Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Rudy Vallée

Rudy Vallée (July 28, 1901 – July 3, 1986). From 1924 through 1925, he played with the Savoy Havana Band at the Savoy Hotel in London. He then returned to the States to obtain a degree in Philosophy from Yale and to form his own band, "Rudy Vallée and the Connecticut Yankees."his band featured two violins, two saxophones, a piano, a banjo and drums. He was given a recording contract and in 1928, he started performing on the radio.

Vallée became the first of a new style of singer, called the crooner. Singers at the time, needed strong projecting voices to fill theaters before they had microphones. Crooners had soft voices that were perfect for radio. Vallée's trombone-like vocal phrasing on "Deep Night" would later inspire Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, and Perry Como.

In 1929, Vallée made his first feature film, The Vagabond Lover. A comedy/drama/musical about a small-town boy who finds fame and romance when he joins a dance band. The film is directed by Marshall Neiland and is based on the novel of the same name, written by James Ashmore Creelman who also wrote the screenplay for the film.

Overtime Vallée's, acting improved in the late 1930s and 1940s. Also in 1929, Vallée began hosting The Fleischmann's Yeast Hour, a very popular radio show at the time.

He signed to Victor in February 1929 and remained with them through to late 1931, leaving after a dispute over title selections. He then recorded the extremely popular "Hit of the Week" label. In August 1932, he signed with Columbia and stayed with them through 1933, he returned to Victor in June 1933. His records were issued on Victor's new label, Bluebird, until November 1933 when he was moved up to Victor label. He stayed with Victor until signing with ARC in 1936, who released his records on their Perfect, Melotone, Conqueror and Romeo labels until 1937 when he returned to Victor.

Vallée continued hosting popular radio variety shows through the 1930s and 1940s. The Royal Gelatin Hour featured many film performers of the era, such as Fay Wray and Richard Cromwell.

Along with his group, The Connecticut Yankees, Vallée's best known popular recordings included: "The Stein Song" (aka University of Maine fighting song) in 1929 and "Vieni, Vieni" in the latter 1930s. Vallée sang fluently in three Mediterranean languages, and always varied the keys, paving the way for, Dean Martin, Andy Williams and Vic Damone. Another memorable rendition of his is "Life Is Just a Bowl of Cherries", in which he imitates Willie Howard's voice in the final chorus. One of his record hits was "The Drunkard Song," popularly known as "There Is a Tavern in the Town." Vallée couldn't stop laughing during the first take, and managed a second take reasonably well. The "laughing" version was so infectious, however, that Victor released both takes.

Vallée's last hit song was the 1943 reissue of the melancholy ballad "As Time Goes By", made popular in the film, Casablanca(1943). The best example I could find is the video below with Frank Sinatra singing "As Time Goes By".

During World War II, Vallée enlisted in the Coast Guard to help direct the 11th district Coast Guard band as a Chief Petty Officer. Eventually he was promoted to Lieutenant and led the 40 piece band to great success. In 1944 he was placed on the inactive list and he returned to radio.

When Vallée took his contractual vacations from his national radio show in 1937, he insisted his sponsor hire Louis Armstrong as his substitute(this was the first instance of an African-American fronting a national radio program). Vallée also wrote the introduction for Armstrong's 1936 book Swing That Music.

He appeared opposite Claudette Colbert in the comedy, The Palm Beach Story(1942). The story is about an inventor needs money to develop his idea. His wife, decides to raise it for him by divorcing him and marrying a millionaire.

Other films in which he appeared include, I Remember Mama, Unfaithfully Yours and The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer.

In 1955, Vallée was featured in, Gentlemen Marry Brunettes, co-starring Jane Russell, Alan Young, and Jeanne Crain. The production was filmed on location in Paris. The film was based on the Anita Loos novel that was a sequel to her acclaimed Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.

In 1971 he made a television appearance as a vindictive surgeon in the Night Gallery episode "Marmalade Wine."

In middle age, Vallée's voice matured into a robust baritone. He performed on Broadway in the show, How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying and appeared in the film of the same name. He appeared in the 1960s Batman television show as the character "Lord Marmaduke FFogg".

Rudy Vallee's song compositions included "Oh! Ma-Ma! (The Butcher Boy)" in 1938, recorded by Glenn Miller and his Orchestra, "Deep Night", which was recorded by Duke Ellington and his Orchestra, "If You Haven't Got a Girl", "Violets", "Where To", "Will You Remember Me?", "We'll Never Get Drunk Any More", "Sweet Summer Breeze", "Actions Speak Louder Than Words", "Ask Not", "Forgive Me", "Charlie Cadet", "Somewhere In Your Heart", "You Took Me Out Of This World", "Old Man Harlem" with Hoagy Carmichael, which was recorded by the Dorsey Brothers band, "I'm Just a Vagabond Lover", and "Betty Co-Ed".

In 1967 Rudy Vallee recorded a new record album. Called "Hi-Ho Everybody" it was produced by Snuff Garrett and Ed Silvers for Dot Records on its Viva label; arranged by Al Capps. The engineers were Dave Hassinger and Henry Leroy. Included on the album were songs: "Winchester Cathedral", "Michelle", "My Blue Heaven", "Sweet Heart of Sigma Chi", "Who Likes Good Pop Music?", "Bluebird", "Who", "Lady Godiva", "Mame", The Wiffenpoof Song", "Strangers in The Night", and "One of Those Songs".

Vallée was married briefly to actress Jane Greer, but that ended in divorce in 1944. His previous marriage to Leonie Cauchois was annulled and the one to Fay Webb ended in divorce. After divorcing Jane Greer, he married Eleanor Norris in 1946, who wrote a memoir, My Vagabond Lover.

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