Wynn and pianist Alec Templeton in 1941
May 8, 1915
Johnstown, Pennsylvania, U.S.
|Died||March 21, 1971 (aged 55)|
Santa Monica, California, U.S.
|Years active||mid-1930s to mid-1950s|
|Spouse(s)||Cy Howard (1944–1947, divorced)|
Thomas Baylek (1949–1952, divorced)
John Small (1956–1971) (her death)
Nan Wynn, born Marsha Vatz (May 8, 1915 - March 21, 1971) was an American big-band singer, and Broadway and film actress. She sang and recorded throughout the 1930s and 1940s with the Emery Deutsch, Rudy Vallee, Eddie Duchin, Richard Himber, Hal Kemp, Hudson-DeLange, Raymond Scott, Teddy Wilson and Freddie Rich orchestras. For about nine months early in her career, she performed as Suzanne.
Wynn was born in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, and grew up in Wheeling, West Virginia, where she attended high school, and sang in the school choir. Her father, Abe Vatz, owned a department store in Wheeling, and traveled often to New York.
At the age of 16, while spending a weekend in New York City with her mother, her singing came to the attention of a retired producer who was guesting at the same establishment. He booked Wynn at a Peekskill vaudeville house, the owner of which engaged her to sing at his two other New York State properties, in Kingston and Newburgh. After working the vaudeville circuit, the late 1930s saw Wynn landing at radio station WNEW in New York for a 13-show-per-week stint and honing her talent under the mentorship of Jimmy Rich, the singing coach to Dinah Shore, Bea Wain, and Barry Wood, among others.
Radio show stints followed with Rudy Vallee's orchestra, and with Hal Kemp's orchestra on his "Time to Shine" radio show. Having earned the moniker "molten mama with the lava larynx", she caught the eye of a Warner Bros. movie scout while singing at The Pump Room in Chicago, leading to a role in Million Dollar Baby (1941).
In the late 1940s, she appeared on the Morey Amsterdam and Ed Sullivan shows. Wynn's career was cut short abruptly in 1949 by the loss of her voice following the surgical removal of a cancerous tumor which resulted in a severed facial nerve. Refusing to accept the medical prognosis that a recovery was not possible, Wynn regained her speech and facial control by 1955, at which point she was briefly signed to RCA Victor.
She appeared on the silver screen, often as a nightclub singer, in such films as Million Dollar Baby (1941), Pardon My Sarong (1942), Right Guy, (1943), Princess O'Rourke (1943), Is Everybody Happy? (1943), Jam Session (1944) and Intrigue (1947). She had a starring role opposite William Lundigan in the 1941 film A Shot in the Dark (1941).
Wynn was married three times. Her first husband, from 1944 to 1947 was producer, writer, and director Cy Howard (Seymour Horowitz). In 1949 she married Dr. Thomas Baylek, with whom she had a daughter, Jane. At the time of her death in 1971 she was described as the widow of John Small
Wynn retired from show business in 1951, following complications and facial paralysis due to her 1949 surgery, and settled into the life of a housewife in York, Pennsylvania. She eventually recovered the use of her facial muscles and became involved in the state cancer crusade in 1959, after which she appeared at American Cancer Society events for several years.
- New York Times & Arno Press The New York Times biographical service, Volume 2, page 1013; 1971
- Examiner.com, The Big Band vocalists-Female (6) - National Swing and Big Band
- Red Hot Mama Becomes Million Dollar Baby', The Sunday Morning Star, Wilmington, Delaware, May 18, 1941, page 34
- "Nan Wynn, Radio Songstress, Visits Her Parents Here". The Gazette and Daily. Pennsylvania, York. December 9, 1940. p. 7. Retrieved August 4, 2018 – via Newspapers.com.
- The Playbill for the Forty-Sixth Street Theatre, Finian's Rainbow, week beginning Monday August 9, 1948
- Soph Hop Publicity Drive Intensified by Committee, Penn State Collegian, November 8, 1939, page 2, http://digitalnewspapers.libraries.psu.edu/Repository/PSC/1939/11/03/036-PSC-1939-11-03-001-SINGLE.pdf
- Lundigan Haunts All Nan's Debuts, The Pittsburgh Press, April 19, 1941, page 8.
- The Daily Collegian, Penn State University, April 13, 1941, page 7
- Hagen, Wagner, and Tompkins "Movie Dubbers", http://www.barbaralea.com/Dubbers/dubberslist.html
- McLean, Adrienne L. Being Rita Hayworth: Labor, Identity, and Hollywood Stardom, page 252; Rutgers University Press, 2004.
- Nan Regains Lost Chord, Billboard, November 12, 1955; page 17.
- Institute for Research in Biography, Inc., Who's Important in Medicine Part 2, page 88; 1952.
- Beaver County Times - March 25, 1965, page 2
- Nan's Story - Something to Sing About, The Deseret News, Salt Lake City, Utah, September 16, 1963, page B-1