Helen O'Connell Is Dead at 73; Big-Band Singer of 'Green Eyes'
By The Associated Press
Helen O'Connell, the big-band singer whose recordings of "Green Eyes" and other songs made her one of the most popular female vocalists in the nation in the early 1940's, died today at a hospice, her manager said. She was 73.
The cause was cancer, said the manager, Gloria Burke.
Miss O'Connell was one of the best-known female singers during the height of the swing era, when the big bands toured the nation.
She was born in Lima, Ohio, on May 23, 1920, and she left high school there to become a band singer. She was performing with the Larry Funk band at the Village Barn in New York City when she came to the attention of Jimmy Dorsey, who was looking for a vocalist. Her singing career took off in 1939 when she was paired with Bob Eberly on a Dorsey recording of "Green Eyes." That song, along with "Tangerine" and "Amapola," sold in the millions.
She also made popular songs like "Jim," "I Remember You," "Arthur Murray Taught Me Dancing in a Hurry" and "When The Sun Comes Out."
In the 1950's, she worked with Dave Garroway on NBC's "Today Show." For nine years, she was hostess of the Miss Universe Pageant, and she was a television spokeswoman for Polaroid cameras for several years.
In 1978 and 1979, she toured the country in a highly successful concert presentation called "4 Girls 4," in which she appeared with the singers Rose Marie, Margaret Whiting and Rosemary Clooney.
This summer, she toured with a big-band show, performing for the last time at the Valley Forge Music Fair in Valley Forge, Pa., on Aug. 14. The tour's producer, Craig Hankenson of Tampa, Fla., said Miss O'Connell had to leave the tour just before it ended because she was experiencing chest pain. Miss O'Connell returned home to Orange County, Calif., and was admitted to a La Jolla hospital, where she underwent surgery on Aug. 27.
Miss O'Connell married Frank DeVol, a composer, arranger and conductor, in 1991. She had been married to Clifford Smith Jr., heir to a Boston investment fortune, from 1941 to 1951, and to Tom T. Chamales, a novelist, from 1957 until his death in a fire in 1960.
She is survived by her husband and four daughters...