Who was the finest singer on Broadway? The great Ethel Merman, you might say. No doubt The Merm was electrifying, but I vote for the sexier, equally rousing Dolores Gray.

Pink car, pink poodles, pink hair. Dolores Gray gets
the Hollywood glamour treatment in the 1950s.


Dolores' voice was characterized as sounding like "warm brandy," and she liked the description so much, she named one of her albums Warm Brandy.

The voice was as loud as Merman's, but softer, and more pleasant to the ear, and she could enunciate tricky lyrics just as well as Ethel. Therefore, when Ethel "Best Damn Actress"Merman decided to not do "Annie Get Your Gun" in London, Dolores got the job. Her success led to a screen test at MGM directed by Vincente Minnelli and 4 films at that studio. Her first film at MGM was "It's Always Fair Weather" co-starring Gene Kelly and Cyd Charisse. Dolores hated her role as the unctuous TV hostess Madeline, calling it "an ageless, sexless caricature," but she is hilarious in the part nevertheless. She turned down the Kay Thompson role in "Funny Face," ("another ageless, sexless caricature") but took a non-singing part in the not-very-good musical remake of "The Women" called "The Opposite Sex." (That's Dolores singing the title tune over the credits.) Then came the Minnelli mistake "Kismet" and, finally, Dolores' MGM swan song "Designing Woman," a charming, colorful comedy in which she is most definitely neither ageless nor sexless.

Dolores in her quintessential role as television hostess Madeline Bradville in "It's Always Fair Weather."

Serving it to the camera. Look at that waistline!

Although Dolores' movie career never really took off like it could have, she was a great star on Broadway and in London's West End. Some of her triumphs included appearing in the revue "Two On The Aisle" with Bert Lahr, replacing Angela Lansbury as Mama Rose in "Gypsy," playing Frenchie in the Broadway version of "Destry Rides Again" co-starring Andy Griffith and which prompted Dolores and her controversial stage mother to get into an infamous offstage, in-the-columns fight with choreographer Michael Kidd, introducing the song "Here's That Rainy Day" and thereby winning a Tony Award in "Carnival In Flanders," singing the show-stopping title song in the 1960s failure "Sherry!" based on the play "The Man Who Came To Dinner," and returning to London in the late 80s revival of Stephen Sondheim's "Follies." In the 50s and 60s Dolores frequently appeared on television and performed a successful nightclub act into the 70s. She cut many singles for Decca Records, and when Marilyn Monroe's voice could not be used on the soundtrack album of the film "There's No Business Like Show Business" for contractual reasons, Dolores own silky smooth voice was substituted.

 

A souvenir program from the revue "Two On The Aisle."

Dolores and Bert Lahr in "Two On The Aisle" by Comden and Green and Jule Styne.

Which twin has the Toni? Dolores, on the right, with her look-alike mother.

Dolores and Clive Revill in the flop Broadway musical "Sherry!"

Dolores Gray onstage in a typical flamboyant pose


I have to admit that Dolores is one of my greatest inspirations and I have been privileged to spend some time with her (a fascinating evening that included pink champagne and more than a few salty words) and she has even been to see me perform.It's comforting to know that Dolores is ensconced in her purple, gold and leopard skin Upper East Side apartment. Dolores Gray is FABULASH!

Dolores Gray and John Epperson on the town in Manhattan!