Best known for her Golden Globe-nominated starring turn as Ensign Nellie Forbush in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s 1958 musical “South Pacific,” Mitzi Gaynor sang and danced her way to a multifaceted career on stage and screen, giving audiences plenty of “Razzle Dazzle” along the way.
Born Francesca Marlene de Czanyi von Gerber, Gaynor, the daughter of a musician and dancer, originally trained as a ballerina. It was her agent (and future husband) Jack Bean who helped guide her to stardom; the couple was married for more than 50 years, until Bean’s death in 2006.
In the 1950s, Gaynor appeared in a series of memorable roles: Katy Donahue in 1954’s “There’s No Business Like Show Business,” Patsy Blair in 1956’s “Anything Goes” and Joanne ‘Joy’ Henderson in 1957’s “Les Girls.” She delivered a show-stopping performance of the song, “Georgy Girl,” at the 1967 Academy Awards.
She went on to become a television sensation with the 1968 special, “Mitzi,” a variety show featuring such big-name guest stars as Bob Hope, Carl Reiner and Michael Landon. More specials followed — the USC Marching Band once joined her in a musical medley.
The shows were nominated for a total of 17 Emmy awards; they claimed six.
During the 1990s, Gaynor chronicled Hollywood lore as a featured columnist for the Hollywood Reporter. She is actively involved in various charities including the Professional Dancers Society, where she serves as president.