Francesca Mitzi Gerber, 4 September 1930, Chicago, Illinois. USA. This vivacious and extremely talented actress, singer and dancer, reputedly of Hungarian descent, graced several good movie musicals in the 50s, and is probably best remembered as the girl who tried to "wash that man (Rossano Brazzi) right out of her hair" in South Pacific (1958). After taking ballet lessons from an early age, Gaynor danced with the Los Angeles Civic Light Opera while in her early teens, and made a strong impression with Betty Grable and Dan Dailey in her first movie, My Blue Heaven (1950). This was followed by one or two straight parts, and a few musicals such as Golden Girl, Bloodhounds Of Broadway, Down Among The Sheltering Palms and The "I Don't Care" Girl (1953), which were not as satisfying. The situation improved as the 50s progressed and she had excellent roles in There's No Business Like Show Business, Anything Goes, The Birds And The Bees, The Joker Is Wild and Les Girls (1957). She was good, too, in South Pacific, but although it remains, to date, the fourth highest-grossing screen musical of the period in the USA, she was reportedly personally disaffected with the experience. Her particular genre of film musicals was becoming extinct, and, like so many others, she worked more often in television and had her own top-rated specials during the 60s. She also toured in stage musical revivals, and, as an accomplished actress, continued to play the occasional comic or dramatic movie role.
Gaynor also built up a polished and highly regarded concert and cabaret act. As recently as 1987 she was acclaimed for her nightclub performances, which included a section devoted to Irving Berlin and Fred Astaire, a satirical version of Harry Von Tilzer and Arthur Lamb's nineteenth century song "A Bird In A Gilded Cage", and a rousing singalong "God Bless America" finale. Two years later she embarked on an 11-month, 36-city tour of the USA in a revival of Cole Porter's 1934 show Anything Goes, the first time in her long career that she had been on the road in a book musical. The Daily News, commenting on a New York performance of hers in the late 90s, wrote: "She is what show business is all about."
Source: The Encyclopedia of Popular Music by Colin Larkin. Licensed from Muze.