Gertrude Niesen

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Niesen on Duffy's Tavern in 1940.

Gertrude Niesen (July 8, 1911 – March 27, 1975)[1] was an American torch singer, actress, comedian, and songwriter who achieved popular success in musicals and films in the 1930s and 1940s.

Early years[edit]

Niesen was born aboard ship as her Swedish father and Russian mother returned from a vacation in Europe. As a child, she hoped for a career on stage and began performing in vaudeville.[2]


Niesen began singing as a career in the early 1930s, first appearing (credited as Gertrude Nissen) with Roger Wolfe Kahn and His Orchestra and Artie Shaw in a Vitaphone short film, Yacht Party (1932).

On old-time radio, Niesen was the featured singer on The Ex-Lax Big Show (1933-1934) on CBS [3] and host of The Show Shop (1942), on NBC-Blue.[3]:303

She recorded for Victor, Columbia, and Brunswick in the 1930s, and in 1933 was the first to record the song "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes", by Jerome Kern and Otto Harbach.

She appeared in the Broadway musical Calling All Stars in 1934 and in the Ziegfeld Follies of 1936.[4] Her Broadway credits also include Follow the Girls (1944) and Take a Chance (1932).[5]

She also began to appear regularly in movies, including Top of the Town (1937), Start Cheering (1938), and A Night at Earl Carroll's (1940), in which she sang a song that she co-wrote, "I Want to Make with the Happy Times". Her other films included Rookies on Parade (1941), This Is the Army (1943), He's My Guy (1943), and The Babe Ruth Story (1948). She co-starred with Jackie Gleason in the 1944 stage musical Follow the Girls, in which she sang "I Want to Get Married", one of her better-known songs. She recorded for Decca Records throughout the 1940s, and released a self-titled LP for the label in 1951.[4] She also appeared on many radio shows and on TV in the early 1950s.

In 1943, Niesen married Chicago nightclub owner Al Greenfield. The couple divorced but remarried in 1954, remaining married until Niesen’s death in Kaiser Permanente Hospital[2] in Hollywood, California in 1975, aged 63, after a long illness.[1]

Selected filmography[edit]


  1. ^ a b Gertrude Niesen at
  2. ^ a b "Gertrude Niesen Dies on Coast; Sultry Singer of 30's and 40's". The New York Times. United Press International. April 2, 1975. Archived from the original on 26 August 2018. Retrieved 26 August 2018.
  3. ^ a b Terrace, Vincent (1999). Radio Programs, 1924-1984: A Catalog of More Than 1800 Shows. McFarland & Company, Inc. pp. 111–112. ISBN 978-0-7864-4513-4.
  4. ^ a b Biography by Bruce Eder at
  5. ^ "Gertrude Niesen". Internet Broadway Database. The Broadway League. Retrieved 26 August 2018.

External links[edit]