Boomers Saw Their Music Stars in the Movies

People who reached fame and fortune through their singing have crossed over into movies since the first days of the talkies, with Al Jolson, and a couple of years later, Rudy Vallee. By the time the Boomer Generation hit the scene in 1946, there were several singing sensations gracing the silver screen. Boomers were too young to know and enjoy them, of course, but since their parents saw them, and the burgeoning TV industry used older movies to help fill a 12- to18-hour broadcast day, these types of movies became ingrained in the minds of boomers from the time they became “talkies” themselves.

The Early Years
Bing Crosby was a hit on the radio as far back as the 1920s, and appeared in his first movie in 1930. By the 1940s, he was making movies boomers will remember, like the Road pictures, with Bob Hope. He went on to star in dozens of pictures, most notably for boomers, Holiday Inn (1944; later retitled White Christmas). His portrayal of a priest in Going My Way (1944) earned him an Academy Award for Best Actor. He continued getting credited roles into the 1960s, and his movies were broadcast throughout the boomer years.

The Rat Pack of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Sammy Davis, Jr. all had singing careers when they started appearing together in movies. They also had movie careers separately, especially Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin.

Frank Sinatra appeared in his first movie in 1941. By 1944, his acting chops were being recognized when he won the Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his role in From Here to Eternity, opposite Burt Lancaster and Deborah Kerr. Fellow singer Donna Reed was also in the film.

Dean Martin had, quite possibly, the most diverse movie career of any singer. He appeared in about a dozen Westerns, before moving to other dramatic roles, and then most notably, to comedy. Among the ones best remembered by boomers will be Rio Bravo (1959) with John Wayne; The Sons of Katie Elder (1965) also with John Wayne; and 5 Card Stud (1968) with Robert Mitchum. Mister Boomer best recalls Dean Martin in the movies through his 007 spy spoof series, in which he was government counter-agent Matt Helm in four movies (1966-69). Hilarious kitsch.

Doris Day, another singer who made it big before the boomer years, began her movie career just at the beginning of the Boomer Generation in 1948. Boomers will probably best recall her movies The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956), the Hitchcock film co-starring with Jimmy Stewart; and Pillow Talk (1959), the most famous of her romance comedies, co-starring with Rock Hudson.

Harry Belafonte became a household name with his first hit, The Banana Boat Song (Day-O) in 1953. That same year he appeared in Bright Road, along with Dorothy Dandridge, then Carmen Jones (1954), Otto Preminger’s musical film. His next big role was in Islands In the Sun (1957). His film career continued into the 1990s.

Elvis Presley was perhaps the first real boomer-age singer turned movie star. His manager, Colonel Parker, had him signed to make 33 movies with MGM. His performances in some of the early ones were considered by critics to show him to be a promising actor. Such films as Love Me Tender (1956) and Jailhouse Rock (1957) made him a box office star. Critics were not so kind to most of his other movies, but Mister B was always partial to Viva Las Vegas (1964).

Frankie Avalon had his first hit song in 1959. His first movie appearance came in 1957, but his big acting break came in 1960 in The Guns of Timberland. John Wayne saw him in it and had him cast in The Alamo that same year. However, his dramatic roles were supplanted by being cast in the beach movies with Annette Funicello from1963 to 1965. By the end of the ’60s, his film career was pretty much over. He tried to revive it with a Back To The Beach reunion with Annette Funicello in 1987, but the formula no longer worked.

Bobby Darin began his music career writing songs for Connie Francis. In 1958, he recorded Splish Splash, and followed it with Dream Lover (1959), then Mack the Knife (1959). By then his name recognition hit the roof. His first major acting role was in Come September (1961), a comedy with Rock Hudson and Gina Lolobrigida. His portrayal of a shell-shocked soldier in Captain Newman, M.D. (1963) saw him nominated for Best Supporting Actor.

Barbra Streisand burst onto the music scene in 1962. Her first film was a movie rendition of the Broadway hit, Funny Girl (1968). It earned her a Best Actress Academy Award. In 1973, she appeared opposite Robert Redford in The Way We Were, and alongside fellow singer Kris Kristofferson in A Star Is Born (1974).

David Bowie, a boomer himself — being born in 1947 — had his first musical hit, Space Oddity, in 1969, after seven years of failing with various bands. He had been a stage actor as a child, and later performed as a mime. He studied acting and dance during his music career beginnings. His first big movie role came in The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976). He continued to appear in various film roles throughout the ’70s and ’80s, but included a run in London theater in the starring role of The Elephant Man (1977). Other most notable films for boomers will probably be Labyrinth (1986) and his role as Pontius Pilate in Martin Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ (1988).

Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel were massive musical stars from the early 1960s and into the ’70s, both as a duo and solo artists. Both had roles in rather famous Boomer Era movies as well. Simon had a memorable role as music producer Tony Lacey in Annie Hall (1970) and starred in One-Trick Pony (1980), a film he wrote, co-starring with Blair Brown. He continues to appear in films from time to time.

Art Garfunkel also began his movie career while he and Simon were still recording hits. His first big movie role was in Catch-22 (1970) and he followed it with an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor in Carnal Knowledge (1971). He still appears in film from time to time, mostly in cameo roles or in TV episodes and movies made for TV.

The Later Years
There were several Boomer Era musical stars who had thriving musical careers during the boomer years, but didn’t cross over to the big screen until after the end of the Boomer Era. Among them:

Mick Jagger, who appeared in Ned Kelly (1970) and The Man from Elysian Fields (2002).

Keith Richards was in Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End (2007) and Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (2011)

John Denver appeared in Oh, God! (1977).

Michael Jackson starred in The Wiz (1978).

James Taylor appeared in Two-Lane Blacktop (1971)

Dolly Parton began her movie career in 9 to 5 (1980). She was nominated in the Academy Award category of Best Actress in a Motion Picture (Comedy or Musical) for her role in The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (1982) and continues to appear in films and television movies.

Tina Turner appeared in several movies, the most notable being Roger Daltry’s Tommy (1975), and her most memorable role in Mad Max Beyond the Thunderdome (1985)

Cher was a fixture on the radio in the 1960s and TV from the late ’60s to the ’70s, but her first big movie role didn’t happen until Robert Altman’s, Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean Jimmy Dean (1982). Then she followed it with a role in Silkwood (1983) along with Meryl Streep. She has appeared in many box office and critically acclaimed hits since, including Mask (1985) which saw her nominated for an Academy Award. Two years later she won an Academy Award for her role in Moonstruck (1987) opposite Nicholas Cage. Other films boomers will recall include The Witches of Eastwick (1987), Mermaids (1990) and Burlesque (2010).

What Mister Boomer is struck by is not that so many singing stars of the boomer years had or have movie careers, but how many of them have had successful movie careers, winning Golden Globe and Academy Awards for their acting. It’s impossible for Mister B to pick a favorite, especially since so many of them performed both comedy and drama with equal aplomb.

Do you have a favorite music star turned actor, boomers?

Boomers Remember Those Who Left Us in 2019

Another year has passed in the annals of Boomer History, and another group of people boomers found fascinating and inspiring have passed on. This is far from a complete listing, but samples some of the people Mister Boomer thinks had the most influence on fellow boomers.

JANUARY
Daryl Dragon (August 27, 1942 – January 2, 2019)
A musician best known for the group Captain & Tenille, which he formed with his then wife, Toni Tenille. They had a string of hits in the 1970s, which included a Grammy Award for Love Will Keep Us Together in 1976. It became their signature song for their musical variety TV show that same year. Many boomers may not know that Mr. Dragon was also a touring keyboardist for the Beach Boys from 1967 to 1972. He co-wrote several tunes with Dennis Wilson through those years as well.

Eric Haydock (February 3, 1943 – January 5, 2019)
A bassist for The Hollies from 1962-66, Mr. Haydock was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, along with the band, in 2010.

FEBRUARY
Julie Adams (October 17, 1926 – February 3, 2019)
Boomers probably remember Ms. Adams best as an actress in The Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954). She also appeared with Elvis Presley in Tickle Me (1965), among others.

Frank Robinson (August 31, 1935 – February 7, 2019)
Considered one of the greatest baseball players of all time, Mr. Robinson began his Major League Baseball career with the Cincinnati Redlegs in 1956, and went on to play for 21 seasons with the Reds, Baltimore Orioles and Cleveland Indians. Robinson became the first black manager in baseball when he managed the Cleveland Indians in 1975. He went on to manage the San Francisco Giants, the Baltimore Orioles and the Montreal Expos, and was also the first manager of the expansion team, the Washington Nationals. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1982.

Betty Ballantine (September 25, 1919 – February 12, 2019)
Wife of Ian Ballantine, together they formed the publishing team that created Bantam Books in 1945 and Ballantine Books in 1952. They helped popularize inexpensive paperback books in the 1950s, with a keen interest in promoting top science fiction authors of the day, such as H.R. Lovecraft and Ray Bradbury. By 1953 they were the premier sci-fi publishers in world, releasing the first authorized U.S. edition of J. R. R. Tolkein’s The Hobbit and was the original publisher of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451.

Peter Tork (February 13, 1942 – February 21, 2019)
Long known as a singer-songwriter in the Greenwich Village Folk era that brought us Bob Dylan, among others, most boomers will always remember him as a member of The Monkees, where he played bass and keyboards.

Jerry Merryman (June 17, 1932 – February 27, 2019)
As part of a team at Texas Instruments in 1965, Mr. Merryman is credited as one of the inventors of the electronic handheld calculator. He held more than two dozen additional patents.

MARCH
Dick Dale (Richard Anthony Monsour) (May 4, 1937 – March 16, 2019)
Dubbed the King of Surf Guitar, Dick Dale and The Del-Tones pioneered the surf rock sound of the early sixties with Let’s Go Trippin’ (1960), considered the first surf rock song. His reworking of a traditional Middle Eastern folk song became a hit as Miserlou in 1963, The song was later introduced to a whole new generation in the film, Pulp Fiction (1994). He also performed music in several beach movies of the early sixties, including Beach Party (1963) and Muscle Beach Party (1964).

Scott Walker (Noel Scott Engel) (January 9, 1943 – March 25, 2019)
When Mr. Engel joined the Walker Brothers band in 1964, he officially changed his name to Scott Walker. As lead singer for the band, he forever became part of boomer history with a version of Burt Bacharach and Hal David’s Make It Easy on Yourself (1965), which was previously recorded by Jerry Butler, and later became a hit for Dionne Warwick. The song that gave the band its greatest hit, and boomer notoriety, was The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine (Anymore) (1966).

APRIL
Dan Robbins (May 26, 1925 – April 1, 2019)
Mr. Robbins is known as the inventor of paint-by-number kits. See Mister Boomer’s remembrance at Boomers Painted By Number.

Charles Van Doren (February 12, 1926 – April 9, 2019)
Arguably, Mr. Van Doren would not have been a world-wide figure if it weren’t for the 1956 scandal of the TV quiz show, Twenty-One, He earned $129,000 as a contestant on the show, a record at the time. In 1959, he testified before Congress that he was given the answers, and pleaded guilty to lying before a grand jury.

MAY
Peggy Lipton (August 30, 1946 – May 11, 2019)
Ms. Lipton captured the imagination of many boomers for her portrayal of a police detective in The Mod Squad (1968). See Mister Boomer’s remembrance at Boomers Say Good-Bye to Two More Influencers.

Doris Day (Mary Ann Von Kappelhoff) (April 3, 1922 — May 13, 2019)
Starting as a dancer, it was a car accident at the age of 12 that steered the young Ms. Kappelhoff toward music, and later, acting. See Mister Boomer’s remembrance at Boomers Say Good-Bye to Two More Influencers.

Tim Conway (December 15, 1933 — May 14, 2019)
Actor, comedian and six-time Emmy Award winner, boomers will recall Tim Conway for his long run on The Carol Burnett Show (1967-75). Mister Boomer liked him better as Ensign Charlie Parker in McHale’s Navy (1962-66).

Bart Starr (January 9, 1934 – May 26, 2019)
Known as Mr. Nice Guy, Bart Starr was an NFL quarterback for the Green Bay Packers, where the team won five league championships in the sixties, including winning the first two Super Bowls. He was inducted into the Football Hall of Fame in 1977.

JUNE
Dr. John (Mac Rebennack) (November 20, 1941 – June 6, 2019)
Mr. Rebennack started his musical career as a guitarist, but an injured finger made him switch to keyboards. He became a member of the famous group of studio musicians, the Wrecking Crew, in the mid-60s, backing several Top 40 hits. Winner of six Grammy Awards, he was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2011. Boomers may best remember his hit, In the Right Place (1973).

Franco Zeffirelli (February 12, 1923 – June 15, 2019)
Italian actor turned director, designer and opera producer is best known by boomers for his romantic interpretations of Shakespeare plays on film; most notably, Taming of the Shrew (1967) with Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, and Romeo and Juliet (1968) starring Olivia Hussey.

Gloria Vanderbilt (February 20, 1924 – June 17, 2019)
As the great-great-granddaughter of Cornelius Vanderbilt, Ms. Vanderbilt was caught in the middle of custody battle and control of her multi-million dollar trust fund in the 1930s between her mother and aunt. Through the trial she was called the “poor little rich girl.” After having some minor success as a writer and actress in the 1950s, she went on to form a fashion empire based on designer jeans in the 1970s.

JULY
Lee Iacocca (October 15, 1924 – July 2, 2019)
The inventor of the Ford Mustang was known to boomers from the ’60s through the ’80s. See Mister Boomer’s take on his influence at Boomers Lose More Cultural Influencers.

Arte Johnson (January 20, 1929 – July 3, 2019)
Mr. Johnson is best known to boomers for his stint on the TV show, Laugh-In (1968-73). See Mister Boomer’s exploration at Boomers Lose More Cultural Influencers.

H. Ross Perot (June 27, 1930 – July 9, 2019)
Boomers best remember Mr. Perot as the multi-millionaire businessman who ran for president as an independent in 1992. Many blamed his candidacy for George H.W. Bush’s defeat, by filtering off votes for the incumbent president. He picked up 18.9 percent of the vote, a record for an independent candidate. After his loss, he created the Reform Party and ran again in 1996.

John Paul Stevens (April 20, 1920 – July 16, 2019)
A retired Supreme Court Justice, John Paul Stevens was nominated by President Gerald Ford in 1975.

David Hedison (May 20, 1927 – July 9, 2019)
An actor boomers will recall in many movie and TV roles, he is probably best remembered as the scientist in The Fly (1958) and as Captain Lee Crane on the TV series, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (1964-68).

Art Neville (December 17, 1937 – July 22, 2019)
Known as Poppa Funk, Mr. Neville was a keyboardist, vocalist and songwriter who toured with the Rolling Stones in the band, the Meters. In 1977, he joined forces with his three siblings to form the Neville Brothers, in New Orleans.

AUGUST
Peter Fonda (February 23, 1940 – Aug. 16, 2019)
Best known to boomers as an actor in Easy Rider (1969), Mr. Fonda was also an Oscar-nominated screenwriter for the film.

Valerie Harper (August 22, 1939 – August 30, 2019)
Ms. Harper was a Broadway dancer with Lucille Ball before she broke into television as Mary Tyler Moore’s best friend on The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1970-74). She got a spinoff of her own based on her character, Rhoda (1974-78).

SEPTEMBER
Carole Lynley (February 13, 1942 – September 3, 2019)
An actress known to boomers for a variety of roles, Ms. Lynley appeared in Bunny Lake is Missing (1965) with Kirk Douglas, and as Jean Harlow in Harlow (1965). She played a performer onboard the ship in The Poseidon Adventure (1973), singing The Morning After, which won the Oscar for Best Song that year. Years later, however, it was revealed that the song was dubbed and the voice heard onscreen was that of studio singer, Renée Armand.

Eddie Money (March 21, 1949 – September 13, 2019)
A boomer himself, Eddie Money had a string of hits in the ’70s and 80s, most notably, Two Tickets to Paradise (released as a single in 1978).

Rick Ocasek (March 23, 1944 – September 15, 2019)
A co-founder of The Cars, boomers of many stripes enjoyed his music, starting with the band’s debut album in 1978. He and the band were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2018.

Cokie Roberts (Mary Martha Corinne Morrison Claiborne) (December 27, 1943 – September 17, 2019)
A pioneer female broadcaster in a world of mostly men, boomers recall Ms. Roberts as a consummate journalist and political commentator. She worked for ABC News and then PBS, and won three Emmys. She was named a Living Legend by the Library of Congress in 2008.

OCTOBER
Diahann Carroll (July 17, 1935 – October 4, 2019)
Ms. Carroll is known for acting and singing on stage and in movie and TV roles, to be sure, but she was also the first black woman to have a middle-class female role on TV in Julia (1968). She was also the first black woman to win a Best Actress Tony Award (in Richard Rodgers’ No Strings, 1962).

Karen Pendelton (August 1, 1946 – October 6, 2019)
A true boomer herself, Ms. Pendelton was one of the original Mouseketeers on The Mickey Mouse Club (1955-59) TV show. She was one of only nine kids chosen for the group that included Annette Funicello. She was often paired for duets with Cubby O’Brien to finish shows.

Alexei Leonov (May 30, 1934 – October 11, 2019)
A Soviet Cosmonaut, Mr. Leonov became the first person to perform a spacewalk. See Boomers Greeted 1969 With Hope and Trepidation.

Ginger Baker (August 19, 1939 – October 6, 2019)
Considered by many to be among the best drummers who ever lived, boomers will forever remember him as the drummer for Cream, the band he co-founded with Eric Clapton in 1966.

Elijah Cummings (January 18, 1951 – October 17, 2019)
Another boomer who rose to prominence, Representative Cummings was born the son of sharecroppers. He was a civil rights activist and a lawyer who practiced in Maryland from the time he passed the bar exam in 1976 until he was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1996. In 2010 he was named chairman of the House Oversight Committee, a position he held until his death.

Bernhard Slade (May 2, 1930 – October 30, 2019)
Mr. Slade wrote the play, Same Time Next Year (1975), but his influence on boomers came from his TV work. He created The Flying Nun (1967) and The Partridge Family (1970), and also wrote for Bewitched (1964), among other movies, plays and TV shows.

NOVEMBER
Michael J. Pollard (May 30, 1939 – November 20, 2019)
A character actor, Mr. Pollard debuted on Broadway in Comes the Day (1958), which starred George C. Scott. His unique looks and speech mannerisms often got him roles of mischievous or eccentric characters. He appeared in dozens of top boomer TV shows along the way, including Star Trek, The Virginian, The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, Gunsmoke and I Spy, to name a few. Boomers may best remember him for his role in Bonnie and Clyde (1967), for which he received an Oscar nomination as Best Supporting Actor.

Edward Dee (October 2, 1924 – November 18, 2019)
While boomers may not know his name, they know his creation. Mr. Dee was the inventor of Smarties and founder of Smarties Candy Company shortly after immigrating to the U.S. in 1949. Smarties was always one of Mister Boomer’s favorite Halloween candies.

DECEMBER
Robert Walker Jr. (April 15, 1940 – December 5, 2019)
The son of Robert Walker and Jennifer Jones, boomers will recall Mr. Walker for a variety of his acting roles. He appeared in Easy Rider (1969) and Ensign Pulver (1964), and certainly Mister Boomer remembers his role in the second episode of Star Trek (1966), the original series.

George J. Lauer (September 23, 1925 – December 5, 2019)
A senior engineer for IBM, Mr. Lauer was the co-inventor of the Universal Bar Code (UPC) symbol in 1973. His fellow employee, Norman Woodland, had patented the concept in 1952, but no low-cost lasers and computers existed to read the code. Lauer helped develop a scanner to read it. In addition, he held 25 patents.

Allee Willis (November 10, 1947 – December 24, 2019)
A boomer herself that may not have been a household name for boomers, Ms. Willis wrote September for Earth, Wind & Fire (1973) and the original theme song for TV’s Friends (1974). She was inducted into the Songwriter Hall of Fame in 2018, and nominated for co-writing the Broadway musical, The Color Purple (2005). She also wrote for Gladys Knight and the Pips, Jennifer Holiday, Pattie LaBelle, Herbie Hancock, Rita Coolidge and more.

Sue Lyon (July 10, 1946 – December 26, 2019)
A boomer who had small parts on the TV shows Dennis the Menace (1959) and The Loretta Young Show (1953), she landed a starring role in Stanley Kubrik’s Lolita in 1962 at the age of 16. Five years later, she appeared in boomer-known films, Tony Rome (1967) with Frank Sinatra and The Flim-Flam Man (1967) with George C. Scott.

Which of these illustrious people will you remember best, boomers?