Tuesday, November 2, 2021

Jack Elam, Accountant Turned Star

Comical Character Actor Jack Elam

Jack Elam in "Support Your Local Gunfighter" (1971) legends.filminspector.com
Jack Elam in "Support Your Local Gunfighter" (1971).

Jack Elam was just an ordinary, even nerdy, guy in the 1930s. He loved bookkeeping and was quite happy working in offices. In fact, he was a terrific accountant. World War II came along and he enlisted, serving out his time NOT in the “actor’s division” in Hollywood but as an ordinary soldier. 

There's a story behind Elam's ability to serve. Ordinarily, those without sight in one eye cannot be in the military. However, that barrier was relaxed during World War II. Effective 1 August 1942, those who qualified only for limited service could be inducted. This specifically included those with sight only in one eye. These standards were further relaxed in the ensuring period so that those who qualified only for limited service could be shifted to general service. So, due to this change in standards, Jack Elam was able to join the U.S. military.

At the end of the war, Elam mustered out of the US Navy along with everyone else and returned to his accounting practice. However, this time he opened up his own office and worked for well-heeled people in Los Angeles.

And there the story might have ended, but one day Elam got some bad news from his doctor. A childhood accident had deprived him of the sight in one eye, and the doctor told him he was straining his remaining eye too much. If he continued working long hours as an accountant, he’d go blind.

Well, the poor fellow had no interest in doing anything else and no aptitude, either. Certainly, Jack would never be able to find another career that paid as well as his accounting gig.

So, Elam moped around for a while, at loose ends. He talked to one of his clients about his problem, and the man offered him a job. It wasn’t much of a job, and he had no training in the field, but he figured, well, why not.

The client was Jack Warner. The audiences loved the accountant. Elam went on to a spectacular career as a character actor playing heavies and ornery western parts, often with a broad comical edge. From what I have heard, Jack Elam was a hell of a nice guy, too.

Oh, one last thing. Late in his career, after he had been in films for decades, someone asked Jack Elam if he’d rather still be an accountant. “In a heartbeat,” he replied.

Jack Elam legends.filminspector.com
Jack Elam 1920-2003.


Friday, November 30, 2018

Laura Ingraham, Political Lightning Rod

Prime-Time Laura Ingraham

Laura Ingraham legends.filminspector.com
Laura Ingraham speaking at the Republican National Convention in 2016.
Laura Ingraham is one of a handful of conservative commentators who have earned enduring audiences on the radio and/or television. As host of "The Ingraham Angle," she reaches millions of people every week.

Laura Ingraham legends.filminspector.com

Laura Ingraham was born on June 19, 1964, in Glastonbury, Connecticut. She is of Polish descent on her mother's side and Irish/English descent on her paternal side.

Laura Ingraham legends.filminspector.com

Laura's father, James Frederick Ingraham III, worked throughout his career at Pratt & Whitney, which manufactures engines for commercial, military and general aviation aircraft, space propulsion, and power systems. Laura’s mother Anne was a waitress. The youngest of four children, Laura has three older brothers.

Laura Ingraham legends.filminspector.com

According to Laura:
When I was born, my parents were so happy they had a little girl. But I was a tomboy. I loved to play basketball, baseball, and other sports.
She eventually turned away from sports to entertainment, however.

Laura Ingraham legends.filminspector.com

Like anyone else, Laura learned a lot of life lessons from her parents. Ingraham recalled that her mother Ann said in the 1970s that the parents of flag burners “didn’t teach them about respect.”

Laura Ingraham legends.filminspector.com
Laura Ingraham's 1985 yearbook picture at Dartmouth.
Almost everybody has wild moments as a teen. Laura reportedly had a minor brush with the law in January 1983. There are reports that she was arrested on a shoplifting charge in Hanover, where she was attending Dartmouth. After pleading no contest (nolo contendere), Laura was fined $200 and sentenced to a conditional discharge. Five months later, the criminal case was annulled and her records expunged. Whether or not this is true is unclear, but it is a frequent charge made against Laura by her critics.

Laura Ingraham legends.filminspector.com

At Dartmouth, Laura became editor of the Dartmouth Review. The Editor-in-Chief was Dinesh D’Souza. It was there that Laura first publicly revealed her political views. Laura famously sent an undercover operative into a Dartmouth’s Gay Students Association meeting to record it, and then published a transcript. Ingraham later replaced D-Souza. In fact, the two were engaged at one point, but they broke it off.

Laura Ingraham legends.filminspector.com

After graduating from Dartmouth in 1985 with a BA Russian and English, Laura worked for the Reagan administration. She then went to law school and graduated with a JD from the University of Virginia School of Law in 1991.

Laura Ingraham legends.filminspector.com
Laura Ingraham posed for a 1995 New York Times Magazine cover shoot in a leopard-print miniskirt. 
Laura clerked for US Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas from 1992 to 1993. She then worked for a few years for corporate law firm Skadden Arps.

Laura Ingraham legends.filminspector.com
After that, Laura developed an image as a conservative activist. In 1996, Ingraham and Jay P. Lefkowitz decided to counter the romanticized "Renaissance Weekend" by organizing the "Dark Ages Weekend."

Laura Ingraham legends.filminspector.com
Laura Ingraham has been speaking at engagements for decades (Mark Wilson/Getty Images).
Her image and good looks propelled Laura into stints as a television commentator on MSNBC in 1996 and later on CBS.

Laura Ingraham legends.filminspector.com

Laura's first real breakthrough was when she was named the host of MSNBC program Watch It! in 1998.

Laura Ingraham legends.filminspector.com
Maj. Bryan Gibby, intelligence officer, Fires Brigade, 4th Infantry Division, with Laura Ingraham during a live broadcast of the Laura Ingraham Show at Camp Liberty, Iraq, Feb. 10, 2017 (PJF MILITARY COLLECTION/ALAMY).
Laura parlayed her rising fame into a radio program in April 2001. This obviously was modeled on the successful talk radio programs of Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh.

Laura Ingraham legends.filminspector.com

Laura Ingraham became a fixture on radio. For instance, in Los Angeles, she was on the radio for a full decade. Laura began on KPLS from 2002-03; KRLA, 2003-08; KGIL, 2008-09; KFWB, 2009-12. Laura's syndicated show was part of the NewsTalk format at KFWB until early 2012. She continues to do a daily radio show, The Laura Ingraham Show, distributed via Norm Pattiz’ Courtside Entertainment Group.

Laura Ingraham legends.filminspector.com
Laura with Dinesh D’Souza.
Laura returned to television in 2008 when Fox News gave her a show called "The Ingraham Angle." This lasted for only a three-week trial period. However, in 2017 Laura resumed the show in primetime after Megyn Kelly decided to leave the station. The Ingraham Angle currently airs at 10 p.m., right after Sean Hannity. It consistently wins its timeslot and is one of the five highest-rated shows on cable television.

Laura Ingraham legends.filminspector.com

There is absolutely no question that Laura Ingraham has become a lightning rod her for liberal critics. Laura appears to relish her role of provocateur, and goes out of her way - sometimes a bit too far for her own good - to prod her antagonists. Her opponents predictably take the bait, raising Laura's profile even higher. Some Ingraham critics even have attempted to force advertisers to boycott her show, but those boycotts have fizzled and gone nowhere. Laura Ingraham remains one of the top prime-time hosts on the air today.

Laura Ingraham legends.filminspector.com

Laura is said to have dated commentators from both the political left and right. She was engaged to Dinesh D’Souza and also is said to have dated liberals Keith Olbermann and Robert Torricelli.

Laura Ingraham legends.filminspector.com
Laura Ingraham with her children (photo session for 25 October 2017 Washington Post).
Laura lives in McLean, Virginia with her sons Nikolai and Dmitri and daughter Maria. She adopted all three kids, the boys from Russia and the girl from Guatemala.

Laura Ingraham legends.filminspector.com


Thursday, May 31, 2018

Rita Hayworth, Pin-Up Legend

Rita Hayworth legends.filminspector.com
Rita Hayworth.

Our topic here is one of the top Divas of the Golden Age of Hollywood. She was a top dancer and actress, someone who stayed in the tabloids for decades and never really got the recognition she (felt she) deserved. She danced with Fred Astaire in classic pictures, is known in particular for one popular film whose title featured her character's name, and lived into the Reagan years. Well, we've already discussed Ginger Rogers, so that leaves ... the fabulous Rita Hayworth!

Rita Hayworth on the cover of the 11 August 1941 issue of Life magazine, legends.filminspector.com
A memorable August 11, 1941 issue of Life magazine featured Rita Hayworth. 

Rita was born Margarita Carmen Cansino in Brooklyn, New York on October 17, 1918. Her parents, Eduardo Cansino and Volga Hayworth, were of Spanish and Irish-English descent, respectively. Most significantly for Rita's future, they were both dancers and encouraged her interest in that from her earliest years. Her maternal uncle was an actor, and mama Volga encouraged that talent as well, and her paternal grandfather was a famous Spanish dancer. If you want to incubate a future dancer and actress, that's not a bad way to start.

Rita Hayworth in her pin-up from Life magazine, legends.filminspector.com
Rita's classic pin-up from her 1941 Life magazine spread. It became the most requested pin-up of World War II until a Betty Grable photo of 1943.

Pushed by her parents, young Margarita studied dancing throughout her childhood at Carnegie Hall. Day after day, year after year, it was endless dance classes taught by uncle Angel. Her family brought her onstage with them the day that she turned five - on Broadway (in "The Greenwich Village Follies"). Not too shabby to start out on Broadway. In fact, she may be the only star in history whose first onstage appearance was on the Great White Way.

Rita Hayworth in her early years, legends.filminspector.com
Young Margarita Cansino.

A few years later, at age eight, she nabbed a role in a short film for Warner Bros., "La Fiesta." Dancing was popular during the 1920s, so Margarita's dad moved the family to Hollywood to see if they could break into "the pictures." Nothing big happened right away, so Eduardo opened a dance studio. This got him - and little Margarita - access to up-and-coming stars like Jimmy Cagney and Jean Harlow. Eventually, Eduardo took Margarita across the border to dance in Tijuana, which didn't care how old employees were. She never finished school, but during the Great Depression, you had to make sacrifices.

Rita Hayworth when still Rita Cansino, legends.filminspector.com
Rita during her time at Fox.

At age 16, Margarita started getting bit parts in Mexican films such as "Cruz Diablo" (1934) and "In Caliente" (1935). Nobody noticed young Margarita - well, except for a guy named Winfield Sheehan. He happened to see her dancing at a nightspot with her dad. There are lots of guys at nightclubs, but Winfield was not your average bear - he just so happened to be head of the Fox Film Corporation. He arranged a screen test which led to a short-term, six-month contract at Fox. Margarita shortened her name to Rita Cansino to make it a little more recognizable to northern audiences. There was no denying Rita's exotic beauty, though.

Rita Hayworth at the Roller Derby, legends.filminspector.com
Rita Hayworth, Edward Judson, Doune McKay, and Gordon Oliver watching the Roller Derby at the Pan-Pacific Auditorium. Photograph dated July 23, 1938. (LEN WEISSMAN/LAPL HERALD-EXAMINER COLLECTION.)

At Fox, Rita spent her six months doing various bit parts in films that usually had some kind of foreign slant - "Under the Pampas Moon" (1935), "Charlie Chan in Egypt" (1935), "Paddy O'Day" (1935) - invariably appearing as the spicy little foreigner. While she did well and Winfield wanted to advance her career to leads, he lost control when Fox merged with 20th Century Fox. After losing her contract, Rita fell in love with a big fan, Edward C. Judson, and the two eloped in 1937 despite the fact that he was a mysterious character much older than her. Judson got Rita some freelance parts on poverty row, and the audience started noticing her.

Rita Hayworth and Harry Cohn, legends.filminspector.com
While Rita Hayworth was married five times, it is reasonable to state that the dominant relationship of her life - in a platonic sense - was with studio boss Harry Cohn.

Based upon Rita's role in "Meet Nero Wolfe" (1936), Columbia studio boss Harry Cohn signed Rita to a standard seven-year studio contract. Cohn then told Judson that Rita needed a less Spanish last name to get parts written for non-foreign girls, so Judson prevailed upon Rita to take her mother's last name and become: Rita Hayworth.

Rita Hayworth and Harry Cohn in 1947, legends.filminspector.com
Hayworth and Cohn on the set of 1947’s 'The Lady From Shanghai,' co-starring and directed by her then-husband, Orson Welles.

Those weren't the only changes that Cohn wanted. He pressured Rita to change her hair color to dark red, for instance. He also thought that she was a little too hairy, so she got electrolysis to raise her hairline. These were small prices to pay to become a star, so Rita made them. There are unproven innuendos, made only long after both were dead, that Cohn sexually harassed Hayworth. If he did, she never put it in those terms. Hayworth actually addressed the issue in the New York Times interview in 1970:
In front of people, Harry Cohn would say, 'I never put a hand on her.' Of course he hadn't put a hand on me — as if I'd let him!
However, the casting couch has always been a stereotype of Hollywood, and other actresses have had plenty to say about that.

Rita Hayworth and Cary Grant, legends.filminspector.com
Rita Hayworth with Cary Grant in "Only Angels Have Wings."

Having shown that she was willing to "play ball," Rita soon reaped the benefits. After getting her feet wet in eight low-key films in 1937 and five in 1938, Rita landed the role of a seductress in "Only Angels Have Wings" (1939). Starring Cary Grant and Jean Arthur, "Wings" brought Rita to a whole new level of stardom. She started getting tons of fan mail pouring into the Columbia mail room. Cohn noticed, and started the Columbia publicity machine to raise her profile. While not yet a headliner, Rita began getting meaty supporting roles to stars like Joan Crawford in "Susan and God" (1940) and old friend James Cagney in "The Strawberry Blonde" (1941). By mid-1941, Rita Hayworth was one of the top female faces in Hollywood. Her iconic poses in the August 11, 1941 edition of Life magazine, which became standards on GI barracks around the world, cemented her stardom.

Rita Hayworth and Fred Astaire, legends.filminspector.com
Rita with Fred Astaire.

Rita's films with Fred Astaire, beginning with Columbia's "You'll Never Get Rich" (1941), made Rita Hayworth a true headliner. Astaire later conceded that Rita Hayworth was his favorite dance partner, saying, "All right, I'll give you a name, but if you ever let it out, I'll swear I lied: it was Rita Hayworth." Astaire, incidentally, often had decidedly mixed things to say about Ginger Rogers, who he thought didn't work hard enough at her dancing and simply wanted to bluff her way through dance numbers, but he never seemed to say anything negative about Hayworth's dancing.

Rita Hayworth in Gilda, legends.filminspector.com

By this point, Rita Hayworth was an established star. Other films with Astaire followed, such as "You Were Never Lovelier" (1942), but she also branched out in new directions. She considered "Cover Girl" (1944) with Gene Kelly to be a career highlight. Rita hit her peak in the public mind with King Vidor's "Gilda" (1946), a film that barely got by the censors due to Rita's sensuous portrayal that included a one-glove striptease, "Put the Blame on Mame."

Rita Hayworth in The Lady From Shanghai, legends.filminspector.com
Rita Hayworth in Orson Welles's "The Lady From Shanghai" (1947).

During World War II, Rita Hayworth reached a degree of fame which other top actresses could only dream about. However, in her personal life, she admitted that she was "very shy" and had an "inferiority complex." However, she always was drawn to "bad boys" - who also had the ability to help her career. In 1942, she divorced Judson amidst her claims that he "helped himself to my money," then turned around and married the enfant terrible of Hollywood, Orson Welles. The two basically eloped, and the two had daughter Rebecca on 17 December 1944. They divorced in 1947, with Rita claiming that he "showed no interest in establishing a home" - which certainly seems likely, given Welles' predilection for gallivanting around Europe on various film endeavors.

Rita Hayworth and Aly Khan legends.filminspector.com
Rita Hayworth and...
Rita Hayworth and Aly Khan legends.filminspector.com
Aly Khan.

Rita thought she finally had found a relationship worth giving up her career for when she married Prince Aly Kahn, the son of the leader of the Ismaili sect of Shia Islam in 1949. They had a daughter, Princess Yasmin Aga Khan, on 28 December 1949. However, Aly turned out to be a bit of a player, and Rita apparently did not want to convert to Islam and did not want Yasmin to be Muslim, either. He also did not have the money that she thought he did - his dad kept him on an allowance - and she wound up running down her own finances. Thus, the pair divorced in Nevada in 1953.

Rita Hayworth in Gilda, legends.filminspector.com
Rita didn't sing on film, as shown here in "Gilda," and that fact rankled her.

Rita resumed her career with "Affair in Trinidad" (1952), and audiences still loved her despite the fact it was a mediocre movie. Cohn still supported her, but Rita started to become a problem for Columbia. Rita walked out on a film in 1951, something that she also had done in 1943, and in 1952 refused to report to a film because she found the script lacking. She sued Columbia in 1953 to be released from her contract. Among Rita's other grievances was that Columbia had not developed her singing talents - which she had never demonstrated. In fact, Rita never sang onscreen, and if it appears that she did, it was dubbed. This became a major irritant for her when audiences at USO shows and other personal appearances asked her to sing - not knowing that she couldn't.

Rita Hayworth in vibrant color, legends.filminspector.com
Lovely Rita, movie star, may I inquire discreetly when are you free to take some tea with me?

With her career in limbo, Rita married singer Dick Haymes in 1953. The marriage was rocky because Haymes - born in Argentina - was subject to deportation. He also owed the IRS more than he could pay, $100,000, which dwarfed his salary. Haymes also owed money to ex-wives, while Aly Khan was not paying Rita alimony and was contesting custody of Yasmin. There were allegations of abuse against Rita. It all proved too be too much, and the pair separated forever in 1955.

Rita Hayworth in Separate Tables, legends.filminspector.com
Rita Hayworth in "Separate Tables," her last big hit.

Rita's next marriage was to producer James Hill in 1958. He arranged for another comeback for Rita, in "Separate Tables" (1958). The film made good money, but the marriage soon deteriorated amidst claims of abusive behavior by Hill (Charlton Heston personally recounted observing this), and the pair divorced in 1961.

Glamorous Rita Hayworth, legends.filminspector.com
Rita Hayworth's outrageous glamor hid a serious drinking problem.

It is easy to pin Hayworth's difficulties during the 1950s and thereafter on others, but, in fact, Rita had issues of her own. By the early 1940s, Rita had a drinking problem. This aggravated her tendency to fly into angry tirades at those close to her, particularly her family and Harry Cohn. Orson Welles recalled later that she would "break all the furniture and she'd get in a car and I'd have to get in the car and try to control her." Daughter Yasmin had similar recollections. Still, despite her issues, Hayworth persevered with her career, which continued into the 1970s.

Rita Hayworth in 1976, legends.filminspector.com
Photographs of Rita Hayworth taken in Heathrow Airport in 1976 stunned just about everyone that saw them.

By 1973, Rita's health was deteriorating for mysterious reasons. She couldn't remember her lines, which led to her retirement, and the deaths of her brothers in March 1974 sent her into a period of especially heavy drinking. A January 1976 incident on a TWA flight got her thrown off the plane and generated negative publicity worldwide. Symptoms of Alzheimer's disease popped up, and in July 1981, a Los Angeles judge put her under the care of Princess Yasmin. Rita lingered on, but all the life was gone. Rita Hayworth passed away peacefully on 14 May 1987 in New York City.

Rita Hayworth in 1976, legends.filminspector.com

Rita Hayworth is buried at Holy Cross Cemetery, Ladera Heights, CA. She is in Grave No. 15, immediately to the right (east) of the grotto, underneath the statue of a praying angel. It is in a very accessible spot near the road and a pathway.

Rita Hayworth and Princess Yasmin, legends.filminspector.com
Princess Yasmin looked after her mom in her declining years.

When you compare the career of Rita Hayworth to other stars of the Golden Age of Hollywood, she shines brighter than virtually everyone else. She remained popular as a film star longer than the others, she never had to resort to television shows to make a living, and she sets the terms of her own life. She brought the first real publicity to Alzheimer's Disease, perhaps her greatest service to the public. Unfortunately overlooked by many due to her later struggles, Rita Hayworth must be included in the very top rank of all Hollywood stars, the very uppermost row.

Rita Hayworth legends.filmreviews.filminspector.com Rita Hayworth legends.filminspector.com


Saturday, December 23, 2017

Kitty Kallen, Big Band Legend

Big Band Chanteuse Kitty Kallen Epitomized an Era

Kitty Kallen legends.filminspector.com
Kitty Kallen.
We are all familiar with the classic film image of a sultry dark-haired singer of the 1940s, standing before a massive microphone, backed by a band led by Tommy Dorsey, Glenn Miller or Harry James, and pouring her heart out in a teary torch song. There were many real-life examples of the genre (Helen Forrest, Peggy Lee and Jo Stafford spring quickly to mind), and it is impossible - and unfair - to pin the image down to one specific singer. However, if you had to pick one singer who exemplified the breed, an excellent choice would be Kitty Kallen.

Kitty Kallen legends.filminspector.com
Kitty Kallen and fellow ingenue Doris Day spent a cold day in Central Park sometime during 1947 getting some publicity shots. Doris looks like her teeth are chattering.
Katie Kallen (her real name) was born on May 25, 1921, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Her parents were Russian Jewish immigrants, and she had six brothers and sisters. She showed an interest in singing as a child and won a local singing contest. One thing led to another, and soon she was on The Children's Hour, a radio program sponsored by classic automat chain Horn & Hardart (a brand which may be about to experience a revival as a coffee company). Before you know it, Kitty had her own program on WCAU in Philadelphia, fronting big bands of the early 1930s. And that, kids, is how you do it.

Kitty Kallen legends.filminspector.com
Kitty Kallen with Bob Eberly, a fellow singer with Jimmy Dorsey.
Having her own radio show was not a bad way to ride out the Great Depression, but Kitty Kallen was just getting started. In 1941, Jimmy Dorsey needed a replacement for Helen O'Connell of "Tangerine" fame (add her to the list above), and Kitty now was a mature woman just entering her 20s. Kitty teamed with Bob Eberly for Dorsey in a series of duets that became standards of the era.

Kitty Kallen legends.filminspector.com

Kitty's biggest hit with Dorsey and Eberly was “Bésame Mucho." A Mexican bolero that was written by Consuelo Velázquez, “Bésame Mucho" went on to become the most sung and recorded Mexican song of all time, with Kitty's 1944 version hitting No. 1 on the pop charts. That Kitty sang “Bésame Mucho" to such acclaim will become significant below.

Kitty Kallen legends.filminspector.com

Eberly got drafted in late 1943, breaking up the act, so Kitty hitched her star with Harry James and his orchestra. It was a match made in heaven.

Kitty Kallen legends.filminspector.com

In those days, the emphasis was on the band, not on the singer. Typically, the singer would sing a quick "chorus" in the middle of the song, practically serving as one of the instruments doing a solo. Kitty was excellent at this task. Her emotional renditions also were perfectly aligned with the sentimental mood of a country making a dramatic transition from war to uncertain peace. Together, the Harry James Orchestra and Kitty Kallen had a phenomenal run of hits in the war's final year.

Kitty Kallen legends.filminspector.com

Kitty's No. 1 hits in 1945 included "I'm Beginning to See the Light" and "It's Been a Long, Long Time." The latter song has experienced something of a revival recently due to its inclusion in "The Winter Soldier," and deservedly so: it was a massive hit that encapsulates the feelings felt at the end of the war. All told, Kitty had eight top twenty hits just in 1945. It was a phenomenal run, and Kitty's voice came to define the era.

Kitty Kallen legends.filminspector.com

While nobody knew it at the time, the big band era was in its terminal phase as the war ended, so Kitty hit it perfectly right at its climax. While she had occasional hits during the late 1940s and early 1950s, they were few and far between. Kitty married Bernard "Budd" Granoff, a publicist, agent, and television producer, in 1948. Granoff helped Kitty enter a new phase of her career that, in unlikely fashion, brought her to her greatest heights.

Kitty Kallen legends.filminspector.com
Kitty Kallen in a publicity still for "The Second Greatest Sex."
Granoff helped Kitty get some film work. She made a series of shorts, beginning with 1949's "Piano Rhythm," which led to a starring role on Broadway in "Finian's Rainbow." Once again, one thing led to another, and Kitty nabbed a starring role in the film "The Second Greatest Sex" (1955). The musical, a takeoff on the classic Greek "Lysistrata" play, did not lead to any further film work but is a great way to catch Kitty Kallen in her prime.

Kitty Kallen legends.filminspector.com Frank Laico
Kitty Kallen with Frank Laico at the CBS Records studio in Manhattan, 1958.
It was right around this time in the 1950s that Kitty's singing career experienced a huge resurgence. In fact, Kitty Kallen's hits from 1954/56 are probably Kitty Kallen's best-remembered. Now a solo singer, she had a massive hit with her 1953 album "Little Things Mean a Lot," and the title song gave her another huge No. 1 hit. Reportedly, the single of "Little Things Mean a Lot" sold two million copies, and that ain't beanbag, especially in the 1950s. However, that's not all: the title single was one of six, count 'em, six singles released off that one album. That's pretty rare. In fact, Kitty became perhaps the top female singer of the mid-1950s, before withdrawing in late 1955 from concert work and returning to the studio. Her 1958 album, "If I Give My Heart to You," was another big hit. The death of Kitty's father, Samuel Kallen, in early 1955 seemed to take a toll on her, unfortunately and may have contributed to the famous incident later that year when she "lost her voice" temporarily. Never discount the importance of seemingly routine emotional events like that in a person's life.

Kitty Kallen legends.filminspector.com record covers

Kitty also accomplished a pretty rare feat during her renewed fame in the 1950s. Throughout her entire career, Kitty Kallen had exactly one single that made the UK chart: "Little Things Mean A Lot." That one and only record, though, went to No. 1 in the UK. So, Kitty Kallen may well be the only recording artist in history who has a perfect record on a major national recording chart: exactly one song on the chart, and that a No. 1 hit. Offhand, I can't think of anyone else who did anything like that, though maybe some novelty act pulled it off at some point. Kitty Kallen was no novelty act, of course. People in the UK who know of Kitty know her for that song, not any of her previous big band hits.

Kitty Kallen legends.filminspector.com
Kitty Kallen being used to hawk shampoo during her resurgence of popularity in the mid-1950s. Now that's fame.
Kitty was now pushing 40, and she was facing the rising tide of rock singers such as Elvis Presley. It was not a great time to be a singer of classic ballads. However, Kitty cranked out one more hit album and single, "My Coloring Book," in 1962. It turned out to be her last hit. While everyone remembers the Barbra Streisand version of the same year, Kitty's was the one that actually made the charts, peaking at No. 18 on the pop chart. During this period, Kitty received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on Hollywood Boulevard.

Kitty Kallen legends.filminspector.com
Kitty Kallen's last big hit, "My Coloring Book."
Kitty continued recording through the 1960s, but it was tough for a big band singer to compete against The Beatles and the Rolling Stones. By the 1970s, Kitty was basically retired at her longtime home in Englewood, New Jersey. She was known to promote local community causes but basically adopted a low profile. The press erroneously reported her death in 1978, which initially alarmed her husband, but they all got a good laugh out of it later. Granoff actually predeceased Kitty in 1996.

Kitty Kallen legends.filminspector.com

Kitty was a revered figure in Mexico due to her wartime rendition of “Bésame Mucho," and this likely contributed to Kitty's decision to have a home in Cuernavaca. She passed away there on 7 January 2016. Kitty is buried at Beth-El Cemetery  Paramus, Bergen County, New Jersey, USA. Her classic recordings, however, live on and continue to evoke the passions of World War II and the postwar era.

Kitty Kallen legends.filminspector.com
Kitty Kallen's resting place (Chuck Kearns).