Patty Andrews, the lead vocalist and last surviving member of the Andrews Sisters musical trio, died of "natural causes" earlier today at her home in the Los Angeles suburb of Northridge, in the San Fernando Valley. Andrews, who was also the youngest sister, was 94.
Born in Minnesota into a Greek-Norwegian family, the Andrews Sisters began their show business career in the early '30s, while both Maxene and Patty were still teenagers. Their first big hit came out in 1938: the English version of the Yiddish song "Bei Mir Bistu Shein" (aka "Bei mir bist du schön"), with lyrics -- "To me, you're grand" -- by Sammy Cahn and Saul Chaplin. (The song made into the movies that same year, but Warner Bros. star Priscilla Lane is the one singing it in Love, Honor and Behave.)
From 1938 to 1951, The Andrews Sisters had 19 gold records, as they performed with just about every top talent of the era, from Al Jolson and Bing Crosby to Danny Kaye and Carmen Miranda. Their song hits included "Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree," "Rum and Coca Cola," "Shoo-Shoo Baby," "Strip Polka," "I'll Be with You in Apple Blossom Time," and another import, the Brazilian ditty "Aurora."
The Andrews Sisters movies
The popularity of the Andrews Sisters reached its peak during World War II, when they were featured, as themselves, in about a dozen movies, mostly at Universal. At that studio, they provided musical support to the likes of Bud Abbott and Lou Costello in Buck Privates (1941), In the Navy (1941), and Hold That Ghost (1941). They also played leads or semi-leads -- once again, as themselves -- in Universal's B musicals such as Give Out, Sisters (1942), Private Buckaroo (1942), and What's Cookin'? (1943), all three directed by Edward F. Cline.
Written by Hugh Prince and Don Raye, and performed in In the Navy (1941), the megahit "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B" was nominated for the Best Original Song Academy Award. That year's controversial winner was Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II's "The Last Time I Saw Paris," which had not been written for MGM's Eleanor Powell / Ann Sothern / Robert Young comedy-musical Lady Be Good.
The Andrews Sisters, who frequently entertained U.S. soldiers, also played themselves in the all-star rally Follow the Boys (1944), which featured, among others, Jeanette MacDonald, Dinah Shore, George Raft, and Marlene Dietrich getting sawed in half by Orson Welles. At Warner Bros., they could be spotted in another all-star musical extravaganza, Hollywood Canteen (1944), and at Paramount sang in the Bing Crosby / Dorothy Lamour / Bob Hope musical Road to Rio (1947), their last movie appearance together.
Additionally, Patty Andrews was briefly featured in two latter-day cameos: In Lee H. Katzin's The Phynx (1970), about a rock band enmeshed in foreign intrigue, and in which Andrews is seen alongside a whole array of oldtimers, from director-choreographer Busby Berkeley to Gone with the Wind's Butterfly McQueen; and Chuck Barris' The Gong Show Movie (1980), a now largely forgotten B comedy co-written by Barris and Robert Downey Jr's father (that's Robert Downey).
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