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Peggy Lee

Peggy Lee

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The Jazz Singer DVD All his life he trained to be a cantor, but now Jerry Golding has other ideas.... more info $12.99was $19.99 Buy Now

Also Known As: Susan Melton, Norma Deloris Engstrom Died: January 21, 2002
Born: May 26, 1920 Cause of Death: heart attack
Birth Place: Jamestown, North Dakota, USA Profession: singer, actor, songwriter, record producer, waitress, bread slicer in a bakery, cow milker

Biography CLOSE THE FULL BIOGRAPHY

A sultry blonde vocalist and composer-lyricist of intimate, sometimes cynical ballads and jazzy torch songs, Peggy Lee first gained fame as a singer with Benny Goodman's band. She has since enjoyed solo success on TV and in nightclub appearances and has recorded over sixty albums. Among her better known hit singles are "Fever" and "Is That All There Is?" Lee has made a handful of guest appearances in films from her debut in "Stage Door Canteen" (1943) and delivered dramatic turns in two features. In Michael Curtiz's 1953 remake of "The Jazz Singer", she was the musical star who encouraged the cantor's son (Danny Thomas) to pursue his show biz dream. Two years later, Lee had a banner year in films: she wrote five songs and voiced several characters for Disney's animated "The Lady and the Tramp" and she earned an Oscar nomination as Best Supporting Actress for her turn as an alcoholic singer hitting bottom in "Pete Kelly's Blues". While Lee has never appeared in another film, she has written and performed songs for such diverse films as Stanley Kramer's "The Pride and the Passion" (1957), "Tom Thumb" (1958) and "The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming" (1966). Lee continued to perform in...

A sultry blonde vocalist and composer-lyricist of intimate, sometimes cynical ballads and jazzy torch songs, Peggy Lee first gained fame as a singer with Benny Goodman's band. She has since enjoyed solo success on TV and in nightclub appearances and has recorded over sixty albums. Among her better known hit singles are "Fever" and "Is That All There Is?"

Lee has made a handful of guest appearances in films from her debut in "Stage Door Canteen" (1943) and delivered dramatic turns in two features. In Michael Curtiz's 1953 remake of "The Jazz Singer", she was the musical star who encouraged the cantor's son (Danny Thomas) to pursue his show biz dream. Two years later, Lee had a banner year in films: she wrote five songs and voiced several characters for Disney's animated "The Lady and the Tramp" and she earned an Oscar nomination as Best Supporting Actress for her turn as an alcoholic singer hitting bottom in "Pete Kelly's Blues". While Lee has never appeared in another film, she has written and performed songs for such diverse films as Stanley Kramer's "The Pride and the Passion" (1957), "Tom Thumb" (1958) and "The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming" (1966).

Lee continued to perform in nightclubs, despite health problems (double bypass surgery, a fall that has left her confined to a wheelchair). In 1991, she made headlines when she successfully sued Disney for a share of the profits from the videocassette sales of "The Lady and the Tramp", claiming the studio had violated her contract by releasing the film without her permission. A jury awarded her a $3.825 million settlement that was reduced by a judge to $2.3 million. In 1998, she suffered a stroke which put an end to her long and distinguished career. She died on January 21, 2002 at age 81.

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Filmographyclose complete filmography

CAST: (feature film)

1.
 Suspicious River (2000)
2.
 Jazz Ball (1958)
3.
 Lady and the Tramp (1955) Voice of Darling, Peg, Si and Am
4.
 Pete Kelly's Blues (1955) Rose Hopkins
5.
 The Jazz Singer (1953) Judy Lane
6.
 Mr. Music (1950) Herself
7.
8.
 1995 Grammy Awards (1995) Honoree (Lifetime Achievement Award)
VIEW THE FULL FILMOGRAPHY

Milestones close milestones

1934:
Made radio debut at age 14 (date approximate)
:
Adopted stage name after moving to Fargo
1941:
First break, a vocal group with which she performed was hired to play clubs in Chicago
1941:
Seen by Benny Goodman and asked to join his band as the female vocalist; made first record with Goodman, "Elmer's Tune"; left Goodman in 1943
1943:
Film debut as a guest artist in "Stage Door Canteen"
1943:
Had first hit "Why Don't You Do Right"
1943:
Played a singer performing "The Lady Who Didn't Believe in Love" in the film "The Powers Girl"
1945:
Signed to a recording contract by Capitol Records
1946:
Early TV appearance in the first network-produced hour-long variety show "Hour Glass" (NBC)
1946:
Starred in the short "Banquet of Melody", performing own composition "I Don't Know Enough About You", written with husband Dave Barbour
1947:
Recorded song "It's a Good Day", co-written with Barbour
1948:
Had hit single "Manana"
1950:
Appeared opposite Bing Crosby in the film "Mr. Music"
1951:
Starred in the CBS summer variety series "The Peggy Lee Show"
1952:
Switched recording labels and signed with Decca Records; first success with that label, "Lover"
1952:
Made dramatic debut in films in the short "Midnight Serenade" (filmed in 1947)
1953:
Played first dramatic lead in a feature as the woman who loves "The Jazz Singer", played by Danny Thomas
1955:
Provided voices of several characters and wrote songs for Disney's "Lady and the Tramp"
1955:
Won acclaim and a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination for her performance as an alcoholic singer in "Pete Kelly's Blues"; last feature acting role to date
1956:
Starred opposite Jack Benny as his wife in the CBS production "Shower of Stars: The Flattering World"
1957:
Left Decca and returned to Capitol Records
1958:
Recorded one of her signature songs, "Fever"
1960:
Had rare dramatic TV role in "So Deadly, So Evil" broadcast on CBS' "General Electric Theatre"
1960:
Headlined own CBS variety special "Revlon Presents: 76 Men and Peggy Lee", directed by Abe Burrows
1961:
British TV debut in "Big Night Out" (BBC)
1963:
Appeared at Lincoln Center's Philharmonic Hall in a program called "The Jazz Tree"
1966:
Starred in the syndicated variety program "Something Special with Peggy Lee"
1969:
Had hit recording of "Is That All There Is?"
1969:
Headlined the public television broadcast "The World of Peggy Lee" (National Educational Television)
1972:
Made rare acting appearance as a guest on the legal show "Owen Marshall, Counselor at Law" (ABC), playing a singer-songwriter involved in a plagiarism suit
1974:
Performed the Oscar-nominated song "The Way We Were" on the annual telecast of the Academy Awards
1976:
Suffered near-fatal fall in a New York City hotel
1977:
Headlined the variety program "Peggy" for Thames Television in Great Britain
1981:
Starred in "Peggy Lee Entertains" (BBC-2)
1983:
Made sole Broadway appearance in the autobiographical one-woman show "Peg"; production closed after 13 previews and five performances
1984:
Starred in PBS presentation "Peggy Lee Live in Atlantic City"
1985:
Underwent heart surgery
1987:
Seriously injured in a fall in Las Vegas
:
Filed lawsuit against Disney for share of royalties of videocassette sales of "The Lady and the Tramp"
1991:
Awarded $3.83 million in videocassette profits from (she was originally paid $3,500 for her work in the 1955 film which had then grossed over $70 million in profits from video sales)
1998:
Suffered a stroke on October 27
VIEW ALL MILESTONES

Notes

There is an "Official Peggy Lee Web Site" at www.peggylee.com

Throughout her life, Lee has had more than her share of health troubles. She was diagnosed as diabetic, was stricken with double pneumonia in 1961, had a thyroid condition that threatened to compress her vocal cords which was alleviated by surgery, suffered a near-fatal fall from a hotel in 1976 that left her temporarily blind, unable to stand and partially deaf, underwent heart surgery in 1985, was severely injured in a fall in Las Vegas in 1987 and suffered a stroke in 1998.

Inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1999.

In 1949, when she made a guest appearance on an album recorded by Mel Torme, Miss Lee used the pseudonym "Susan Melton".

"If you don't feel a thrill when Peggy sings, you are dead, Jack." --quote attributed to jazz historian Leonard Feather.

"I always sing softly - but I had to, because I started singing in noisy nightclubs. And I found the only way to keep the audience quiet was to lower my own voice." --Peggy Lee quoted in The New York World Telegram, December 27, 1952.

"Peggy is one of those rare performers who can handle silence. She has amazing control. Also, she's somebody who likes herself - in other words, she likes what she does, and the audience gives her respect." --Abe Burrows, who directed "Revlon Presents: 76 Men and Peggy Lee", quoted in Newsweek, March 21, 1960.

"I work harder now than I've ever done in my life, because I'm the boss. I pay for anything and I'm responsible. When I was with Benny Goodman I traveled a lot, doing one-night stands. I was my own hairdresser and wardrobe mistress, and I just can't think how I got through it. I'm asked a lot about durability, about why there are so few big women singers. But I don't really know the answer. I often wonder about it. I suppose it takes a lot of strength. You have to be strong." --Peggy Lee to the London Times, June 21, 1970.

"I don't know that I honestly regret anything. I know I've made a lot of mistakes, but I think, given the same set of circumstances, I'd make the very same mistakes again." --Peggy Lee quoted in the Los Angeles Times, December 31, 1981.

"She's simply the greatest white blues singer ever." --Robert Drivas who staged her one-woman Broadway show, quoted in People, January 9, 1984.

On her stepmother, Lee told People (January 9, 1984): "She poured boiling water on my hands when I did dishes and used the metal end of a razor strap for beatings.

"I've often wondered why so many great singers had so much grief and pain in their lives. I understand now that it's because the soul needs to be pressed down, tested in some way, to promote growth."

Companions close complete companion listing

husband:
Dave Barbour. Guitarist, songwriter. Performed together with Benny Goodman's band; married in 1943; co-wrote songs with Lee; divorced; reportedly was an alcoholic; divorced in 1951; died in 1965.
husband:
Brad Dexter. Actor. Married on January 4, 1955; divorced ten months later.
husband:
Dewey Martin. Actor. Married on April 25, 1956; divorced in 1959.
husband:
Jack Del Rio. Bandleader, musician. Married in 1964; divorced in 1965.
VIEW COMPLETE COMPANION LISTING

Family close complete family listing

father:
Marvin Engstrom. Railroad station agent. Remarried.
daughter:
Nicki Lee Barbour Foster. Born in 1944; has three children.
granddaughter:
Holly Foster Wells. Executive. Served as vice president of Peggy Lee Enterprizes.

Bibliography close complete biography

"Miss Peggy Lee: An Autobiography" Donald I. Fine, Inc.

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