Harry James

Active - 1937 - 1994  |   Born - Mar 15, 1916   |   Died - Jul 5, 1983   |   Genres - Musical, Music, Comedy

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Biography by Hal Erickson

The son of circus performers, Harry James first picked up a trumpet at age 10. Organizing his own band in the early 1930s, James' progress was spotty until scoring a hit with the old standby "You Made Me Love You." By 1942, he was the most popular bandleader in the U.S. -- and in the bargain, he was married to the Number One female film star, Betty Grable. James hardly needed films to bolster his fame, but it was de rigeur in the 1930s and 1940s for bandleaders to show up on screen once in a while. Obligingly, he appeared (and on occasion spoke a few lines, rather better than most bandleaders) in such films as Private Buckaroo (42), Springtime in the Rockies (42), Bathing Beauty (44), Two Girls and a Sailor (44) and Carnegie Hall (47). James also dubbed in the trumpeting of Kirk Douglas in Young Man with a Horn (50), an a clef retelling of the Bix Beiderbecke story. Surviving the decline of the Big-Band era, James remained popular into the 1950s and 1960s, guesting in films like The Benny Goodman Story (56) and Jerry Lewis' The Ladies' Man (61). TV fans desiring an opportunity to see a trumpet-playing and acting Harry James (and Betty Grable as well) are referred to the 1958 Lucy/Desi Comedy Hour special "Lucy Buys a Racehorse".

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