Someone compared her style to that of Mama Cass, which I found interesting. It made me go back and listen to a little of Smith's music. What do our vocal connoiseurs make of Kate? Was she ever beloved by gays in the way that Merman was?
She was apparently a huge (ha!) star in her day, but is little remembered now except by people of a certain age.
Kate Smith did several campy turns as a guest on various variety shows of the 1970s including "Donny & Marie" and "Tony Orlando and Dawn" where she did a Happy Homemaker sketch in which she taught viewers how to lick the energy crisis by cooking dinner and doing laundry together in one pot.
Mama Cass could be called the baby boomer's Merman, but she was way better. Kate Smith, give me a break, even Merman seemed hip next to her.
It's funny to imagine Mama Cass trying a disco comeback like Merman did, but Cass could've really made it work. She might've given Donna a run for her money, with the right producers and material.
Kate was always the essence of camp, with her matronly figure (and gowns) and hairdo. Bt she did have a lovely, powerful voice, best suited for radio.
Way back in the days of the Philadelphia Flyers winning Stanley Cups, it was determined that whenever they played "God Bless America" by Kate instead of the National Anthem, the Flyers would win a game.
At the finals in '74 between the Flyers and the Boston Bruins at the Spectrum in Philly, before the game out rolls this big carpet and out comes Kate waving, blowing kisses, smiling. Live! In person! Kate! Sings GBA and blows the roof off of the place. The place went absolutely crazy. The Flyers fans loved them some Kate.
The Flyers won the Stanley Cup and Kate later said that she had never had such a reception from an arena. She was the belle of the ball that night and she left a lasting impression on Philly. They even had a statue of her in front of the Spectrum until the Spectrum came tumbling down. They moved it to another spot located at the sports complex in South Philly.
Here's Kate Smith singing "God Bless America" for the Philadelphia Flyers. It's ironic that Ms. Smith may be best known now for her relationship with a city and its sports team.
(Kate Smith was the person who asked Irving Berlin for a patriotic song early in World War II, so she will always be known for 'God Bless America.')
Near the end of her life, Philadelphia gathered thousands of signatures on a Get Well Card to Kate Smith. Despite her very serious illness, Smith was totally surprised, thrilled and overwhelmed by the card and thousands and thousands of signatures. Nice thing to remember on the first day of a new year.
"Smith was also an ultra-conservative Republican who opposed unions, communism, socialism, the Equal Rights Amendment, homosexuality, abortion, affirmative action, and indecency. In 1969, following the Miami incident when Jim Morrison of The Doors, was arrested for indecent exposure, Smith, along with the Lettermen, Jackie Gleason, and Anita Bryant, gave a performance of artists for decency, in Miami, which was commended and hailed by President Richard Nixon. (Source: "Rock Almanac" and "This Date in Rock Music".)"
R3 is insane. Obviously.
Smith was okay except when she sang about being romantic. Yucky poo.
According to her New York Times obit., Smith converted to the Catholic Church in the 1960s, following the deaths of her mother, and the person closest to her, Ted Collins, her long-time manager. She had attended mass often at Catholic Churches for 25 years before finally converting.
That might explain, though not justify, her apparent conservative thinking.
Ted Collins discovered Smith. He was involved in virtually every aspect of her career. But she did go on for another 10 years, essentially managing her own career.
Collins was married, but there were always questions and rumors given how close Smoth and Collins were professionally (and personally).
She sang Hey Jude on Ed Sullivan's tribute to The Beatles
Kate Smith's style was not at all reminiscent of Mama Cass, whether vocally or sartorially. Eilleen Farrell was a bit more like either of them, although she had something of a sense of humor, which Kate Smith did not. Smith was yet another sanctimonious Republican whose private life with Collins was a demonstration of her hypocrisy.
God, it's embarrassing to know this (or anything) about her.
She lived, incidentally, in a motel all the way west on 42nd Street, because she loved to watch the boats on their way to Europe. She acknowledged, however, that she had no interest whatsoever in going to Europe herself. (And Europeans breathed a collective sigh.)
She was morbidly obese in an era when that was extremely uncommon. Today, you see people just as humongously fat as Kate Smith was everywhere and anywhere, but back then her size was shocking to people. Imagine!
I remember her when I was a tiny pre-schooler on early 1950s TV. Her daily talk and variety show must have come on in the late afternoon or early evening if I was allowed at that age to watch.
I was just in love with her! I guess to a kid that age, she represented some kind of secure and blissful motherhood (was it the big bosom?) that I was perhaps not getting from my own mom.
I wonder if I was breastfed?
"Smith, along with the Lettermen, Jackie Gleason, and Anita Bryant, gave a performance of artists for decency, in Miami"
That must have been a hot ticket!
16 posts and no speculation about lesbianism? Never married you know...
Her signature song was"When the Moon Comes Over the Mountain," which, given her size, would provoke all kinds of snickering today. But people were nicer and less ironic and snarky in her era.
R18 they also knew how to appreciate true talent. The overgrown boys and girls of today can't wrap their heads around class and sophistication. Forty year old women with their hoo-hoo's hanging out and men with baseball caps and jeans don't exactly "get" class.
R16 that pathetic attempt at sarcasm would have worked if you were clearly not acquainted with the Letterman, Gleason and Smith's recorded work. TALENT.
For the record, already partly described, Smith was a major recording artist, had enormous success in radio with top shows over 15 years and had a television show for four years. She gave Henny Youngman and Abbott and Costello their big-time starts. Her connection to professional hockey - a high-camp feature that continues to the present - was hilarious. Children were a big part of her audience for TV, as R15 mentions from personal experience. She appeared on a postage stamp. Her "God Bless America" is played at the seventh-inning stretch of every home Yankee game, to this day. AND - again, camp was part of her appeal - her "God Bless America" plays as an American flag is projected across a curtain of stalactites as the climax of tours of the Meramec Caverns.
Sure, she took positions that matched her generation and image. I can listen to two numbers in a row before I start feelings diabetic shock starting up. But who can dismiss someone who said, "I'm big, and I sing, and boy, when I sing, I sing all over!" Knowledge and appreciation of a person's place in the American Songbook hardly is the same as fandom.
There's no reason for people of any age to be embarrassed of knowledge of popular culture and its history. What's with the know-nothing mindset we're being hit with there?
I mean, Kate Smith, Cher and Tina Turner doing a Beatles medley? Who doesn't get the camp/gay/cultural value of THAT?
Kate wanted to be in a mausoleum at the cemetery of the church in Lake Placid, New York where she was baptized Roman Catholic. The congregation protested, they wanted her buried. She was "on ice" for a year by the time they gave in.
R20, I acknowledged my embarrassment about knowing some Kate Smith factoids because I feel as though having such knowledge bespeaks a life that has been at least partially misspent, given that I acquired the information although I have not yet read the complete works of Thackeray.
For someone so well known for so many years, Kate Smith did very few concerts. In fact, her first concert, at Carnegie Hall in 1963, was recorded by RCA. The bad news is that the CD is out of print, but the record is available from Amazon. I do have the CD. Her voice is still first rate. As important, Smith often talks to the audience and shows a fine sense of humor, especially about her weight. Her humor should not surprise anyone, given that she talked to radio and TV audiences for most of her adult life.
I have no other Kate Smith albums, so can not comment on the eight or nine available on CD from Amazon. But I am very glad to have the Carnegie Hall CD.
When I was a little kid back in the mid 50's she was on afternoon TV. As TV's slowly made their way into the neighborhood, you would hear her show coming from the houses that were fortunate to have a TV.
We were way behind in buying a set, so I used to content myself with laying on the lawn in front of a house and listen to her show. Nobody in the neighborhood would ever think to say something like: "Get off my lawn!" to the kids. We were one big happy neighborhood.
Politics aside, I liked her and I have a feeling that if she lived a while longer, she might have changed some of her opinions. I hope so.
Glad to see this thread. Kate Smith may have had horrible politics, but she really had a gorgeous voice - one of the best America produced.
Many years ago, the nighttime host on the NYC non-commercial and very lefty radio station WBAI (does it still exist?)would run Smith's "God Bless America" on an endless loop during its pledge drives until fundraising goal for that night was reached.
Any nude pictures?
She stole my applause.
She had an enlarged vulva.
She fed all of us for a month!
I think she's tremendous!
That RCA Carnegie Hall album is part of the final phase of Kate Smith's studio career. She made a series of spectacular stereo albums in the 1960s at RCA. It’s hard to fathom that Smith is so far out of the public conscience that these dozen albums weren’t remastered and re-released during the CD era when all the big singers from that time were having nearly their entire catalogs released. Even though most of these albums are not on CD, they are nearly all worth acquiring.
The big orchestra, full stereo sound (even on Dynagroove LPs) is the best way to experience Kate’s clarion voice—I rarely listen to her mono recordings now. Once in a while, the sheer size of the sound makes things a bit stodgy (the angel chorus AND the full string section AND the brass), but each album has at least one or two great songs:
1) The aforementioned Carnegie Hall album is a landmark.
2 & 3) My least favorites are the two albums that are inspirational/gospel, because of the material.
4) There's a re-record of hits she introduced on the radio, which puts them into pairs and medleys to squeeze 24 of them all onto one LP: "The Kate Smith Anniversary Album".
5) There’s an album of “America’s Favorites” that she did with Arthur Fiedler/Boston Pops—songs like “Danny Boy” and “Because.”
6) There’s a Christmas album that is alternately thrilling and dull, overorchestrated.
The real finds of the series of albums are the ones where she covers then-contemporary material:
7)"A Touch of Magic", arranged by Barbra Streisand’s arranger Peter Matz, has Kate doing "Danke Schoen" and "Now I Have Everything" from FIDDLER. Great, loud, swingy arrangements of "You're Nobody Till Somebody Loves You" and "Too Close for Comfort". There are nice slower songs too -- a full out, huge "Climb Ev'ry Mountain" and a lovely "Til Tomorrow" from FIORELLO!
8) Matz also arranged her ballad recital "The Sweetest Sounds" which was on a Collector's Choice twofer CD. It's well sung early-60s movie and show tunes mainly. The obligatory songs that everyone covered: "I Left My Heart in San Francisco", "More", "Just in Time", "Days of Wine and Roses", "I Wish You Love". There are a few nice surprises like "Lollipops and Roses" and "If Ever I Would Leave You." And it's fun to hear Katie say, "Crayons ready?" during "My Coloring Book."
Things start to get funkier later into the sixties, where Kate did a series of what must have been intended as ultra-contemporary albums with titles like “Here & Now!”, “Today”, and “Songs of the Now Generation” singing things you never thought she would. There are unexpectedly delightful, and sometimes shockingly camp, results:
9) “Here & Now!” (arranged by Claus Ogerman) She lays out a slam-bang cover of Sinatra’s “That’s Life,” with a funny little riff at the end. There’s a sweet “What Makes it Happen?” from WALKING HAPPY. Her version of the 20’s hit “I’ll Take Care of Your Cares” is one of my favorite recordings, ever. She also does “Sherry!”, two ballads from I DO, I DO, and “And We Were Lovers” from SAND PEBBLES.
10) “Today” is another Matz album, with a little too much angel chorus and strings for my taste on some of the songs. I like Kate’s “Strangers in the Night” but not her “Somewhere My Love.” She makes the Lennon-McCartney “Yesterday” into a wistful memory song of a dignified older woman. She does The Lovin’ Spoonful’s “Daydream” (!), 3 Broadway potboilers (“Who Can I Turn To?”, “The Impossible Dream”, and “If He Walked into My Life” with an unexpected hard swing finish) each with thunderous climaxes, and a very nuanced, pretty “On a Clear Day.” There’s also the patriotic “Ballad of the Green Beret,” and she’s a bit defeated by “The Shadow of Your Smile.”
11) “Songs of the Now Generation” has fantastic Matz charts of pop and country hits. Kate does enjoyable renditions of Glen Campbell’s “Gentle on My Mind,” “By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” Jimmy Webb’s “Didn’t We?”, the Bacharach “This Girl’s In Love With You,” “Honey,” and the Lennon-McCartney “Here There and Everywhere.” I’m not as much of a fan of her “That’s the Way I’ll Come to You” or “Little Green Apples.” There’s a wrenching “Yesterday I Heard the Rain”. Inexplicably there are two songs from the flop Broadway show MAGGIE FLYNN with an Up With People type chorus.
12) “Something Special” (arranged by Glenn Osser) is my least favorite of the contemporary albums, though Smith does a nice, straightforward “Born Free”. There’s a lot of bad material on this one (“Misty Blue,” “I Think I Like You” from DR. DOLITTLE), but she does a vulnerable “(Please Send Me) Someone to Love” and “If You Leave Me Now,” a cut Kander-Ebb song from THE HAPPY TIME.
“A Touch of Magic” is dedicated to Ted Collins, who had just passed away. So the question is, when one looks at the songs Kate covered after his death—was she just really adventurous, or did she have no taste, and was willing to sing anything?
One thing she shared with Judy Garland—she always sang up to the minute contemporary material in her shows. At the end of her career, you can see Kate on TV singing everything from “The Way We Were” to “Bad Bad Leroy Brown.” In her concerts she did “The Summer Knows,” “If,” and a roof-rattling medley of “Make Your Own Kind of Music” and the Carpenters’ “Sing.”
Matz is successful a great deal of the time in framing and supporting her voice and giving the songs a contemporary feel that is appropriate for a vocalist like Smith. He really was a genius; his work here is more subtle and straightforward than some of his celebrated arrangements for other singers.
There is an absence of intellect in some of Smith’s interpretations, where it sounds like she’s just blasting the song out and hasn’t given the lyrics much thought. Sometimes she’s like Ethel Merman with a prettier sound, a little more warmth, and more shaded musicality. But she's got infectious energy and rhythm, and she can be unexpectedly heartbreaking…she’s worth the trip.
Kate Smiths heyday was in the 1930s/40s. She was a singer first and foremost. She owned a "camp" in lake placid NY where she was a much beloved resident- friends of mine who grew up there knew her well as a big kind woman who loved her ice cream cones and sang at town events, Republican or not. I never associated her with the Anita Bryant crowd- she was more of a moderate Repub.
r33: Did she ever sing Sondheim?
That's a serious question
More gays would love Kate if they could get their hands on a copy of her autobiography, which I think is titled UPON MY LIPS A SONG.
In it, she tells about her struggles as an aspiring singer of girth. Her first big break came in a show with Bert Lahr (whom she declines to identify by name.) She tells how her character, a singer named Tiny Little, was the butt of an endless string of fat jokes made by Lahr. One night Kate unwisely asked Lahr if he wouldn't mind taking it easy on her as her grandparents were going to be in the audience. Lahr was so furious to be asked to sacrifice laughs, he piled on the fat jokes worse than ever. It was all poor Kate could do not to cry on stage. Afterwards, her grandparents begged her to forget showbiz and retain her dignity.
What really makes the book so memorable is that it is told in two parts. The first part is her life story. The second half is her guide to living for others, written very much in the style of Joan Crawford's MY WAY OF LIFE. In it, she expounds upon the importance to a lady of dressing well to please others. Among other useful tips, she reminds her female readers that they should never leave the house without wearing the full complement of foundation garments.
No Sondheim on a studio album, no.
I wouldn't be surprised if some "West Side Story" or "Gypsy" crept into a medley in one of her many tv guest shots, shows, or specials.
I'm pretty certain that there's not a stand-alone performance of the kind of Sondheim I think you're talking about, i.e. a "Losing My Mind", "Ladies Who Lunch" or "Send in the Clowns"...but I'd need to check those last TV specials she did to be absolutely sure.
Here's "By the Time I Get to Phoenix" in a rendition that's very different from the Matz version with the full orchestra chart.
Irving Berlin and Kate donated all royalties from GBA to the Boy and Girl Scouts. They have received millions of dollars so far.
Kate Smith apparently asked for, and received, huge fees from the Philadelphia Flyers/City of Philadelphia for her four or five appearances singing "God Bless America" before Flyer games. I wonder if that money went to the Boy and Girl Scouts. At that point in her life, she did not need the money for herself.
Finally, there is no absense of intellect in Smith's live Carnegie Hall album. She closes the first act with "What Kind of Fool Am I?"
It's a song that everyone used to sing, but I never really felt the lyric until I heard Kate Smith's version. The same is true of "As Long As He Needs Me" later in the concert.
I'm surprised to see some really intelligent responses about Smith -- a singer with a magnificent voice by any standard (that she made her career in pop doesn't change the caliber of her sound, her phrasing, her diction, her breath control, her range). By any standard she had a fine technique too, her timbre, range and breath control lasted a long time, her intonation (NEVER aided by auto-tune or any trickery) was superb and like many singers of her generation (though only a few in pop had her vocal gift) she knew how to sell a lyric. Like Mahalia Jackson she used a mike but didn't need one (when I was a kid I saw an older Mahalia sing with four choirs in a huge 'temple' in Philly -- maybe five thousand seats. The electricity went out, all the mics went dead and Mahalia shook the walls and drowned out the by then belting choirs.)
She seems to have a nice person. Though her politics were of her time and faith, I'm not aware that she was abusive or nasty to anyone; on the contrary she seems in real life to have been goodhearted and generous.
Given all the idiots who now troll DL, making some kind of aesthetic out of their stupidity and inexperience, it's good to read a few smart people who can actually hear.
R40 - I like her "What Kind of Fool..." too. Here you go. This is from London--I think the only time she ever left the USA in her life was to go to London and do this show, which fortunately was taped. She really turns on at the end!
There's also a clip of her singing "More" from this show on YouTube.
I second everything that R41 said. This is why I love DL and continue to come back. Some of you are so knowledgeable and just plain fun to read. Thank you all.
The You Tube posts are fun.
She was certainly easy to make fun of because of her weight and her corny style. But she had a great big voice and knew how to use it in a very direct manner. In other words, she really was a damn fine singer- something which you can say very seldom about many popular "singers" in 2013.
Here's Kate Smith singing three songs to a small on-stage audience in 1963--the year she recorded the Carnegie Hall album. She's in great spirits and voice. And, most important Kate is interacting with the on-stage audience. Her 'God Bless America' here is better that at Carnegie Hall.
The late James Kirkwood told a funny story about doing a radio show with Kate. He slightly missed a line and during the commercial break, profaned him with every cuss word known. Two minutes later, she was singing "God Bless America."
Who could forget her being wheeled out onto the Emmy Awards stage in her wheelchair by Bob Hope as the audience sang GBA.
Her debut movie is no longer available but contained her dancing to "Dinah!" and singing a lovely song to the slaves called "Pickaninny Heaven."
That was wonderful, r 45. Love her "White Cliffs of Dover". Personally, I could have done without the cheesy background singers in "God Bless America". Kate Smith doesn't need 'em!
Smith had what all great singers like Flagstand, Garland and Streisand had. She makes singing seem as natural and unforced as breathing.
r46: She's singing over the radio to little "colored" orphan children, not slaves.
Every performer in the '30s had to deal with wince-inducing material like that.
Here's Smith singing "That's Why Darkies Were Born". As the YouTube poster commented, the song is an indictment of racism and was sung by Paul Robeson.
Kate's version is searing.
Kate Smith was more than just the fat lady that sang "God Bless America". She was the Oprah of her day. She single-handedly raised more than $600,000,000 in war bonds during WWII. She topped the ratings on radio and later on television. She was opinionated, tough, and had a heart of gold.
There is a channel devoted to the great Kate (posted below); before we judge her, check out her WORK. Suggested viewing is Kate on the Ed Sullivan Show - an excellent example of her stunning voice and performance style.
I do not consider her camp, and she is nothing like Cass Elliot (great as she was.) I am 38, gay, and absolutely in love with Kate. Why she is not more remembered today is beyond me; she was one of the greats. Seriously, check out the channel.
Happy New Year, everyone!
Here is the link to the aforementioned Ed Sullivan appearance of Kate, posted below. This was one of twenty times she guested on his show.
For the record, Kate Smith was a Democrat, and loved everybody. That awful Wiki article is causing her reputation some damage. That appearance with Anita Bryant was NOT part of Anita's hate campaign. Just linking her name to Kate's is awful.
Forget that Wiki tripe and enjoy the video!
'Why she is not more remembered today is beyond me; she was one of the greats.'
My guess is that people who only knew Kate Smith from The Ed Sullivan Show and The Tonight Show remember a woman with a great voice who tended to sing every song the same way--that famous high note at the end.
In that sense Kate Smith was like Ethel Merman, they both did what worked for them well. Kate Smith was more flexible and had much more personality than Merman. And Ms. Smith absolutely deserves to be remembered more than she is at the moment. But, it is telling that Smith and Merman were only months apart in age.
[quote]'Why she is not more remembered today is beyond me; she was one of the greats.'
She was considered "square" and "old hat" by 1960. People who are seventy-five today think of Kate Smith as someone their parents listened to.
Perhaps she was old hat to some, but she signed with RCA Records in 1963 and remained on the label until 1968, during which time she released a string of popular albums - one of which was a million-seller. Some of her best work is found on these albums.
I suppose that her life wasn't filled with enough drama to appeal to modern audiences, gay or straight. She didn't die young, didn't have a drug problem, she didn't have a string of marriages and had no scandal attached to her name.
When I say that I'm mystified that she is almost forgotten today, I guess I mean that in her day she was known as a "singer's singer", introducing hundreds of songs now considered among the best of the American songbook. She was a comforting presence on the airwaves during WWII; she was everybody's favorite auntie. Now it's all about "God Bless America" and the Flyers. That's it. It's a shame. Wait, I'm not knocking these, these are her modern claim to fame.
The fact that she was so incredibly successful in spite of her weight is enough to give one pause. Who knows, her weight might have been her "gimmick". But nobody made more fun of her weight than Kate herself.
In the end, it's all about that VOICE.
Check out the link to below to a beautiful rendition by Kate of that old chestnut "Beautiful Dreamer".
Oops, I just now read the interesting in-depth discussion of her RCA years earlier in this thread, so my comments on her RCA years may be a little redundant. For that, my apologies!
This is a great thread, I'm enjoying it greatly! (Kate detractors be damned. I'm being nice!)
Here is one of my all-time favorite Kate Smith songs, recorded for RCA in 1967. My partner of 16 years and I consider this "our song". Link below, enjoy!
It has not been mentioned that Kate Smith, late in her career, occasionally took over for Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show when he was on vacation.
She was her usually charming, chatty self. I actually do not remember if Kate sang on the nights she hosted the show.
I do remember a clash with a young up-and-coming actor. It may have been Don Johnson. Something happened between them during the commercial. Kate, always the profession, started the next segment with the same upbeat tone as usual. Johnson, or whoever the actor was, broke in and said, "You may know a lot about singing, but you do not know much about life."
You seldom see such raw emotion on television.
Smith ignored the comments, but she must have been hurt and confused by a world that she was not used to. Am I the one who saw that show?
Who was the stand up comedian who was always referring to aerial photographs of Kate Smith?
R58 here. I suspect "The Tonight Show" incident was just before Smith's association with the Philadelphia Flyers. If it was after, the dust-up would have received a lot more public attention. When the Flyers won the Stanley Cup two years in a row, Smith's part in the team's success was a major front page story.
The clash on the Tonight Show mentioned above was between Kate and George Maharis. He was flippant and disrespectful to her, and she was rightfully offended. Plus, he was fresh off of his Playgirl shoot and Kate wasn't very receptive to this...she was a lady, after all.
Thanks for remembering it was George Maharis, not Don Johnson. As a young person hearing Maharis' flippant comments, I was waiting for Kate Smith to come back with a quip to make the stuio audience laugh. Kate was the host; it was her job to try to resolve things. Even if she tried, and George continued, Kate would have gotten the audience on her side. Instead her silence seemed to confirm Geotge's views.
After all Kate was hardly new at being a host.
It was a very bad night for both Kate and George.
Enjoyed the Stephanie Blythe tribute to Kate Smith recently on PBS. But, Blythe's singing style is very far from Kate Smith's. Any younger person watching would have no idea that Smith usually started singing quietly and built the songs to the final high note...it was essentially her trademark.
[quote]Jackie Gleason... gave a performance of artists for decency
The guy was a known drunk and womanizer.
Little known fact: Kate also recorded under the name "Mrs. Miller" ala Garth Brookes/Chris Gaines.
Here she tackles 'Downtown' originally sung by Petula Clark. Unfortunately, Kate was struggling with a drinking and heroin addiction at the time.
Who was it that discovered Mrs. Miller? Was it Merv, Carson, or Letterman? She was on Ed Sullivan's show several times. Awful singer.
R66 It was Merv.
She sang with Cher and Tina
R68 Now, where R20 have I heard that?
According to Stephanie Blythe, Kate Smith never got over the fat girl jokes made at her during three Broadway shows at the start of her career. Her songs stopped the shows. But, she never sang those songs again in her very long career. Glad she learned to laugh at her pubic image near the end. And she earned a LOT of money performing at sporting events
Bert Lahr was one nasty sonofabitch off stage and sometimes even on stage. I'm sorry I read his biography that his son, John, wrote a long time ago. It made me see the cuddly, cowardly lion in a whole different light.
Too bad she didn't live long enough to be the spokesperson for Mr. Pinky's Hefty Hideaway.
According to an Internet data base, Kate Smith appeared in two Broadway shows, both had lengthy run for that era. Bert Lahr was in the first show. According to Blythe, the jokes were far worse in the 2nd show. Smith proved an inept "straightman," so the comic responded with more and more over-the-line fat jokes. I am not letting Lahr off the hook; he was a nasty man.
I recently watchedStephanie Blythe's show featuring the songs of Kate Smith, and while it was mildly entertaining, Blythe doesn't really come anywhere near Kate Smith's "genius" for singing those songs. Blythe is very artsy, very proper and makes the songs sound important and oversung. And these days Blythe doesn't have a lot of voice going for her, and her good days of singing the major Verdi mezzo parts are behind her. In her own unintellectual way, Kate just sang the songs with that blazing instrument and was miles more successful than Blythe in communicating those songs to her audience.
I too love that this thread exists here. I attended that Stephanie Blythe concert taped for PBS; it was fabulous.
The program notes for the concert mentioned her recording of songs now considered very racist. It also mentioned her straightforward singing which is what made her a star; though they mentioned some of her song interpretations early in her career were quite superb examples of jazz. I recall they even mentioned she recorded and released That's Life before Sinatra's famous version.
I do recall seeing her on the Donnie and Marie show, then I recall some sort of a scandal at the end of her life, did she have money problems due to issues with her health? I seem to recall issues with her niece as well.
r7, you have to give so much credit to the fabulous organist, who vamped and vamped and vamped while ole Kate milked the audience.
And if I'm not mistaken, Mrs Miller first showed up on Steve Allen's show. Like I said, I could be wrong.
And the very definition of Camp is that Beatles tribute with Kate, Cher and Tina.
R75: I do not remember all the detail, but Kate Smith was very sick during the last five/six years of her life...complications from diabetes. Smith moved to Virginia or North Carolina where her sister and her sister's family took care of her. There was an issue about who would receive Kate's money when she died. It became a national story because the sister's daughter was part of a cult religion, and was very interested in the money. By this point, Smith's only real allies were the Philadelphia Flyers and the City of Philadelphia. Looking back, she would have been better off in a nursing facility in Philadelphia.
I am sure the Blythe concert came across better in person than on television. But, Smith had over 35 years experience in putting across popular songs. Blythe did not come close to matching Kate Smith's magic with a popular song.
Mrs. Miller was actually discovered by Gary Owens, the announcer on Laugh-In. He had a radio show in the early 60s. He was the first to provide exposure to the self-financed recording "artist" who became a short-lived sensation on Capitol records a few years later.
[quote]Someone compared her style to that of Mama Cass
No. Barbara Cook would be closer to Kate.
Not Barbara Cook. That's the whole thing: Kate was unique, purely and simply. She really had something, probably instinctive and not learned, that just worked for her and her audiences during the 30s and 40s, maybe later. Maybe eternal.
I agree Barbara Cook is a wonderful singer, but very diferent from Kate Smith. In some ways, Merman is closer to Smith; they were both
untrained, yet knew how to put over a song far better than people who take voice lessons. And they both started on Broadway at the same time.
Stephanie Blythe was Nettie in "Carousel" on PBS last week. Her mezzo voice did not fit with the Broadway singers.
Now deceased friend worked at NBC in the 50s. His job was to find oversized furniture for the Kate Smith show so she wouldn't look huge around normal-sized furniture.
He said she was foul-mouthed and hated fags.
He used to joke that she was the producers' first-choice for Peter Pan (the musical), but they were afraid she'd pull down the theatre the first time they flew her.
Funny joke, but Mary Martin and her husband were co-producers of the musical version of "Peter Pan," so she was never in the mix.
Not really suprised she was foul-mounted and hated fags though.
[quote]Mary Martin and her husband were co-producers of the musical version of "Peter Pan," so she was never in the mix.
The mere fact that Kate Smith weighed over 200 pounds and had an enormous bosom disqualified her from the role of Peter Pan regardless of who produced it.
True R85. My point is that Mary Martin
initiated the musical version of Peter Pan (1954), and The Sound of Music (1959) for herself. And she was always going to play those roles first on Broadway.
Point taken, R86. It annoys me too that people think Mary Martin "beat out" younger women for roles in productions that she and her husband originated.
The closest we'll ever get to seeing Kate Smith as Peter Pan is John Candy playing Divine on SCTV.
82 years ago yesterday (May 1, 1931) Kate began her long broadcasting career.
The 22-year-old started out at CBS with no sponsor and a paycheck of just $10 a week ($148 in 2012 dollars) for a nationally broadcast daily program. Within 30 days, her salary increased to a more respectable $1,500 a week ($22,345 in 2012
dollars). Coincidentally, Kate was born May 1, 1907.
A review in The New York Times on Oct. 31, 1926, under the heading ''A Sophie Tucker Rival,'' said:
''A 19-year-old girl, weighing in the immediate neighborhood of 200 pounds, is one of the discoveries of the season for those whose interests run to syncopators and singers of what in the varieties and nightclubs are known as 'hot' songs. Kate Smith is the newcomer's not uncommon name.''