Tony Martin - Actor and singer who had a string of hit records and married Cyd Charisse

 

A singer whose warm baritone and casual, debonair style made him one
of the most popular crooners of his era, Tony Martin had a long career
as a cabaret star, recording artist, and screen actor, noted
particularly for his handsome appearance and seductive way with a
ballad.

Songs with which he became identified included Cole Porter's "Begin the Beguine", which he delivered in an intense crescendo of passion that regularly stopped the show during his nightclub performances, and three songs he introduced in movies: "The Tenement Symphony", which he sang in the Marx Brothers vehicle The Big Store (1941), "You Stepped Out of a Dream", with which he serenaded a bevy of beauties in Ziegfeld Girl (1941), and the Oscar-nominated "For Every Man There's A Woman", from Casbah (1948). His romantic aura was enhanced by his marriages to two of Hollywood's most glamorous musical stars, Alice Faye and Cyd Charisse.

He was born Alvin Morris in San Francisco in 1912 to a poor but closely knit family of Russian-Jewish stock; music was his means of escape from poverty and anti-Semitic taunts at school. At St Mary's College in California he formed a jazz group with four other boys, then worked with several bands before forming Al Morris and his Orchestra. He was given a regular spot as singer on the Lucky Strike Hour on national radio and then RKO signed him for a spot as a sailor with one line of dialogue in the Astaire-Rogers musical Follow the Fleet (1936). He was allocated Irving Berlin's "Let's Face the Music and Dance", but it was given to Fred Astaire.

At RKO, Martin coined a new name, taking Antony from a magazine story, and Martin because Freddie Martin was his favourite band leader. He signed with 20th Century-Fox and was given a small role as a crooner in Sing, Baby, Sing (1936). He sang with Barbara Stanwyck in Banjo on my Knee (1936), and with Judy Garland in Pigskin Parade (1936), but his career at the studio made little progress. When he appeared in You Can't Have Everything (1937), he was still billed way down the cast list, and had one duet with Alice Faye, "Afraid to Dream". He married Faye the same year, and though columnists called them "a handsome couple" there were soon rumours of friction. Martin later said that he could not take being 'Mr Alice Faye'.

He was the romantic lead in Ali Baba Goes to Town (1937), then starred with his wife in Sally, Irene and Mary (1938). Faye had much more screen time, plus the best tunes, and the pair never worked on the same movie again.

Martin had a rare non-singing role (and star billing) as a boxer in the "B" movie, Winner Take All (1939). It was his last film for Fox, and he later blamed his hedonistic attitude for his failure there. "I was so busy having fun that I didn't even learn my lines. I muffed a wonderful chance, and that was the end of me for a while."

He had been appearing on the Burns and Allen radio show, and concentrated on his record and broadcasting careers, though he . was given a leading role in Music in my Heart (1940) co-starring Rita Hayworth just before she graduated to superstardom. As a musician fighting deportation he introduced the Oscar-nominated "It's a Blue World". Martin's recording was his most popular to date, reaching No 2, and prompted MGM to cast him in Ziegfeld Girl, in which he romanced Hedy Lamarr and sang "You Stepped Out of a Dream" in a lavish sequence in which glamorous ladies, including Lamarr and Lana Turner, descend a staircase.

He was then cast as romantic lead in the Marx Brothers comedy The Big Store, in which he introduced the vocal tone poem, "The Tenement Symphony", which became a big hit in the UK and was to remain part of Martin's staple repertoire.

When the US entered thewar, Martin enlisted in the Navy, but was discharged after the officer who commissioned him was court-martialed for accepting a car as a gift. Though Martin joined the Army and entertained troops in India, the scandal caused some record labels to blacklist him and at war's end he signed with the small independent label, Mercury.

A string of hits, notably "To Each His Own", which reached No. 2 and sold a million copies, put him back into favour. Signed by RCA Victor, he recorded "Begin the Beguine" for the second time and had a big hit. MGM then gave him a prominent showcasing in the opulent biography of Jerome Kern, Till The Clouds Roll By (1947).

The following year he had his best screen role, in Casbah. With a quartet of fine songs by Harold Arlen and Leo Robin, Martin's version proved viable, and critics praised his performance. One of the songs, "For Every Man There's a Woman", was Oscar-nominated, and became another hit. In 1948 he married Cyd Charisse, and though she became a major dancing star in the 1950s, Martin's own career was sturdy enough for there to be no conflict.

Martin's theatre appearances included headlining at the London Palladium, and further hits included "There's No Tomorrow" (an adaptation of "O Sole Mio"), the novelty duet "I Said My Pajamas", with Fran Warren, and the suggestive "I Get Ideas". A fertile period for screen appearances included Two Tickets to Broadway (1951), in which he partnered Janet Leigh in a beguiling version of Rodgers and Hart's "Manhattan", the Bob Hope vehicle Here Come the Girls (1953) and Easy to Love (1953), in which he romanced Esther Williams with such songs as "That's What a Rainy Day is For". His final starring role was opposite Vera-Ellen in the British musical Let's Be Happy.

In later years he concentrated on night-club and theatre appearances, and Charisse would often accompany him. She died in 2008, shortly after the durable Martin had played a five-night engagement at the New York venue Feinstein's. "His voice is more or less intact," said the New York Times. "Time has certainly taken its toll ... but the essential Tony Martin sound was still discernible."

Alvin Morris (Tony Martin), actor and singer: born San Francisco 25 December 1912; married 1938 Alice Faye (divorced 1940), 1948 Cyd Charisse (died 2008; one stepson, and one son deceased); died Los Angeles 27 July 2012.

News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
Sport
Danny Welbeck's Manchester United future is in doubt
footballStriker in talks over £17m move from Manchester United
Sport
Radamel Falcao
footballManchester United agree loan deal for Monaco striker Falcao
Sport
Louis van Gaal, Radamel Falcao, Arturo Vidal, Mats Hummels and Javier Hernandez
footballFalcao, Hernandez, Welbeck and every deal live as it happens
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
footballFeaturing Bart Simpson
News
Kelly Brook
peopleA spokesperson said the support group was 'extremely disappointed'
Sport
Andy Murray celebrates a shot while playing Jo-Wilfried Tsonga
TennisWin sets up blockbuster US Open quarter-final against Djokovic
News
i100
Life and Style
techIf those brochure kitchens look a little too perfect to be true, well, that’s probably because they are
Arts and Entertainment
Alex Kapranos of Franz Ferdinand performs live
music Pro-independence show to take place four days before vote
News
news Video - hailed as 'most original' since Benedict Cumberbatch's
Life and Style
The longer David Sedaris had his Fitbit, the further afield his walks took him through the West Sussex countryside
lifeDavid Sedaris: What I learnt from my fitness tracker about the world
Arts and Entertainment
Word master: Self holds up a copy of his novel ‘Umbrella’
boksUnlike 'talented mediocrity' George Orwell, you must approach this writer dictionary in hand
News
i100
Life and Style
tech

Apple agrees deal with Visa on contactless payments

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SQL Technical Implementation Consultant (Java, BA, Oracle, VBA)

£45000 - £55000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: SQL Technical ...

Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, Fidessa, Equities)

£85000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Head of IT (Windows, Server, VMware, SAN, ...

Lead C# Developer (.Net, nHibernate, MVC, SQL) Surrey

£55000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Lead C# Develo...

Technical Software Consultant (Excel, VBA, SQL, JAVA, Oracle)

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: You will not be expected to hav...

Day In a Page

Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor