Shirley Ross

Shirley Ross

actress, soundtrack

Thanks for the memory, Shirley! Little recalled today, with the exception of die-hard "Golden Age" musical fans, the ever vivacious and talented Shirley Ross had the makings of a major singing film star, but her career remained on the second tier which included 25 pictures within a decade's time. The oval-faced blonde is probably best remembered via her movie pairing with entertainment legend Bob Hope.She was born Bernice Maude Gaunt on January 7, 1913 (some sources list 1909), in Omaha Nebraska, the elder daughter of two born to Charles Burr and Maude C. Ellis Gaunt. Studying piano in her youth, her family eventually moved West where she attended Hollywood High School. During that time she appeared on radio and gave teen vocal recitals. Following high school graduation, she studied classical piano at UCLA.Shirley found early work singing and recording with Gus Arnheim's band and appeared in a number of the swankier clubs of the day, including the Beverly Wilshire Hotel. Of her early recordings with the band, one was the single "I'm No Angel," which would later become a signature song for none other than Mae West. Other recordings would include the tune "If You Leave Me Now."Having made a decent enough name for herself recording and warbling on radio shows, Shirley sparked the interest of up-and-coming songwriting team Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart, who chose her to help them sell their songs to MGM. This led to a MGM screen test and film contract in 1933. She made her unbilled debut in the Jean Harlow starrer Mademoiselle Volcan (1933) and appeared briefly in the musical film L'ennemi public n° 1 (1934) as a specialty singer offering the Rodgers and Hart song "The Bad in Every Man" which was later retitled "Blue Moon" with revised lyrics.Paying her dues as a starlet with a number of musical shorts and unbilled appearances in such feature films as La veuve joyeuse (1934) and J'épouserai un millionnaire (1934), Shirley began to move further up the credits with Calm Yourself (1935), Devil's Squadron (1936) and in the popular San Francisco (1936) wherein she sang "Happy New Year." She also starred as Reno Sweeney in a 1935 local stage production of "Anything Goes."Shirley's big break came with her playing sweet, young ingénue Gwen Holmes who comes to New York seeking radio stardom in Miousic 1937 (1936). She displayed a natural talent for comedy as well as a lovely voice ("You Came to My Rescue," "I'm Talking Through My Heart") opposite handsome Ray Milland in this studio loan-out to Paramount.Paramount took to Shirley and continued their burgeoning love affair offering her leads opposite Robert Cummings in the romantic comedy Hideaway Girl (1936) and John Trent in the musical comedy Blossoms on Broadway (1937) in which she sings the title song. Now signed to a five-year contract, she spent the next few years paired up vocally and romantically with either Bing Crosby or Bob Hope. She co-starred with Crosby in Waikiki Wedding (1937) ("In a Little Hula Heaven") and in Paris Honeymoon (1939) ("I Have Eyes to See With").With Hope she co-starred in The Big Broadcast of 1938 (1938) and soloed on the tune "The Waltz Lives On," but more famously duetted with Hope on the chic and bittersweet Academy Award-winning song "Thanks for the Memory," which would become Hope's iconic signature tune. This collaboration proved quite memorable and the two went on to co-star in the musical Thanks for the Memory (1938) in which they again duetted on the now-famous title tune as well as the song "Two Sleepy People." Bob and Shirley paired up one more time for Some Like It Hot (1939) in which she sang the title song and duetted with Hope on "The Lady's in Love with You").A pleasing but rather understated performer who never quite caught on, Shirley continued with a second lead in the Paramount comedy Café Society (1939) starring Madeleine Carroll and Fred MacMurray, and then appeared in films for other studios. She -- the Universal Baby Sandy comedy vehicle Je cherche un papa (1939) opposite Dennis O'Keefe; a second lead in the Warner Bros. comedy Kisses for Breakfast (1941) and in the minor Republic musical Sailors on Leave (1941), she was paired with William Lundigan.Preferring live audiences, Shirley stopped filming and focused on radio work, appearing frequently on "Command Performance," "Personal Album" and "The Bob Burns Show," as well as Hope's popular radio show. She also played the lead in Rodgers and Hart's musical "Higher and Higher" in 1940. In her only Broadway performance, she introduced the songs "It Never Entered My Mind" and "Nothing But You."Shirley returned to the big screen only one more time, towards the end of the war, with the "B" Republic musical A Song for Miss Julie (1945) co-starring the little known Barton Hepburn. After leaving pictures, she was little heard or seen and settled into domestic life. Married to agent Ken Dolan, she had two sons and a daughter.Shirley died in Menlo Park, California of cancer on March 9, 1975, aged 62. By having had a bit of "Hope" in her life, a fine flicker of "Thanks for the Memory" will always be in deference to wonderful singer Shirley Ross.

  • Birthday

    Jan 07, 1913
  • Place of Birth

    Omaha, Nebraska, USA

Known For

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