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Posted at 12:26 PM ET, 01/14/2011

Margaret Whiting, singer extraordinaire

By Matt Schudel
Matt Schudel

Margaret Whiting, a wonderful singer who only got better with age, died Jan. 11 at age 86.

Even if she hadn't introduced "That Old Black Magic," "Moonlight in Vermont" and "It Might as Well Be Spring" to the world, Ms. Whiting would still be an interesting character. Her father, Richard Whiting, was a distinguished songwriter who had a hand in composing many classic songs, including "Hooray for Hollywood," "Ain't We Got Fun?" and "Too Marvelous for Words."

Ms. Whiting, who grew up in Beverly Hills with Judy Garland as a childhood friend, was 13 when her father died in 1938. His good friend, the inimitable songwriter Johnny Mercer, then took Ms. Whiting under her wing and helped coach her as a singer and as a recording star with Capitol Records in the 1940s.

In her younger years, Ms. Whiting was quite a well-known singer and celebrity and was a star attraction on USO tours during World War II. She had an affair in the 1940s with actor John Garfield and was married three times in the 1940s and 1950s.

In her mid-50s, Ms. Whiting took up with Jack Wrangler, a star of gay pornographic films who was 22 years younger than she. They lived in New York and became something of a show-biz odd couple, but they stayed together and were married in 1994. Wrangler wrote and directed many of Ms. Whiting's late-in-life cabaret shows, which often included remembrances of Mercer and other songwriters she had known in Hollywood. Wrangler died in 2009 at age 62.

Ms. Whiting continued to perform until the last couple of years. According to an appreciation in the New York Times, she was pleased to learn that her 1947 recording of "Time After Time" was used over the closing credits of Nora Ephron's 2009 film about Julia Child, "Julie and Julia."

For a glimpse of Margaret Whiting in the 1950s, check out this video of her singing one of her signature songs, "It Might as Well Be Spring."

By Matt Schudel  | January 14, 2011; 12:26 PM ET
Categories:  Matt Schudel  
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