He was a big band singer, a movie star, a star on radio, a nightclub performer and a recording artist.
He was one of the few crooners to have a sustained Hollywood screen career. He was in no way as imposing as Bing Crosby, but he was reasonably close during his Hollywood prime from the mid-Thirties to the mid-Fifties.
And, no, Tony Martin was not of Italian descent. He was born in San Francisco in 1913 under the undoubtedly anglicized surname of Morris — Alvin Morris. His parents were Polish immigrants.
He took to music early, forming a high school band called the Red Peppers. By then he was a reasonably accomplished saxophonist, which enabled a job with local orchestra led by Tom Gerun. (Bandmates included a then unknown Woody Herman.)
Mid-Thirties Hollywood soon became the working home of (now) Tony Martin. Thus began two decades of largely successful frothy musical films such as 1936’s Follow The Fleet, 1946’s Till The Clouds Roll By, 1941’s The Big Store and 1955’s Hit The Deck…
Notably, Martin nicely vocalizes Lover Come Back To Me in 1954’s Deep In My Heart, a biopic of composer Sigmund Romberg with an all-star cast headed by Jose Ferrer.
Martin also made waves offscreen by marrying two of classic Hollywood’s notable names. First wife was 20th Century Fox diva, Alice Faye. She was married to Martin from 1937 until 1941. (For a photo of the happy young couple, see below).
(Faye’s second husband was Phil Harris. They married in 1941. The union lasted until his death in 1995. Faye died three years later at age 83.)
Then, wife No. 2 was Cyd Charisse. Her marriage to the crooner lasted 60 years until her death in 2008 at the age of 86. (Martin lived on to 2012 when he died at age 98.)
Martin successfully parlayed his screen on tv and in Las Vegas. He appeared often in most of the prime time entertainment programs, and hosted from 1954-56 a weekly 15-minute variety series on NBC. He was a huge draw in Las Vegas where his personal appearances commanded in the late Fifties some $25,000 weekly — making Martin the gambling mecca’s highest paid performer at the time.