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Tony Martin, film and nightclub crooner was 98

Tuesday, July 31, 2012 baritone crooner and peer of Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby who turned to singing as a child as an escape from anti-Semitic bigotry while growing up in San Francisco and Oakland, has died at age 98. Beverly Scott, his friend and accountant, said yesterday that he died of natural causes Friday night at his home in Los Angeles.

Martin got his start in radio and transitioned to appearances in movies in the 1930s, making appearances in 25 films, mostly during the heydey of movie musicals, where he was often cast as the romantic lead. He was married to two movie musical superstars, Alice Faye and Cyd Charisse, the latter marriage lasting 60 years until her death in 2008.

From the AP’s obit:
He 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. He had enjoyed the music of Freddie Martin at the Coconut Grove, so he borrowed the name. "Tony" came from a magazine story.
More: NYT obituary.

Image: Tony Martin in 1940/ WABC
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