51 Facts About Ethel Merman


Ethel Merman is known for her film roles in Anything Goes, Call Me Madam, There's No Business Like Show Business, and It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.


Ethel Merman was born on January 16,1908, in her maternal grandmother's house in Astoria, Queens, but she later insisted that the year of her birth was 1912.


Ethel Merman's parents were strict about church attendance and she spent every Sunday attending morning services, Sunday school, afternoon prayer meetings, and evening study groups for children.


Ethel Merman's parents insisted she have an education with training in secretarial skills, in case her entertainment career failed.


Ethel Merman was active in numerous extracurricular activities, including the school magazine, the speakers' club, and student council, and she frequented the local music store to peruse the weekly arrivals of new sheet music.


On Friday nights, the Zimmermann family took the subway into Manhattan to see the vaudeville show at the Palace Theatre, where Ethel Merman saw Blossom Seeley, Fanny Brice, Sophie Tucker, and Nora Bayes.


One day during her lunch break, she met Vic Kliesrath, who offered her a job at the Bragg-Kliesrath Corporation for a US$5 increase above the weekly $23 salary she was earning, and Ethel Merman accepted the offer.


Ethel Merman eventually was made personal secretary to company president Caleb Bragg, whose frequent lengthy absences from the office to race automobiles allowed her to catch up on the sleep she had lost the previous night when she was out late performing at private parties.


Ethel Merman considered combining Ethel with Gardner or Hunter, which was her grandmother's maiden name.


Ethel Merman offered her an exclusive six-month contract, starting at $125 per week, and Merman quit her day job, only to find herself idle for weeks while waiting to be cast in a film.


Ethel Merman was hired as a torch singer at Les Ambassadeurs, where the headliner was Jimmy Durante; the two became lifelong friends.


Ethel Merman caught the attention of columnists such as Walter Winchell and Mark Hellinger, who began to give her publicity.


Ethel Merman performed at the Central Park Casino, the Paramount Theatre, and a return engagement at the Palace.


Ethel Merman appeared on screen with Eddie Cantor in Kid Millions, but her return to Broadway established her as a major star and cemented her image as a tough girl.


Ethel Merman was replaced by Benay Venuta, with whom she enjoyed a long but frequently tempestuous friendship.


Ethel Merman initially was overlooked for the film version of Anything Goes.


Bing Crosby insisted his wife Dixie Lee be cast as Reno Sweeney opposite his role as Billy Crocker, but when she unexpectedly dropped out of the project, Ethel Merman was cast in the role.


Many of Porter's ribald lyrics were altered to conform to the guidelines of the Motion Picture Production Code, and "Blow Gabriel Blow" was eliminated, replaced by a song, "Shang Hai-de-Ho", which Ethel Merman was forced to perform in a headdress made of peacock feathers while surrounded by dancers dressed as Chinese slave girls.


Ethel Merman returned to Broadway for another Porter musical, but despite the presence of Jimmy Durante and Bob Hope in the cast, Red, Hot and Blue closed after less than six months.


Back in Hollywood, Ethel Merman was featured in Happy Landing, one of the top 10 box-office hits of 1938 comedy with Sonja Henie, Cesar Romero and Don Ameche.


Ethel Merman starred in the box-office hit Alexander's Ragtime Band, a pastiche of Irving Berlin songs interpolated into a plot that vaguely paralleled the composer's life, and Straight, Place and Show, a critical and commercial flop starring the Ritz Brothers.


Ethel Merman returned to the stage in Stars in Your Eyes, which closed short of four months as the public flocked to the 1939 New York World's Fair.


Ethel Merman later said she knew on their wedding night that she had made "a dreadful mistake", and two months later, she filed for divorce on grounds of desertion.


In 1943, Ethel Merman was a featured performer in the film Stage Door Canteen and opened in another Porter musical, Something for the Boys, produced by Michael Todd.


Ethel Merman had her husband tone down some of the lyrics.


Dietz took exception to Ethel Merman's singing the altered lyrics and gave her an ultimatum to sing his original lyrics or leave the show.


Commentators have speculated that Ethel Merman's departure was probably due to her reluctance to assume such a serious role in her first dramatic musical.


Ethel Merman returned to Broadway at the behest of her third husband, Continental Airlines executive Robert Six, who was upset she had chosen to become a housewife in Colorado following their wedding in 1953.


Ethel Merman expected her public appearances to generate publicity for the airline, and her decision to forgo the limelight did not sit well with him.


Ethel Merman urged her to accept the lead in Happy Hunting, with a book by Howard Lindsay and Russel Crouse and a score by Harold Karr and Matt Dubey.


Ethel Merman acquiesced to her husband's demands, although she clashed with the composers from the start and soon was at odds with co-star Fernando Lamas and his wife Arlene Dahl, who frequently attended rehearsals.


Ethel Merman lost the Tony Award to Judy Holliday in Bells Are Ringing, and the show closed after 412 performances, with Merman happy to see what she considered "a dreary obligation" come to an end.


Gypsy was based on the memoirs of Gypsy Rose Lee and starred Ethel Merman as Rose Hovick, her domineering stage mother.


In 1963, Ethel Merman starred in the ensemble comedy film It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World alongside Spencer Tracy, Sid Caesar, Jonathan Winters, Phil Silvers, Buddy Hackett, and Mickey Rooney.


Ethel Merman played Mrs Marcus, the loudmouthed mother in-law of Milton Berle.


Ethel Merman finally joined the cast on March 28,1970, six years after the production opened.


Ethel Merman received the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Performance for what proved to be her last appearance on Broadway.


Ethel Merman appeared on Match Game in the spring of 1976, in which she told Match Game regular Brett Somers to "shut up" in one of the series' self-proclaimed "Gold Star" episodes.


Ethel Merman was a guest host on an episode in the first season of The Muppet Show.


Ethel Merman appeared in several episodes of The Love Boat, guest-starred on a CBS tribute to George Gershwin, did a summer concert tour with Carroll O'Connor, played a two-week engagement at the London Palladium, performed with Mary Martin in a concert benefiting the theater and museum collection of the Museum of the City of New York, and frequently appeared as a soloist with symphony orchestras.


Ethel Merman volunteered at St Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center working in the gift shop or visiting patients.


Ethel Merman was known for her powerful mezzo-soprano voice, belting, precise enunciation, and pitch.


Later that same year, Ethel Merman married newspaper executive Robert Levitt.


The couple had two children: Ethel Merman was born on July 20,1942 and and Robert Jr.


In March 1953, Ethel Merman married Robert Six, the president of Continental Airlines.


Ethel Merman was notorious for her brash demeanor and for telling vulgar stories at public parties.


Ethel Merman had previously sung the same song at an inaugural gala for John F Kennedy, but it was never broadcast.


Ethel Merman became forgetful with advancing age, and on occasion, had difficulty with her speech.


Ethel Merman was taken to Roosevelt Hospital where doctors initially thought she had suffered a stroke.


The tumor caused Ethel Merman to become aphasic, and as her illness progressed, she lost her hair and her face swelled.


On February 15,1984,10 months after she was diagnosed with brain cancer, Ethel Merman died at her home at the age of 76.