Tony Martin (American singer)

Alvin Morris (December 25, 1913 – July 27, 2012), known professionally as Tony Martin, was an American actor and popular singer. His career spanned over seven decades, and he scored dozens of hits between the late-1930s and mid-1950s with songs such as "Walk Hand in Hand", "Stranger in Paradise" and "I Get Ideas". He was married to actress and dancer Cyd Charisse for 60 years, from 1948 until her death in 2008.

Tony Martin
Martin in 1953
Background information
Birth nameAlvin Morris
Born(1913-12-25)December 25, 1913
San Francisco, California, U.S.
DiedJuly 27, 2012(2012-07-27) (aged 98)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Occupation(s)Singer, actor
Years active1933–2009

Life and career

Martin was born on December 25, 1913, in San Francisco,[1][2] the son of Hattie (née Smith) and Edward Clarence Morris.[3][4] His family was Jewish, and all of his grandparents had emigrated from Eastern Europe.[3] He was raised in Oakland, California.[5] At the age of ten, he received a saxophone as a gift from his grandmother.[6] He went to Oakland High School and St Mary's College.[7]

In his grammar school glee club, he became an instrumentalist and singer. He formed his first band, named "The Red Peppers," when he was at Oakland Technical High School, eventually joining the band of a local orchestra leader, Tom Gerun, as a saxophone player sitting alongside the future bandleader Woody Herman. He attended Saint Mary's College of California during the mid-1930s. After college, he left Gerun's band to go to Hollywood to try films. It was at that time that he adopted the stage name of Tony Martin.

On radio, Martin sang and was master of ceremonies on Tune-Up Time, with Andre Kostelanetz, on CBS in the early 1940s.[8] NBC broadcast The Tony Martin Show, a 15-minute variety program, from 1954 to 1956 prior to the evening newscast. One of his guests was Dinah Shore, soon starring in her own hour-long NBC variety program.

He was a featured vocalist on the George Burns and Gracie Allen radio program. On the show Allen playfully flirted with Tony, often threatening to fire him. Allen would say things like, "Oh, Tony, you look so tired, why don't you rest your lips on mine?"

In films, Martin was first cast in a number of bit parts, including a role as a sailor in Follow the Fleet (1936), starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. He eventually signed with 20th Century-Fox and then Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer in which he starred in a number of musicals. Between 1938 and 1942, he made a number of hit records for Decca. In 1941, Martin received equal billing with the Marx Brothers in their final film for MGM, The Big Store, in an effort to lure pop music fans and as an indication of MGM's lack of interest in the comedy team.[9] In the film he played a rising singer and performed "Tenement Symphony," which was written by Hal Borne, who became his long-time musical director. Martin was the last surviving actor to co-star with the Marx Brothers.[10]

Martin joined the United States Navy in 1942 as a chief specialist, the equivalent of a chief petty officer.[11] He was dismissed from the service that year for "unfitness" after he testified at the court martial of a Naval procurement officer. He enlisted as a specialist after the officer twice failed to obtain a commission for him. Martin said that he had given the officer an auto worth $950 to "facilitate" his enlistment. At the time of his dismissal, the Navy said that removal for unfitness was not equivalent to a dishonorable discharge and "does not carry degradation."[12]

After leaving the Navy Martin was drafted into the Army and assigned to the United States Army Air Forces. He was assigned to Capt. Glenn Miller's band at the request of Miller, who considered him the best singer in the armed services. Martin later said he felt as though he had "stumbled into heaven through the side door."[11] Martin was later promoted to technical sergeant in the Air Transport Command and stationed in India, where Brig. Gen. William H. Tunner, commanding the Hump Airlift, put him to work as an entertainer, forming a troupe of amateur talent from the command and taking it around the various bases to perform.

After the war, Martin signed with Mercury Records, then a small independent label run out of Chicago, Illinois. He cut 25 records in 1946 and 1947 for Mercury, including a 1946 recording of "To Each His Own," which became a million-seller. It was awarded a gold disc by the RIAA.[13] This prompted RCA Victor to offer him a record contract, which he signed in 1947 after satisfying his contract obligations to Mercury.

He continued to appear in film musicals during the 1940s and 1950s. His rendition of "Lover Come Back to Me" with Joan Weldon in Deep in My Heart – based on the music of Sigmund Romberg and starring José Ferrer - was one of the highlights of that film. He also starred as Gaylord Ravenal in the Show Boat segment from the 1946 film Till the Clouds Roll By.

In 1958, he became the highest paid performer in Las Vegas, signing a five-year deal at the Desert Inn, earning $25,000 a week.[14]

In an unlikely pairing, Martin recorded for the Motown Records label in the mid-1960s, scoring a minor hit with the record "Talkin' To Your Picture."

Martin was a stockholder in the Parvin-Dohrmann Corporation, a hotel and casino company that owned the Flamingo Las Vegas.[15]

Personal life

In 1937, he married actress and singer Alice Faye, with whom he had appeared in several films. They divorced in 1941.

In 1948 Martin married actress and dancer Cyd Charisse. They remained married for 60 years until her death on June 17, 2008. Martin adopted Charisse's son Nicky from her first marriage. They had one son together, Tony Martin, Jr. (August 28, 1950 – April 10, 2011), who predeceased his father.

Martin and Charisse were both Republicans who campaigned for Richard Nixon.[16]

Martin died on the evening of July 27, 2012, of natural causes.[17][18] He was 98 years old. Martin was buried at the Hillside Memorial Park Cemetery in Culver City, California.


Year Single Chart positions
1936 "When Did You Leave Heaven?" (with Victor Young)
1938 "The Moon of Manakoora" (with Ray Noble) 15
"I Hadn't Anyone Till You" (with Ray Noble) 4
"You Couldn't Be Cuter" (with Ray Noble) 16
"My Walking Stick" (with Ray Noble) 17
"Now It Can Be Told" (with Ray Noble) 13
1939 "South of the Border" 16
1940 "It's a Blue World" 2
"Fools Rush In" 14
1941 "Tonight We Love" 5
1946 "To Each His Own" 4
"Rumors Are Flying" 9
"I'll Dance at Your Wedding" 23
1948 "Hooray for Love" 21
"Confess" 25
"For Every Man There's a Woman" 30
"It's Magic" 11
1949 "If You Stub Your Toe on the Moon" 17
"Circus" 24
"There's No Tomorrow" 2
"Marta" 15
1950 "I Said My Pajamas (and Put on My Pray'rs)" (with Fran Warren) 3
"Valencia" 18
"La Vie en rose" 9
1951 "A Penny a Kiss" (with Dinah Shore) 8
"In Your Arms" (with Dinah Shore) 20
"Would I Love You" 19
"I Get Ideas" 3
"I Apologize" 20
"The Musicians" (with Dinah Shore, Betty Hutton & Phil Harris) 24
"Vanity" 18
"Over a Bottle of Wine" 17
"Domino" 9
1952 "Kiss of Fire" 6
"Some Day" 24
"Luna Rossa" 27
"Dance of Destiny" 27 24
"Sleepy Time Gal" 28
"Don't Tempt Me" 35
1953 "April in Portugal" 17
"Sorta on the Border" 26
"Caribbean" 19
"Relax" 27
1954 "Stranger in Paradise" 10 1 6
"That's What a Rainy Day Is For" 37
"Here (In This Enchanted Place)" 5 5
"Angels In the Sky" 19
"Boulevard of Nightingales" 37
"Uno" 37
"My Bambino" 36
1955 "All of You" 25
"Do, Do, Do" 35
"Just a Man" 48
1956 "Walk Hand in Hand" 10 16 2
"It's Better in the Dark" 60
1957 "Do I Love You (Because You're Beautiful)" 82
1965 "Talkin' to Your Picture" 133
1967 "Theme from The Sand Pebbles (And We Were Lovers)" 22



  1. "California births". Family Tree Legends. Retrieved October 31, 2009.
  2. Pedersen, Erik (July 30, 2012). "Singer-Actor Tony Martin Dies at 98". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved February 24, 2017.
  3. Martin, Tony; Charisse, Cyd; Kleiner, Dick (1976). The Two Of Us. Mason/Charter. ISBN 978-0884053637. Retrieved 2012-12-16.
  4. Armstrong, Alice Catt (1976). Who's who in California. Who's Who Historical Society. Retrieved 2012-12-16.
  5. Bergan, Ronald (July 31, 2012). "Tony Martin obituary". The Guardian. London. Retrieved February 24, 2017.
  6. Wilkins, Barbara (October 25, 1976). "With His Pipes and Her Stems, Cyd Charisse & Tony Martin Are the Doyens of Song'n'dance". People. Retrieved 2019-06-25.
  7. "Tony Martin". The Daily Telegraph. London. July 31, 2012. Retrieved February 24, 2017.
  8. "Monday's Highlights" (PDF). Radio and Television Mirror. 14 (2): 43. June 1940. Retrieved 1 March 2015.
  9. Kanfer, Stefan (2001). Groucho: The Life and Times of Julius Henry Marx. Vintage Books. p. 261. ISBN 978-0375702075. Retrieved 5 December 2018.
  10. Adamson, Joe (1983). Groucho, Harpo, Chico and Sometimes Zeppo: A History of the Marx Brothers and a Satire on the Rest of the World. Simon & Schuster. p. 388. ISBN 978-0671470722. Retrieved 2019-06-25.
  11. Spragg, Dennis M. (2017). Glenn Miller Declassified. U of Nebraska Press. pp. 48–49, 57, 71. ISBN 978-1612348957. Retrieved 7 August 2017.
  12. "Tony Martin Discharged By Navy, Ordered to Report to Draft Board". The Courier-Journal. Louisville, Kentucky. Associated Press. 2 December 1942. p. 15. Retrieved 17 November 2019 via
  13. Murrells, Joseph (1978). The Book of Golden Discs (2nd ed.). London: Barrie and Jenkins Ltd. p. 37. ISBN 978-0214204807.
  14. "Tony Martin's $1,000,000 Deal". Variety. November 19, 1958. p. 1. Retrieved July 8, 2019 via
  15. Heller, Jean (October 30, 1969). "Funds For Parvin Foundation Came From Flamingo Hotel Sale". The Evening Sun. Hanover, Pennsylvania. p. 29. Retrieved August 29, 2016 via Other stockholders included singer Tony Martin and actor George Raft.
  16. ""1968 Presidential Race" Republicans". The Pop History Dig. 2009-03-11. Retrieved 2015-08-28.
  17. Thomas, Bob (July 30, 2012). "Tony Martin, Romantic Crooner, Dies at 98". Billboard. Retrieved 2019-06-25.
  18. "US singer Tony Martin dies aged 98". BBC News. July 31, 2012. Retrieved 2019-06-25.
  19. Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 352. ISBN 978-1904994107.

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