Emmy-winning and Golden Globe-nominated actress, comedienne and musical performer Mitzi Gaynor began her acclaimed career at the age of thirteen in the Los Angeles Civic Light Opera as a featured performer in the corps de ballet of several Los Angeles, San Francisco and Philadelphia productions such as Songs Without Words, Naughty Marietta, Roberta, Jollyana and The Great Waltz and appeared on Broadway in the New Century Theatre production of Gypsy Lady.
She transitioned from stage to screen at age nineteen with her first role opposite Betty Grable in the 20th Century-Fox film My Blue Heaven (1950). She then starred in some of the most revered musicals of Hollywood’s “Golden Age” including Golden Girl (1951), The I Don’t Care Girl (1953), There’s No Business Like Show Business (1954) with Ethel Merman and Marilyn Monroe, Anything Goes (1956) with Bing Crosby and Donald O’Connor, Les Girls (1957) with Gene Kelly, The Joker Is Wild (1957) with Frank Sinatra, and most notably as Ensign Nellie Forbush in Rodgers & Hammerstein’s SOUTH PACIFIC (1958), for which she received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress. She also starred in non-musical comedies such as Happy Anniversary (1959) with David Niven and Carl Reiner, Surprise Package (1960) with Yul Brynner and Noel Coward and For Love or Money (1963) with Kirk Douglas, Gig Young and Thelma Ritter.
Also a highly sought-after guest on the nation’s top television programs, Mitzi made several memorable appearances in the medium, including a 1964 appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show, in which she had top billing over The Beatles. She also performed to great acclaim on several Academy Awards broadcasts where her show-stopping 1967 rendition of Best Song nominee Georgy Girl, before a TV audience of 65 million, was met by wildly enthusiastic applause. Her successful Academy Awards appearance and an equally popular holiday installment of television’s Kraft Music Hall titled “The Mitzi Gaynor Christmas Show” led to an avalanche of inquiries from virtually every network offering the dynamic performer television series and specials of her own.
She fulfilled those requests in 1968 with the premiere of the aptly titled Mitzi. Her annual blockbuster-rated network variety specials such as Mitzi…and 100 Guys (1975), Mitzi…Zings Into Spring (1977) and Mitzi…Roarin’ in the 20’s (1976) (with guest star Carl Reiner) dominated television for a decade and earned a total of seventeen Emmy Award nominations and six Emmy Award wins. These specials were recently celebrated in the musical documentary Mitzi Gaynor: Razzle Dazzle! The Special Years (2008), which aired nationwide on public television and was honored with the 2010 NATAS Emmy Award for Outstanding Entertainment Special.
Mitzi first took the concert world by storm in 1961 at Las Vegas’ fabulous Flamingo Hotel. Her debut broke all box office records and was met with overwhelming acclaim – Life magazine noted, “Gaynor started at the top and climbed even higher,” and the Los Angeles Times called her “The nation’s number one female song and dance star” – and for the next five decades she continued to dominate stages across the US and Canada.
She is currently sharing her fabled brand of showmanship in her new one-woman show Razzle Dazzle: My Life Behind the Sequins – a glittering multimedia tour-de-force of side-splitting stories and classic songs, along with stunning video footage culled from her television, concert and film work. In reviewing the show, The New York Times called her “an all time great,” and Rex Reed of The New York Observer noted, “Glamorous, Colossal and one of a kind, Mitzi Gaynor is the real deal.”
She recently received the International Press Academy’s 2011 Mary Pickford Award for Outstanding Contribution to the Entertainment Industry. She was named the 2009 Entertainer of the Year at the 28th Annual Tremaine Dance Gala and received The Chapman University Lifetime Achievement in the Arts Award. In March 2012, as president of the Professional Dancers Society, she hosted a star-studded tribute to Dame Julie Andrews.
Mitzi is also featured in the recent PBS special Oscar Hammerstein II: Out of My Dreams (2012), a celebration of the most acclaimed lyricist and librettist of the 20th century, hosted by Matthew Morrison.