North Dakota-born vocalist Peggy Lee went straight from the family farm to local radio; by the time she was 16, she was a professional singer. Fame came relatively early when, in the late 1930s, Lee was chosen to be vocalist for the Benny Goodman orchestra. Her first film work consisted of specialty numbers in such films as The Powers Girl (42) and Stage Door Canteen (43). While best remembered for such hit records as "Lover," "Fever" and "Is That All There Is?", Lee's movie assignments of the 1950s should not be overlooked. She made her dramatic acting debut in the 1953 remake of The Jazz Singer opposite Danny Thomas, and in 1955 she was Oscar-nominated for her convincing portrayal of a hard-boiled speakeasy chanteuse who reverts to childhood after incurring severe brain damage in Pete Kelly's Blues, a film directed by Jack Webb.
Lee was also instrumental in the success of the Disney cartoon feature Lady and the Tramp (55); she not only provided several of the character voices (the Siamese Cats, the dog pound vamp "Peg," etc.), but also wrote many of the film's songs. When Lady and the Tramp was released to video in 1987, Lee, miffed that she had earned a mere $3500 for her work on the film, sued Disney for several million dollars' royalties -- and won. After Pete Kelly's Blues, Peggy Lee wrote lyrics for the 1958 musical fantasy Tom Thumb and was heard on the soundtrack of 1970's Pieces of Dreams; her acting in later years was confined to TV guest-star appearances, notably a chucklesome turn as a Mae West-style dance-hall queen on a 1967 episode of The Girl from UNCLE. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi