Friday July 27, actor/singer Tony Martin died from natural causes at his home in Los Angeles, Calif., according to family friend Beverly Scott. He was 98 years old. Martin was a Hollywood actor and singer that graced the silver screen in films like “Music in my Heart,” co-starring with Rita Hayworth and also hosted his own television variety show on NBC from 1954-1956.
Tony Martin was born Alvin Morris in San Francisco, Calif. on December 25, 1913. His parents were Hattie and Edward Morris and it was his grandmother that started him off in show business, by giving him a Saxophone for his birthday when he was 10 years old.
He performed in various bands throughout High School. He was educated at Saint Mary’s College, a Catholic college near San Francisco and his first job in the business was playing various reed instruments in orchestra leader Tom Geran’s band.
After college, he changed his name to Tony Martin and moved to Hollywood. He appeared in a few short films in the early 1930’s. In 1936 he was in two films with his future wife Alice Faye “Poor Little Rich Girl” and “Sing, Baby, Sing.” They were married in 1937.
Martin’s first hit record came in 1938 with “Now it Can Be Told,” a song written by Irving Berlin and sung by his wife Faye in the film “Alexander’s Ragtime Band.”
Martin continued to work in films with his wife, but his first real career boost came in the 1941 film “Ziegfeld Girl,” starring Jimmy Stewart and Judy Garland. Martin’s marriage with Faye ended in divorce in 1941 and with the beginning of World War II, Martin became a soldier. Martin first joined the Navy, but was discharged over controversy. He then joined the Army and worked in the war as a musician and singer. He was given a Bronze Star for his efforts.
After the war Martin had a small role in “Till the Clouds Roll By,” for MGM. By 1948, Martin began starring in films, including “Casbah” with Yvonne De Carlo. In this film Martin sung “For Every Man There’s a Woman,” which became an Academy Award nominated song. 1948 was also was an important year for Martin personally. He married dancer Cyd Charisse (most known today for her beautiful dance in “Singin’ in the Rain” with Fred Astaire.)
Martin was a successful singer of songs today defined as “standards” including “Stranger in Paradise,” La Vie en Rose,” “Fools Rush In,” “I’ll See You in My Dreams,” and Cole Porter’s “Begin the Beguine.”
Martin was honored with four stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for recording, radio, television and film.
Martin’s marriage to Cyd Charisse lasted 60 years, ending upon her death in 2008. Martin is survived by his 2 sons Tony Martin Jr. and Nicholas Martin.
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Whatever your movie choice this week, please remember your movie theater etiquette: silence your cell phones & no texting, please don’t talk during the film and remove your children if they become a distraction to other audience members. Don’t forget that laughing, crying and cheering are always approved behavior and even encouraged.
-Kay Shackleton is a film historian with special focus on Silent Films, see her work on SilentHollywood.com