We love getting emails from readers since the ones we do get are usually insightful, constructively critical and broaden our knowledge of a given subject.
Today’s Dick Haymes blog, based a our March 20, 2012 From Big Band Singer To Movie Star — Remembering Dick Haymes piece, is a case in point.
As we mentioned, 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.
The most famous of the bunch, of course, is Frank Sinatra. But there was another VERRY popular Big Band Singer of the 40s who also became (for a time) a top box office movie star, Dick Haymes. (Our 2012 article contained photos of both Sinatra and 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.
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. There he is with Rita above.)
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.
We welcome the following insight into Haymes and his personal travails from reader John Burls:
You record that Dick Haymes turned to tv and nightclubs when his movie career vanished. There’s an interesting coincidence in your feature with the Sinatra photo above Haymes.
Haymes fled to the UK with a very large US tax debt. He was picked up by the big Bernard Delfont agency, but got a bad reputation for drinking and losing engagements. Got a booking for the big Chequers Nightclub in Sydney, Australia and lasted a week before being drunk onstage and fired.
Went back to the UK, re-married, couldn’t return to the USA because of (his) tax matter, but desperately wanted to and by chance someone in Sinatra’s management, who was in London, found out about it and next thing Haymes was cleared to return to the States, the tax matter cleared up and all expenses for he and family to return were paid.
Mike Sullivan from Bernard Delfont’s (who looked after Haymes) told me that Sinatra paid the Inland Revenue people and all the expenses and arranged for Haymes to be booked in at the Coconut Grove, upon his return.
The Rat Pack and friends filled the opening night and Sinatra had arranged for Les Brown and his Band of Renown and the Modernaires, to do the backing. I know that happened because I have the recording.
Just thought what a coincidence that you have Sinatra’s pic over the Haymes story.
While in Australia and later, I got to know Rich quite well (he hated being called Dick). He was certainly a very hard drinker.
I was also told that Sinatra got his own management team to organize cameo roles for Haymes in many of the then current US tv shows. I caught a couple of them.
Many thanks for this, John. Your missive provides insight not only into Haymes but also Sinatra, displaying a side of him that is not often recognized.