July 11, 2005 by

Frances Langford


Categories: Actors, Hollywood, Military, Musicians

flangford.jpgFrances Langford Evinrude Stuart, the radio, stage and screen star who entertained the troops on Bob Hope’s USO tours, died on July 11. Cause of death was not released. She was 91.
Born in Lakeland, Fla., Langford was just a teenager when bandleader Rudy Vallee heard her sing. Vallee offered her a guest spot on his radio program and helped her get a start in New York. At 18, she made her Broadway debut in the 1931 musical “Here Goes the Bride.”
Langford’s beauty and talent soon took her to Hollywood, where she launched a successful radio, TV and film career. She became a household name playing Blanche, Don Ameche’s insufferable wife, on the popular radio comedy “The Bickersons,” and appeared in more than 30 movies, including “Broadway Melody,” “Yankee Doodle Dandy” and “Born to Dance.” Langford played herself in her final film, “The Glenn Miller Story,” starring Jimmy Stewart. On television, she starred in the variety programs “Frances Langford Presents” (1959) and “The Frances Langford Show” (1960).
Langford was singing on Hope’s “Pepsodent Show” in 1941 when he produced his first military program at March Field in Riverside, Calif. Once Hope decided to take the show overseas to boost wartime morale, Langford joined his troupe. She sang in military bases and hospitals in Great Britain, Italy, North Africa, the South Pacific, Korea and Vietnam. Known as the “Sweetheart of the Fighting Fronts,” Langford wooed thousands of servicemen with songs like “Embraceable You” and “I’m in the Mood for Love.” She also wrote about her war experiences in the newspaper column, “Purple Heart Diary.”
Langford’s first husband was Jon Hall, an actor who appeared in the films “The Hurricane” and “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves”; they divorced in 1954. A year later, she married her second husband, outboard motor heir Ralph Evinrude. The couple donated more than a million dollars to the Martin Memorial Medical Center and built a Polynesian-themed restaurant and marina in South Florida. Their union lasted until Evinrude’s death in 1986.
Langford wed her third husband, Harold Cutliff Stuart, an attorney and former assistant secretary of the Air Force under Harry Truman, in 1994. The Stuarts spent the past 10 years traveling aboard her 110-foot yacht, fishing and supporting various medical and environmental causes. In 2002, Langford was inducted into the Florida Women’s Hall of Fame.
When asked by Larry King how she’d like to be remembered, Langford said: “Please remember me as a simple person, who loved this country, its people and especially its military servicemen and women. Our servicemen needed us and we were there. I will always consider it one of the greatest honors of my life to have entertained the troops during the war years with Bob Hope and the USO.”
Listen to Langford on “The Bickersons”
Listen to a Tribute From WQCS
Listen to a Tribute From NPR

3 Responses to Frances Langford

  1. Carol Ward

    As a child, during the war years, I lived with my Uncle Vasco Langford, who was Frances’ father, at his citrus grove/ranch in Stuart, Florida.My Dad was overseas, so mother and I moved in with Uncle Vasco. Frances was traveling with the USO and married to Jon Hall. My many adventures included using (without permission) Jon Hall’s fishing rod and reel, which I lost overboard while deepsea fishing, for which I was told “Jungle Jim” was going to skin me alive. I immediately jumped into the shark invested waters in an attempt to avoid the skinning and tried to dive up the rod/reel, but Uncle Vasco jumped in and hauled me back to the boat.
    I did not see Frances once I was grown, as her world was international. She would be proud to know that our family love of the military continues, and my sister’s son, Peter, just graduated from West Point with honors, part of the 911 class recently featured in Time magazine.

  2. Kurt Nelson

    She will be missed. I remember seeeing her yacht when passing through the area. I live in Polk County,Fl. My family members are all fans and admirers. The outrigger resort was a great place to visit when I was a kid in Palm beach. I wish I could have met her just for a few minutes to say thank you for all you have done. And MORE thanks for your USO tributes to our troops.

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