Dorothy Lamour as (Torch) Singer

11 Mar

lamour4Dorothy Lamour was a singer before her career as an actress and was a singer still after her movie career had faded. She actually got her start as a singer (well, actually she got her start doing beauty pageants). She toured with bandleader Herbie Kay (whom she married) and performed frequently on radio and did some vaudeville. In the ’60s she became a nightclub entertainer and stage performer (touring with “Hello, Dolly.”). And she did television. She seems to have kept very busy. But one thing that remained constant on stage, on television, in her nightclub act, on radio and in her movies was that she sang.

The song she might be most associated with is “The Moon of Manakoora,” which was written for John Ford’s The Hurricane by Frank Loesser and Alfred Newman (who wrote the film’s score, as well) and in which Lamour had one of her best sarong roles. The song seemed to personify her sarong role.

But Lamour was not limited to sarong roles or sarong songs. She could also sing a pretty heartbreaking torch song. My favorite example of this is in the 1940 film Johnny Apollo, which she appeared in with Tyrone Power. She plays the hard luck girlfriend of gangster Lloyd Nolan, but falls in love with posh Power and tries to help him when he gets involved with the gangsters. Lamour was good at playing hard luck girls (her name in Johnny Apollo is even Lucky Dubarry), the kind of girl who stands by the man she loves no matter what, who’s been kicked around in life and is not necessarily destined for a happy ending (she played a similar role in Spawn of the North).

“This is the Beginning of the End” was written by Mack Gordon. I love how she sings this song. Her voice is rich, throbbing and gets in your chest and resonates. Classic torching singing – sitting by a piano, possibly amidst cigarette smoke, singing your heart out while sitting mostly still. It’s in the voice and in the eyes (Helen Morgan does something similar in the 1936 Show Boat with “Bill”).

On a side note, I always thought Johnny Apollo went slightly wrong in giving her a happy ending.

Here is another example of a torch song sung by Lamour in 1945, “Perfidia.” This one is about the betrayal of her lover. The song originally had Spanish lyrics and was written by Alberto Dominguez. Martin Leeds wrote the English lyrics. The song is most famous for being performed by Glenn Miller, here. But I don’t find the lyrics as sung in his version quite as heartbreaking as Lamour’s rendition.

Okay, so “I’m in the Mood for Love” isn’t a torch song, but a love song, which she sings so beautifully – intimate, sexy, sweet. The music was written by Jimmy McHugh and the lyrics by Dorothy Fields.

Under this last youtube video was a comment by Wayne Brasler: “A wonderful singer though I think people just took that for granted, as they took her. She was so natural and so relaxed in front of the camera and in films the fact she was an outstanding actress and singer weren’t noted.” I think that’s true. In an industry where many people had their voices dubbed, the fact that she did her own singing – and did it well – largely goes unnoticed. Just as her singing in the Road series was taken for granted (partially because of the presence of Bing Crosby). But imagine, for a moment, a Road movie with a lead who couldn’t sing? Or had their voice dubbed? Some of the magic of the series would have been missing.

This post is part of my contribution to the “Dorothy Lamour Blogathon,” hosted by Silver Screenings and Front and Frock. Be sure to check out the rest of the entries, which will be posted as a recap at the end of the day.

Dorothy Blogathon


Posted by on March 11, 2016 in Music


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17 responses to “Dorothy Lamour as (Torch) Singer

  1. Andrea Lundgren

    March 11, 2016 at 10:38 am

    Perfidia is quite the song! I like the Spanish flavor that lingers, despite the English lyrics. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • christinawehner

      March 11, 2016 at 11:01 am

      It is awfully catchy, isn’t it! I’ve had it in my head all morning now. It kind of makes one want to dance a little, too.


  2. Michaela

    March 11, 2016 at 12:14 pm

    Nice post! I love that this blogathon is showcasing so many different sides to Dorothy Lamour. I’ll admit, I often take her for granted myself, probably because of her naturalness in front of the camera. I think if she had been allowed to sing more in the “Road” pictures, I might have noticed her more, just because it would’ve given her a little more to do and it would’ve put her on par with Bing. How fabulous would a romantic duet between them be?

    Liked by 1 person

    • christinawehner

      March 11, 2016 at 3:47 pm

      Thanks! Oh, that would have been delightful! You’re right, they definitely should have let them sing some duets together! I think in Road to Singapore they sing a kind of duet – he sings and then she sings to him – but it’s not quite the same.


  3. Silver Screenings

    March 11, 2016 at 1:01 pm

    Yes, we do tend to take Dorothy Lamour’s singing ability for granted, which is too bad because she has a beautiful voice. (I love her rendition of “This is the Beginning of the End”.)

    Your post shows us how talented Dorothy was. Thanks for highlighting her beautiful voice for the blogathon!

    Liked by 1 person

    • christinawehner

      March 11, 2016 at 4:08 pm

      Thanks! It was actually the song “This Is the Beginning of the End” that first made me think about her singing in a new way. I wish they’d given her more roles and opportunities to use her voice in the context of the plot.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Judy

    March 12, 2016 at 12:28 am

    She does a lot of singing in the film I’m going to cover, Lulu Belle, and I was thinking after seeing that that she has a great voice for torch songs, so was excited to see this post. The way she sings ‘Perfidia’ is fantastic – I’d previously heard this turned into a pop song, but it’s much better done this way.

    Liked by 1 person

    • christinawehner

      March 12, 2016 at 10:10 am

      Oooh, a movie where she gets a lot to sing sounds intriguing! It does seem like in many of her movies she isn’t given enough to sing. I will look forward to your review!

      She does sing “Perfidia” beautifully, doesn’t she? And it has a way of getting in one’s head and staying there, too. 🙂 I’m still singing it after playing it yesterday.


  5. stephencwinter

    March 12, 2016 at 6:49 am

    Watching Road Movies with my mother on Sunday afternoons in the winter months is another good memory although I have to say that my favourite parts of each film were the scenes with Bob Hope and Bing Crosby wisecracking with each other. When Dorothy Lamour came on to sing I would switch off but then I was a small boy. I suspect I would enjoy her scenes more now. Many thanks for reminding me of those days once again.

    Liked by 1 person

    • christinawehner

      March 12, 2016 at 10:17 am

      I’m so glad to be able to bring back more great memories!

      I know what you mean – I used to skip all the songs that weren’t the fun ones between Hope and Crosby, too. I confess, it wasn’t until after my teen years that I started to appreciate them. They seemed so slooow at the time. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. maedez

    March 12, 2016 at 10:12 am

    Thanks so much for showing a different side to our Dorothy!

    Liked by 1 person

    • christinawehner

      March 12, 2016 at 10:25 am

      And thank you for hosting! It has been delightful to discover the many facets of her career.


      • maedez

        March 12, 2016 at 10:32 am

        My pleasure! The more Dorothy, the better as far as I am concerned.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. March 15, 2016 at 12:41 pm

    I was actually surprised the first time I heard Dorothy singing! Her voice is beautiful, and, yes, taken for granted. I need to see Johnny Appollo yet!

    Liked by 1 person

    • christinawehner

      March 15, 2016 at 1:12 pm

      That’s a great point; her singing voice is unexpected! He speaking voice isn’t at all like her singing voice, is it? I used to actually skip her songs when I was a child, I am ashamed to say, and definitely took her singing for granted. It wasn’t until I saw Johnny Apollo that I started to actually realize how beautiful her voice is.



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