ETHEL MERMAN BIOGRAPHY & FILMOGRAPHY:
Ethel Merman was born on January 16th, 1908 in Astoria, New York with the birth name Ethel Agnes Zimmermann. Her father, Edward Zimmermann was an accountant and her mother, Agnes worked as a school teacher.
She grew up in a very religious family and attended school at William Cullen Bryant High School. She focused her schooling on secretarial training but was also involved in a number of extra curricular activities such as being on the school magazine, the student council and the speakers club.
Her family exposed her to the theater industry every Friday. They would take the subway into Manhattan where they would watch the Vaudeville show at the Palace Theater. She soon found work as the personal secretary to a company called the Bragg-Kliesrath Corporation and was also working part time singing in night clubs.
When she was performing at Little Russia which was a club in New York, an agent named Lou Irwin set her up with a contract director with Warner Brothers who offered her an exclusive six month contract. Merman left her secretary job and waited to get cast in her first film. While she waited for her first role, she convinced Warner Brothers to allow her to continue performing in night clubs.
She finally got her first film role in, "Follow the Leader" and was also performing at the Palace theatre where she was seen by Vinton Freedley, a theater performer who asked her to come an audition for the musical, "Girl Crazy" in which she was chosen for the part and the play was highly successful running for a total of 272 performances.
She was then asked by Paramount to appear in a series of ten short musical films. Ethel soon followed this with another production called, "George White's Scandals" which ran for 202 performances.
Her success continued with another production in the play, "Take a Chance" which ran for 243 performances. She then gave film another try in two films, "We're Not Dressing" (1934) and "Kid Millions" (1934), however, she came to realize that her love of performing was as a stage actress and singer and she chose to return to Broadway.
She worked on the musical, "Anything Goes" but left after eight months to work on the film, "Strike Me Pink" (1936). She also was able to work in the film version of, "Anything Goes", but again realized how much she disliked the film industry. She moved back and forth between working as a stage actress and on films just so she could help further her career. Some of her other known stage work was in, "Red, Hot and Blue", "Stars in Your Eyes" and "DuBarry Was a Lady".
In 1943 she returned to Hollywood to work on the film, "Stage Door Canteen" and then her longest running stage performance occurred with, "Annie Get Your Gun" which opened on May 16th, 1946 and ran for a total of 1147 performances.
For the rest of her career up until 1980 she worked as frequently as offers were made to her. She made a couple appearances in, "The Love Boat" and also made a number of appearances as a soloist with symphony orchestras.
Merman also won a Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical in, "Call Me Madam" (1950) and followed her role with the screen adaptation where she won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress-Motion Picture Musical or Comedy. She received a number of other nominations and awards such as a Tony nomination for the musical, "Happy Hunting" (1957), "Gypsy" (1960) and she was the Recipient of the Tony Special Award in 1972. Her final film role was in, "Airplane" (1980).
Ethel Merman married four times throughout her life. Her first marriage was to William Smith from 1940 through 1941. She then married Robert Levitt from 1941 through 1952 and they had two children together, a daughter Ethel Jr. and a son, Bobby. Her third time to marry was to Robert Six from 1953 through 1960 and having no children. Merman's fourth and final marriage was to Mr. Ernest Borgnine on June 26th, 1964 and they only stayed together for one month.
Ethel Merman did not marry again and instead continued to focus on her career. When she was diagnosed with Brain cancer she went in for surgery and sadly, on February 15th, 1984 she passed away in her sleep, in New York City, New York from complications following the surgery. She was only survived by her son as she lost her daughter, Ethel in 1967 from an overdose of drugs and alcohol.
1983 Terms of Endearment
1979 All That Jazz
1979 Rudolph and Frosty's Christmas in July
1978 A Special Sesame Street Christmas
1977 You're Gonna Love It Here
1976 The Muppet Show
1976 Evening at Pops
1975 Brother Can You Spare a Dime
1974 Journey Back to Oz
1970 The Mike Douglas Show
1966 That Girl
1958 The Frank Sinatra Show
1957 Perry Como's Kraft Music Hall
1954 There's No Business Like Show Business
1954 The Colgate Comedy Hour
1953 Call Me Madam
1943 Stage Door Canteen
1938 Straight Place and Show
1938 Alexander's Ragtime Band
1938 Happy Landing
1936 Strike Me Pink
1935 The Big Broadcast of 1936
1934 We're Not Dressing
1934 Kid Millions
1932 Time on My Hands
1932 You Try Somebody Else
1932 Let Me Call You Sweetheart
1931 Be Like Me
1930 Her Future