Though many will best remember blonde, Southern charmer Dinah Shore as the hostess of primetime variety shows and daytime talk shows from the early '50s through the late '70s, she was also once a popular big band singer and star of radio and feature films. Born Frances "Fanny" Rose Shore in Winchester, TN, she contracted polio when she was a year and a half old and was left with a crippled right leg that was eventually strengthened by massage, swimming and tennis. Shore attended Vanderbilt University where she was president of her sorority. While in school, she received lessons in voice and acting, gaining early exposure on Nashville's WSM radio. Following graduation in 1938, Shore moved to New York to launch a singing career where she made her professional debut on New York's WNEW radio; her first recordings were made with Xavier Cugat's band. Her first big break came when she was hired to sing with the Leo Reisman Orchestra; Shore took her stage name from a popular song, "Dinah." By 1940, Shore had won many fans and was named "New Star of Radio 1940." She launched her film career in the 1943 revue Thank Your Lucky Stars and went on to appear in a few more films of the '40s and early '50s including Bell of the Yukon (1944) and Aaron Slick of Punkin Crick (1953). But though a talented singer and a pleasant personality, Shore's film career seemed permanently stalled so in 1951, she turned to television. Her first show, The Dinah Shore Show was 15 minutes long and aired twice weekly, featuring singing and the occasional guest. She became the first woman to host her own variety show in 1957 with The Dinah Shore Chevy Show. Shore's daytime talk show of the '60s was characterized by her easy down-home manner and wit that made her a charming cross between Hollywood sophistication and just-plain folksiness. From 1943 and 1962 she was married to actor George Montgomery. In the early '70s she created a stir when she became romantically involved with Burt Reynolds. Shore died of cancer in 1994.
Biography by Sandra Brennan
- Overcame childhood polio.
- While in college, she had her own 15-minute radio show, Our Little Cheerleader of Song, on Nashville's leading station, WSM.
- Made her film debut in 1943's Thank Your Lucky Stars, starring her mentor, Eddie Cantor (on whose radio show she sang for three years).
- Famed for breaking out of a big-band format to take on a solo singing career in the 1940s, a decade in which she recorded such hits as "Buttons and Bows" and "The Gypsy."
- First female star with her own prime-time variety show: The Dinah Shore Chevy Show (1956-63), which she always ended with her trademark "See the USA in your Chevrolet," blowing a kiss to viewers.
- In addition to her prime-time Emmys, won two Daytime Emmys in the 1970s for Outstanding Host or Hostess in a Talk, Service or Variety Series.
- Headstone on her grave reads: "Dinah Shore---Loved by all who knew her and millions who never did."
- TV Guide magazine once named her as No. 16 among TV's 50 top stars.
- Her home town has a Dinah Shore Boulevard in her honor.