Ella Logan: From Glasgow to “Glocca Morra”

Scottish-American Ella Logan (1910-69) entertainer had a wonderfully rich career, although he ephemeral nature of the theatre has meant that time has passed her by. Born and raised in Glasgow as Georgina Allen, she started out as a child performer in music hall under the name Ella Allen, possibly in emulation of the great British music hall star Ella Shields. (The surname she eventually chose apparently has no connection to Joshua Logan, who came to prominence after she chose it). By 1928-30 she was appearing in the West End in the show Darling, I Love You. 

In the early 1930s, Logan came to New York, where she sang with big bands like the Abe Lyman Orchestra and appeared on Broadway in the show Calling All Stars (1934) with Judy Canova and Gertrude Niesen. The fact that she stood only 4’11” added a child-like quality to her natural vivacity.

From 1935 through 1938, Logan gave Hollywood a tumble. She played one of several girls studying to be stewardesses in Flying Hostess (1936), her first film. She was then third billed in the musical Top of the Town with Doris Nolan and George Murphy, and fifth billed in the romantic comedy Woman Chases Man with Miriam Hopkins, Joel McCrea, Charles Winninger and Broderick Crawford, both in 1937. Later that same year she appeared in 52nd Street with Leo Carrillo, ZaSu Pitts, Kenny Baker, Al Shean, Sid Silvers, and Jerry Colonna. In 1938 she appeared in her last movie The Goldwyn Follies with Baker, Adolphe Menjou, Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy, the Ritz Brothers, Bobby Clark, Phil Baker (no relation), and Vera Zorina.

Seeing little indication that movie stardom was forthcoming, Logan returned to Broadway next for George White’s Scandals of 1939 with Ben Blue and Ann Miller; Sons o’ Fun (1941) with Olsen and Johnson and Carmen Miranda; and Show Time (1942) with Jack Haley, Tony and Sally de Marco, George Jessel, and Kitty Carlisle. This show was produced by Fred Finkelhoffe, who had co-written Brother Rat (1936/1938) and Strike Up the Band (1940). Logan and Finkelhoffe married in 1942. He would later go on to write or co-write Meet Me in St. Louis (1944), and the Martin and Lewis comedies At War with the Army (1950) and The Stooge (1952), among other things. The pair were divorced in 1954.

After Show Time, Logan traveled to Europe and Africa to entertain troops for the balance of World War Two. Then came her biggest professional moment: she played Sharon in the original Broadway production of Finian’s Rainbow (1947-48), where she introduced the songs “How Are Things in Glocca Morra” and “Old Devil Moon”.

Through the 1950s and ’60s, Logan performed frequently on such television programs as The Milton Berle Show, The Ed Wynn Show, The Colgate Comedy Hour, The Saturday Night Revue with Jack Carter, The Red Skelton Hour, The Jack Paar Tonight Show, The Sammy Davis Jr Show, and The Merv Griffin Show. She also appeared in cabarets and night clubs like the Copacabana and the Waldorf-Astoria, sang on records, and appeared in regional theatre. She was set to return to Broadway in the show Kelly (1965), inspired by the story of Steve Brodie, but her part was cut before opening night. It was probably for the best; the show also closed on opening night.

Logan died of cancer in 1969 — just long enough to see Petula Clark steal her thunder in the screen version of Finian’s Rainbow. 

To learn more about variety entertainment, including British music hall, Broadway revues, and TV variety shows, please see No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous