Erle Jolson Krasna

Actress, widow of entertainer Al Jolson and Oscar-winning scribe Norman Krasna

This article was updated on Jan. 13, 2004.

Erle Jolson Krasna, widow of legendary entertainer Al Jolson and Oscar-winning screenwriter Norman Krasna, died Sunday Jan. 11 of cancer in Century City, Calif. She was 81.

Born Erle Chennault Galbraith in Kentucky, she was an X-ray technician at an Army hospital in Hot Springs, Ark., when she caught Jolson’s eye while he entertained wounded servicemen there in June 1944. Jolson called the base commander that night to get her phone number and offered her a Hollywood career.

A raven-haired beauty, Erle arrived in Hollywood later in 1944 to be greeted by Jolson and Columbia Pictures chief Harry Cohn, who signed her to a studio contract. She had bit parts in several Columbia films including “A Thousand and One Nights.”

While working at Columbia, she dated Jolson, who by then was thrice married and divorced, and was 36 years her senior. Nonetheless they married in March, 1945, shortly before principal photography began on “The Jolson Story,” which went on to be one of the blockbuster hits of 1946, giving Jolson one of showbiz’s biggest comebacks.

Jolson’s renaissance was so complete that Columbia filmed a sequel, “Jolson Sings Again,” with Barbara Hale portraying Erle. It went on to become the box office champ of 1949.

Jolson died in October 1950 after a strenuous three-week tour of Korea to entertain U.S. troops. Three days before his death, Jolson signed a contract with RKO Pictures to play himself in a film about his USO tours. (A publicity photo of Jolson was taken with the two heads of the studio, Jerry Wald and Krasna, Erle’s future husband.)

Two months later, Secretary of Defense George C. Marshall presented to Erle a posthumous Medal of Merit awarded to her late husband by President Truman for entertaining troops during the Korean War.

In 1951, Jack Benny introduced Erle to Krasna. They were wed that December and later moved to Switzerland for 20 years to raise their family. They remained married until Krasna’s death in Los Angeles in 1984.

She is survived by two sons, Albert Jolson Jr., who owns and operates a recording studio in Nashville, and David Krasna; two daughters, Beth and Emily; three grandchildren; and numerous nieces and nephews.

Services will be 1 p.m. Friday Jan. 16 at All Saints Parish, 504 N. Camden Dr., in BevHills.

Memorial donations can be sent to charity of giver’s choice.

More Scene

  • Sir Elton John, David Furnish. Sir

    New Elton John AIDS Foundation Gala to be Held in the South of France

    Elton John and David Furnish are launching a new gala for the Elton John AIDS Foundation. The two will host the inaugural A Midsummer Party benefit on July 24 in the south of France at the Johnny Pigozzi’s private estate, Villa Dorane, in Cap d’Antibes. A cocktail reception will be followed by dinner, a live [...]

  • Dwayne Johnson Idris Elba

    Dwayne Johnson: Idris Elba Nixed 'Black James Bond' Joke in 'Hobbs & Shaw'

    In the “Fast & Furious Presents Hobbs & Shaw,” the movie’s villain Brixton, played by Idris Elba, spreads his arms out wide and declares “I’m black Superman.” It turns out that might not have been the original line. Dwayne Johnson tells Variety that Elba was first asked to proclaim he’s “black James Bond,” but the [...]

  • Matteo BocelliAmerican Icon Awards Gala, Inside,

    Top Music Manager Calls Out American Icon Awards for Failing to Pay Talent

    The centuries-old adage no good deed goes unpunished is a common refrain for star music manager Scott Rodger of late. Rodger, who represents Paul McCartney and Andrea Bocelli at Maverick, says his client Matteo Bocelli, the son of the opera star, was stiffed out of promised expense reimbursement by the American Icon Awards. The event, [...]

  • Mary Bailey Steve D'Angelo, Jim Belushi

    Cannabis Industry Tackles Justice Reform With 'Last Prisoner Project'

    Jim Belushi is standing two feet away in the backyard of his spacious Brentwood home, honking a harp like he’s a Blues Brother back in sweet home Chicago accompanied by noted reggae band Rebelution’s Eric Rachmany and Kyle Ahern, who provide a 12-bar shuffle. There’s the sweet smell of skunk — and success — hanging [...]

  • Dwayne Wade holds up the legend

    Dwyane Wade, Megan Rapinoe Win Big at 2019 Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Sports Awards

    The 2019 Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Sports Awards was filled with incredible athletes, inspiring moments and — of course — a massive amount of slime. “I love the kids. I love the slime. I loved the games. I love seeing celebrities and athletes like become kids again. And it’s like my favorite thing,” Michael Strahan told [...]

  • Dave Bautista and Kumail Nanjiani

    Dave Bautista Talks Representation in Hollywood and Defying Stereotypes with 'Stuber'

    Dave Bautista and Kumail Nanjiani make an unlikely duo in “Stuber,” an R-rated comedy about a police officer and his Uber driver. But the two connected over the rare chance to star in the film as actors of Asian descent (Baustia is half-Filipino and Nanjiani is Pakistani). “I’ve been stereotyped for a couple different reasons [...]

  • Skin

    How Jamie Bell Transformed Into a Neo-Nazi for 'Skin'

    Anyone who still associates British actor Jamie Bell with his breakout role as a young boy who dreams of becoming a ballet dancer will quickly forget all about “Billy Elliot” after seeing “Skin,” which screened at ArcLight Hollywood on Thursday night. “I was shocked,” the film’s writer-director, Guy Nattiv, told Variety of his leading man’s [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content