Classic Hollywood musicals have showcased many singing stars, including many memorable baritones. While the likes of Bing Crosby or Frank Sinatra are well remembered today, Dick Haymes is yet another notable tenor; although, he is one who is not discussed as often.
Haymes is one of my favorite singers. After seeing him in State Fair (1945), arguably his most popular film, his vocal talent and on-screen presence easily stood out to me and led me to pursue more of his films and recordings. Throughout his career, Haymes worked with many other popular stars of the day, including Deanna Durbin, June Haver, and Betty Grable. In addition to working in films, he was celebrated for his singing style. Showcasing a voice with warmth and depth, he was also highly regarded for his phrasing– a skill that inspired and impressed Sinatra as well as Tony Bennett.
At the same time, Haymes’s legacy is also encased in the shadows of his off-screen demons. He could be highly temperamental at work and struggled heavily with alcoholism. Even worse, he was also abusive, particularly during his marriage to film star Rita Hayworth. In addition to these characteristics, he also found himself in financial troubles, building more stress in his life and leading to further unsavory behavior.
With this being said, Haymes was a complicated man. His career had its highs and lows throughout his life, and his personal and professional relationships had their ups and downs. Nonetheless, there is more to explore in his life than State Fair and failed marriages.
Thanks to Ruth Prigozy and the University Press of Mississippi, Haymes’s life is examined in this definitive biography. Part of the publisher’s Hollywood Legends Series, The Life of Dick Haymes: No More Little White Lies thoroughly investigates Haymes’s personal and professional life.
There is much to appreciate in this biography on Haymes. For one, it does not don rose-colored glasses when exploring Haymes’s life; Prigozy objectively portrays various moments in his life with careful research and points out contradictions when she sees them. In addition to researching Haymes’s life, Prigozy also interviewed a variety of individuals who worked with Haymes or knew him personally. This includes Haymes’s former wives and his children, in addition to individuals in the industry, such as Margaret Whiting, Maureen O’Hara, and Rosemary Clooney. When their recollections seem to oppose those of another, Prigozy aptly points this out.
Another aspect I appreciated very much in this book is the discussion of Haymes’s skill as a vocalist. As the years went on, Haymes’s sound and phrasing remained consistent. As a result, he was still producing successful, moving recordings later in life. Moreover, he was receiving critical praise for them, while, in other cases, his baritone peers were not.
I would strongly recommend this book to fans of popular baritones, Haymes, and classic movie musicals–particularly 20th Century Fox films. Prior to this biography, Haymes’s life and career were never quite so thoroughly discussed.
The Life of Dick Haymes: No More Little White Lies is available for purchase on the University of Mississippi website.