Biography by

Gary Richard Collins II

 
 

An only child, Julie London, was born as Nancy Gayle Peck, in Santa Rosa, California, at 6:00 P.M. EST, on September 26, 1926, to Vaudeville performers, Jack and Josephine (née Taylor) Peck. She’s also of Jewish ancestry and of English descent. Her parents were also originally from Indiana and California, as was her grandfather, Sedley Peck. She said (in one of the interviews) her mother, used to work in a pharmacy, once. At one time, her father was also a salesman, before credit manager, working for the Simon Levi Company. More than that, her parents ran the photography business, during the depression years.


In 1929, when she was only 2, her family moved to San Bernardino, California, and her parents continued to ran the photography business. When Gayle was a little girl, she would frequently listen to records as well as watching her mother sang in four- or five-part harmony. Her first 2 songs that she sang were: "There's A Long, Long Trail A-winding," and "God Bless America," by Irving Berlin. Every weekend, when Gayle was in grade school, her parents would drive her to dances at the San Bernardino Auditorium or near the mountains near Crestline, however, her parents were never worried about Gayle and boys. When Gayle was a little girl, she spent her summers with her aunt Ethel and her family on picnics and vacations to the mountains above San Bernardino or at one of the beach towns, along the California coast. When her father lost his job, as a photographer, Jack became very discouraged with himself and his future. As her father continued to find work, he was also disappointed when Gayle's physical appearances, also reflected in changes. In 1935, by the time Gayle turned 9, her voice was distinctive enough to amaze talent scouts, auditioning participants for a statewide radio contest. She changed her name from Gayle Peck to Julie Peck. In 1938, when Julie was only 11, her father, Jack Peck, was an alcoholic, who was also arrested for reckless driving. By the time of her father's release, her father returned home, and towards the end of the 1930s, his salary and the value of the San Bernardino house that he had purchased, were comparable to, if not higher than, those of his family's neighbors. At 12, before she got to be popular, her shaky private life began, when her family abandoned her, leaving her 'dirt poor,' alone. In 1941, at age 14, her family had moved to Hollywood, California. That same year, she first met, unfamiliar, struggling actor, Jack Webb, at one of the jazz clubs, prior to attending high school. Despite a 6 yr. age difference (in-between the two), both Jack & Julie commonly loved jazz music, and started dating. When she was only 16, she began to hold her very 1st cigarette in her hand and would use it, each and every day, then would continue doing so for the following 50+ years, until she was victimized with a stroke.


In one of the interviews, she said she would be the opposite of Marilyn Monroe, and didn't get a chance to know her or to be friends with her, before Monroe's death. She also detested high school, prior to dating Jack. When she was attending Hollywood Professional School (before Hollywood Conservatory of Music and Arts) in Hollywood, California, (with Donald O'Connor & Peggy Ryan), she immediately fell in love with drama, who (in her spare time) wrote occasional poetry. Also at 15, she suffered from hives, her doctors put her on a special diet, without providing any visible relief for the incessant itching and swelling. At age 17, in 1943, after rechristening her name from Julie Peck to Julie London, she embarked on her own acting career, while still in high school, first as a starlet. Easygoing months of movies, music and trips to San Bernardino to visit her old friends were finally interrupted by the call of the U.S. government, that asked Jack Webb, to serve his country in the Army Air Corps. While attending Hollywood Professional School (and Jack being in the service), she also dated Arthur Hamilton, and went to the senior prom together. Their strongest connection was music. After the war, she went back to being Jack Webb's girlfriend, a year later. That same year, when in 1944, (and still a teenager and was graduating from high school), Julie landed her first movie, opposite former Olympic swimmer & 1930s hunk, Buster Crabbe, in "Nabonga," where she played the "mature witch," who lived with a gorilla, who protected her, after her father being escaped from the jungle. That same year, London joined the cast of USO Camp Shows, which toured throughout Southern California, and entertained the troops at the Hollywood USO, experiences that were of more help to her career than her initial foray into the movie business. Then, the year after she graduated from high school, in 1945, aged 18, she began singing with the Matty Malnech Orchestra, while signing up with a contract from Universal, which didn't last. She also had no choice other than to give up band singing when her true age was discovered. Unlike fellow singers, Frank Sinatra, Peggy Lee and Mel Tormé, who had big jazz bands, London was a fan of small, nightclub jazz music bands. Also in 1945, at age 18, London landed parts in a few local radio programs, but was interested in the movies. Then, after a 5 yr. romance, Julie married Jack Webb, and continue to have an influence on their love of jazz. They each have 2 daughters. Back to the movies, she starred in "The Red House," opposite Edward G. Robinson and Judith Anderson, and "Tap Roots."  While starring in the film, Universal Studios borrowed her from Sol Lesser's Company and Van Heflin from MGM for this production.  While the newly married Julie signed up with a new contract, this one for Warner Bros., in 1949, making her the youngest star ever to receive a promising career, there. She was negotiated for a 7 year deal that began at $300 a week and included options that could potentially raise her salary to $1,500 a week. Despite her unsatisfactory contract at Roos Bros., she made the switch to the largest contract deal, who left (2 yrs. later, to spend more time with her family). Her first film at the same studio that she shot was "Task Force," starring Gary Cooper and Jane Wyatt.  One year later, in 1950, she then, co-starred opposed Gordon MacRae in the Western, "Return of the Frontiersman," about the sheriff's son, coming to the doctor's daughter, in admitting his explanation about his own innocence.  Along with Veronica Lake, Rita Hayworth, and Lauren Bacall (who was with London @ Warner Bros.), London was also one of four key inspirations that helped compose the character Jessica Rabbit. Anyways, while returning to the movies, her 1st husband was working long hours on his 1st incarnation of "Dragnet;" this concerned both Julie & their marriage, as it began to go on the rocks. The couple would soon be divorced in 1953, and Julie was very terrified. When she was divorcing Jack Webb, she agreed, then, the two went to court. Judge Whyte granted the divorce, and approved the property settlement agreement, under which Webb had paid her $150,000 in cash, gave her $150,000 in securities of his production company, $21,000 a year for herself and for the couple's two children, Stacy and Lisa. Webb also agreed to take out a $150,000 insurance policy to guarantee alimony payments in case of his death. In addition, she got a new Cadillac, jewelry and furnishings.


In 1954, the year after her divorce, Julie London met singer/songwriter, Bobby Troup, where the two wanted to develop more than just a friendship, but to have a real-life relationship, more than anything else. When she also met him, he persuaded her to take a job in a nightclub where she established the new musical career. This enabled her to resume her interrupted career in the movies, at the same time, Julie also transition herself to television, where she made her debut, on an episode of "The Armstrong Circle Theater".  The part led to other roles such as: "The Zane Grey Theater," "Shower of Stars," "Playhouse 90," "The David Niven Show," "Laramie," "Rawhide," "Michael Shayne," "Checkmate," "The Alfred Hitchcock Hour," among many others, even her final regular guest-starring role in "The Big Valley".  The following year, in 1955, London became one of the busiest stars ever into becoming a singer, whilst remaining an actress, starring in movies such as: "The Fighting Chance," about a racehorse trainer and a jockey who had trouble making ends meets, whom they both met an attractive-yet-greedy blonde, who gets them a job with a wealthy stable-owner. Then, she co-starred in other movies such as: "Crime Against Joe," "The Great Man," then in the Western "Drango," where she played a wealthy young lady, who harbored the fugitives, esp. her lover. Then, 1958 proved the busiest year for London, as she starred in 4 movies such as: "Saddle The Wind," "A Question of Adultery," "Voice in The Mirror," and another Western, "Man of The West," which reunited with Gary Cooper (who co-starred with London in "Task Force"), that also attributed London, who's the movie's only woman, is abused and humiliated by an outlaw gang.  Her last film was "The George Raft Story." Back to Troup, before her future husband had a successful career as both a solo artist and an actor, he used to be a member of the Tommy Dorsey Band which was fronted by London's friend Frank Sinatra. A mezzo-soprano, her biggest song (as mentioned) when she penned the #1 hit, "Cry Me A River," written by her ex-classmate Arthur Hamilton, which was also produced by Bobby Troup, about the revenge of her ex-husband, Jack Webb. Consequently, he later used that song for the movie, "Pete Kelly's Blues." Having been a new artist on the pop music scene, Billboard Magazine named her: The Most Popular Female Vocalist, 3x in 3 years, between 1955 and 1957. Her first 45 single, released in 1955, was "Cry Me a River," and it was included on her first album, "Julie Is My Name". More than 3 million copies of the album and single were sold. She voted "The Most Exciting New Vocalist of 1956," in Theme Magazine's Annual International Jazz Popularity Poll. Steve Allen presented Julie London with the award from the publishers of the magazine when she appeared on his show on January 20, 1957. She was also the celebrity spokesperson for Marlboro Cigarettes from the late 1950s to the early 1960s. At 31, when she was interviewed by Edward R. Murrow, in 1958, her cover girl looks were as much as talking point as her vocal talents. In order for Julie London to marry Bobby Troup, she had to have her parents' permission. She talked about it to her parents and agreed, so, on the last day of 1959 (New Years' Eve), Julie London married Bobby, and would later sell their Palm Springs house for an Encino mansion, where she lived not too far from fellow residents, Peter Marshall, Johnny Carson, Dennis Weaver and (of course) Jack Webb. On May 28, 1964, Julie London and Bobby Troup recorded a one-hour program for Japanese television in Japan. London sang 13 of her classic songs including "Bye Bye Blackbird", "Lonesome Road", and "Cry Me a River". Then, in 1966, she had been interviewed by disc jockey, Martin Block, for his radio program, at the height of her singing popularity. The discussion ranges from decorating her home, Julie’s return to show business after her divorce and performing for President Kennedy. Then, in mid-1967, she testified in support of a proposed legislation which would give royalties to singers as well as composers. She played records to illustrate how a singer's interpretation of a song can help make it a success. On August 19, also of 1967, Julie London and Si Zentner and his exciting band returned to the Tropicana’s Blue Room over the weekend and attracted capacity audiences, where she was backed by four male singers, Jim Schamp, Jim Wheeler, Jay Riley and Tom Knox, as well as by Zentner’s orchestra. On September 26, 1968, the day of her 42nd Birthday, she opened up Olen S. Thibedeau’s new night club, the Gold Room, in Norwalk, California.  Afterwards, she finished singing. A gynophobic, according to ex-Emergency! co-star, Randolph Mantooth, London also hated leaving the house, everytime she was asked to sing, because she didn't want to sing anymore.


When Liberty Records were purchased with another company (American Artists), in late 1971, Jack Webb, the man, who was once married to London, who reconciled, had talked her into playing the female starring role as Rampart's Chief Nurse of The Emergency Room, Dixie McCall, R.N., on "Emergency!," for NBC, who was also his first choice, that London had never had guest-starred on her ex-husband's second reincarnated show, "Dragnet". While giving it a big thought, she also had a three week singing commitment in Las Vegas, Nevada, with Bobby Troup, prior to accepting that role. At the same time, she also took the role, when the lounges she performed in were closed during the Nixon administration. She was very happy when she wanted to appear on the small screen, after years of appearing in nightclubs. When she also took on the role, she didn't receive any alimony from Webb. In order for her to star on the show, it was her 1st husband's call to hire, her 2nd real-life husband, Bobby Troup, to play her colleague/partner, Dr. Joe Early, on the show. After her best friend/second husband had working in nightclubs for years, London would be on the road, while Troup would have a day off, and their children once said to their father, 'Daddy, stay home,' and Julie would say, 'Come to Cleveland,' and for them, it was wonderful to be together. She also once said in an interview about winning the role: "Jack Webb phoned and asked me to consider it. I asked to see a script and he said he didn't have one ready but he needed my signature to pitch it to NBC. The deadlines were looming. It was designed as a mid-seasoner, which is still rare on TV. He'd already used Bobby Troup in some episodes of 'Adam-12.' And he simply told me, 'I think you're a damned fine actress and you can project that grace under fire ER nurses must demonstrate.' So I believed him and to our surprise NBC picked up the show before the entire pilot was finished." Happily for the married couple, they were the 1st to be casted, so she finally had it all!  London, would also be the 4th of the stars (between Shirley Jones, Florence Henderson & Mary Tyler Moore) ever to have a female lead role on 70s television. The show also reunited with Robert Fuller, for the male starring role on the show, and they both (along with Troup) had a great on- and off-screen chemistry for 8 years. Before she got to work with Fuller on the show, her lifelong friendship with Fuller began, when the young, unfamiliar actor, stopped by at one of the nightclubs in Los Angeles, drinking a beer, where he was also the first to watch her singing, after he returned from the Army, before he began acting in roles, primarily in Westerns. Then, when Fuller had no choice to star in the show with London, she once said in a 1972 interview, about playing a head physician: "I'm already best buds with Bobby Fuller. The fact reviewers said I looked a decade older than him is all right with me, I am older. And signing a Western star (to play) a doctor was one of Jack's best moves. Bob has the humanity an ER doctor must carry at all times." On the "Emergency!," set, she and the rest of the cast, used a 12 lb. medical dictionary to pronounce the words, they also had technical advisors around them, everyday, they also had a real-life doctor on the set, everytime her cast performed something, they had 2 paramedics, on the show, while filming, they used as training scenes all across the country. When London came "Emergency!," she knew absolutely nothing about nursing, and needed to get the medical dictionary from her ex-husband, while popping on some surgical & medical gloves, used for both training scenes. The only problem she ever had was if she was concerned about her "weight gain"; off- the set, unfortunately, she didn't have to be prefaced with the issue. Like many others, Julie was also somewhat in charge of every general aspect writing of the script, working like 10-12 hrs., a day, and even, brought her family/friends to the set of "Emergency!," on various occasions. Her stepdaughter and Troup's daughter, Cynnie Troup, also served as the script supervisor. She was also on the set, 3 to 4 days a week, where she was (along with Bobby Troup), the highest-paid entertainer on television. Off-the camera, though she had a great time with other stars, she also cussed off-camera, which were also featured in the bloopers, 30 sec. of those were hilarious. Originally, "Emergency!," was intended to be a medical drama for herself and the rest of her, Fuller and Troup, from the very beginning, until her co-star, Randolph Mantooth, stole the show and focused more on rescue than hospital scenes. Though she got the most publicity on “Emergency!,” with her other co-stars, she didn't mind Randolph Mantooth’s and Kevin Tighe’s increasingly popularity on the show. She was absolutely happy for them, and was content to share the spotlight. Off-camera, she even invited the entire cast to her's & Troup's house for dinner. She along with the rest of the cast were invited for their own roles on an episode of "Adam-12".  She was also reunited with Barbara Nichols (from "The George Raft Story,") on an episode of the show. An avid game show buff, and with her popularity soaring, she also appeared on “Hollywood Squares,” “Match Game,” “Tattletales,” “Celebrity Bowling,” “Stump The Stars,” among many others. When "Emergency!" was axed, after a 6 1/2 season run, in 1977, despite high ratings and after 128 episodes (though she participated in 2 of the 4 TV movies, after appearing in every episode of the series), Jack Webb was going to promote her as executive producer, when she turned the position down... this led her into retirement, who needed to spend time with her family, as well. Before her retirement, she was a spokesperson for Rose Milk Skin Care Cream, which was her final commercial.


After “Emergency!,” she recorded her final song “My Funny Valentine,” taken from Burt Reynolds’s “Sharky Machine.” A private/introverted lady, she settled into retirement, spending lots of time with her family, whilst avoiding making any guest appearances on television. She only survived was for thyroid surgery. On December 23, 1982, she lost her 1st husband and lifelong friend, Jack Webb, and she along with the rest of her “Emergency!” cast, attended her funeral, on December 30, of that year, where his friends and real-life professionals were all dressed in uniforms. During her final years, she had a lot of tragedies/real-life crisises, before her stroke, she had several accidents, she broke both her hips, and spent most of her time in a wheelchair. Then, the day after her 70th birthday, in 1996, one of her daughters, Stacy Webb, was involved in an automobile accident. At an intersection, near her daughter's house, her daughter's truck had overturned with a California Highway Patrol Car, where she died, just 1 hour later at a hospital. In 1998, the entire cast was invited for an "Emergency!" reunion in Burbank, California, ex. for London, herself, who couldn’t make it, due to health problems. On February 7, 1999, another one of her biggest crisises came when she lost her second husband, Bobby Troup. Though she attended his funeral, however, health problems prevented her to speak. As did with Webb, every one of the cast of “Emergency!” & “Adam-12” had attended. After Troup’s passing, she hardly recovered from her loss.


Julie London passed away in the early morning hours of Wednesday, October 18, 2000, the same day that Bobby Troup would’ve turned 82, in Encino, California. Prior to her death, she actually went into cardiac arrest. After her death, she didn’t want to have a funeral.


Note:   Robert "Bobby" Fuller first appeared on screen with Julie London when she guest-starred on the TV western, Laramie, with him, opposite John Smith in 1960. Before that, Bobby actually met her, in 1955, when the young, unfamiliar Western actor had stopped at a club in Los Angeles, California, drinking beer, where he was the first ever to witnessed her singing, after he returned from the Army. I read a Robert Fuller interview he gave long after Emergency! was off the air where he talked about how much fun it was going to work with your best friends, Julie and Bobby every day. He said in June 2013 (with Tom Blixa on WTVN) about the secondary lead's "potty-mouth" off-camera:  "She should've been a sailor. I'm telling you, I loved Julie. I've known Julie for years and one of the things that made me happy about doing Emergency! was working with Julie and Bobby because they were friends of mine. I've known them for years. Before that, Julie did Laramie with me and I loved her. I loved her singing and I loved his playing. But to Julie, to get away with anything and when it came out of her mouth, it sounded like candy and we loved it. She was wild." He also said in September 2017 (with Joe Cullura of Quad-City Times) about the time he met his future Emergency! female lead, Julie London, immediately after serving his time in the Army: "Shortly after I got out of the Army in ‘55, I happened to be in a nightclub on Sunset Boulevard drinking a beer when all of a sudden this gorgeous blonde came out with a man with a guitar," He recalled. "The woman started to sing and, I couldn’t take my eyes off of her. That was my introduction to Julie London. Also that year, I met Richard Boone for the first time."





 

November 9, 2017