Frances Langford, whose steamy rendition of “I’m in the Mood for Love” captivated soldiers when she was part of Bob Hope’s USO tours during World War II, died July 11 in Jensen Beach, Fla. She was 91.
Langford, a recording artist, radio star and actress from the 1930s to 1950s, joined Hope’s troupe to boost wartime morale at military bases and hospitals in Great Britain, Italy, North Africa and the South Pacific. She also entertained new generations of soldiers in Korea and Vietnam.
Even with her hair swept up in a bandanna, the 5-foot-1 singer was a glamorous vision of home and became known as the “Sweetheart of the Fighting Fronts.”
Her trademark was “I’m in the Mood for Love,” written for her for the 1935 movie “Every Night at Eight.”
Langford appeared in 30 Hollywood movies, including “Broadway Melody,” “Yankee Doodle Dandy” and “The Hit Parade.” She played herself in her final film, 1954’s “The Glenn Miller Story.”
She was also known for her role as the insufferable wife, Blanche, opposite Don Ameche on the popular 1940s radio comedy “The Bickersons.”
Born in Lakeland, Fla., Langford was discovered by bandleader Rudy Vallee when he was in Florida for a performance, and he invited her to be a guest on his radio program in New Orleans.
After a brief stint in the Broadway musical “Here Goes the Bride” in 1931, she moved to Hollywood, where she appeared on Louella Parsons’ radio show “Hollywood Hotel” and began to appear in movies.
She was singing on Hope’s “Pepsodent Show” when he held his first military program at March Field in Riverside, Calif., in 1941. The response was so positive he continued broadcasting from training bases and asked Langford to join him. Soon there were enough soldiers overseas to bring his variety show to them.
Langford wrote a daily newspaper column, “Purple Heart Diary,” about her war experiences and later starred in a movie of the same name.
With her second husband Ralph Evinrude, she owned the Outrigger Resort, a Polynesian-themed restaurant and marina, in Jensen Beach until 1986.
She is survived by her third husband, Harold Stuart.