Scottish-born actress/singer Ella Logan achieved her greatest renown playing an Irishwoman, Sharon McLonergan, and singing "How Are Things in Glocca Morra?" in the Broadway musical Finian's Rainbow in 1947. Before that, however, she had spent three decades performing on-stage, in radio and recording studios, and on film sets.
Logan was born Ella Allan into a theatrical family in Glasgow, Scotland, on March 6, 1913. She made her stage debut at the age of three at the Grand Theater in Paisley, Scotland, singing "The End of a Perfect Day." During the 1920s, she attracted attention as a band singer, appearing in England and traveling to Germany and Holland. In 1929, she was cast in Open Your Eyes, a musical with music by Vernon Duke that opened in Edinburgh, but closed before it could move to London. Nevertheless, Logan herself got to London the following year. She made her recording debut there, shortly before her 17th birthday, on February 26, 1930, serving as the vocalist for the Jack Hylton Orchestra on the songs "Moanin' Low" and "Can't We Be Friends?" recorded for HMV Records. She made her first sides under her own name in April, recording two songs from the English version of the Folies Bergerie revue De La Folie Pure, "Hold Your Glasses With Bottoms Up," and "Bigger and Better Than Ever." Also in 1930, she made her West End stage debut in the musical Darling! I Love You.
Logan moved to the U.S. in the early 1930s, bringing with her her young niece, Annabelle McCauley Allan Short, who went on to appear in the Our Gang film comedies among other child roles and, changing her name to Annie Ross, to become a noted jazz vocalist as an adult. Logan worked as a singer for various bands; in 1933 and 1934, she recorded with Abe Lyman's California Orchestra, and with Adrian's Ramblers, led by Adrian Rollini. She made her Broadway debut in the musical revue Calling All Stars, which opened December 13, 1934, and ran for 36 performances, closing on January 12, 1935. She worked in radio, then got a movie contract and went to Hollywood, where she appeared in a series of motion pictures within a year: Flying Hostess (December 1936), Top of the Town (March 1937), Woman Chases Man (June 1937), and 52nd Street (October 1937). Her next part came in The Goldwyn Follies, the film for which George Gershwin was writing songs when he died of a brain tumor on July 11, 1937. The music and the film were completed after Gershwin's death, and in anticipation of its release in February 1938, Logan recorded a session for Brunswick Records on December 30, 1937, that included the Gershwin songs "I Was Doing All Right" and "Love Is Here to Stay" from the film, as well as "Oh Dear! What Can the Matter Be?" and "Jingle (Bingle) Bells." The latter two songs were paired on a single, and "Oh Dear! What Can the Matter Be?" became a hit in February 1938. This led to further Brunswick recording sessions and further hits during 1938: "My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean" in August; "Come to the Fair" in October; and "Two Sleepy People," a duet with the song's composer, Hoagy Carmichael, in November.
Logan returned to Broadway in the musical revue George White's Scandals, which opened on August 29, 1939, and ran 120 performances, closing December 9. The original Broadway cast album had not become a popular medium yet, but on September 26, Logan recorded four of the show's songs for Columbia Records, which had absorbed Brunswick: "Are You Havin' Any Fun?" "Waikiki," "Goodnight, My Beautiful," and "Something I Dreamed Last Night." While working in nightclubs, she continued to do recording sessions for Columbia regularly over the next two years, including one that paired her with the Spirits of Rhythm on a version of "It's a Long Way to Tipperary." In the fall of 1940, she was part of a musical intended for Broadway called Hi Ya, Gentlemen that closed out of town in Hartford, CT. The show's co-librettist was Fred Finklehoffe, whom Logan would go on to marry in 1942. The marriage would last 12 years and produce a daughter; it would end in divorce in 1954.
Logan succeeded in returning to Broadway in Sons o' Fun, a revue starring the comedy team of Olsen and Johnson that opened December 1, 1941, and ran 742 performances, closing August 9, 1943. She did not stay with the show that long, however. On September 16, 1942, she moved to another Broadway revue, Show Time, produced by Finklehoffe, whom she married a week later. It ran 342 performances, until April 3, 1943.
As the tide turned toward the Allies in World War II and it became possible for entertainers to travel to visit the troops, Logan joined the USO and went to Africa and Italy to sing for the enlisted men. Her Columbia Records contract having lapsed, she recorded an album at her own expense backed by Frank DeVol and His Orchestra in 1945; it was issued by the tiny Majestic Records label and had little distribution. Otherwise, she maintained her nightclub career until she was cast in Finian's Rainbow, a musical fantasy and political satire with lyrics by E.Y. Harburg (who co-wrote the libretto with Fred Saidy) and music by Burton Lane. Logan starred as the daughter of an Irishman who, having stolen a pot of gold, comes to America trailed by the leprechaun from whom he stole it. She sang the lion's share of the show's songs: "How Are Things in Glocca Morra?," "Look to the Rainbow," "Old Devil Moon," "Something Sort of Grandish," "If This Isn't Love," "(That) Great Come-and-Get-It Day," and "When the Idle Poor Become the Idle Rich." Opening on Broadway January 10, 1947, the show ran 725 performances, closing on October 2, 1948. Columbia Records issued the original Broadway cast album, which Logan dominated.
Despite the success of Finian's Rainbow, Logan did not return to the Broadway stage again. In the 1950s, she became a top international nightclub performer, appearing in the U.S. at such top venues as the Copacabana and the Waldorf-Astoria in New York as well as in London and Paris. She also appeared on television. In 1954, she was cast in a proposed animated film adaptation of Finian's Rainbow and re-recorded the score with Frank Sinatra, among others. But the film was canceled, and the recordings did not see a legitimate release until the appearance of the box set Sinatra in Hollywood 1940-1964 in 2002. She recorded the show's songs for a second time in 1954 for the LP Finian's Rainbow released by Capitol Records in 1955, the second of her two solo albums. In May 1956, she appeared in London with Louis Armstrong and His All-Stars. She continued to work occasionally in clubs, on television, and in theatrical stock productions, into the 1960s. She died of cancer at age 56 on May 1, 1969. ~ William Ruhlmann