There were many famous Big Band Singers of the 1940s. Many went on to have successful recording careers, many appeared in films, recreating their big band hit songs, but only a very few made the transition to movie star.
Hello,everybody. Mr. Joe Morella and Mr. Frank Segers back again. And as every film buff knows, Mrs. Norman Maine (in the 1954 version of A Star is Born) made the spectacular transition from band singer to Star.
But how many real life singers have?
The most famous of the bunch, of course, is Frank Sinatra. But there was another VERY popular Big Band Singer of the 40s who also became (for a time) a top box office movie star. Dick Haymes.
Ironically, Haymes had followed Sinatra several times. He replaced him as the singer with Harry James’ Orchestra, then later replaced him as the singer with Tommy Dorsey’s Orchestra. Then when the movies made Sinatra a star, the studios figured they could do the same with Haymes.
He was signed by 20th Century Fox. His breakthough film was 1944’s Four Jills and a Jeep, a musical romance with Kay Francis and Martha Raye. Then the studio starred him opposite their top leading ladies, June Haver and Betty Grable. His recording career flourished as well. Many of his hit records were duets with fellow band singer Helen Forrest.
Haymes was in the cast of 1945’s State Fair. He also appeared with Ava Gardner in 1948’s One Touch of Venus for Universal. Although an excellent singer, he is probably best remembered today for the women he married. He had exquisite taste. His wives included actresses Joanne Dru, Fran Jeffries, Nora Eddington (who’d been married to Errol Flynn) and, most notably, Rita Hayworth. (In all, Haymes made six trips to the marital altar.)
The marriage to Hayworth generated the most publicity. He was her fourth husband and, according to writer-reporter Bob Thomas, the union came about (in 1953) because she felt sorry for him when he came to visit her Hawaii during the filming of ‘Miss Sadie Thompson.’
The trip brought him under the threat of deportation since he was an Argentine citizen (Haymes was born in 1918 in Buenos Aires) and had not notified authorities that he was traveling to an American territory. Rita married him to eliminate the possibility that he would be deported.
Soon Dick Haymes was dictating the style of Rita’s hair, her costumes in films, the kinds of roles she should play. Haymes also volunteered to produce Rita’s pictures and to costar opposite her. It was more than …Cohn could bear, wrote Thomas in his 1967 biography ‘King Cohn: The Life and Times of Hollywood Mogul Harry Cohn‘ (the dictatorial boss of Columbia Pictures where Rita was under contract).
(For much more on the blessedly short (1953-to-1955) Haymes-Hayworth union, take at look at Joe’s 1983 biography, Rita: The Life of Rita Hayworth, co-authored by Edward Z. Epstein.)
After his film career was over — Haymes last movie was 1976’s Won Ton Ton: The Dog Who Saved Hollywood, joining a platoon of Hollywood veterans in the cast — he turned to tv and nightclubs. He was a notorious alcoholic and died at 61.