Marion Hutton

Photo of Marion Hutton
  • Birth Name

    Marion Thornburg
  • Born

    March 10, 1919
    Fort Smith, Arkansas
  • Died

    January 9, 1987 (age 67)
    Kirkland, Washington
  • Orchestras

    Vincent Lopez
    Glenn Miller

Considered by many to be the pre­em­i­nent fe­male vo­cal­ist of the big band era, singer Marion Hutton is best re­mem­bered for her work with Glenn Millers or­ches­tra. Though later over­shad­owed by her younger sis­ter, singer/​ac­tress Betty Hutton, Marion held her own as one of the most pop­u­lar vo­cal­ists of the late 1930s and early 1940s, a po­si­tion so­lid­i­fied by her per­for­mance on many of Miller’s best-known vo­cal num­bers.

Born in Fort Smith, Arkansas, her fa­ther, a rail­road worker, aban­doned the fam­ily when Marion was only four-years-old. In or­der to sup­port her two daugh­ters, the girls’ mother opened a small speakeasy in their home, where Marion and Betty would of­ten per­form for the pa­trons. Trouble with po­lice kept the fam­ily on the move, and even­tu­ally they ended up in Detroit. Young Marion had plans to be­come a doc­tor but was forced to drop out of school at age 16 to help sup­port her fam­ily by work­ing at a drug­store soda foun­tain.

In the late 1930s, Marion and Betty be­gan per­form­ing around the Detroit area. Singing in an en­er­getic and an­i­mated style that was quite dif­fer­ent from most vo­cal­ists of the era. they soon caught the at­ten­tion of band­leader Vincent Lopez, who hired them in 1938. Marion did­n’t stay long with Lopez. Glenn Miller heard the two sis­ters sing one night in Boston. Though Betty was the one who cap­tured the pub­lic’s eye, Miller thought Marion would be eas­ier to han­dle, and in September he in­vited her to join his group.

Miller Years

Marion was well-liked by every­one in Miller’s or­ches­tra, both for her vo­cal tal­ents and for her bright per­son­al­ity. Miller him­self loved the girl-next-door aura that she pro­jected and briefly changed her name to Sissy Jones. As a mem­ber of Miller’s band, Marion sang and per­formed in a more sub­dued man­ner than she had while work­ing with her sis­ter. Miller al­lowed no stars in his or­ches­tra, and Marion had to be­come just an­other mem­ber of the band.

In the sum­mer of 1939, Marion col­lapsed on the band­stand due to ex­haus­tion, and Miller brought in Kay Starr to take her place. Marion soon re­turned, how­ever, and all went well un­til early 1941 when a gos­sip colum­nist dis­cov­ered that she was preg­nant. Though she was mar­ried at the time to Jack Philbin and could have eas­ily sang with the band for sev­eral more months de­spite her con­di­tion, the em­bar­rass­ment proved too much for her, and she took a leave of ab­sence. Miller re­placed her with Bobby Byrne vo­cal­ist Dorothy Claire.

Marion re­turned to Miller in August 1941, pick­ing up where she left off and ap­pear­ing with the band in their 1942 film Orchestra Wives. 20th Century Fox ex­ec­u­tives ex­pressed an in­ter­est in Hutton, com­par­ing her to Betty Grable, but never fol­lowed up. Marion stayed with Miller un­til the or­ches­tra’s fi­nal night, September 27, 1942, af­ter which Miller dis­banded it to join the Army Air Force. She could­n’t make it through the per­for­mance for her tears.

Post-Miller

After Miller dis­banded, Marion and three of the Modernaires ini­tially planned to form a quar­tet for ra­dio work but in­stead joined to­gether with fel­low Miller vo­cal­ist Tex Beneke — and a new fourth male Modernaire — to go out on the road in a com­bined act called the Glenn Miller Singers. When Beneke was drafted in December, Johnny Drake took over his role. Though the act was highly suc­cess­ful, mak­ing an ap­pear­ance in the Universal film Crazy House, Hutton left in August 1943 to pur­sue solo work. Paula Kelly re­placed her. Marion and the Modernaires per­formed one last time with Miller on September 2, 1944, via a three-way ra­dio link for a pro­gram broad­cast to sol­diers in England and France.

Hutton was pop­u­lar as Miller’s vo­cal­ist, win­ning fourth place in Billboards 1941 col­lege poll for best fe­male band vo­cal­ist and cap­tur­ing sec­ond place in 1942. Post-Miller, though, her pop­u­lar­ity be­gan to fall. She placed a very weak fourth in the 1943 poll. Part of the rea­son for the de­cline was that, with­out Miller’s in­flu­ence, she quickly re­verted to her prior ex­u­ber­ant style of per­for­mance. With her sis­ter’s re­cent me­te­oric rise in Hollywood, au­di­ences and crit­ics felt that Marion was im­i­tat­ing her. Not help­ing this il­lu­sion, Marion’s 1943 act fea­tured many nov­elty tunes, in­clud­ing the song His Rocking Horse Ran Away,” which her sis­ter per­formed in the 1944 film And the Angels Sing.

Betty’s pop­u­lar­ity sti­fled her sis­ter’s ca­reer in mul­ti­ple ways. In 1944, Marion signed a two pic­ture con­tract with Universal Studios, mak­ing In Society, with Abbott and Costello, and Babes on Swing Street, where she played her­self as a band singer with Freddie Slacks or­ches­tra. Universal de­cided not to re­new her con­tract, how­ever, cit­ing her close re­sem­blance to Betty. Warner Brothers re­jected her the fol­low­ing year for the same rea­son af­ter she made a screen test for the role op­po­site Cary Grant in Night and Day.

Despite these set­backs, Marion con­tin­ued singing, sign­ing with Decca in June 1945, where she was ini­tially paired up with Randy Brooks or­ches­tra. She con­sciously tried to change her style to be less like Betty, even don­ning a black wig in 1948, but never com­pletely over­came the re­sem­b­lence. She worked es­pe­cially hard at it in late 1947 and early 1948, which paid off with a record­ing con­tract for the MGM la­bel and a spot on the Revere’s All-Star Review ra­dio pro­gram, with Andy Russell, the Pied Pipers and Ray Sinatra’s or­ches­tra, though nei­ther av­enue proved par­tic­u­larly fruit­ful.

Marion also co-starred in the Marx Brothers’ 1949 film Love Happy and that same year be­came a reg­u­lar on Jack Carson’s ra­dio pro­gram. As part of the show, Marion toured with Carson and fel­low cast mem­ber Robert Alda, and she and Carson per­formed for President Truman. She ap­peared on Carson’s tele­vi­sion pro­gram in 1950 and 1951.

Later Years

In 1949, Marion di­vorced Philbin and mar­ried ra­dio writer Jack Douglas. Though she con­sid­ered re­tire­ment, she ended up part­ner­ing with Douglas in a mu­si­cal com­edy act. The cou­ple recorded on MGM. Their act was largely panned, and Marion soon went back to per­form­ing solo. She recorded again on MGM in 1953, but suc­cess con­tin­ued to elude her.

In December 1954, Marion mar­ried Vic Schoen, noted arranger and long-time mu­sic di­rec­tor for the Andrews Sisters. In early 1955, she recorded to­gether with Betty on Capitol as the Hutton Sisters. By that time, how­ever, Betty’s ca­reer was also flag­ging, and noth­ing came of it. Marion then re­tired from show busi­ness for good, per­form­ing only spo­rad­i­cally in Miller trib­ute shows and on her sis­ter’s 1960 tele­vi­sion pro­gram.

Marion strug­gled with al­co­holism and pre­scrip­tion drug abuse in her later life un­til seek­ing treat­ment in 1965, af­ter which she de­voted her life to help­ing other women with the same prob­lem. Going back to school in 1972, she earned a mas­ter’s de­gree in fam­ily coun­sel­ing. She and Schoen even­tu­ally set­tled in Kirkland, Washington, where Marion served as di­rec­tor of Residence XII, an al­co­holic treat­ment cen­ter for women, a po­si­tion she held un­til her death in 1987 af­ter a long bout with can­cer. Marion Hutton was 67.

Music

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  • Three Little Fishes
    Glenn Miller (Marion Hutton, Tex Beneke), Bluebird (1939)
  • You've Got Me This Way
    Glenn Miller (Marion Hutton), Bluebird (1940)
  • I've Got a Gal in Kalamazoo
    Glenn Miller (Tex Beneke, Marion Hutton, Modernaires), RCA Victor (1942)
  • Jukebox Saturday Night
    Glenn Miller (Tex Beneke, Marion Hutton, Modernaires), RCA Victor (1942)
  • No More Toujours L'Amour (Hoya, Hoya)
    Marion Hutton with Randy Brooks, Decca (1945)
  • I'm Gonna Love That Guy (Like He's Never Been Loved Before)
    Randy Brooks with Marion Hutton, Decca (1945)
  • My Brooklyn Love Song
    Marion Hutton, MGM (1948)
  • Heart Throb
    Betty and Marion Hutton, Capitol (1955)

All recordings are from the Internet Archive's 78rpm collection. Copyright owners, please see our removal policy.

Films

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  • Screenshot
    "People Like You and Me"
    Glenn Miller (Ray Eberle, Marion Hutton, Modernaires, Tex Beneke)
    from Orchestra Wives, 20th Century Fox (1942)
  • Screenshot
    "I've Got a Gal in Kalamazoo"
    Glenn Miller (Tex Beneke, Marion Hutton, Modernaires)
    from Orchestra Wives, 20th Century Fox (1942)
  • Screenshot
    "Mama Wants to Know"
    Marion Hutton
    from Love Happy, Artists Alliance (1949)

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Radio

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  • Glenn Miller
    June 19, 1939 (NBC) 13:54
  • Glenn Miller Chesterfield Show
    May 14, 1942 (CBS) 13:59
  • Glenn Miller Chesterfield Show
    July 14, 1942 (CBS) 13:59
  • Silver Platter: Andy Russell, Marion Hutton, Pied Pipers
    1948 (AFRS) 15:31

Sources

  1. Simon, George T. The Big Bands. 4th ed. New York: Schirmer, 1981.
  2. Walker, Leo. The Wonderful Era of the Great Dance Bands. Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1972.
  3. “Marion Hutton.” IMDb. Accessed 12 Dec. 2015.
  4. “Blues Singer Coming to Annual Ball.” The Telegraph [Nashua, NH] 14 Feb. 1939: 7.
  5. “Campus Picks Top Chirps.” Billboard 2 May 1942: 19.
  6. “Betty Hutton Has a Rival As Sister Joins the Films.” The Pittsburgh Press 5 Jul. 1942: Third Section, 7.
  7. “Orchestra Notes.” Billboard 26 Sep. 1942: 21.
  8. Carter, Dick. “Talent and Tunes on Music Machines.” Billboard 26 Sep. 1942: 67.
  9. “Miller Singers Rebooked.” Billboard 12 Dec. 1942: 17.
  10. “Midnight Shows at All Downtown Houses Tomorrow.” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 30 Dec. 1942: 9.
  11. “In Person! Marion Hutton and the Four Modernaires.” The Milwaukee Sentinel 13 Feb. 1943: A-5.
  12. “Big 23 G for Ina Ray Hutton, Miller Singers in Chicago.” Billboard 20 Feb. 1943: 14.
  13. “Vaudeville Reviews: Roxy, New York.” Billboard 3 Apr. 1943: 14.
  14. “Students Select Singers.” Billboard 5 Jun. 1943: 21.
  15. “Orchestra Notes.” Billboard 3 Jul. 1943: 25.
  16. Steinhauser, Si. “Opens Mouth Silently, Draws Breath and Pay.” The Pittsburgh Press 19 Aug. 1943: 31.
  17. “Vaudeville Reviews: Paramount, New York.” Billboard 20 Nov. 1943: 20.
  18. “Music Grapevine.” Billboard 3 Jun. 1944: 13.
  19. Creelman, Eileen. “Marion Isn't Clinging to Sis' Skirt.” The Milwaukee Journal 10 Sep. 1944: Third Section, 14.
  20. “Miller, Crosby & Shore a GI Treat.” Billboard 16 Sep. 1944: 13.
  21. “In Short.” Billboard 20 Jan. 1945: 23.
  22. “Decca Signs Marion Hutton.” Billboard 16 Jun. 1945: 15.
  23. Advertisement Billboard 29 Sep. 1945: 29.
  24. “Vaudeville Reviews: Chicago, Chicago.” Billboard 23 Aug. 1947: 47.
  25. “MGM Inks Last Pre-Ban Talent.” Billboard 3 Jan. 1948: 17.
  26. “Music as Written.” Billboard 7 Feb. 1948: 36.
  27. “Network and Local Program Reviews.” Billboard 3 Apr. 1948: 10.
  28. Mosby, Aline. “Works New Switch on Sister Act.” Schenectady Gazette 20 Apr. 1948: 8.
  29. “Night Club Reviews: Slapsy Maxie's.” Billboard 17 Apr. 1948: 37.
  30. Thomas, Bob. “The Screen.” Daytona Beach Morning Journal 21 Aug. 1948: 8.
  31. Woodman, Mitch. “Mitch Woodman Reports.” Toledo Blade 13 Jul. 1949: n. pag.
  32. Picture. The Milwaukee Journal 29 Mar. 1949: Green Sheet, 1.
  33. Thomas, Bob. “Betty Hutton Reports Sister's Retirement.” Toledo Blade 13 Jul. 1949: n. pag.
  34. “Marriages.” Billboard 6 Aug. 1949: 44.
  35. “Dealer Doings.” Billboard 26 Nov. 1949: 26.
  36. “Vaudeville Reviews: Capitol, New York.” Billboard 18 Feb. 1950: 47.
  37. “Vaudeville Reviews: Casino, Toronto.” Billboard 13 May 1950: 47.
  38. “Record Reviews.” Billboard 30 Sep. 1950: 100.
  39. “Popular Record Reviews.” Billboard 23 May 1953: 152.
  40. “Singer Marion Hutton Wed.” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 6 Dec. 1954: 19.
  41. “Reviews of New Pop Records.” Billboard 22 Jan. 1955: 34.
  42. “Whatever Became of...” The Milwaukee Journal 31 May 1983: Green Sheet, 2.
  43. “Marion Hutton, Glenn Miller Vocalist, Dies.” Schenectady Gazette 12 Jan. 1987: 13.