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In Defense of Dick Haymes

A look at Frank Sinatra's rival from the '40s.

Dick Haymes album cover
Dick Haymes album cover
Dick Haymes

One of the great, openly sung, rivalries of the 1940s pitted Frank Sinatra against Dick Haymes. Ultimately, of course, Sinatra achieved massively greater success than Haymes; but between the late 1930s, when both enjoyed their first flush of success, and the late 1940s, when both of their careers spiraled downwards, their popularity was neck-and-neck. Actually, though their record sales and appeal as movie stars were comparable, Haymes earned more gold records during that decade (thanks, in part, to his frequent vocal partnerships with Helen Forrest) than did Sinatra.

The career parallels between the two are quite remarkable, with Haymes, it seems, forever playing catch-up. When Sinatra concluded his brief association with Harry James’ band in 1939, Haymes stepped in to replace him. Three years later, when Sinatra famously parted company with Tommy Dorsey, Haymes was again his successor. Both made their screen debuts with Dorsey. By 1945, as both were elevated to major screen star status – Sinatra with the MGM blockbuster Anchors Aweigh and Haymes with the Hollywood adaptation of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s State Fair – their solo careers were in high gear. Then both hit the professional skids as the 1950s dawned. Soon afterward, both were embroiled in tempestuous marriages to fiery screen idols, Sinatra with Ava Gardner (who helped salvage his career) and Haymes with Rita Hayworth (who did nothing to boost Haymes professional standing, but did help bolster Sinatra’s meteoric career recovery, playing opposite him in Pal Joey, the film that would cement his image as a likable cad.)

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