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Alice Faye

Real name: Alice Jeanne Leppert
Birthdate: May 5, 1915
Status: Married
Partner: Phil Harris

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Biography

Alice Faye (born Alice Jeane Leppert on May 5, 1915 - May 9, 1998) was an American actress and singer. She is remembered first for her stardom at 20th Century Fox and, later, as the radio comedy partner of her second husband, bandleader-comedian Phil Harris.

Born in New York City, she was the daughter of a New York police officer of German descent and his Irish-American wife, Charley and Alice Leppert. Faye's entertainment career began in vaudeville as a chorus girl, before she moved to Broadway and George White's Scandals in 1931. By this time, she had adopted her stage name and first reached a radio audience on Rudy Vallee's hit, The Fleischmann Hour (1932-1934), where she may have met her future husband and comedy partner Harris for the first time.

Cast in musicals most of all, Faye introduced many popular songs to the hit parade. Considered less than serious as an actress and more than serious as a singer, Faye nailed what many critics consider her best acting performance in 1937's In Old Chicago. She more than held her own - in spite of a mild speech impediment - with co-stars such as Vallee, Al Jolson, Charlotte Greenwood, and Edward Everett Horton, as well as leading men such as Don Ameche, Tyrone Power, and John Payne.

Zanuck hit back, it is said, by having Faye blackballed for breach of contract, effectively ending her film career. Released in 1945, Fallen Angel was Faye's last film as a major Hollywood star.

The couple had two daughters, Alice (b. 1942) and Phyllis (b. 1944), and began working in radio together as Faye's film career declined. First, they teamed to host a variety show on NBC, The Fitch Bandwagon, in 1946. Originally conceived as a music showcase as well as a haven for Harris and Faye's tart comic style, the show came to center more on the couple and, by 1948, Fitch bowed away as sponsor in favour of Rexall, the pharmaceutical giant, and the show was revamped entirely into a situation comedy called The Phil Harris-Alice Faye Show.

Faye singing ballads and swing numbers in her honey contralto voice was a regular highlight of the show, as was a knack for tart one-liners equal to her husband's. The show's running gags also included portraying Faye as something close to an heiress ("I'm only trying to protect the wife of the money I love" was a typical Harris gag) and occasional barbs by Faye aimed at her rift with Zanuck, usually referencing Fallen Angel in one or another way.

Faye and Harris continued various projects, individually and together, for the rest of their lives. Faye made a return to Broadway after forty-three years in a revival of Good News, opposite her old Fox partner John Payne (who was replaced by Gene Nelson). In later years, Faye became a spokeswoman for Pfizer Pharmaceuticals, promoting the virtues of an active senior lifestyle. The Faye-Harris marriage endured until Harris's death in 1995; before that, the couple donated a large volume of their entertainment memorabilia to Harris's hometown Linton, Indiana.

Three years after her husband's death, Alice Faye died in Rancho Mirage, California from stomach cancer at the age of 83. She was buried with her husband at the Forest Lawn Cemetery (Cathedral City) near Palm Springs, California. She has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in recognition of her contribution to Motion Pictures at 6922 Hollywood Boulevard. The Phil Harris-Alice Faye Show remains a favourite of old-time radio collectors.



 


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