We know there are plenty of actors who like to belt out a tune… But what about singers who also do a bit of acting (although of course many Hollywood greats did both)! Here are our favourites from way back when until far more recently…
1. Doris Day
Doris had wanted to be a dancer, but was injured in a car accident. So she took singing lessons and, at 17, began touring with a band. Her agent talked Doris into taking a screen test at Warner Bros, and she was signed. Her first movie role was in Romance on the High Seas in 1948. Audiences took to Doris’ beauty, great voice and bubbly personality, and she made many hit films, her most-famous ones being Calamity Jane in 1953 and Pillow Talk in 1959.
2. Judy Garland
Known for her low singing range, Judy performed in vaudeville with her two older sisters. Their pushy mother also had the girls, despite their young age, singing in nightclubs. But it paid off as Judy was signed by MGM in 1935, although it wasn’t until 1939 she shot to stardom in the Wizard of Oz. Judy made two dozen movies with MGM, including Meet me in St Louis in 1944 and A Star is Born in 1954.
3. Bing Crosby
In the 30s, Bing Crosby’s brother sent a record of Bing singing to the president of CBS. Following that, Bing’s live performances were played on the radio network, which led to Paramount Pictures including him in the musical comedy The Big Broadcast in 1932. Bing won the Best Actor Oscar in 1944, for his role as a priest in Going My Way, and impressed audiences with his performance as an alcoholic actor down on his luck opposite Grace Kelly in The Country Girl in 1954. Bing was the best-selling recording artist of the 20th century, selling over one billion records, tapes, CDs, and digital downloads around the world.
4. Elvis Presley
Elvis’ musical influences were from gospel music in church and the black R&B he heard as a Memphis teenager. In 1954, Elvis was signed with Sun Records, but in 1955, his recording contract was sold to RCA Victor. By 1956, Elvis was an international sensation and teenage girls became hysterical over his gyrations, which earned him the nickname ‘Elvis the Pelvis’! He was cast in the 1956 movie, Love Me Tender and Jailhouse Rock the following year. Elvis went on to star in 33 movies, mainly musicals, which despite being panned by critics, did well at the box office. The King of Rock made a comeback in 1970 in Las Vegas with over 57 sold-out shows, and toured the States, making over 500 appearances, many of them sold out.
5. Frank Sinatra
Frank started by singing in smoky dives until he got work as a band singer. Following that, he began his solo career and became the most-popular singer of his era among teenage fans. In 1945, Frank got the leading role in Anchors Aweigh, which led to both his movie and recording careers taking off. Frank appeared in acclaimed MGM musical On the Town in 1949, and won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor for From Here to Eternity in 1954. Frank made his final acting performance in 1987 in Magnum PI.
6. Cliff Richard
Over a career spanning more than 50 years Cliff holds the record (with Elvis) as the only act to make the UK singles charts in all of its first six decades – 1950s–2000s. Cliff’s first film was Serious Charge in 1959, but the movie that was a massive hit for Cliff was Summer Holiday in 1963. Cliff’s next film, Swingers’ Paradise a year late in 1964 wasn’t as successful, but we all know that didn’t dent Cliff’s assault on the charts over the years!
7. Roger Daltrey
Roger founded The Who, a band with considerable chart success, and famous for Tommy, the rock-opera album. Roger released his first solo album in 1973, and followed that with many solo hits. Then, in 1975, when Tommy the movie was made based on The Who’s album, Roger played the lead Tommy, who, just in case you didn’t know, was a pinball wizard! Roger played real-life criminal in biographical film McVicar in 1980. He later received plaudits for his role in a 2006 episode of CSI. He played Mickey Dunn, a 70s Las Vegas gangster who returns to Las Vegas to avenge his attempted murder. Incidentally, The Who’s music provides the themes for all four of the series in the CSI franchise.
8. Mariah Carey
Pop diva Mariah has dominated the music industry notching up 24 UK Top 10 hits, including Without You, which reached No1 in 1994. In 2001, Mariah starred in Glitter, and also appeared in the 2009 Oscar-winning drama Precious. Last October, Mariah showed up in critically acclaimed primetime soap Empire, but after so much hype beforehand, audiences were disappointed by the miniscule length of Mariah’s role in the show.
9. Pixie Lott
Pixie’s debut single, Mama Do, went straight to No1 in the UK charts in June 2009. She has topped the charts on two more occasions and had seven UK top 10 hits. In a transformation in 2010, Pixie became a Californian beach babe in her acting debut as Judy, the girl next door, in the film version of Fred, which had previously been a hit YouTube series. This side of the pond, Pixie Lott showed up in an episode of 60s police drama, Inspector George Gently. She played Megan an entertainer at the Blue Bird Holiday Camp in 1969 in an episode that aired in February 2014.
Our next three singer/actors were all in the band Hear’say. In case you don’t remember, back in 2001, long before The X Factor and The Voice, came talent show Popstars. There was no public vote, instead judges selected the singers to form a group. The chosen ones were Kym Marsh, Suzanne Shaw, Myleene Klass, Danny Foster, and Noel Sullivan. Called Hear’Say the group had two UK No1 singles: Pure and Simple and The Way To Your Love. Plus a UK No1 album imaginatively entitled Popstars! Three of the band members have turned their hand to acting…
10. Kym Marsh
Following her success in Hear’Say, Kym had a solo career with her album Standing Tall, which spawned two top 10 singles. In 2006, Kym joined Coronation Street playing Michelle Connor. Michelle’s had many ups and downs, and relationships with unreliable blokes. So, when she married Steve McDonald, in May 2015, we hoped the couple would live happily ever after. But that wasn’t to be. Steve was diagnosed with depression, and Michelle had to deal with that. Then, earlier this year in heartbreaking scenes, the barmaid suffered a miscarriage, losing her son Ruairi at 23 weeks. Michelle is forced to give birth surrounded by the sound of crying babies. Kym’s emotional performance had viewers calling for her to receive acting honours. She has also had her contract renewed until Summer 2018. See the scene here, but be warned you may find it upsetting.
11. Suzanne Shaw
Kym’s band mate Suzanne’s acting career hasn’t been as strong as Kym’s, but she too starred in a popular prime-time soap. Suzanne played Eve Jenson in Emmerdale. The role was characterised by lusty affairs, romantic jealousy, and shameless flirting! Suzanne signed a one-year contract and made her debut in April 2010. When Suzanne said farewell to her character and the much-loved soap in summer 2011, Eve went out with a bang following a heated confrontation with old love rival Chastity Dingle. Suzanne cited family reasons for leaving the soap.
12. Noel Sullivan
Another Hear’Say band member to show up on the small screen is Noel Sullivan. Despite many busy years on the stage, we had to look twice when we saw him in drama series Ordinary Lies last year. Noel played forklift operator Neil, and said of his acting debut: ‘I’m glad people will see me doing something – so they’re not like, “Oh what have you been doing since Hear’Say?” – because theatre isn’t as accessible as flicking the telly on at night.’ See him interviewed about the role here…
What singers have you spotted in acting roles? Let us know below…