Famous People From Florida: Frances Langford
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Julia Frances Langford (April 4, 1913 – July 11, 2005) was an American singer and entertainer who was popular during the Golden Age of Radio and also made film appearances over two decades.
Discovery and radio
Frances grew up in the Mulberry, Florida area, a tiny community near Lakeland. She attended Lakeland High School. Langford originally trained as an opera singer. While a young girl she required atonsillectomy that changed her soprano range to a contralto. As a result, she was forced to change her vocal style to a more contemporary big band, popular music style. At age 17, she was singing for local dances. Cigar manufacturer Eli Witt heard her sing at an American Legion party and hired her to sing on his local radio show. While singing for radio during the early 1930s, she was heard by Rudy Vallee, who invited her to become a regular on his radio show. From 1935 until 1938 she was a regular performer on Dick Powell‘s radio show. From 1946 to 1951, she performed with Don Ameche on The Bickersons.
With her film debut in Every Night at Eight (1935) she introduced what became her signature song: “I’m in the Mood for Love.” She then began appearing frequently in films such as Broadway Melody of 1936(1935), Born to Dance (1936) and Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942) with James Cagney, in which (portraying Nora Bayes) she performed the popular song “Over There.” In several of these films, such asBroadway Melody, she appeared as herself, as she did in 1953 in The Glenn Miller Story where she sang “Chattanooga Choo Choo” with the Modernaires and the movie orchestra.
World War II
From 1941, Langford was a regular singer on Bob Hope‘s radio show. During World War II, she joined Hope, Jerry Colonna, guitarist Tony Romano and other performers on U.S.O. tours through Europe, North Africa, and the South Pacific, entertaining thousands of G.I.’s throughout the world.
In his memoir, Don’t Shoot! It’s Only Me!, Bob Hope recalled how Frances Langford got the biggest laugh he had ever heard. At a U.S.O. show in the South Pacific, Langford stood up on a stage to sing before a huge crowd of G.I.’s. When Langford sang the first line of her signature song, “I’m in the Mood for Love,” a soldier in the audience stood up and shouted, “You’ve come to the right place, honey!”
Also, during the war, Langford wrote a weekly column for Hearst Newspapers, entitled “Purple Heart Diary,” in which she described her visits to military hospitals to entertain wounded G.I.’s. She used the weekly column as a means of allowing the recovering troops to voice their complaints, and to ask for public support for making sure that the wounded troops received all the supplies and comforts they needed.
Her association with Hope continued into the 1980s. In 1989 she joined him for a USO tour to entertain troops in the Persian Gulf.
She worked for several years in the late 1940s on Spike Jones‘ show and starred in a short-lived DuMont variety show Star Time (1950). She then teamed with Don Ameche for the ABC television program, The Frances Langford/Don Ameche Show(1951), a spin-off of their successful radio series The Bickersons in which the duo played a feuding married couple. Langford was also the host of the NBC musical variety program Frances Langford Presents (1959), which lasted one season. Langford made an appearance in The Honeymooners lost episode “Christmas Party” which first aired December 19, 1953.
Marriages and later life
Frances Langford married three times. Her first husband, from 1934 until 1955, was actor Jon Hall. In 1948 they donated 20 acres (81,000 m2) of land near her estate in Jensen Beach, Florida to the Board of County Commissioners of Martin County, which named it Langford Hall Park. Located at 2369 N.E. Dixie Highway just south of the Stuart Welcome Arch, it is known today simply as Langford Park and is one of the county’s major parks.
In 1955, she married Outboard Marine Corporation President Ralph Evinrude. They lived on her estate in Jensen Beach and opened a resort they named The Outrigger, where Langford frequently performed. Evinrude died in 1986. In 1994, she married Harold Stuart, who had been an assistant secretary of the United States Air Force under President Harry S. Truman and who survived her. She had no children.
Langford was a supportive member of the Jensen Beach community and constantly donated money to the community. She died at her Jensen Beach home at age 92 from congestive heart failure. In 2006, the Frances Langford Heart Center, made possible by a bequest from her estate, opened at Martin Memorial Hospital in Stuart, Florida.
Hollywood Walk of Fame
Frances Langford enjoyed significant success in both the radio and movie genres, and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, at 1500 Vine Street, which acknowledges her contribution to motion pictures.
- The Subway Symphony (1932) (short subject)
- Rambling ‘Round Radio Row #5 (1933) (short subject)
- Every Night at Eight (1935)
- Broadway Melody of 1936 (1935)
- Collegiate (1936)
- Palm Springs (1936)
- Sunkist Stars at Palm Springs (1936) (short subject)
- Born to Dance (1936)
- Hit Parade of 1937 (1937)
- Hollywood Hotel (1937)
- Dreaming Out Loud (1940)
- Too Many Girls (1940)
- Hit Parade of 1941 (1940)
- Swing It Soldier (1941)
- All American Co-Ed (1941)
- Picture People No. 4: Stars Day Off (1941) (short subject)
- Mississippi Gambler (1942)
- Picture People No. 10: Hollywood at Home (1942) (short subject)
- Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942)
- Hedda Hopper’s Hollywood No. 4 (1942) (short subject)
- Combat America (1943) (documentary)
- Follow the Band (1943)
- Cowboy in Manhattan (1943)
- This Is the Army (1943)
- Never a Dull Moment (1943)
- Career Girl (1944)
- Memo for Joe (1944) (short subject)
- Dixie Jamboree (1944)
- Girl Rush (1944)
- Radio Stars on Parade (1945)
- People Are Funny (1946)
- Screen Snapshots: Hollywood Victory Show (1946) (short subject)
- The Bamboo Blonde (1946)
- Beat the Band (1947)
- Melody Time (1948) (voice)
- Deputy Marshal (1949)
- Purple Heart Diary (1951)
- The Glenn Miller Story (1953)
- Fun at St. Fanny’s (1956)
Famous People From Florida: Frances Langford/Florida Latin Connection/ Pura Varona, Editor