Sad news. One of the last living connections to Jack Cole and a key member of Cole’s great brigade of film and nightclub dancers, George Martin, died in Atlanta on April, 6, 2011, we learned yesterday from Dancers Over 40. I met the Martins, George and Ethel, at a symposium on Cole last summer at Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival. George was a handsome old-world gentleman, very well spoken and of sparkling eye. I enjoyed Ethel, too; she made me laugh as she poked at me and called out, a tad inappropriately, during the Pillow Talk. Wish you strength in your loss, Ethel.
arts·meme friend Larry Billman, the founder and president of the Academy of Dance on Film, has generously provided this beautiful photo of Rod Alexander, Jack Cole and George Martin in “The Gladiators” circa 1946-47. Here’s Larry’s scrupulously researched entry on the Martins from his invaluable Film Dancers and Choreographers. Thank you, Larry Billman:
GEORGE AND ETHEL MARTIN
George: b. Canton, Ohio, USA, September 17, 1924 d. April 12 (tbc), 2011
Ethel: b. New York, New York, USA
Another of those rare husband-and-wife teams whose talent and working relationship allowed them solo creative contributions as well as collaborations in many performance mediums. George began his dance studies with William Reynolds in Canton, Ohio, and when he moved to New York he studied with Margaret Craske, David Lichine, Madame Swoboda and a creative genius who would greatly influence his life and career – Jack Cole. He spent the summer of 1942 at Jacob’s Pillow on a scholarship and made his Broadway debut in Lady in the Dark that same year. He moved to the West Coast to appear in The Waltz King (’43), where he met Ethel at Republic Studios in 1944 on the set of The Yellow Rose of Texas
Ethel had made her professional debut as a child with her family in their vaudeville act. She began her dance lessons with tap from Sammy Burns and eventually Jazz and East Indian with Cole and classical Spanish with Carmelita Maracci. After making her Broadway debut in 1942 in Let Freedom Sing, she and George became an integral part of Cole’s legendary dance group, appearing in many films at Columbia and touring in their sensational nightclub act. After working in Cole’s Magdalena on the West Coast and its brief Broadway run, George joined Kay Thompson’s club act (’49-’50) while Ethel appeared at Le Lido de Paris. After Cole featured both of them on film (with Gwen Verdon) in On the Riviera, Ethel returned to the Broadway stage in Something for The Boys in 1951. In 1952, they both danced in a revival of Pal Joey, where George assisted Robert Alton. As Jack Cole had deserted Hollywood and the dying film musical, the Martins relocated permanently to New York. George worked continually on Broadway in Carnival in Flanders (’53), Kismet (’54, with Ethel), The Ziegfeld Follies (’56, assisting Cole), Happy Hunting (’57), Rumple (’58), Kean and Donnybrook! (’61, assisting Cole), A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum (’62, with Ethel, assisting Cole) and Zorba (’68). Ethel’s other Broadway appearances include New Girl in Town (’57), The Desert Song (’58 rev) and Foxy (’64, assisting Cole). In 1968, Ethel created Four M Productions, Inc. and as President she produces video, multimedia, film, special events and live musical presentations for major corporations. With his extensive expertise of dance and musical theater, George became Production Stage Manager for multiple Broadway successes (Follies, A Little Night Music, Evita, 42nd Street, etc.), directing many of them internationally.
Stage: (George): Pal Joey (London ’53), Kismet (London ’55), A Funny Thing Happened on the Way To The Forum (recreation of Jack Cole’s original work, LV ’64), A Little Night Music (London ’73).
(Ethel only): The Selling of the President (Bdwy ’72, assisted by Rick Atwell), Chapeau (Bdwy ’77), Starting Here, Starting Now (OB ’77), Lallapalousa (NY Shakespeare Festival), You’re the Top (NY, also dir), Annie (Australia, also dir), Take One Step (NY), Company in Concert (Long Beach CLO and NY ’93)
TV: (Ethel only): “Electric Circus,” “We the Women,” the Ed Sullivan and Perry Como shows, “50th Anniversary of the Grand Ole Opry,” “Look Up and Live,” Daytime Emmy Awards Show.
Nightclub/Concert: House of Love (Dunes, LV ’61, Ethel only)
Ballet/Dance Pieces: Recreated Cole’s work for American Dance Machine (Ethel)
Miscellaneous: Industrials for Milliken (’63-’66, both); George only: G.E. (’66-’67), RCA (’66), Ford (’68).
1966 - A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum – UA (adapting Jack Cole’s original choreography)