You are here

Grace Brinkley

Biography: 

(1904-1940)

An elegant blonde songstress whose classical technique, learned at the Municipal Opera in St. Louis, made her a favorite in musical entertainments that aspired to class, Grace Brinkley won her first broad public notice in the 1928 edition of the Greenwich Village Follies for her elegant rendition of "Little Boy Blue." The Shubert Brothers, always on the lookout for handsome women with operetta voices, secured her services for "The Duchess of Chicago," a ramshackle work that collapsed during its Philadelphia tryout in 1928. They then shunted her into a Harry B. Smith Americanization of a continental operetta about George Sand and Chopin composed by Karl Hajos, "White Lilacs." It proved a modest hit. Concurrently, NBC brought her into its New York Studios and featured her in spots in radio variety shows. George White then secured her as the principle woman in the De Sylva, Brown, & Henderson musical comedy, "Flying High."

Brinkley's ability to hold her own with comedian Bert Lahr and partner Oscar Shaw won admiration among the inner circles of producers and writers. She had the good fortune to secure the role of singing southern belle Diana Devereaux in the Gershwin's satricial masterpiece, "Of Thee I Sing." She played the role from December 1931 to March 1933 when she left the company while on tour. During the run of the musical she began to experience the effects of an eating disorder.

Brinkley wed attorney Joseph T.P. Sullivan in 1933, and having developed a distaste for touring, left the stage for a career in radio. She died suddenly on April 20, 1940, aged 36, leaving a five year old son. Her husband, who would eventually serve as counsel to the New York Stock Exchange, lived to the age of 93, dying in 1989. David S. Shields/ALS