Military Wiki
Dan Dailey
in Washington Melodrama (1941)
Born Daniel James Dailey Jr.
(1915-12-14)December 14, 1915
New York, New York, U.S.
Died October 16, 1978(1978-10-16) (aged 62)
Los Angeles, California, U.S.
Cause of death Complications from hip surgery
Years active 1921
Spouse(s) Esther Rodier (?-1941)
Elizabeth Hofert (1942-1951) one child
Gwen Carter O'Connor (1955–1960)
Children Dan Dailey III, (1948–1975)

Daniel James Dailey Jr. (December 14, 1915 – October 16, 1978) was an American dancer and actor. He is best remembered for a series of popular musicals he made at 20th Century Fox such as Mother Wore Tights (1947).


Early life

Dailey was born on December 14, 1915, in New York City, to Daniel James Dailey Sr. and Helen Theresa (née Ryan) Dailey. His younger sister was actress Irene Dailey.


He appeared in a minstrel show in 1921, and later appeared in vaudeville. He worked as a golf caddy and shoe seller before his first big break, working for a South American cruise line in 1934.[1]

He made his Broadway debut in 1937 in Babes in Arms. He followed it with Stars in Your Eyes and I Married an Angel.


In 1940, he was signed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer to make films and, although his past career had been in musicals, he was initially cast in the drama Susan and God (1940). He also played a Nazi in The Mortal Storm (1940).[2] Dailey was the juvenile lead in The Captain Is a Lady (1940) and Dulcy (1940). He appeared in a musical comedy in Hullabaloo (1940), then had a small role in the drama Keeping Company (1941) and was the juvenile in The Wild Man of Borneo (1941). He could be seen in Washington Melodrama (1941) and Ziegfeld Girl (1941), and played a gangster in The Get-Away (1941).

Dailey was third billed in a "B", Down in San Diego (1941) and had a small part in an "A" musical, Lady Be Good (1941).

Dailey was loaned out to 20th Century Fox for Moon Over Her Shoulder (1941), then appeared opposite Donna Reed in Mokey (1942). He was third billed in Sunday Punch (1942). Universal borrowed him to support Leo Carillo in Timber (1942). He stayed at that studio for Give Out, Sisters (1942), a musical with The Andrews Sisters and Donald O'Connor.

Dailey's last film for MGM was Panama Hattie (1942). It was a hit and Dailey's career looked like it was going to the next level when cast in For Me and My Girl. However Dailey was drafted and Gene Kelly ended up taking the role.[1]

World War Two

He served in the United States Army during World War II, and was commissioned as an Army officer after graduation from Signal Corps Officer Candidate School at Fort Monmouth in New Jersey. During his army service he appeared in This Is the Army (1943).

20th Century Fox

When Dailey returned to Hollywood MGM agreed to let him sign a contract with 20th Century Fox. Their association began brilliantly with Mother Wore Tights (1947) in which Dailey supported the studio's biggest star, Betty Grable. His part was built iup during filming and the movie was Fox's most popular movie of 1947, making $5 million.[1][3]

Fox promptly cast Dailey opposite their other big female star, Jeanne Craine, in You Were Meant for Me (1948) which was popular. It was directed by Lloyd Bacon who also directed Dailey in Give My Regards to Broadway (1948).

Dailey was reunited with Grable in When My Baby Smiles at Me (1948). It was Fox's biggest hit of the year and garnered Dailey an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor.[citation needed]

Fox tried Dailey in a comedy, Chicken Every Sunday (1949) with Celeste Holm, then he teamed with Anne Baxter in the popular musical You're My Everything (1949).

In 1949, he showcased his singing abilities by recording four songs for Decca Records with the popular Andrews Sisters singing trio. Two of the songs were Irish novelties ("Clancy Lowered the Boom!" and "I Had a Hat (When I Came In)"). The other songs, Take Me Out to the Ball Game and In the Good Old Summertime capitalized on the success of two MGM blockbuster films of the same names from that same year, starring Gene Kelly, Esther Williams, Frank Sinatra ("Tale Me Out to the Ballgame" and Judy Garland and Van Johnson ("In the Good Old Summertime"), respectively. Dailey and The Andrews Sisters were an excellent match, and their vocal stylings on these selections were full of gaiety and fun.[4]

Dailey starred in a film for John Ford, When Willie Comes Marching Home (1950) which was a mild success at the box office. He received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor in a Musical or Comedy in 1951. More popular was a third teaming with Grable, My Blue Heaven (1950). He made a cameo in I'll Get By (1950).

Dailey was reunited with Anne Baxter in A Ticket to Tomahawk (1950), often noted as one of the first screen appearances of Marilyn Monroe, who played a very small part as a dance hall girl. He made a fourth (and final) film with Grable, Call Me Mister (1951).

Fox tried Dailey in a romantic drama, I Can Get It for You Wholesale (1951), playing opposite Susan Hayward. Then he was in a biopic, The Pride of St. Louis (1951) as the baseball player Dizzy Dean.

Dailey made a second film with Ford, a remake of What Price Glory (1952), where he teamed with James Cagney.

Universal borrowed him for a musical, Meet Me at the Fair (1953). Fox put him in a drama, Taxi (1953), then a musical with June Haver, The Girl Next Door (1953). He did another baseball-themed film, The Kid from Left Field (1953).

Dailey was meant to appear in the 20th Century Fox musical extravaganza There's No Business Like Show Business (1954), which featured Irving Berlin's music and also starred Monroe, Ethel Merman, Mitzi Gaynor, Johnnie Ray, and Donald O'Connor, whose wife Gwen divorced O'Connor and married Dailey around that time. Filming was delayed due to an illness to director Walter Lang, so Dailey was going to appear in Susan Slept Here and Heller in Pink Tights. Susan ended up being made with Dick Powell and Pink Tights was postponed. Eventually There's No Business Like Show Business was made and proved to be Dailey's biggest hit in a long time.[5]


Dailey went to MGM to play GI-turned-advertising man Doug Hallerton in It's Always Fair Weather (1955) alongside Gene Kelly. The film was screened at drive-in theaters and was not a box-office success, although it did receive good reviews. He starred opposite Cyd Charisse and Agnes Moorehead in Meet Me in Las Vegas (1956), which also lost money. Dailey returned to Fox for one more musical, The Best Things in Life Are Free (1956) to play songwriter Ray Henderson opposite Gordon MacRae.

The following year, he portrayed "Jughead" Carson in the drama The Wings of Eagles (1957) for John Ford, a biographical film on the life of Frank Wead, starring John Wayne.

He was one of several stars in Fox's comedy Oh, Men! Oh, Women! (1957). For the same studio he was part of the ensemble in The Wayward Bus (1957). Dailey made a profitable low budget war film for MGM, Underwater Warrior (1958).

Later career

As the musical genre began to wane in the late-1950s, he moved on to various comedic and dramatic roles on television, including starring in The Four Just Men (1959–60). He had cameos in Pepe (1960) and Hemingway's Adventures of a Young Man (1961) and made Four Nights of the Full Moon (1963) in Spain. He returned to Broadway in Catch Me If You Can (1965).

In the late 1960s, Dailey toured as Oscar Madison in a road production of The Odd Couple. co-starring Elliott Reid as Felix Unger and also featuring Peter Boyle as Murray the cop. He did a stint on Broadway in Plaza Suite.

From 1969-71, Dailey was the Governor opposite Jullie Sommars's J.J. in the sitcom The Governor & J.J. which revolved around the relationship between his character, the conservative governor of an unnamed state and his liberal daughter Jennifer Jo. His performance won him the for Best Actor - Television Series Musical or Comedy for performances in 1969, the year that this category was introduced.

He starred in a short lived series Faraday & Company in 1973.

Later film performances included The Private Files of J. Edgar Hoover (1977), as Clyde Tolson.

Personal life

Dailey married first wife Elizabeth in 1942. They had one son, Dan Jnr, born in 1947, and separated in 1949.[1] They divorced in 1951.[6]

Dailey's son committed suicide in 1975.[7]

Dailey broke his hip in 1977 and developed anemia. He died on October 16, 1978, from complications following hip replacement surgery.[8][9] He is buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California.[10]



  • Susan and God (1940)
  • The Mortal Storm (1940)
  • The Captain Is a Lady (1940)
  • Dulcy (1940)
  • Hullabaloo (1940)
  • Keeping Company (1940)
  • The Wild Man of Borneo (1941)
  • Washington Melodrama (1941)
  • Ziegfeld Girl (1941)
  • The Getaway (1941)
  • Down in San Diego (1941)
  • Lady Be Good (1941)
  • Moon Over Her Shoulder (1941)
  • Mokey (1942)
  • Sunday Punch (1942)
  • Timber (1942)
  • Give Out, Sisters (1942)
  • Panama Hattie (1942)
  • This Is the Army (1943)
  • Mother Wore Tights (1947)
  • You Were Meant for Me (1948)
  • Give My Regards to Broadway (1948)
  • When My Baby Smiles at Me (1948)
  • Chicken Every Sunday (1948)
  • You're My Everything (1949)
  • When Willie Comes Marching Home (1950)
  • My Blue Heaven (1950)
  • I'll Get By (1950) (cameo appearance)
  • A Ticket to Tomahawk (1950)
  • Call Me Mister (1951)
  • I Can Get It for You Wholesale (1951)
  • The Pride of St. Louis (1952)
  • What Price Glory? (1952)
  • Meet Me at the Fair (1953)
  • Taxi (1953)
  • The Girl Next Door (1953)
  • The Kid from Left Field (1953)
  • There's No Business Like Show Business (1954)
  • It's Always Fair Weather (1955)
  • Meet Me in Las Vegas (1956)
  • The Best Things in Life Are Free (1956)
  • The Wings of Eagles (1957)
  • Oh, Men! Oh, Women! (1957)
  • The Wayward Bus (1957)
  • Underwater Warrior (1958)
  • Pepe (1960)
  • Hemingway's Adventures of a Young Man (1962)
  • Four Nights of the Full Moon (1963)
  • The Private Files of J. Edgar Hoover (1977)


  • Philco Radio Time (1948)
  • Lux Radio Theatre (1949–1954) (multiple adaptations)


  • The Four Just Men (1959–1960)
  • The Governor & J.J. (1969–1971)
  • Faraday & Company (1973–1974)


  • Babes in Arms (1937)
  • The Odd Couple (1967–1968)


  • Tournament of Roses (narrator) (1954)
  • Testimony of Two Men (TV mini-series) (1977)

Box office ranking

For a number of years movie exhibitors voted Dailey among the most popular stars in the country:


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 "Studio plans to spend millions on Dan Dailey". Australia, Australia. 27 August 1949. p. 42. Retrieved 12 October 2017. 
  2. Donna Reed Foundation for the Performing Arts. "The Get Away". 
  3. "Top Grossers of 1947", Variety, 7 January 1948 p 63
  4. Sforza, John: "Swing It! The Andrews Sisters Story;" University Press of Kentucky, 2000
  5. "Cameras can't "see" Dan Dailey". Queensland, Australia. 2 May 1954. p. 21. Retrieved 12 October 2017. 
  6. "Actor Sued For Divorce". New South Wales, Australia. 22 February 1951. p. 2. Retrieved 12 October 2017. 
  7. "Actor's son shot dead". Australian Capital Territory, Australia. 3 July 1975. p. 5. Retrieved 12 October 2017. 
  8. "Dan Dailey, Actor, Dies". Oct 17, 1978.,4667438. 
  9. "IN BRIEF Dan Dailey, actor, dies, aged 62". Australian Capital Territory, Australia. 18 October 1978. p. 6. Retrieved 12 October 2017. 
  10. Dan Dailey at Find a Grave
  11. Hope Edges Out Crosby as Box-Office Champ; Wayne, Williams Click Schallert, Edwin. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 30 December 1949: 15.

External links

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