive
- Recordings on Discount Labels at the Internet Archive
- More recordings (including unreleased personal recordings) at the Internet Archive