Langford, Frances (1914—)

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Langford, Frances (1914—)

American singer and actress . Born on April 4, 1914, in Lakeland, Florida; daughter of Annie Newbern (a concert pianist); attended Southern College, Florida; married Jon Hall (an actor), on June 4, 1938 (divorced 1955); married Ralph Evinrude (a marine motor company magnate), on October 5, 1955 (died 1986); no children.


Every Night at Eight (1935); Broadway Melody of 1936 (1935); Collegiate (1936); Palm Springs (1936); Born to Dance (1936); The Hit Parade (1937); Hollywood Hotel (1938); Too Many Girls (1940); Dreaming Out Loud (1940); All-American Co-Ed (1941); Mississippi Gambler (1942); Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942); Cowboy in Manhattan (1943); This Is the Army (1943); Follow the Band (1943); Never a Dull Moment (1943); The Girl Rush (1944); Dixie Jamboree (1944); Radio Stars on Parade (1945); The Bamboo Blonde (1946); Beat the Band (1947); Make Mine Laughs (1949); Deputy Marshal (1949); Purple Heart Diary (1951); (appeared as herself) The Glenn Miller Story (1954).


"Hollywood Hotel" (CBS, c. 1936–38); "The Texaco Star Theater" (CBS, 1939–40); "American Cruise" (NBC, 1941); "The Bob Hope Pepsodent Show" (NBC, c. 1941–45); "The Bickersons" (NBC, 1946–47; CBS, 1947–48, 1951).


"Star Time" (Dumont, 1950–51); "The Frances Langford-Don Ameche Show" (ABC, 1951–52).

Album discography:

The Bickersons (with Don Ameche, Col CL-1692/CS 8492); The Bickersons (with Don Ameche, Radiola 1151); The Bickersons Fight Back (with Don Ameche, Col CL-1883/CS-8683); The Bickersons Rematch (with Don Ameche, Col G-30523); Born to Dance (CIF 3001); Collegiate (Caliban 6042); Every Night at Eight (Caliban 6043); Hollywood Hotel (EOOOH 99601, HollywoodSoundstage 5004); I Feel a Song Coming On: 1935–37 (Take Two TT 214); Old Songs for Old Friends (Cap T/ST-1865); Rainbow Rhapsody (Mer MG-25005); The Return of the Bickersons! (with Don Ameche, Radiola 3MR-4); This Is the Army (Hollywood Soundstage 408, Sandy Hook 2035); Yankee Doodle Dandy (Curtain Calls 100/13).

The daughter of concert pianist Annie Newbern , Frances Langford was born in Lakeland, Florida, in 1914, and aspired to a career as an opera singer until a tonsillectomy in 1930 turned her from a soprano into a contralto. Switching her focus to popular music, she got her first break when a millionaire cigar manufacturer heard her sing at an American Legion party and signed her for a 13-week stint on a local radio show in Tampa, Florida. Rudy Vallee heard her, was equally impressed, and offered her a guest spot on his network radio show, which led to further radio performances, a couple of musical shorts, and a small role in the stage musical Here Goes the Bride (1933), which closed after seven performances.

The turning point in Langford's career came during an engagement at New York's Waldorf-Astoria when she was asked to perform at a private party for songwriter Cole Porter. Also present that evening was Paramount producer Walter Wanger, who hired her on the spot. She made her screen debut in Every Night at Eight (1935), as one of three singers (Alice Faye and Patsy Kelly completed the trio) hoping to break into radio. Langford's solo, "I'm in the Mood for Love," became a huge hit for her, as did "I've Got You Under My Skin," a song from her subsequent movie Born to Dance (1936), which showcased the talents of Eleanor Powell . Originally sung in the film by Virginia Bruce , "Under My Skin" was recorded for Decca by Langford and came to be associated with her. A series of pleasant musicals rounded out her early film career, ending with Hollywood Hotel (1937), based on the popular radio variety show hosted by Dick Powell, on which Langford was a frequent guest.

Frances Langford found her greatest audience through radio and recordings. Voted America's number one female singer in 1938, she continued to record for Decca, and in 1939 joined "The Texaco Star Theater," the popular radio show co-starring Ken Murray and Kenny Baker. In 1941, she began a long and successful association with Bob Hope, becoming a regular on "The Bob Hope Pepsodent Show." During World War II, she joined Hope on many of his

USO tours to entertain the overseas troops, logging over 250,000 miles. Dubbed "Sweetheart to the GIs," Langford frequently put herself in harm's way, journeying to the front lines to perform, and chancing long plane flights between Allied bases. "I've had my share of close calls on these trips," she admitted, "but the rewards are worth every nervous twinge." During the later years of the war, Langford wrote a syndicated newspaper column, "Purple Hearts Diary," in which she related her experiences visiting wounded GIs. Between tours, Langford warbled her way through a number of films, the best of which were Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942), in which James Cagney created an Oscar-winning portrayal of George M. Cohan, and This Is the Army (1943), based on Irving Berlin's rousing stage musical.

Following the war, the singer played nightclubs and displayed her considerable comedic skills in the popular network radio show with Don Ameche entitled "The Bickersons" (1946–48). A comedy about a battling couple, the show had its beginnings as a sketch on an episode of the Edgar Bergen-Charlie McCarthy radio show. In 1950, she and Ameche hosted the television show "Star Time," a variety-comedy series which lasted four months. The pair emceed a second television show in 1951 that featured Jack Lemmon in a recurring domestic sketch. In 1952, Langford entertained troops in Korea. By that time, her movie career was waning; her last appearance on the screen was a guest spot in The Glenn Miller Story (1954).

A petite blue-eyed blonde, Langford was married for 17 years to actor Jon Hall who had made one film with her in 1949, the forgettable Western, Deputy Marshal. The couple divorced in 1954, and in 1955 Langford married outboard-motor tycoon Ralph Evinrude, after which she retired to private life. Her only public appearances were on an occasional television special and at "The Outrigger," a club near the 200-acre resort facility she and her husband owned and operated at Jensen Beach, Florida. During the Vietnam War, Langford once again volunteered to entertain the troops, traveling overseas in 1966, both with and without her old friend Bob Hope. In 1967, she and Don Ameche appeared together for the last time, performing one of their classic "Bickersons" skits on television's "Hollywood Palace."

Frances Langford lived quietly in Florida during the 1970s and underwent successful open-heart surgery in 1978. The singer came out of retirement in 1989 to participate in the PBS documentary "Entertaining the Troops." She opened the 90-minute program by singing "It's Been a Long Long Time" and was part of a reunion segment with Hope and other World War II entertainers. She ended the group's reminis cences with "I'm in the Mood for Love," still displaying her noted singing style.


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

Lamparski, Richard. Whatever Became of … ? 1st and 2nd Series. NY: Crown, 1967.

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

Barbara Morgan , Melrose, Massachusetts

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Langford, Frances (1914—)

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