Longtime romantic crooner Tony Martin died July 27 of natural causes in his Los Angeles home at the age of 98.
The baritone was a colleague of fellow croonersand Frank Sinatra. Speaking on his longtime friend Gabriel Guerrero said, “he’s the ultimate crooner who outlasted all his contemporaries. He has truly remained the butterscotch baritone until he was 98.”
Known for his music, Martin was married to dancing actress Cyd Charisse for 60 years. Performing on stage was a natural act for Martin. Speaking on his performances Cyd Charisse wrote in their autobiography “The Two of Us”, "to him, walking out on to a nightclub floor is as simple and natural as going to the kitchen for a glass of water." After the death of Charisse, Martin used music to aid in his mourning and continued to perform.
Predominantly a singer, Martin did appear in over 25 movies during the height of the Hollywood musical. Seen as a “dashingly handsome” character, he was frequently cast in the romantic leading role.
He was born Alvin Morris on December 25, 1913 in San Francisco to Polish Jewish parents. He was raised in nearby Oakland. “I was a Christmas present in a family that didn't believe in Christmas,” said Martin. Growing up in a poor neighbourhood, Martin used music to escape the poverty. Young Alvin received his first instrument – a saxophone – as a gift when he was 10 years old. While in high school Alvin formed his first group, in college at St. Mary’s, Morris was a part of a jazz group known as The Five Red Peppers; after college he formed Al Morris and His Orchestra. It was not until he signed with an agent that Alvin Morris became Tony Martin.
Martin made his film singing debut in 1936 with “Sing, Baby, Sing”. From there he went on to sing in dozens of films and television shows including “Pigskin Parade”, “Up the River”, “Music in My Heart”, “Ziegfeld Girl”, “Casbah”, “Two Tickets to Broadway”, “Hit the Deck”, “That’s Entertainmnet III”, “Beverly Hills cop III”, “The Wedding Planner”, and “Hollywood Singing and Dancing: A Musical History – The 1940’s: Stars, Stripes, and Singing”. He made his film debut singing in a movie short “Foolish Hearts” in 1935 and continued appearing in several films including “Sing, Baby, Sing”, “Pigskin Parade”, “Up the River”, “Music in My Heart”, “Ziegfeld Girl”, “Casbah”, “Death Valley Days”, and his final appearance in “Dear Mr. Wonderful”.
In 1941, Martin enlisted in the Navy but was dismissed a year later after a scandal. Martin then enlisted into the Army where he served for three years.
Martin is survived by his stepson Nico Charisse and two step grandchildren.