Ethel Merman was larger than life: she could sing louder, hold a note longer, and project her voice farther than anyone else. She was the epitome of Broadway. Born in Queens, New York, she brought her outspoken, down-to-earth personality along with her powerful pipes to the stage.
Her practical family sent her to secretarial school, so she worked as a stenographer by day and pursued a singing career at night. In 1930 she was offered her first Broadway role in Girl Crazy, and she stole the show from star Ginger Rogers with her show-stopping “I Got Rhythm”. After two stage shows and two films she returned to Broadway for a string of memorable starring roles: Anything Goes (1936), DuBarry Was a Lady (1939), Panama Hattie (1940), Something for the Boys (1943), and Annie Get Your Gun (1946), which ran for 1,147 performances and gave Merman her signature song, ”There’s No Business Like Show Business.” She followed that up with Call Me Madam (1950) and Gypsy (1959). In between stage shows she continued to star and appear in films including Call Me Madam (1953), There's No Business Like Show Business (1953) and It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World (1963).
Merman continued to perform on stage and TV late into her career and joined the cast of Hello Dolly! for a three-month run in 1970 which lasted for nine. She published her autobiography in1978 and parodied herself in the film Airplane! (1980). She was a trooper to the end.
-- Sandra Burlingame
Courtesy of JazzStandards.com