Charlotte Greenwood

The Life and Career of the Comic Star of Vaudeville, Radio and Film


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About the Book

Charlotte Greenwood never intended to become a comedienne, but she was unfashionably tall at 5′ 10″ and her early aspirations to become a great dramatic actress eventually led her to the field of comedy. Greenwood, whose early life had taught her nothing if not how to be optimistic, stifled her disappointment and used her considerable skill to become one of the greatest comedic actresses of the early twentieth century.
Based on Greenwood’s unpublished memoirs, this biography presents a personal, detailed look at her colorful life. Beginning with her early years in Philadelphia, Boston and Norfolk, it relates her struggles with ill health, her social difficulties caused by her then unusual height and her realization of her ambition to become an actress. The main focus of the work is her career, which spanned more than 50 years and ranged from vaudeville to the dramatic stage and, finally, to films (during the World War II years she starred in Twentieth Century Fox musicals with Cesar Romero, Betty Grable, Edward Everett Horton, Jack Haley, Don Ameche, and Carmen Miranda). Her roles in a variety of works including The Passing Show of 1912, So Long Letty (both stage and film), and I Remember Mama are also discussed. Special emphasis is placed on her career-defining (and best-known) role as Aunt Eller Murphy in the 1955 film adaptation of Oklahoma! Charlotte Greenwood’s performance history, a list of her known recordings, and a filmography for her husband Martin Broones are also included, along with a collection of rare photographs and memorabilia.

About the Author(s)

Biographer Grant Hayter-Menzies lives in British Columbia. His works include biographies of Charlotte Greenwood, Princess Der Ling, Sarah Pike Conger, Pauline Benton, and Lillian Carter, along with the life of a dog, military mascot Rags of the First Division in World War I.

Bibliographic Details

Grant Hayter-Menzies
Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 266
Bibliographic Info: 56 photos, appendices, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2007
pISBN: 978-0-7864-2995-0
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments       vii

Foreword by Brian Kellow      1

Preface      3

Introduction      5

Part One

1. “I come from a long line of Philadelphia barbers!”      13

2. Illness and Abandonment      19

3. Near Death in Boston, New Life in Virginia      23

4. “Show people were my people”      28

5. The White Cat      35

6. A Wayburn Girl      40

7. Two Girls and a Piano      47

8. The Passing Show of 1912      52

9. The Birth of Letty      59

10. Love and War      67

11. Trotting Tintypes and the Music Box Revue      74

12. “My darling”      82

13. Mrs. Martin Broones      91

14. Back to Hollywood      99

15. “Life is just a circus”      103

16. To London on the Santa Fe Express      109

Part Two

17. Wild Violets      119

18. Toast of the West End      122

19. “Charlotte Greenwood, the actress”      127

20. The Late Christopher Bean      132

21. Gay Deceivers      137

22. Letty’s Last Dance      142

23. “To the Antipodes and back”      150

24. Battle Drums      155

25. Zanuck and Stardust      160

26. Down Argentine Way      166

27. The Stars at War      174

28. Home in Indiana      183

29. Mrs. Eddy      192

30. Doris Day      197

31. Out of This World      200

32. Oklahoma!      211

33. “She knew what she had and she knew who she was”      217

34. Farewell Performance      223

Epilogue      228

Afterword by William Luce      231

Appendix A: Greenwood’s Performance History      233

Appendix B: Known Vocal Recordings of Greenwood      238

Appendix C: Lyrics Credited to Greenwood      238

Appendix D: Shows with Songs or Scores by Martin Broones      238

Appendix E: Martin Broones Filmography      238

Appendix F: Known Piano Recordings of Martin Broones      239

Appendix G: GUPPA (Greenwood’s Unusual Painless Pound Annihilator)      239

Appendix H: Greenwood’s Family Circle      241

Chapter Notes      243

Bibliography      249

Index      253

Book Reviews & Awards

“a first-rate biography…Grant Hayter-Menzies does his subject proud”—The Slide Area; “extensively researched”—Vancouver Voice; “a unique talent and an overlooked chapter in show business history, diligently researched and informatively written. Beloved Charlotte Greenwood has been brought back to life with candor and charm. A movie lover’s must-read!”—Rex Reed, journalist, New York Observer; “Charlotte Greenwood was a tough and bright show-biz cookie who broke the rules and wrote her own. Grant Hayter-Menzies chronicles her zig-zags, public and private, with remarkable passion and compassion, precision and perception. Those who only know Greenwood at twilight, essentially as sweet old Aunt Eller, are in for some happy jolts”—Martin Bernheimer, music critic, Financial Times, London.