Gaynor, Mitzi (1930—)

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Gaynor, Mitzi (1930—)

American actress, dancer, and singer who starred in the film version of South Pacific. Born Franceska Mitzie Gerber (sometimes seen Franceska Mitzi Marlene De Charney von Gerber), on September 4, 1930, in Chicago, Illinois; attended high school in Detroit, Michigan; married Jack Bean (a talent agent), on December 2, 1954.


My Blue Heaven (1950); Take Care of My Little Girl (1951); Golden Girl (1951); We're Not Married (1952); Bloodhounds of Broadway (1952); Down among the Sheltering Palms (1953); The I Don't Care Girl (1953); Three Young Texans (1954); There's No Business Like Show Business (1954); Anything Goes (1956); The Birds and the Bees (1956); The Joker Is Wild (1957); Les Girls (1957); South Pacific (1958); Happy Anniversary (1959); Surprise Package (1960); For Love or Money (1963).

Reputedly a descendant of Hungarian aristocracy, actress Mitzi Gaynor followed her mother into dancing, making her stage debut at the age of three. By the late 1940s, she was in the corps de ballet of the Los Angeles Light Opera Company where she was spotted by producer-actor George Jessel, who arranged a screen test at Twentieth Century-Fox.

Signing a term contract, Gaynor made her film debut in My Blue Heaven (1950), receiving good notices, particularly for her rendition of the song "Live Hard, Work Hard, Love Hard." She subsequently made a string of musicals for Fox, including her personal favorite, Golden Girl (1951), in which she played Lotta Crabtree , the renowned performer of the California gold-rush days. Despite her perky good looks and considerable dancing and singing ability, her films did poorly at the box office, and the studio dropped her option in 1954. That same year, she married talent agent Jack Bean, who helped get her career back on track. With a streamlined figure, blonder hair, and a more provocative image, Gaynor made a number of hit films at other studios, including Anything Goes (1956), with Bing Crosby, The Joker Is Wild, opposite Frank Sinatra, and Les Girls, co-starring Gene Kelly and Kay Kendall (both 1957). Gaynor was chosen by director Joshua Logan for the coveted role of nurse Nellie Forbush in the much-heralded film version of South Pacific (Mary Martin , who introduced Forbush to Broadway, was considered too old), but the movie was a failure and actually damaged her career. She tried to come back with a few romantic comedies, but by 1963 her days in film were over. "The movie musical thing was finished," she said, "the contract players were flooding the streets, and I was just part of the backwash."

Experimenting in other entertainment media, Gaynor appeared on television and initiated a nightclub act in which she sang, danced, and performed comedy skits. Opening in Las Vegas in July 1961, she continued to entertain at clubs. When she performed at the Westbury Music Fair in October 1979, Newsday praised her versatility. "She's not just a straight hoofer

and singer, but a first-rate musical comedienne, injecting wit and humor into her act that comes out charmingly." During the 1960s and 1970s, Gaynor made ten televisions specials, including her most elaborate "Mitzi and a Hundred Guys," which included guest appearances by Michael Landon, Bill Bixby, Andy Griffith, Monte Hall, and Bob Hope. As late as 1989, Gaynor was embarking on a 36-city national tour of the musical Anything Goes. "I got my Social Security card when I was twelve," she said at the time, "and I haven't been out of work a single day since then."


Katz, Ephraim. The Film Encyclopedia. NY: Harper-Collins, 1994.

Parish, James Robert, and Michael R. Pitts. Hollywood Songsters. NY: Garland, 1991.