Alice FAYE (1915-1998)

Alice Faye This Is Your Life
  • The first edition to be recorded in Hollywood

programme details...

  • Edition No: 658
  • Subject No: 652
  • Broadcast date: Wed 19 Dec 1984
  • Broadcast time: 8.00-9.00pm
  • Recorded: Wed 5 Dec 1984
  • Venue: Metromedia Studios, Hollywood
  • Series: 25
  • Edition: 7
  • Code name: Band

on the guest list...

  • Phil Harris - husband
  • Fred MacMurray
  • June Haver
  • Betty Scharf
  • Walter Scharf
  • Phyllis - daughter
  • Alice - daughter
  • Darren - grandson
  • Gregory - grandson
  • Anthony - son-in-law
  • Tanni - granddaughter
  • Philip - grandson
  • Rudy Vallee
  • Arthur Nicholson
  • George Murphy
  • Cesar Romero
  • Mary Martin
  • Ruby Keeler
  • Jane Withers
  • Jeanine Roose
  • Anne Whitfield
  • Mary Faye - sister-in-law
  • Pat Boone
  • Bob Hope
  • Dolores Hope
  • Rex Wigfall
  • Filmed tributes:
  • Denis Norden
  • Ginger Rogers
  • Don Ameche
  • John Payne
  • Sister Marie Pierre Hanley
  • Anthony Quinn

production team...

  • Researchers: Miriam O'Callaghan, Tom Wettengel, Colin Williams
  • Writers: Tom Brennand, Roy Bottomley
  • Director: Michael D Kent
  • Associate Producer: Brian Klein
  • Producer: Malcolm Morris
  • names above in bold indicate subjects of This Is Your Life
related pages...

The Glamorous Life

Hollywood in the spotlight

Extended Life

the special editions


the show's fifty year history

Producing Life

the producers who steered the programme's success

Bob and Dolores Hope

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Screenshots of Alice Faye This Is Your Life

Alice Faye's biography

Jane Lenz Elder recalls this edition of This Is Your Life in her book, Alice Faye, A Life Beyond the Silver Screen...

Alice emerged from the limousine wearing an elegant black knit suit and full-length mink coat and looking less than thrilled. Due to appear on a new talk show being launched in England, she had grown increasingly anxious as the driver went on and on driving all over Los Angeles.

"Are we still in California?" she asked her companion, Jewel Baxter, in irritation.

Alice remained completely unaware that her chauffeur was delaying their arrival deliberately, while a last-minute hitch in a handsome surprise was ironed out. Wishing to arrive on time, Alice became cross, her confidence in their driver diminishing rapidly as the minutes ticked by. Now that they had finally arrived at the studio, Alice stood by the limo looking on in consternation as the British host of the purported new show approached her with a microphone and a cameraman.

"Alice Faye?" he questioned, the tape already running. "This is your life."

"Oh, no, you wouldn't," she exclaimed in return. "You wouldn't do this to me. I don't want it!"

What followed on that evening in 1985, once Alice got over her shock and began to enjoy herself, was a splendid celebration of family, friends, fans and colleagues, produced by the BBC [ editor: it was, of course, produced by Thames Television], and televised in Britain as an hour-long special.

Included in the line-up were Phil, Alice Jr, Phyllis, Alice and Phil's grandchildren, Pat Boone, Flo Haley, June Haver, Bob and Dolores Hope, Ruby Keeler, Fred MacMurray, Mary Martin, Senator George Murphy, Cesar Romero, Rudy Vallee and Jane Withers, with filmed greetings by Don Ameche, John Payne, Anthony Quinn and Ginger Rogers.

It was a benchmark evening in the period of command performances, celebrations and film festivals that characterised the last two decades of Alice's life. Events like these added sparkle and zest to Alice's later years and brought her back into contact with friends, fans and co-workers collected from her long-ago movie days.

Roy Bottomley This Is Your Life book

Scriptwriter Roy Bottomley recalls this edition of This Is Your Life in his book, This Is Your Life: The Story of Television's Famous Big Red Book...

When the Life team descends on Hollywood and sets up office in a hotel suite, the scene takes on the frenetic activity, and uncertainty, of a film set. But no one could write the script.

Programme co-ordinator Mandy Lee will have flown in the team under the strictest secrecy. The hotel pool may look inviting, but researchers have to plunge into the telephones. From then on there are yelps of success and deep groans of disappointment as guests agree to appear – or drop out.

For the Life of Alice Faye, legendary star of the halcyon days of Hollywood musicals, we assembled a guest list to make any Hollywood mogul envious.

At Metromedia, 5746 Sunset Boulevard, on Wednesday 5 December 1984, a fleet of stretch limousines ferried in Alice's star friends and colleagues from more than eighty films.

She had agreed to an interview about her career for a British television 'cinema' programme. But the night before we had a secret meeting at the Hyatt on Sunset with her husband of forty-three years, Phil Harris – remember his hit recording of 'The Poker Game'? – to finalise details. Our advance party of researchers had been in constant contact – whenever Alice herself was out of town. Fortunately for us she was doing a good deal of travelling promoting a cosmetic product.

Phil was to accompany her to the studio for the 'interview'.

The 'pick-up' went smoothly. Eamonn Andrews had been hiding in wait as Alice Faye stepped from her limousine with a chuckling Phil Harris (he and Eamonn had met when Phil topped the bill at the London Palladium).

By the time the limousine drew up at the studio, we had hidden behind the set Fred MacMurray and his wife June Haver, Rudy Vallee, Senator George Murphy, Cesar Romero, John Payne, Mary Martin, Ruby Keeler, Pat Boone and Bob and Dolores Hope. We were also ready to roll with tributes from Benny Goodman, Don Ameche, Anthony Quinn and Ginger Rogers. Names who had packed cinemas the world over in the late Thirties and throughout the Forties into the Fifties. [ editor: John Payne was not there in person - he gave his tribute on film. Benny Goodman does not appear in the broadcast version of the programme.]

But we hardly had a packed studio. In fact, four hundred audience seats were empty with twenty minutes to go.

Due to a mix-up, a studio audience had not been booked to see a line-up of talent Sam Goldwyn would have died for. And in Los Angeles, in the evening, you can't simply rush out and haul people in off the streets, because no one is on the streets – except in cars.

So we grabbed every chauffeur of every stretch limo we could find and rushed them to the audience seats. Then we dashed around every occupied office at Metromedia trying to fill more seats; wild-eyed and demented we must have looked as the clock ticked towards our allocated recording time.

Even with audience ranks swelled by our own production team, barely a tenth of the seating was filled. But what a noisy lot we were! When it came to laughs and applause we did our utmost to sound like four hundred. At the end of an hour we were hoarse, and constantly applauding hands hurt.

But when we returned to Britain with the recording, we had so many letters, it seemed that sixteen million people thoroughly enjoyed the story of the girl from New York's 'Hell's Kitchen' who had successfully auditioned for the famous Ziegfeld Follies but had to be dropped when they discovered she was only thirteen.

In New York in her teens she had met a struggling young musician with whom she was to appear in the 1940 movie Little Old New York. His name: Fred MacMurray.

And, for the singing star of scores of films, we had found her first-ever appearance on celluloid – which she had never seen before. It had been shot at a garden party at the home of Rudy Vallee, the Sinatra of his time.

Alice was delighted with our final, and very British surprise. In an RAF camp on a sweltering outpost of the North-West Frontier of India on 5 June 1937, a group of British airmen, Alice Faye fans all, held an 'Alice Faye Dinner' and sang her big hit, 'You'll Never Know Just How Much I Love You'. We flew in the man who organised that dinner, Wing Commander Rex Wigfall, to meet his screen heroine and present her with the menu he had kept for nearly fifty years.

Malcolm Morris biography

Producer Malcolm Morris recalls this edition of This Is Your Life in his book, This Is My Life...

The following day we would have our final production meeting at the Teddington studio before setting off for Los Angeles. Eamonn always had the infuriating habit of being just a little early for all his appointments and I was a little late because of the night before. I tore up to the Teddington studios in my red 'divorce special' Mazda. In a panic I parked quickly and leapt out of the car – only I didn't leap quite as well as I intended and pulled something in my back. I arrived at our meeting doing a very good impression of Groucho Marx.

The fact was I could not straighten up and I went to a physiotherapist who helped me but warned me that I would have to go on to a powerful course of tablets to keep the pain off until my back settled down. I agreed and started the course. I slept on a hard board that night and arrived the following morning at the airport walking almost normally.

The flight to LA is about twelve hours and Eamonn and I sat together in first class, wining and dining as one is expected to do. Twelve hours, one film and countless glasses of champagne later, we arrived. I was suddenly beginning to slide out of my tiny mind; the champagne had hit the tablets and they had both started to hit me. I got through the customs and made it into the taxi. 'Beverly Wilshire Hotel,' I gasped and sat back in the seat. All was well until I saw a fast food place at the side of our taxi which had simply 'Fatburger' as its name. I started to turn green and felt very strange. I remember saying to Eamonn, 'Here's my passport and money. I think I'm going to pass out – if I do, just get me up to my room and let me sleep.' Eamonn began to panic and by the time we arrived at the hotel I was not on this planet at all, but I thought I could make it to my room.

I left Eamonn with the taxi, went straight to the reception desk, told them who I was and said I was very ill and had to go up to my room immediately. They got the message and I followed a maid up to my room to find that it was locked and we couldn't get in. In my swaying state I demanded a room, any room, straight away. She left me, leaning semi-conscious against a wall, but I was still there when she came back and took me to another room.

I went in and collapsed on the bed, knowing no more until the following day. In the meantime Eamonn had panicked and told the team I was dead, or at least very nearly. They rushed up to the room I had original booked and of course it was empty. Nobody in the hotel could find me because the maid had found another room but had not told anyone of her success. So while the producer had slept the sleep of the dead, Eamonn and the entire This Is Your Life production team of ten searched the hotel from top to bottom, waiting to find my dead body at every turn.

I eventually returned from the 'dead' and spent the rest of the three weeks as a teetotaller.

The programme was wonderful as we were featuring an idol from my early cinema days, Alice Faye. What a fantastic lady and what a guest list for a film nut such as I... Bob and Dolores Hope, Fred MacMurray and his wife June Haver, Cesar Romero, Don Ameche, John Payne, Ruby Keeler and Rudy Vallee.

Rudy Vallee always had a reputation of being a bit of a ladies' man and he was determined to maintain his image by telling Eamonn on the programme that he and Alice had had a romance when she was just starting out as a teenage singer. Alice's husband, Phil Harris, sitting beside Alice, looked up at Rudy and said 'Gee Rudy, I never knew we were related.' This was followed by a short silence broken only by Eamonn's special laugh that he reserved for moments just like those. Apart from that, the programme was nostalgic for everyone and at one point Phil Harris was in tears. Bob Hope saw this and came out with one of his best one-liners: 'I haven't seen Phil Harris cry since they ran out of Jack Daniels whiskey in our club!'

Nobody could follow that, and it was a night to remember...

Series 25 subjects

Michael and Kevin Doheny | Patrick Macnee | Vivian Richards | Ruth Madoc | Tessie O'Shea | Fitzroy MacLean | Alice Faye
Millicent Martin | Bernard Miles | Keith Barron | Bob Geldof | Bryan Robson | Jean Anderson | Frank Carson | Russell Grant
Zandra Rhodes | Lord Harewood | Harry Andrews | Alvin Stardust | Henry John Sweeney | Paul Henry | Peter Alliss
Jim Bowen | Jack Douglas | Dan Maskell | Donald Sinden | Johnnie Johnson