Felix In Hollywood

A Blog for the Smart Set

Monday, June 20, 2011

America's - and my - Singing Sweetheart.

Listen, I figure you don't get a chance to say something like this all too often, and I'm not about to miss my chance, so here goes:  Last Friday I met a gal who appeared on the very first Ed Sullivan show.

Yeah, I thought that might get your attention - it sure got mine.

On my tour company facebook page I feature a daily "Snapshot of Old Hollywood", and on the eve of Daylight Savings Time I used this one:

The caption informed me that the tiny figure precariously perched on the ladder atop the Eastern building in downtown L.A. was an MGM starlet named Monica Lewis.  I wasn't familiar with the name and figured she had come to Hollywood somewhere in the late forties or early fifties done a few bit parts and then gone home to Oklahoma or Montana.  Well let me tell you how wrong a fella can be!

On Friday Monica had a book signing of her new picture book/bio at a jewel of an independent book store, "Book Soup", on the Sunset Strip.

Now, I'm not going to go on at length here because there's an awful lot of 'Wow' factor in these pages that I don't want to spoil, and I really want you to get your hands on this book!

Did I mention she was stacked!

But to whet your appetite (in addition to the aforementioned appearance on the inaugural Sullivan show):

Her first love is music and when you read about her family; it couldn't have been any other way.

She and her first husband founded a jazz record label for which she recorded called Signature.

She has also produced records on Decca, MGM, Jubilee, Capitol and Verve.

My very favorite picture of Monica.  Dimples!

She was the voice of Chiquita Banana for 14 years.

The Society of Illustrators named her "Miss Leg-O-Genic"

She was an indefatigable supporter and performer for troupes in both WWII and the Korean War. 

MGM, in their infinite wisdom, and the shakeup of replacing Louis Mayer with Dore Schary, didn't know what to do with her and insisted on re-making her in the image of Lana Turner.

A blatant Lana-like Monica.

She had a long and beautiful second marriage to Universal Exec and Producer Jennings Lang, that permitted her to do small parts over the years in his pictures.  Her appearances were seen as his good luck charm.

After all those years, still hanging off of buildings!  Monica and Charlton Heston from "Earthquake!"

We got to speak for a couple of minutes before the signing and she confided that she found the event to be so much fun.  She added that, at her age (she will soon be 90) she would take fun wherever she could find it!  She told me that she doesn't walk so hot anymore and that her voice is gone.  Later while waiting on line to have my book signed, the guy in front of me brought an old piece of sheet music with her on the cover and asked her if she would sign it.  She took looked at it and smiled the smile of a thousand memories and sang the first line of it.  What came out was a sound so rich and velvety that I broke out in chills.  "No voice anymore?", I thought to myself, "yeah, sure!"  She was beautiful, she was adorable, I was charmed.

I'm about half way through the book and what a swell book it is.  Warm, funny, conversational, a bit saucy from time to time and not a dull moment.  It's one to treasure,  just like its' author.

Till you can read it pop over to her website, click on the 'songs' tab, and treat yourself to that voice.  It was no mistake that she was called "America's Singing Sweetheart"

Beautiful Monica today.  Photo by Alan Mercer.


mrpeenee said...

I demand to be the new Miss Leg O Genic. Alert the media.

Alan Mercer's PROFILE said...

Wonderful blog on Monica! She is so easy to love. Great job!

ilduce said...

Thanks for the great story, read and music!

Mike Lang said...

Beautiful job, Felix! You captured Monica beautifully and lovingly..... just as I do! ☺

FelixInHollywood said...

Hey Mike! Funny you should chime in; I was just reading about you as a kid!
Thanks for your great comment and congrats on having the Mom of the Year. Any year!

VP81955 said...

Her love of jazz must have endeared her to Jack Webb.