With her Irish brogue and her comely-lass looks, Ella Logan made a perfect Sharon McLonergan in the musical Finian’s Rainbow. As it happened, this Irish rose wasn’t Irish at all, but a native of Scotland who enjoyed her greatest success in the United States.
Born in 1913 in Glasgow, Logan – who came from a musical family – was on stage already at age three, singing at the Grand Theater in Paisley. As a band singer in her teens, she performed not only in Scotland but also in England, Germany, and Holland. In 1929 she took to the stage in Edinburgh in the musical Open Your Eyes, written by the displaced Russian composer Vernon Duke, the last musical he wrote before settling permanently in the United States.
Logan went on to make a few records in London in the 1930s and appeared on the West End stage in Darling, I Love You (1930). By 1933 she had come to America and was recording as a band singer with Abe Lyman’s California Orchestra and Adrian’s Ramblers.
In December 1934 she made her Broadway debut in Calling All Stars, a musical revue with a huge cast. She returned to the Great White Way in two more musical revues, George White Scandals (1939; she recorded several of its numbers for Columbia) and Sons o’ Fun (1941), then in the vaudeville Show Time (1942). The producer of Show Time, Fred Finklehoffe, married Logan in 1942.
She made her movie debut in Flying Hostess (1936), a film about the high-altitude adventures of some aspiring stewardesses in the early days of flying. The New York Times review noted that Flying Hostess served “to introduce Ella Logan … whose flair for comedy and unsettled headgear is amusingly capitalized in the film.” She then had a leading role in Top of the Town (1937), a movie musical in which she plays the well-to-do owner of a nightclub at the top of a skyscraper. Also in 1937 she appeared in 52nd Street, a movie musical about the changes in a neighborhood that goes from placid to funky in twelve short years.
But by far the most important movie that Logan appeared in was The Goldwyn Follies (1938) – a lush musical, and the first Goldwyn film shot in Technicolor. The music was by George Gershwin (his last film score), Vernon Duke, and Ray Golden; Ira Gershwin wrote the lyrics, and George Balanchine choreographed. Also in 1938, she recorded “Two Sleepy People” in a duet with its composer, Hoagy Carmichael (the author of the standards “Stardust” and “Heart and Soul”).
In the early 1940s, she joined the USO and sang for troops overseas; she also continued to sing in nightclubs. She returned to Broadway in 1947 for her greatest triumph there as Sharon McLonergan, the spirited female lead in Finian’s Rainbow, which won multiple Tonys. With a book by E. Y. Harburg and Fred Saidy, lyrics by Harburg, and music by Burton Lane, Finian’s Rainbow enjoyed 725 performances and became the first of many musicals to be released by Columbia Records. Logan sings a large share of the numbers.
In her later career, Logan occasionally appeared on television and continued to sing in nightclubs. She died in 1969 at age fifty-six.