Earl Wrightson, 77, was a singer, actor, TV host

March 13, 1993|By Staff Report

Earl Wrightson, 77, a Baltimore native who sang and acted in many operas, musical comedies and concerts and had his own television variety shows in the 1950s -- including one Emmy winner, "The American Musical Theatre" -- died Sunday of heart failure at his home in East Norwich, N.Y.

His baritone voice also was heard on many other radio and television programs, including "The Prudential Hour," "The Coca-Cola Hour" and "At Home," a 15-minute show of which he was host, that preceded "Arthur Godfrey and His Friends."

In addition to touring in operas and musicals, he had a starring role in the 1945 production of "Firebrand of Florence" featuring Lotte Lenya and music by Kurt Weill.

He attended the Polytechnic Institute in 1929, then went to City College, which he left in 1932.

He told interviewers he had missed many high school classes before leaving City, watching criminal court trials instead, because he decided he could learn more about life there than in school and it would help his acting career. However, he then decided to concentrate on singing.

Leaving Baltimore for New York in 1937, he studied briefly with John Charles Thomas, then with Robert Weede, a baritone with the Metropolitan Opera, who also was from Baltimore.

He also had been a page for NBC, before joining touring opera companies, singing in musicals, making recordings and appearing on radio and television programs.

He returned to Baltimore many times for concerts with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and the Catonsville Concert Association, among others.

In Baltimore, June 30, 1973, was named Earl Wrightson Day when he came to the city for a symphony concert. His singing partner, Lois Hunt, was made an honorary Baltimorean.

He also appeared at the Lyric Theater with the B&O Glee Club, to which he had belonged while singing with church choirs and other groups in Baltimore. He toured in the 1960s in a series of musicals on a circuit that included the Painters Mill Music Fair.

In 1961, he appeared in a production of "South Pacific" at the Lyric Theater. In 1970, he appeared at the Mechanic Theater in the Sigmund Romberg Operetta, "Blossom Time."

Services were to be conducted at noon today at the Dodge-Thomas Funeral Home in Glen Cove, N.Y.

In addition to Lois Hunt, who was also his companion, and her son, Jeffrey Hunt of Roosevelt, N.J., his survivors include his wife, Alta Markey Wrightson of Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; a daughter, Wendy Oldham, also of Fort Lauderdale, and a granddaughter.

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