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Arnaz, Desi (02 March 1917–02 December 1986), bandleader, actor, and television producer, was born Desiderio Alberto Arnaz y Acha III in Santiago de Cuba, Cuba, the son of Desiderio Arnaz II, a landowner and politician, and heiress Dolores “Lolita” de Acha. His early youth was privileged, but the revolution of 1932 broke up his secure home. His father was jailed briefly, and the family ended up in Miami with very little money....

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Gershenson, Joseph (12 January 1904–18 January 1988), motion picture music director, film producer, and orchestra conductor, was born in Kishinev, Russia, the son of Louis Gershenson, a musician, and Ida (maiden name unknown). His mother died when he was a toddler. His father remarried, and his stepmother, also named Ida, raised him. His family emigrated to the United States when Joseph was three. When he was five years old and living in New York, his father performed as U.S. Army bandleader, a post that led to his service as bandmaster of the Eighty-seventh Field Artillery at Camp Fort Ethan Allen, Vermont....

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Canada Lee Photograph by Carl Van Vechten, 1941. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LOT 12735, no. 687 P&P).

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Lee, Canada (03 May 1907–09 May 1952), actor, theater producer, bandleader, and boxer, was born Leonard Lionel Cornelius Canegata in New York City, the son of James Cornelius Canegata, a clerk, and Lydia Whaley. Lee’s father came from a wealthy and politically prominent family in St. Croix, Virgin Islands, whose ancestors had adopted a Danish surname. Lee’s grandfather owned a fleet of merchant ships; the family also raced horses. James Canegata shipped out as a cabin boy at eighteen, settled in Manhattan, married, and worked for National Fuel and Gas for thirty-one years. Lee grew up in the San Juan Hill section of Manhattan’s West Sixties and attended P.S. 5 in Harlem. An indifferent student, he devoted more energy to fisticuffs than to schoolwork. Lee studied violin from age seven with composer J. Rosamund Johnson, and at age eleven he was favorably reviewed at a student concert in Aeolian Hall; his parents hoped he would become a concert violinist....

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See Nelson, Ozzie

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Tinky ‘‘Dakota’’ Weisblat

Nelson, Ozzie (20 March 1906–03 June 1975), and Harriet Nelson (18 July 1909–02 October 1994), television actress and singer, were icons of American middle-class culture of the baby-boom era following World War II. They were universally recognized as “Ozzie and Harriet,” which was the title of their popular television sitcom. Ozzie was born Oswald George Nelson in Jersey City, New Jersey, the son of George Waldemar Nelson and Ethel Orr. He grew up in nearby Ridgefield Park, New Jersey, where his banker father was active in civic organizations. George Nelson was also interested in amateur theatricals, bringing the whole family in on the act, so that from an early age young Oswald sang and acted for the public. His work never entirely lost its original amateur orientation....

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Rudy Vallee [left to right] Edgar Bergen (holding Charlie McCarthy), Rudy Vallee, and Joe Penner, 1957. Courtesy of the Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-113260).

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Vallee, Rudy (28 July 1901–03 July 1986), musician and actor, was born Hubert Pryor Vallée in Island Pond, Vermont, the son of Charles Alphonse Vallée, a pharmacist-owner of a drugstore, and Kathryn Lynch. The family moved to Westbrook, Maine, when he was a small child. He attended the Valentine Street School and, beginning at age nine, assisted his father at the drugstore. Very early he demonstrated a strong natural inclination to music, and in the sixth grade he taught himself to play the drums. He became deeply engrossed in all things pertaining to the entertainment business, his dream at this point being to perform in the pit of the local Star Theater, where silent movies were preceded and sometimes accompanied by live music....