Album:South Pacific: An Original Soundtrack Recording
Mitzi Gaynor is best known for playing Nellie Forbush in the 1958 film of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical South Pacific. She appeared in other 50s musicals. But in the early 60s, she turned to TV and hosted specials for years. She continues to perform today. She was born Francesca Marlene de Czanyi von Gerber Sept. 4, 1931 in Chicago. Mitzi is a childhood nickname. Her father was violinist Henry von Gerber and her mother was dancer Pauline Fisher. Mitzi grew up in Detroit and her family moved to Los Angeles when she was age 11. As a teen she performed with the Los Angeles Civic Light Opera and then at 17, she signed with 20th Century Fox. Fox thought Mitzi Gerber sounded like the name of a delicatessen so her name was changed to Mitzi Gaynor. Among her film appearances were the 1954 film There's No Business Like Show Business, the 1956 film Anything Goes and the 1957 film Les Girls. When Rodgers and Hammerstein were casting South Pacific, they originally wanted the duo of Ezio Pinza and Mary Martin who starred in the Broadway production. But Pinza died and they offered the role of Nellie Forbush first to Doris Day and then Elizabeth Taylor. When neither worked out, they settled on Mitzi who was under contract to the studio. Unlike a lot of the other actors in the film, Mitzi did her own singing. The film was a big success and so was the soundtrack album. In fact, Mitzi made more from the soundtrack than her salary for the film. By the early 60s, Mitzi quit films and performed mostly in concert and on TV. She hosted several TV specials from 1967-78. A compilation of those TV specials is available on DVD. She married MCA agent Jack Bean in 1954 and he managed her career until his 2006 death. In recent years, Mitzi has toured with her one woman show Razzle Dazzle: My Life Behind The Sequins. Here's Mitzi Gaynor performing Honey Bun from the 1958 film South Pacific.