She later said she knew on their wedding night she had made "a dreadful mistake," and two months later, she filed for divorce on grounds of desertion. Levitt, promotion director for the New York Journal-American. The couple eventually had two children and divorced in because of his excessive drinking and erratic behavior.
Somerset Maugham short story, but Merman found she was unable to retain the lyrics and resigned 12 days after rehearsals began. In August , while in the hospital recovering from the Caesarean birth of her second child, Merman was visited by Dorothy Fields , who proposed she star as Annie Oakley in a musical her brother Herbert and she were writing with Jerome Kern. Merman accepted, but in November, Kern suffered a stroke while in New York City visiting Rodgers and Hammerstein the producers of the show and died a few days later.
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Butler , Annie Oakley's loyal husband and manager. The following year, she appeared as the matriarch of the singing and dancing Donahue family in There's No Business Like Show Business , a film with a Berlin score. 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 He expected her public appearances to engender publicity for the airline, and her decision to forgo the limelight did not sit well with him.
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. Although Brooks Atkinson thought the score was "hardly more than adequate", he called Merman "as brassy as ever, glowing like a neon light whenever she steps on the stage.
She lost the Tony Award to Judy Holliday in Bells Are Ringing , and the show closed after performances, with Merman happy to see what she considered "a dreary obligation" finally come to an end.
Gypsy was based on the memoirs of Gypsy Rose Lee and starred Merman as her domineering stage mother Rose Hovick , possibly Merman's best-remembered performance. The musical opened on May 21, , at The Broadway Theatre.
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Throughout the performance run of Gypsy, Mervyn LeRoy saw it numerous times, and repeatedly assured Merman that he planned to cast her in the film adaptation he was preparing. However, before the show's closing, it was announced that Rosalind Russell instead had been signed to star. Because Russell was still a major box-office draw with the success of Auntie Mame a few years earlier, and Merman never having established herself as a popular screen presence, the studio agreed to Brisson's terms.
Merman was devastated at this turn of events and called the loss of the role "the greatest professional disappointment of my life. Following the Broadway closing of Gypsy on March 25, , Merman half-heartedly embarked on the national tour. In San Francisco, she severely injured her back, but continued to play to packed houses. During the Los Angeles run, LeRoy visited her backstage and claimed Russell was so ill that "I think you're going to end up getting this part.
She finally joined the cast on March 28, , six years after the production opened.
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On Merman's opening night, her performance was continually brought to a halt by prolonged standing ovations, and the critics unanimously heralded her return to the New York stage. Walter Kerr in The New York Times described her voice: "Exactly as trumpet-clean, exactly as penny whistle-piercing, exactly as Wurlitzer-wonderful as it always was. Merman received the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Performance for what proved to be her last appearance on Broadway.
For the remainder of her career, Merman worked as frequently as offers were made.
In , she recorded The Ethel Merman Disco Album , with many of her signature songs are set to a disco beat. Her last screen role was a self-parody in the comedy film Airplane! In the cameo appearance, Merman leaps out of bed singing " Everything's Coming Up Roses " as orderlies restrain her. She also volunteered at St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital Center working in the gift shop or visiting patients.
Merman was known for her powerful, belting mezzo-soprano voice and precise enunciation and pitch. Broadway lore holds that George Gershwin advised her never to take a singing lesson after she opened in his Girl Crazy. Caryl Flinn's biography includes a very large amount of quotes from reviews of Merman's work, most of which were compliments to her. Brooks Atkinson summed up her talent: . She makes a song seem like a spontaneous expression of her personality, which may be regarded as the ultimate skill in the art of singing songs. Merman was married and divorced four times.
Her first marriage, in , was to theatrical agent William Smith. They were divorced in The couple had two children: Ethel born July 20,  and Robert, Jr. Merman and Levitt were divorced in Merman's fourth and final marriage was to actor Ernest Borgnine. They were married in Beverly Hills on June 27, In a radio interview, she said of her many marriages: "We all make mistakes.
That's why they put rubbers on pencils, and that's what I did. I made a few lulus! Ethel Levitt, her daughter, died on August 23, , of a drug overdose that was ruled accidental. Merman was notorious for her brash demeanour and for telling vulgar stories at public parties. You know my rules. That'll cost you a dollar. Merman, a lifelong Republican , was a frequent guest at the Eisenhower White House.
Merman co-wrote two memoirs. Merman began to become forgetful with advancing age, and on occasion, had difficulty with her speech. At times her behavior was erratic, causing concern among her friends. On April 7, , she was preparing to travel to Los Angeles to appear on the 55th Academy Awards telecast, when she collapsed in her apartment. Merman was taken to Roosevelt Hospital , where doctors initially thought she had suffered a stroke. However, after undergoing exploratory surgery on April 11, Merman was diagnosed with stage 4 glioblastoma.
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He stated "Mom truly appreciated [her fans'] presence and their applause. But you shouldn't attempt to be personal—she drew lines, and she could cut you off. Merman's health eventually stabilized enough for her to be brought back to her apartment in Manhattan. On February 15, , 10 months after she was diagnosed with brain cancer, Merman died at her home in Manhattan at the age of Campbell Funeral Chapel. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. American actress and singer. Manhattan , New York City, U. William Smith m. Robert Levitt, Sr. Robert Six m. Ernest Borgnine m. Play media.
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Berkeley: University of Carlifornia Press. Retrieved October 6, Retrieved April 23, Infobase Publishing. The Greenville News at Newspapers.