Thursday, May 5, 2011

Happy Birthday: Alice Faye!

Alice Faye (May 5, 1915 – May 9, 1998). Faye's acting career began in vaudeville as a chorus girl, before she moved to Broadway and performed in the film, White's Scandals(1931). By this time, she was performing for radio audience with, Rudy Vallée's, The Fleischmann Hour (1932–1934), where she may have met her future husband Phil Harris.

She received her first major film break, when Lilian Harvey left the lead role in a film, Scandals(1935), in which Vallee, also performed. Faye received a makeover, which turned her from a singing version of Jean Harlow, to a softer look. Soon after, Faye performed in what many critics consider her best acting performance in the film, In Old Chicago(1937). The film was a recreation of the Great Chicago Fire, there was a scene so dangerous that women, except for the main stars, were banned from the set.

Faye, received wonderful reviews for her performance in the film, Alexander's Ragtime Band(1938). It was the musical which changed the status of musicals as light and fluffy to a respectable film genre. One of the most expensive films for its time, it also became one of the most successful musicals of the 1930s.

In 1939, she made the film, Rose of Washington Square with Tyrone Power. Although a big hit, the film was based on the real life of comedienne Fanny Brice, who sued Fox for stealing her story.

In 1940, Faye played the title role in the musical biopic, Lillian Russell. Faye always named this film as one of her personal favorites, but it was also her most challenging role. The tight corsets Faye wore for this picture caused Faye to collapse on the set several times and it shrunk her waist six inches.

After turning down the lead role, Down Argentine Way, Faye was teamed up with the studio's newest musical star, Betty Grable, in the film Tin Pan Alley. During the making of the picture, a rumor began that there was a rivalry between Faye and Grable. Between 1940 and 1945, Grable made more films than Faye and Grable was named the #1 box office star in the world. However, both actresses were very close friends and they never felt any rivalry between each other.

She frequently played a performer, often one moving up in society, allowing for situations that ranged from the serious to the comic. Films such as Weekend in Havana (1941) and That Night in Rio (1941), as a Brazilian aristocrat, showcased Faye's singing voice, comic timing, and flair for carrying off the era's romantic story lines. 1943's The Gang's All Here, might be the best example of these films, with lavish production and a range of supporting players (including Carmen Miranda in the indescribable "Lady in the Tutti-Frutti Hat" number) that camouflage the film's trivial plot and leisurely pacing.

In 1943, after taking a year off to have her first daughter, Faye starred in the musical Hello, Frisco, Hello. Released at the height of World War II, the film became another one of Faye's personal favorites and one of her highest-grossing pictures for Fox. It was in this film that Faye sang "You'll Never Know." The song won the Academy Award for Best Song for 1943 and the sheet music for the song sold over a million copies. However, since there was a clause in her contract stating that she could not officially record any of her movie songs.

As Faye's family life became more important to her, especially with the arrival of a second daughter. Faye signed a new contract with Fox to make only one picture a year, with the option of a second one.

Released in 1945, Fallen Angel was Faye's last film. Seventeen years after the Fallen Angel, Faye performed for the cameras again, in 1962's State Fair. Faye made only infrequent cameo appearances in films thereafter.

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