Lovely Lina Romay
Lina Romay: a fan's views on her films. By Bill Franco 22 Sept. 2005
I'm just a regular guy who once turned on the TV and saw an old movie "Love Laughs at Andy Hardy". I paid little attention to the amusing antics of Judge Hardy and his family when I suddenly saw a lovely senorita singing and dancing in a scene with young Andy. I was mesmerized by this lady who I had no idea really she she was, but became smitten. It was not until many years later when I discovered her name and a little about her.
I found that her name is Lina Romay! This little tribute page covers some observations about her movie appearances principally made from WW2, the '40s and '50s. This lovely lady first appeared on the silver screen as a (unbilled) singer in Xavier Cugat's orchestra. She came to Hollywood under contract to Columbia then worked briefly for MGM and RKO Studios, in a film career that spanned the years 1942 to 1953. She can be seen in such stellar movies as You Were Never Lovelier (1942) starring Fred Astaire and Rita Hayworth and Bathing Beauty (1944) starring Esther Williams and Red Skelton. She attracted the attention of servicemen worldwide as a stunning Latin beauty and appeared in Yank Magazine as a pinup girl or cover girl in other publications. She also appeared in several Soundies of the era, no doubt having been selected because of her exceptional singing voice and uncommon good looks. Being of Mexican heritage, and having been born in the USA, Miss Romay could sing equally as well in both English and Spanish and her roles she played were both as Spanish senoritas to non-ethnic Anglo roles. She appears with Xavier Cugat in the WW2 feature Stage Door Canteen, where she can be seen singing and even dancing a bit with Cugat, with the delightful song "A Bombshell From Brooklyn". (a clip of this song can be found on YouTube) Lina reminds some of enchanting Carmen Miranda, especially in her excellence in singing and stage presence as seen in The Heat's On (1943). She is top notch in this picture, as evidenced by her fabulous singing and hand gestures...yes, hand gestures. I don't know if my fellow fans have noticed, but she is perfectly poised a la Miranda while delivering her songs and perfectly gestures with her hands. It's very poetic, feminine and artistic, so if you are lucky enough to see this movie, you'll see what I mean. Several movies later, Lina proves herself a talented actress by appearing in a notable dramatic role in the little gem Adventure (1945) with Clark Gable, where she plays Gable's first love interest in the picture (the "girl in a distant port), but second-fiddle to Greer Garson in the picture which boasted the byline "Gables Back and Garson's Got Him". Lina's performance was very convincing and quite important in the movie. She even gets to sing some wonderful Spanish-language songs. Although it was a minor part in the picture, she was no doubt noticed by her growing legion of fans and moviegoers just discovering her charms and talents. Gable's really lucky that he gets to play brief love scenes with Lina, who's simply stunning on the silver screen. Lina nearly steals the show in her next project "Love Laughs at Andy Hardy" (1946), playing Polly Benedict's perky cousin. She charms everybody with a sexy and spirited song and dance near the opening scenes, as her character enchants the townsfolk including Judge Hardy and his family. However, our hero Andy, seems bored and daydreaming of his girl, even while the stunning Lina does the rumba for him. Her infectious smile and cheery personality truly light up the screen. It's an important role for Lina which is still pleasing audiences today, as this was the first Romay movie I had the pleasure of seeing, some forty years ago or so. Yes, you can find this movie on Amazon.com (see links on this site).
In Lina's next picture, Honeymoon (1947), a vehicle for a maturing teenaged Shirley Temple, she portrays Franchot Tone's girlfriend. For you bathing suit and figure fans, I might add that you get to see Miss Romay modeling a smart bathing suit by the pool. She plays the neglected fiancé of the Franchot Tone character, who is caught up in amusing and complicated situations trying to arrange the quick marriage of Temple and soldier Guy Madison. Jealous Lina thinks something is going on between cutie-pie Shirley and Franchot, but things finally get smoothed out in this cute comedy. In an interesting scene, Lina is the center of attention as she prepares to dive into the pool, but as Shirley appears in swim attire, all the men's heads turn as they are transfixed on her, thereby deflating Lina's ego somewhat. This movie is rather hard to find, but occasionally can be seen on classic movie channels. She acted in a supporting role in Embraceable You (1948), a drama with some light moments but ultimately its not a happy film, especially more so because our Lina does not sing or dance in it. But she does very well as the main character's best friend. In 1949's The Big Wheel Lina again appears with Mickey Rooney. Here she plays a sultry nightclub singer, who parties it up with road racer Mickey who's won new-found fame as a regional stock car racer. She is sort of a bad girl who has a negative influence on Mickey's character and causes him to fall from good graces with his regular gal and his racing family. But toward films end, he wises up, wins the big race and gets the girl..the good one, not our Lina who again really stands out. She is quite attractive (a knock-out, in fact), very sensual as she sings and dances while wooing innocent Mickey with a very grown-up vampish delivery. Lina has definitely demonstrated depth in this one, as she projects a sultry, yet sweet image on the screen. I consider it a must-see for Lina fans. It's a treat to see Lina in the role as lounge singer with that great figure and with a smile that will surely win you over. If you haven't seen this picture, what are you waiting for? It can be found on our Amazon.com links.
One little doozy in which Lina appears is in a cartoon from Warner Bros. the manic Droopy series. In the animated short "Senor Droopy", little Droopy heroically takes on the bull in a Mexican bull fight to win the affection of his dream girl, Lina Romay! In the cartoon's end, he actually winds up on Lina's lap and gets a kiss from her, in an amusing early piece of special effects combining live action with an animated Droopy. Hollywood used to animate the popular actors of the day so quite possible that somebody once "inked" the curvaceous Lina on some obscure film.
"Joe Palooka in the Big Fight" (1949) has our girl Lina playing a minor character somewhat following in the footsteps of Lupe Velez (the Mexican spitfire) from the very first Joe Palooka movie starring Jimmy Durante, as the Latin hottie who latches onto the clean-cut hero with her allure thereby ruining him and taking him for all he's got in the process. Lina is Maxine Holland, a beautiful "bad" girl under the employ of a bunch of crooks who are bent on giving Joe bad publicity in an effort to get him to fight their man under less-than-honest circumstances. Our girl entices the hero Joe by planting a huge one on his kisser after winning a beauty contest where Joe was a judge. Lina looks great in a one-piece bathing suit with high heels, in an all-too brief appearance. Later, she wants out from under the thumb of hoods and tries to spill the beans to Joe and Knobby, (for..ahem..$5,000) but unfortunately the crooks bump her off before she can squeal. Yes, you read it right, she is murdered! (boo) but gets to show off her skills as a tough female character who can give and take with hoods, puffing on a cigarette with a tough demeanor. Yet she never loses her intense sex appeal in the process. This movie is also very hard to find.
In a 1949 movie The Lady Takes a Sailor, Lina again plays a hot nightclub singer, dating the movie's male lead. It's a supporting role but we are treated to more of Lina's wonderful singing voice and some great comical scenes with the films lead characters (starring a lovely Jane Wyman).
Latin ladies as the principal star in the American cinema were a rarity, especially from this era.. Some authors have said that their presence on the screen can be traced directly to the Brazilian bombshell Carmen Miranda. In 1945, Carmen was making more than $200,000 annually, making her the highest salaried woman in the U.S. - the result of her combined Fox salary, radio, nightclub and recording careers. Someone coined the term, The Miranda, which saw other studios clamoring to obtain their own version of Carmen Miranda - Paramount had their own Miranda clone, 18-year old Olga San Juan, refreshingly partnered with Fred Astaire in "Blue Skies." MGM had our own sparkling Lina Romay. And even Republic was grooming Herbert J. Yates protégée, Estelita Rodriquez.
In 1949, Lina headed out West and acted in a couple of shorts for Universal-International, starring Western singer Tex Williams. She sings snappy Western songs and generally lights up the screen displaying her usual perky and lovely self. Generally light fare and a real treat especially for fans of Country and Western from this era. I did find some video copies of these movies from old grainy sources, but I don't think these are commercially available.
Lina's last (to my knowledge) major Hollywood film was 1953's The Man Behind the Gun which starred Randolph Scott. Again she plays a "bad girl", a singing bar owner who's mixed up with bad hombres involved in murder, gun running, gambling, or in other words the usual Western type riff-raff and outlaws. Some notable scenes has our Lina (as Chona Degnon) licking her own cigarette and even shooting at the hero, the Major. Her two beautiful renditions of lovely Spanish songs belie the fact that she is tough as nails. She's both beautiful and dangerous yet sings like an angel. Her final scenes has her involved in a wild cat-fight with Miss Laura, with chairs being thrown and broken on backs and all. Unfortunately when finally subdued and when appearing as if she was ready to turn honest and agree to testify against the gang, their leader shoots her down, just before the films shoot-em-up grand finale. Sadly for Lina fans, this exciting movie saw her getting done-in and also marked the last major film for Lina. She apparently retired from movies altogether and is later only rarely seen on the small screen.
I'd like to touch upon another important aspect of Lina's career: radio. An exceptionally fine singer, she was often heard on popular radio shows of the 1940's such as Jack Benny, Bob Hope and Bing Crosby. She sang on Hollywood Canteen and in USO shows broadcast to American serviceman overseas during WW2. My research has uncovered her appearances on at least 15 Command Performance radio shows. She also was featured in several Mail Call broadcasts, and with the Marx Bros, quite an impressive lineup! She sang on Bing Crosby's Philco Shows and others. She even had her own radio show, some of which are available by some private collectors. We know, based on what I've read, her early days as the lead female singer with Xavier Cugat's orchestra, while he was the headlining at the Waldorf Astoria. But I think she left his employ when she signed a film contract with MGM during that period. She also has appeared on Broadway, most notably in Michael Todd's Peep Show and singing in many small venues. Over the years, since the 1950's, I have not found any of her works so can only surmise that she retired or retreated from show business and settled down. Unfortunately I know little about Lina's professional work since then. Can somebody fill me in? She certainly deserves a complete biography. As I mentioned before, she did some Soundies too. Help me out, fans, if you have any of her Soundies transferred to video or DVD, I want to hear from you.
Lina's TV work: I've also read that in 1949, she began a three year run as a featured vocalist on TV's Paul Whiteman's Goodyear Review a show which is now nearly impossible to find anywhere, nor have I actually verified if this is even true. Again, if anybody has any idea where I can get it on VHS or DVD, do let me know. She also also appeared in minor roles or as guest stars elsewhere. In 1957, thirty-five year old Lina appeared as a Spanish-speaking senorita in an episode of Ozzie and Harriet, playing the chaperone of a lovely teen Latin teenager who goes to a dance with one of the boys. It's both amusing and enchanting to see lovely Lina again, in what possibly may be her last known (at least to me) TV appearance on a popular show. In it, to the dismay of some, she doesn't speak a word of English and doesn't even sing. This is understandable since she was playing second fiddle to a younger starlet named Lupita. I hope I find more of Lina's TV appearances to write about.
Lina's recent years were spent in Southern California where she was active for many years with the Pacific Pioneers Broadcasters association in California that meets regularly and honors broadcast performers of yesteryear on a regular basis and endeavors to keep the traditions of broadcasting history alive. I was very honored to know that Lina herself loved this site dedicated to her and was happy that so many people still remembered her after so many years. If anybody can fill me in on Lina's life and career do contact me for inclusion in this site. My goal is to honor this wonderful lady for simply wowing her fans over the years with her tremendous talents, and timeless beauty. Even though she had a rather short professional career, I would place her right up there with the better known movie stars. Just look at any of her movies...you will realize that this gorgeous lady not only performed beautifully, could take on any role, and oh yes, she could really sing!
--Bill Franco (originally written in 2005, updated 12/21/10)
Lina Romay photos found on the 'net or from her movies:
From "Bathing Beauty" with Cugat Orchestra
Get a load of those cute dimples!
Pretty Miss Lina Romay from "You Were Never Lovelier" with Cugat Orchestra
more Lina Romay images HERE
email webmaster: firstname.lastname@example.org (lina romay in subject line please)
Although Lina is no longer with us, we will never forget her and always cherish her performances in film and on radio. God Rest Her Soul.