Born Ethel Agnes Zimmermann,
in Astoria, Queens...1908.
She would become
"the undisputed First Lady of the musical comedy stage."
Ethel performed in clubs, Vaudeville
(on the Keith Circuit), and
early musicals like "Follow the Leader" (1930)
in which she was hired to replace Ruth Etting.
The Gershwin boys heard her and immediately cast her in Girl Crazy.
Never took a lesson!
From the 1936 movie, Anything Goes!
Ethel starred as Reno Sweeney, with Bing Crosby (see beard)
Arthur Treacher, Ida Lupino and Margaret Dumont.
Bing initially wanted his wife, Dixie Lee, to play opposite him,
but when she dropped out, Ethel was able to repeat her stage role!
Ethel as Panama Hattie...
a Cole Porter show that lasted 2 years on Broadway (1940-42),
prompting Brooks Atkinson of the New York Times to say,
"the Merman hangs bangles on any song that comes her way."
After a long string of successes in Hollywood and on stage,
Ethel flopped in Happy Hunting,
with Fernando Lamas...
but had Gypsy to look forward to just 4 years later.
Unfortunately she lost the Tony that year to
Mary Martin, in The Sound of Music.
Ethel's response? "How are you going to buck a nun?"
Yes, this is an episode from Love Boat...
but still, what an incredible line up!
Della Reese, Ann Miller, Ethel and Carol Channing
And then Batman!
Jeez...here she is playing Lola Lasagna with
Burgess Meredith's Penguin.
We forget how beautiful!