‘CRY ME A RIVER’: THE JULIE LONDON STORY: TEXT BY GARY ALSTON

Julie London (September 26, 1926 – October 18, 2000) was a glamorous actress and one of the top female vocalists of the 1950s/60s.She will forever be associated with and remembered for her stunning (and definitive) interpretation of (the torch-song-to-end-all-torch songs)  ‘Cry Me A River’, written by Arthur Hamilton. Julie’s distinctive voice and song-styling has been described as smoky, intimate, breathy, warm & seductive. In a ‘Life’ magazine article from 1957 she herself commented that : “It’s only a thimbleful of a voice, and I have to use it close to the microphone. But it is a kind of over-smoked voice, and it automatically sounds intimate.” Julie’s acting career spanned 35 years and culminated with the role of nurse Dixie McCall, R.N. on the T.V. show ‘Emergency’ from 1972-1977.

She was born Gayle Peck, on September 26th 1926 in Santa Rosa California, the daughter of showbusiness parents Jack and Josephine Peck , a vaudeville song-and-dance act. In 1929, the family moved to San Bernadino where Julie’s parents had a radio show on which Julie herself would sometimes appear. In 1941 when she was fourteen, the family relocated to Los Angeles and upon leaving high school, she got a job as an elevator operator in a department store.It was in Los Angeles that Julie’s showbusiness career really took off; she began singing with the Matty Malnech orchestra where her beauty and poise soon made her a pin-up girl of the GIs. At the same time, she met two people who are pivotal to her story: her husband-to-be actor Jack Webb (best remembered for his role in t.v.s ‘Dragnet’ and who at that time was serving in the Marine Corps) and Sue Carol the actress/agent wife of movie star Alan Ladd. Julie’s glamorous looks made her an ideal candidate for the movies and Carol easily obtained a screen test for her.She immediately landed a string of bit parts and her talent quickly  ensured her fast  ascent to star status, with leading roles in such films as ‘A Question Of Adultery’ ‘Task Force’ and ‘The Fat Man’. In July 1947 Julie married Jack Webb, who was just starting out as an actor on radio. They were an unlikely couple who had been brought together largely by their mutual love of Jazz music (Webb would go on to star in the 1955 jazz-themed movie ‘Pete Kelly’s Blues’).Consequently Julie gave up her film career to become a wife and mother and the couple had two daughters named Stacy and Lisa. By November 1953 it was all over, and the marriage had ended in divorce. There followed a period where Julie became quite reclusive, which she herself put down to “A lack of self confidence”.

‘THE CLASSIC DEBUT ALBUM’

In 1954 Julie met her mentor (and second husband-to-be)  jazz musician and songwriter Bobby Troup; he was not only a world-class writer (‘Route 66’, ‘Girl Talk’, ‘Lemon Twist’, ‘The Three Bears’, etc)  but an amazing man; in his early years he was a regular ‘bad boy’, but he turned out to be   salty, funny, caring, a great father, and a talented actor (‘MASH’ and ‘Emergency’). Under Bobby’s tutorage,  Julie began a serious singing career in 1955, performing her first solo engagement at the 881 club in Los Angeles.Also that year, she cut her legendary debut album ‘Julie Is Her Name’ which included the track that was to become her signature tune and biggest hit of her career – ‘Cry Me A River’ – written by her high school classmate Arthur Hamilton and produced by her husband Troup. The album and single version of ‘Cry Me A River’ sold over three million copies; the single remained on the Billboard charts for thirteen weeks and the album for twenty weeks. Julie had found a new direction and career niche which would see her voted one of the top female vocalists of 1955, 1956 and 1957.On New Years Eve 1959, she would become Mrs. Bobby Troup. People often referred to the couple as “BobbyandJulie” as if they were one word; this summed up the feeling of their life together. Together they would parent three children – a girl called Kelly, and twin boys Jody and Reese.

Julie enjoyed a remarkable longevity in her recording career. Between 1955 and 1969 she recorded a staggering 32 albums. She created her own unique easy-listening niche which focused on the husky and overtly sensual tone of her voice and ‘come-to-bed’ delivery. At the same time, her record company chose to capitalise on her glamorous image and the majority of Julie’s album covers portrayed her as a sophisticated and sexy ‘party girl’. Indeed, the cover of her debut album ‘Julie Is Her Name’ was thought of as so sexy in its day that it was described as: “generating enough voltage to light up a theatre marquee”; its 1958 companion album ‘Julie Is Her Name Volume 2’ had an equally provocative cover – Julie in a form-fitting black sweater displaying her admirable breasts to perfection, whilst 1956’s ‘Calendar girl’ album featured a gate-fold cover which opened out to show her in 12 ‘cheesecake’ photos/poses (one for each month of the year) with an additional large photograph for the ‘thirteenth’ month on the inside.

With a highly successful new recording career, Julie was soon courted by the movies once more, and she went on to appear in a string of films where she was the star or co-star. In 1956 she starred as an alcoholic singer in ‘The Great Man’, followed by ‘Man Of The West’, ‘Voice In The Mirror’ (for which she also composed the film’s title song), ‘The Wonderful Country’, ‘The George Raft Story’ and ‘The Third Voice’. Ironically, perhaps her best-remembered movie role was the cameo part she played in 1956’s ‘The Girl Can’t Help It’ in which she performed her signature tune ‘Cry Me A River’ in a stunning dream sequence which featured her gowned in a veritable fashion parade of 1950’s glamour-wear. During the late 50’s and into the 60’s, Julie performed on international tours in Brazil and Japan; while in Japan she recorded a Japanese-only television programme with Bobby Troup and his band.She/they were a big hit there and subsequently many of her records were released on the Japanese market. Julie’s recording career came to an end when the Liberty label folded in 1968. Her final album for them was entitled ‘Yummy Yummy Yummy’ which contained covers of such contemporary hits as The Fifth Dimension’s ‘Stoned Soul Picnic’ and ‘The Doors’ ‘Light My Fire’. Her last recording was in 1981, for the movie Sharky’s Machine, in which she performed ‘My Funny Valentine’ for the soundtrack.

Julie also made many television appearances as both an actress and singer, including parts in such popular shows  as ‘What’s My Line?’ ‘Rawhide’ and ‘The Man From U.N.C.L.E.’By the end of the 1960’s with nightclub acts on the wane, Julie moved into television, teaming up with Bobby Troup for the game show ‘Tattletales’ and  then in 1972, she began playing her best-known television role as Nurse Dixie McCall in the long-running series ‘Emergency’; even in middle-age she made an extremely sexy nurse! Her ex-husband Jack Webb produced the show, and apart from Julie, he also hired her husband Bobby Troup to play the emergency room physician Dr. Joe Early. Julie and her co-stars Kevin Tighe, Randolph Mantooth, and Robert Fuller also appeared in an episode of the Webb-produced series ‘Adam-12’, reprising their roles. After ‘Emergency’ ended, Julie made one last film in 1978 entitled ‘Emergency: Survival On Charter #220’whereupon she retired from showbusiness. Julie had her fair share of tragedy in life.Her daugher Stacy was killed in a car accident in the 1990’s, whilst she herself suffered a stroke in 1995 which left her in poor health. Husband Bobby Troup passed away from congestive heart failure at the age of 80 in February 1999, and Julie died at the age of 74 in Encino, California on October 18th 2000. She is survived by her four (remaining) children – Lisa Breen from her marriage to Jack Webb, and by the three children from her marriage to Bobby Troup: Kelly, Jody and Reese.

Bobby Troup once said of his wife: “She is not a Julie London fan. She honestly doesn’t realise how good she is. She’s never really been a performer. She doesn’t have that need to go out and please an audience and receive accolades. She’s always been withdrawn, very introverted. She hated those big shows. I couldn’t wait to do them, and she was only glad when they were over.” Julie London was in fact a consummate artist.She recognised her ‘limitations’ and used them to her best advantage.Her sexy, ‘oversmoked’ voice provided the soundtrack to many a late night tryst and when she sang jazz she could swing with the best of them; case in point : her 1965 Cole Porter tribute album ‘All Through The Night’.Over fifty years on, ‘Cry Me A River’ is still being played and has become inextricably linked with her legend.That’s some achievement!

JULIE LONDON ALBUMS

Julie Is Her Name (1955, U.S. #2)
Lonely Girl (1956, U.S. #16)
Calendar Girl (1956, U.S. #18)
About the Blues (1957, U.S. #15)
Make Love to Me (1957)
Julie (1958)
Julie Is Her Name, Volume II (1958)
London by Night (1958)
Swing Me an Old Song (1959)
Your Number Please (1959)
Julie…At Home (1960)
Around Midnight (1960)
Send for Me (1961)
Whatever Julie Wants (1961)
The Best of Julie London (1962)
Sophisticated Lady (1962)
Love Letters (1962)
Love on the Rocks (1962)
Latin in a Satin Mood (1963)
Julie’s Golden Greats (1963)
The End of the World (1963, U.S. #127)
The Wonderful World of Julie London (1963, U.S. #136)
Julie London (1964)
In Person at the Americana (1964)
Our Fair Lady (1965)
Feeling Good (1965)
By Myself (1965, produced exclusively for the Columbia Record Club)
All Through the Night: Julie London Sings the Choicest of Cole Porter (1965)
For the Night People (1966)
Nice Girls Don’t Stay for Breakfast (1967)
With Body & Soul (1967)
Easy Does It (1968)
Yummy, Yummy, Yummy (1969)

JULIE LONDON MOVIES

Nabonga (1944)
Diamond Horseshoe (1945) (bit part)
On Stage Everybody (1945)
A Night in Paradise (1946) (bit part)
The Red House (1947)
Tap Roots (1948)
Task Force (1949)
Return of the Frontiersman (1950)
The Fat Man (1951)
The Fighting Chance (1955)
The Girl Can’t Help It (1956)
Crime Against Joe (1956)
The Great Man (1956)
Drango (1957)
Saddle the Wind (1958)
Voice in the Mirror (1958)
Man of the West (1958)
Night of the Quarter Moon (1959)
The Wonderful Country (1959)
A Question of Adultery (1959)
The Third Voice (1960)
The George Raft Story (1961)

JULIE LONDON TELEVISION APPEARANCES

What’s My Line? (three episodes) (1957-1961)
Rawhide (one episode) (1960)
The Eleventh Hour (one episode) (1963)
The Big Valley (one episode) (1967)
The Man from U.N.C.L.E. “The Prince of Darkness Affair,” Part 1, Part 2, (1967), re-released as the feature film, The Helicopter Spies (1968)
Emergency! (1972–1977) series regular
Adam-12 (one episode, Lost and Found) as Dixie McCall
Tattletales! (game show hosted by Bert Convy, 1974–1978)
Emergency: Survival on Charter #220 (1978)

JULIE LONDON QUOTES:

“Bobby had faith in my ability as a singer.”
Julie London

“Bobby Troup and I have been working together for about a year in clubs. We work in the same club.”
Julie London

“Bobby was one of the few people I had ever known who really wanted to do something for me.”
Julie London

“I do everything all wrong, but I think for me that’s the best, because I don’t think I have a voice.”
Julie London

“I prefer the things around town. I’m not one for going out of town too much.”
Julie London

“I think any entertainer just sort of goes along with whatever comes along.”
Julie London

“I think homes should reflect the individuals and their individual taste rather than someone else’s.”
Julie London

“I think that’s one of the most difficult things in any marriage – in order to build anything, you must be together. You can’t build anything over the telephone.”
Julie London

“I think the first album cover was considered most provocative. I think that contributed a great deal.”
Julie London

“I think what I project would be my style.”
Julie London

“I’d retired for about six or seven years. Coming back to the business, I found that I was sort of not quite a has-been, and it wasn’t a new career, it was just kind of difficult to crack the nut, so to speak.”
Julie London

“I’m sure any vocal teacher that listens to me would rather cut my throat than do anything – I do everything all wrong – but I think for me that’s the best – because I don’t think I have a voice so I think what I project would be style – if I learned to sing I’d lose my style.”
Julie London

“If it’s a terrible script, it’s a terrible bore.”
Julie London

“If it’s an excellent script, I enjoy it tremendously, the acting part of it.”
Julie London

“In this business it’s difficult to make plans. I think the plans follow you and find you.”
Julie London

“It’s really impossible to project ahead even six months in this business.”
Julie London

“It’s very complicated because I cannot wear the same thing too often.”
Julie London

“Sometimes you kind of lose yourself in someone else’s personality.”
Julie London

“The acting was first. As a teenager I was an actress; and then I came back as a singer.”
Julie London

“The one appearance that I made for President Kennedy, he, as I understand, had his choice or was asked to make a list of the people he would like to have perform, and I was fortunate enough to be one of them.”
Julie London

“We’ve performed in South America and in Japan.”
Julie London

JULIE LONDON ‘CRY ME A RIVER’ Text ©copyright Gary Alston 2021.
House Of Retro/Gary Alston make no claims to the ownership of images appearing on this page.