Born: December 25, 1913; Died July 27, 2012.
Tony Martin, who has died aged 98, was an American singer whose career spanned the Great Depression to the 21st century with songs such as Begin The Beguine and There's No Tomorrow.
He appeared in 25 films, most of them made during the heyday of the Hollywood musicals and was married to two movie musical superstars, Alice Faye and Cyd Charisse. A peer of Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra, he sang in a warm baritone that carried special appeal for his female audience.
Martin found his escape through music while growing up in San Francisco and Oakland amid a poor, close-knit Russian Jewish family, enduring taunts and slights from classmates.
Performing on radio led to his break into the film business. His first singing role came in the 1936 Sing Baby Sing, which starred future wife Faye and introduced the Ritz Brothers to the screen as a more frenetic version of the Marx Brothers.
As a contract player at Twentieth Century Fox, Martin also appeared in Pigskin Parade – featuring a young Judy Garland – Banjo On My Knee, with Barbara Stanwyck and Joel McCrea, Sing And Be Happy, You Can't Have Everything, Ali Baba Goes To Town and Sally, Irene and Mary.
In 1940 he shifted to MGM and sang in such films as The Ziegfeld Girl (with James Stewart, Lana Turner and Judy Garland), The Big Store (with the Marx Brothers), Till The Clouds Roll By, Easy To Love and Deep in My Heart.
In 1948, he produced and starred in Casbah, a well-received film musical version of Algiers with a score by Harold Arlen and Leo Robin.
He made singing tours of Europe and had a yearly contract at London's Palladium. Martin fell in love with Faye while at Fox, where she was one of the studio's biggest stars. Married in 1937, the newlyweds were considered one of Hollywood's handsomest couples. But the marriage eroded because of career conflicts and his distaste for becoming known as Mr Alice Faye. They divorced after two years.
Martin met Charisse, then a rising dance star at MGM, just after the war and they married in 1948. She had a son Nicky, born of her first marriage to dance director Nico Charisse. She gave birth to Tony Jr in 1950.
Charisse became a star at MGM during the 1950s, dancing with Fred Astaire in The Band Wagon and Silk Stockings and Gene Kelly in Singin' In The Rain and Brigadoon.
In later years, Martin and Charisse put out a 1976 double autobiography, The Two Of Us, and often toured in singing and dancing shows. He continued appearances into his 90s, his voice only slightly tarnished by time.
He was born Alvin Morris and attended St Mary's College of California, where he and other students formed a popular jazz combo, The Five Red Peppers. After college, he formed Al Morris and His Orchestra, and played in San Francisco nightclubs like the Chez Paree, often appearing on late-night national radio.
MGM chief Louis B Mayer heard the bandleader sing Poor Butterfly on radio and ordered a screen test. It was a failure, but an agent landed Morris a contract at RKO, where he got a new name.
The Second World War brought the one big scandal in his life. He enlisted in the Navy in 1941 and was given a specialist ranking. A year later, a Navy officer who facilitated Martin's enlistment was court-martialled, accused of accepting a $950 car from him. The singer was not charged but was dismissed from the Navy for unfitness.
He asked his draft board for immediate induction into the Army and served three years in Asia. The scandal lingered over Martin's head after the war, but he managed to rebuild his career with radio, films, personal appearances and records.
He is survived by stepson Nico Charisse. Tony Martin Jr died last year.
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