Dan Dailey
in Washington Melodrama (1941)
Daniel James Dailey Jr.

(1915-12-14)December 14, 1915
New York City, U.S.
DiedOctober 16, 1978(1978-10-16) (aged 62)
Los Angeles, U.S.
  • Actor, dancer
Years active1921
  • Esther Rodier
    (m. 19??; div. 1941)
  • Elizabeth Hofert
    (m. 1942; div. 1951)
  • (m. 1955; div. 1960)
RelativesIrene Dailey (sister)

Daniel James Dailey Jr. (December 14, 1915 – October 16, 1978) was an American actor and dancer. 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.[1]


He appeared in a minstrel show in 1921 and later appeared in vaudeville. He worked as a golf caddy and shoe salesman before he got his first good break, playing in a show on a South American cruise ship in 1934.[2]

He made his Broadway debut in 1937 in Babes in Arms. He followed it with Stars in Your Eyes and I Married an Angel.[3]


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).[4]

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).[5]

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 Carrillo 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 Gal. However Dailey was drafted and Gene Kelly ended up taking the role.[2]

20th Century Fox

When Dailey returned to Hollywood MGM did not renew his contract, which led him to 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 up during filming and the movie was Fox's most popular movie of 1947, making $5 million.[6][2]

Fox promptly cast Dailey opposite their other big female star, Jeanne Crain, in You Were Meant for Me (1948). It was directed by Lloyd Bacon who also directed him 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 at the 21st Academy Awards.

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. 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 Summer Time", capitalized on the success of two MGM blockbuster films of the same names, starring Gene Kelly, Esther Williams, and Frank Sinatra (Take Me Out to the Ball Game); and Judy Garland and Van Johnson (In the Good Old Summertime). Dailey and The Andrews Sisters were an excellent match, and their vocal stylings were full of gaiety and fun.[7]

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).

In 1954 Dailey signed a new seven-year contract with Fox.[8]

Dailey was scheduled 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 him and married Dailey around that time. Filming was delayed due to director Walter Lang's poor health. Dailey agreed to appear in Susan Slept Here and Heller in Pink Tights. But 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.[9]


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Dailey went to Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer 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).[10]

Dailey returned to Fox for one more musical, The Best Things in Life Are Free (1956) to play songwriter Ray Henderson opposite Gordon MacRae.[11]

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

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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 (1959–1960).

He starred with Cantinflas in Pepe (1960), had a cameo in 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 to 1971, Dailey played "The Governor" opposite Julie 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 Golden Globe for Best Actor in a Television 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 second wife Elizabeth in 1942. They had one son – Dan, Jr. – in 1947, and separated in 1949.[2] They divorced in 1951.[12]

Dailey's son died by suicide in 1975.[13]

Dailey broke his hip in 1977 and developed anemia. He died on October 16, 1978, from complications following hip replacement surgery.[14][15] He is buried at Forest Lawn Memorial Park in Glendale, California.[16]

According to his sister, Irene, the Daileys were all practicing Catholics and the whole family always voted Democrat. She and her brother were supportive in the elections of Adlai Stevenson and John F. Kennedy.[1]







Box office ranking

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


  1. ^ a b An Interview with Irene Dailey, Skip E. Lowe, 1994
  2. ^ a b c d "Studio plans to spend millions on Dan Dailey". The Australian Women's Weekly. Vol. 17, no. 12. 27 August 1949. p. 42. Retrieved 12 October 2017 – via National Library of Australia.
  3. ^ Matheson, Sue (2019-12-15). The John Ford Encyclopedia. Rowman & Littlefield. p. 63. ISBN 978-1-5381-0382-1.
  4. ^ "The Get Away". Donna Reed Foundation for the Performing Arts. Archived from the original on 2003-07-05. Retrieved 2012-01-27.
  5. ^ Institute, American Film (1971). The American Film Institute Catalog of Motion Pictures Produced in the United States: Feature Films. University of California Press. p. 180. ISBN 978-0-520-07908-3.
  6. ^ "Top Grossers of 1947", Variety, 7 January 1948 p 63
  7. ^ Sforza, John: "Swing It! The Andrews Sisters Story;" University Press of Kentucky, 2000
  8. ^ DAILEY AND STUDIO SET NEW CONTRACT New York Times 3 July 1954: 8
  9. ^ "Cameras can't "see" Dan Dailey". Sunday Mail. Queensland, Australia. 2 May 1954. p. 21. Retrieved 12 October 2017 – via National Library of Australia.
  10. ^ Dick, Bernard F. (2018-06-04). That Was Entertainment: The Golden Age of the MGM Musical. Univ. Press of Mississippi. p. 204. ISBN 978-1-4968-1736-5.
  11. ^ Jasen, David A. (2013-10-15). A Century of American Popular Music. Routledge. ISBN 978-1-135-35271-4.
  12. ^ "Actor Sued For Divorce". Daily Examiner. No. 8518. New South Wales, Australia. 22 February 1951. p. 2. Retrieved 12 October 2017 – via National Library of Australia.
  13. ^ "Actor's son shot dead". The Canberra Times. Vol. 49, no. 14, 108. 3 July 1975. p. 5. Retrieved 12 October 2017 – via National Library of Australia.
  14. ^ "Dan Dailey, Actor, Dies". Milwaukee Journal. Oct 17, 1978.[permanent dead link]
  15. ^ "IN BRIEF Dan Dailey, actor, dies, aged 62". The Canberra Times. Vol. 53, no. 15, 732. 18 October 1978. p. 6. Retrieved 12 October 2017 – via National Library of Australia.
  16. ^ Byrne, James; Coleman, Philip; King, Jason (February 2008). Ireland and the Americas [3 Volumes]: Culture, Politics, and History. Bloomsbury Academic. ISBN 978-1-85109-614-5.
  17. ^ Schallert, Edwin (December 30, 1949). "Hope Edges Out Crosby as Box-Office Champ; Wayne, Williams Click". Los Angeles Times. p. 15.