Blaine, Vivian, 1921-1995

Alternative names
Dates:
Birth 1921-11-21
Death 1995-12-09
Americans

Biographical notes:

Although she appeared in nightclubs, film, television, and theater from the late 1930s through the mid 1980s, singer and actress, Vivian Blaine (1921-1995), is best remembered for having originated the role of Miss Adelaide in Guys and Dolls (1950).

Born Vivian Stapleton in Newark, New Jersey, Blaine was exposed to the word of show business at an early age through her father, Lionel Stapleton, a theatrical booking agent. She attended the Academy of Dramatic Art at age twelve, and, by fourteen, she was working as a big band singer in nightclubs in New Jersey and New York. During her early singing career, she tried out a series of stage names, finally settling on Vivian Blaine. Blaine was spotted by a talent scout from 20th Century Fox Motion Picture Studio, who signed to her first film contract. After playing a series of minor roles, Blaine filled in for Alice Faye in a starring role in Greenwich Village (1944). Although she continued to have starring roles in such films as Doll Face (1945) and State Fair (1945), Blaine became frustrated with the progress of her film career and she decided to buy up her contract from Fox. She moved back to New York, where she booked nightclub singing and touring theater engagements. After Blaine had been back in New York for a few years, she was cast as Miss Adelaide, the nasal-voiced, long-suffering fiancé of gambler Nathan Detroit in Frank Loesser's Guys and Dolls. For this role, she won the Donaldson Award for Best Debut Performance by an Actress. Blaine went on to recreate her performance in the London production, the 1955 film version, and various revivals. After her stage triumph in Guys and Dolls, Blaine made a few unsuccessful attempts to reestablish a film career with Skirts Ahoy (1952) and Public Pigeon No. 1 (1957) and she worked steadily in television and as a recording artist during the 1950s. However, in the latter part of her career, she primarily worked in theater. Blaine made her first foray into serious acting when she replaced Shelley Winters in A Hatful of Rain in 1954. She originated starring roles in the Jule Styne/Comden & Green musical, Say, Darling (1958), and the comedy, Enter Laughing (1963). From the 1960s through the early 1980s, Blaine continued to perform in many touring, regional, and stock productions and also did occasional work on film and television projects. Blaine retired from performing in 1985.

From the description of Vivian Blaine papers, 1916-1995. (New York Public Library). WorldCat record id: 123906771

Vivian Blaine was born Vivian Stapleton in Newark, New Jersey on November 21, 1921. Her parents divorced during her childhood, but she maintained relationships with both of them. Through her father, Lionel Stapleton, a theatrical booking agent, Blaine was exposed to the word of show business at an early age. She attended the Academy of Dramatic Arts at age twelve and at fourteen was working as a big-band singer in nightclubs in New Jersey and New York. During her early singing career, she tried out a series of stage names, finally settling on Vivian Blaine.

While singing at a nightclub, Blaine was spotted by a talent scout from 20th Century Fox Motion Picture Studio, who signed to her first film contract. However, when she arrived in Hollywood, she was only cast in minor roles in such films as Thru Different Eyes (1942), Girl Trouble (1942) and He Hired the Boss (1943). Although she played the female lead in a Laurel and Hardy vehicle, Jitterbugs (1943), Blaine didn’t get her big break until she was asked to step into a role intended for one of the studio’s top stars, Alice Faye, who was expecting a baby. For this film, Greenwich Village (1944), Blaine’s hair was dyed a bright shade of red that popped in Technicolor and she was given a publicity build-up as “The Cherry Blonde.” She landed her next starring role in the same way, filling in during Betty Grable’s pregnancy as the star of Something for the Boys (1944).

Although she continued to have starring roles in Doll Face (1945), Nob Hill (1945) and Rodgers and Hammerstein’s State Fair (1945), Blaine never achieved the status of the A-list stars and she became frustrated by the studio shunting her to be second lead, behind June Haver in Three Little Girls in Blue (1946). She decided to buy up her contract from Fox and moved back to New York, where she booked nightclub singing and touring theater engagements.

After Blaine had been back in New York for a few years she was cast in the role for which she would be best known for the rest of her career, Miss Adelaide, the nasal-voiced, long-suffering fiancée of gambler Nathan Detroit in Frank Loesser’s acclaimed and popular musical Guys and Dolls (1950). For this role, she won the Donaldson award for Best Debut Performance by an Actress. Blaine went on to recreate her legendary performance in the London production, the 1955 film version and various revivals.

After her stage triumph in Guys and Dolls, Blaine made a few unsuccessful attempts to reestablish a film career with Skirts Ahoy (1952) and Public Pigeon No. 1 (1957) and she worked steadily in television and as a recording artist during the 1950s. However, she primarily worked in theater. She made her first foray into serious acting when she replaced Shelley Winters as the pregnant wife of a drug addict in A Hatful of Rain in 1954. She originated starring roles in the Jule Styne/Comden & Green musical Say, Darling (1958) and the comedy Enter Laughing (1963).

During the 1960s, 1970s and early 1980s, Blaine continued to perform in many touring, regional and stock productions, appearing in musicals like Gypsy (1962), Damn Yankees (1967) and Follies (1973) as well as comedies, such as Twigs (1974), Light Up the Sky (1975) and Barefoot in the Park (1981) and dramas, including A Streetcar Named Desire (1960) and The Glass Menagerie (1972). Some highlights of her later career were playing Madame Hortense in the national tour of Kander and Ebb’s Zorba in 1969 and reprising the role opposite Anthony Quinn in the 1984 Broadway revival, during Lila Kedrova’s vacation and replacing Elaine Stritch and Jane Russell as Joanne in Stephen Sondheim’s Company in 1971. She also continued her concert and nightclub career, making acclaimed personal appearances in New York and San Francisco. She did occasional work on the big and small screens. She had small film roles in Richard (1972), The Dark (1979) and Parasite (1982) and television appearances on The Love Boat (1975) and Murder, She Wrote in 1985. She had a personal triumph when she sang “Adelaide’s Lament” from Guys and Dolls on the 25th Anniversary Tony Awards broadcast in 1971.

In 1945 Blaine married her business manager, Manny Frank, but the couple divorced in 1956. She was briefly married to Milton Rackmill, the President of Universal Studios and Vice President of Decca Records, from 1959-1961. Her third marriage to Stuart Clark, a business man in the garment industry, lasted until her death. In 1985, Blaine retired and she passed away on December 9, 1995, due to congestive heart failure.

From the guide to the Vivian Blaine papers, 1916-1995, (The New York Public Library. Billy Rose Theatre Division.)

Loading...

Loading Relationships

Information

Permalink:
http://n2t.net/ark:/99166/w66112m9
Ark ID:
w66112m9
SNAC ID:
72385232

Subjects:

  • Women singers--United States
  • Motion picture actors and actresses--United States
  • Women singers
  • Motion picture actors and actresses

Occupations:

  • Actresses
  • Motion picture actors and actresses
  • Women singers
  • Actors

Places:

  • United States (as recorded)