Born Frances Rose Shore on March 1, 1917, in Winchester, TN; died on February 24, 1994, in Beverly Hills, CA; daughter of Solomon A. (a dry goods store owner) and Anna (Stein) Shore (a homemaker); married actor George Montgomery, 1943; divorced, 1962; married former tennis star Maurice Smith, 1963; divorced 1964; children: (with Montgomery) Melissa, John. Education: Bachelor's degree in sociology from Vanderbilt University, 1938.
The epitaph on Dinah Shore's headstone says it all: "Dinah Shore--Loved by all who knew her and millions who never did." Although she first captured America's heart with her voice, in the end it was Shore's warm and winning personality that endeared her to her fans for more than five decades. She continued to sing throughout her life, but she will be remembered best as the gracious hostess of numerous radio and television shows.
Shore was born Frances Rose Shore on March 1, 1917, in Winchester, Tennessee, the second and youngest daughter of Solomon A. and Anna Stein Shore, Russian-Jewish immigrants. Her only sibling was an older sister, Bessie. Shortly before her second birthday, "Fanny," as she was called, was stricken with polio, which left her with a limp and a slightly deformed foot. Through extensive physical therapy and exercise, however, she eventually overcame the limp.
Anna Shore, who possessed a lovely contralto voice and had once dreamed of a career in opera, encouraged her younger daughter's interest in singing, urging her to sing at home. Solomon Shore owned and operated a dry goods store in Winchester, and as his daughter's voice became more developed, he often took her with him to the store where she entertained the customers with impromptu songs. When Shore was eight years old, her father moved the family to Nashville where he planned to open a department store. Despite her lingering limp--or perhaps because of it--she was very active, participating in school sports and other physically demanding activities. At Nashville's Hume-Fogg High School, she was active in music, dramatics, sports, and cheerleading.
When she was only 14, decked out in her older sister's dress, Shore talked her way into a singing job at a local nightclub by lying about her age. Making her professional debut, she was surprised to spot her parents in the audience. The Shores, who had come to the nightclub for a much-needed night on the town and were totally unaware that their daughter had managed to become the main act, allowed Shore to finish her act but then hurried her home, where she was admonished to concentrate on her studies and to forget about nightclubs for a while.
Shore's mother died suddenly when she was 15 years old. Her sister Bessie, who was married to Dr. Maurice Seligman, pitched in to help Solomon raise young Shore. Both encouraged her to pay less attention to music and to focus more on her education, but Shore's pursuit of a musical career was not to be so easily discouraged. Although she continued her regular studies, she also groomed herself for a future in music. For a time, she took vocal lessons, but the mind-numbing singing exercises eventually got the better of her, and she quit. She even sang for a time with a Presbyterian church choir.
After completing high school, where she was voted Best All-Around Girl, Shore began studying at Nashville's Vanderbilt University. A sociology major, she won the presidency of her sorority and headed the campus women's government group as well. Away from campus, she auditioned for WSM, Nashville's premier radio station, and was rewarded with a 15-minute show of her own, Our Little Cheerleader of Song. In New York City for a sorority convention, she auditioned for radio station WNEW and was offered a job; she turned it down when her family begged her to return to Vanderbilt to complete her studies.
Shore graduated from Vanderbilt in the spring of 1938 and headed back to New York, where she landed a job as a featured performer on Martin Block's WNEW radio show and joined another up-and-coming singer, Frank Sinatra. Because she had sung "Dinah," a song popularized by Ethel Waters, in her audition for Block, he called her "that Dinah girl." The name stuck, and she was known as Dinah Shore from that point on.
In January of 1939 she joined the Leo Reisman Orchestra for a two-week engagement. While singing with Reisman, she was spotted by orchestra leader Xavier Cugat, who asked her to provide the vocals for a series of records he was scheduled to make. Those recordings, which included "The Breeze and I," won Shore an even wider audience and caught the attention of Ben Bernie, who asked her to appear with his orchestra on CBS Radio. Shore's appearances with some of the leading orchestras of the period and her radio work established her as one of the promising new singers of the early 1940s.
Eddie Cantor, impressed by Shore's recording of "Yes, My Darling Daughter," signed her to appear on his Time to Smile radio show in 1940. In 1943, she made her film debut in Thank Your Lucky Stars, starring Cantor. Later that year she was asked to host her own radio show, Call to Music, and later starred on Paul Whiteman Presents. During World War II she entertained the troops and appeared frequently on the Armed Forces Radio Network. During this same period two of her recordings hit number one on the pop charts: "I'll Walk Alone" and "Blues in the Night." During one of her appearances at the United Service Organization's (USO) Hollywood Canteen, she met actor George Montgomery, who was about to enter the service. The couple married on December 5, 1943. After the war, they settled in California's San Fernando Valley, where their daughter, Melissa, was born on January 4, 1948. Six years later, they adopted a son they named John David.
In 1949 Shore made her television debut on the Ed Wynn Show and shortly thereafter appeared on Bob Hope's first television show. By the fall of 1951 she had been signed to do her own show on NBC. The 15-minute shows, two of which aired each week, were sponsored by Chevrolet and were an immediate hit, winning her an Emmy in 1955. The following year she did two hour-long specials for Chevrolet. The success of Shore's specials won her a regular Sunday-night variety show entitled the Dinah Shore Chevy Show, which ran until 1961 under Chevrolet's sponsorship and for another two years as the Dinah Shore Show with another sponsor. In 1962 Shore's marriage to George Montgomery ended in divorce. Throughout the latter half of the 1960s, she continued to play concert dates and appeared in a number of television specials.
Shore returned to regularly scheduled television in 1970 with Dinah's Place, a 30-minute NBC daytime show that offered a mixture of talk and music. When NBC failed to renew the show in 1974, Shore jumped to CBS with a 90-minute daily show entitled Dinah! that ran until 1980. Shore's lifelong love of sports and her participation in a number of charity sporting events made her a natural candidate to host her own sporting event. In the early 1970s Colgate invited her to host a women's golf tournament, an idea that Shore immediately embraced, launching the annual Colgate (sponsorship later switched to Nabisco) Dinah Shore Tournament in 1972. During the 1970s Shore was romantically linked with actor Burt Reynolds, nearly two decades her junior. Although the relationship seemed a strange one to many of her fans, it did nothing to dim her popularity. She hosted another successful daytime television talk show, Dinah and Friends, from 1979 to 1984.
In 1989 Shore brought her talk show format to cable, where A Conversation with Dinahran on the Nashville Network (TNN). It featured all the ingredients--talk, music, and cooking tips--that had made her previous shows so successful. The show lasted for a couple of years, after which Shore largely retired from public life, serving only as hostess for her annual golf tournament. On February 24, 1994, she lost a brief battle with cancer. The news came as a shock to the public and even some of her friends, who knew nothing of her illness.
Nearly 78 years old when she died, Shore remained throughout her life much as Frank Sinatra had once described her--"a wonderful ray of sunshine."
by Don Amerman
Dinah Shore's Career
Began performing in Nashville nightclubs, age 14; after finishing college, moved to New York City, sang on radio station WNEW; sang and recorded with orchestra of Xavier Cugat; Bluebird/RCA Victor recording artist, 1940-46; released first hit single, "Yes, My Darling Daughter," 1940; signed as a regular on Eddie Cantor's Time to Smile radio show, 1940; began hosting own radio show, 1943; Columbia recording artist, 1946-50; returned to RCA Victor, made television debut on Ed Wynn show, 1950; signed to host her own television show, November 1951; television show host/personality, interviewer, mistress of ceremonies, 1950s-1970s.
Dinah Shore's Awards
Cashbox magazine, Best Female Vocalist, 1946; Emmy Award, Best Female Singer, 1954-55; Emmy Award, Best Female Personality, 1956; Emmy, Best Continuing Performance by a Female Who Plays Herself for the Dinah Shore Chevy Show, 1957; George Foster Peabody Award for the Dinah Shore Chevy Show,1957; Los Angeles Times Woman of the Year Award, 1957; Harper's Bazaar Award for Contribution to Fashion, 1957; Emmy Award, Best Performance by an Actress in a Musical or Variety Series for the Dinah Shore Chevy Show, 1958-59; Golden Globe Award for television achievement, 1959; National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, Woman of the Year Award, 1974; Emmy Award, Best Host or Hostess in a Talk, Service, or Variety Series for Dinah's Place, 1974-75; Emmy Award, Outstanding Host or Hostess in a Talk, Service or Variety Series for Dinah!, 1977-78; Outstanding Tennesseean Award, 1990; inducted into the Television Hall of Fame, 1992; earned gold records for "Yes, My Darling Daughter," "Blues in the Night," "The Breeze and I," "Shoo Fly Pie," "Buttons and Bows," "Dear Hearts and Gentle People," "It's So Nice to Have a Man Around the House," and "I'll Walk Alone."
- Selected discography
- Best of Dinah Shore , WEA/Atlantic/Curb, 1991.
- 16 Most Requested Songs , Sony, 1991.
- Blues in the Night: A Tribute to Dinah Shore 1917-1994 , ASV Living Era, 1994.
- Greatest Hits , Laserlight, 1994.
- 16 Most Requested Songs: Encore , Sony/Columbia, 1995.
- More of the Best , Laserlight, 1996.
- Very Best of Dinah Shore , BMG/RCA, 2001.
- Contemporary Theatre, Film, and Television, Vol. 13., Gale Research, 1995.
- Knopper, Steve, MusicHound Lounge: The Essential Album Guide to Martini Music and Easy Listening, Visible Ink Press, 1998.
- Newsmakers 1994, Issue 4. Gale Research, 1994.
- Billboard, March 12, 1994, p. 12.
- Entertainment Weekly, March 11, 1994, p. 46.
- People, March 21, 1994, p. 125.
- "Dinah Shore Biography," Dinah Shore Fan Club, http://www.dinahshorefanclub.com/dsbio2.htm (December 2, 2001).