Former Broadway actress and singer Jane Morgan at her home in Kennebunkport on Thursday with two of the gowns she wore during her career. Morgan, who attributes her longevity to “wearing 30-pound dresses and 4-inch heels,” will celebrate turning 100 at the Ogunquit Playhouse on Monday evening. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

KENNEBUNKPORT — When asked to share her secret to living to be 100, singing star Jane Morgan said it was mostly about her fashion choices.

“Wearing 30-pound dresses and 4-inch heels, I’d say that’s what’s kept me alive,” said Morgan, who has sung on Broadway, in nightclubs, in front of six presidents and on TV. “I had to walk around on stage all night wearing those heavy gowns. But I just kept working and working and working, because I really enjoyed it.”

Morgan will share stories from her career Monday night during a 100th birthday celebration at Ogunquit Playhouse that’s free and open to the public. She’ll be interviewed on stage by Brad Kenney, the theater’s executive artistic director. About 18 of her life-extending gowns will be on display at the theater as well, some on stage and some in the lobby. Her gowns have been shown across the country in recent years as part of an exhibit titled “Jane Morgan – In My Style,” including at New York Fashion Week and at the Brick Store Museum in Kennebunk.

Morgan says she’s happy to share stories from her career and talk about famous friends she’s made along the way, from singers Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin to actor James Stewart and former president George H.W. Bush. But she’s also quick to point out that it wasn’t her idea.

Jane Morgan, in an undated photo, has sung for presidents, on Broadway and on TV. Photo courtesy of ‘Jane Morgan – In My Style.’

“Everybody said, ‘When are you going to have your 100th birthday? When are you going to have your 100th birthday?’ Evidently, that’s an event people talk about. So I thought I’d better do something,” said Morgan, sitting at the dining table of her Kennebunkport home Thursday. “But getting 500 people in here wouldn’t be easy, so we’d have to do it somewhere else.”

Celebrating her milestone birthday – which was on May 3 – at the Ogunquit Playhouse is a full-circle moment for Morgan. She started out in show business as a child at the nearby Kennebunkport Playhouse, which her brother Robert Currier opened in the early 1930s. At first, she washed dishes and helped actresses get dressed. She eventually started singing and acting in productions at the Kennebunkport Playhouse and came back from time to time once she had launched her own successful singing career, before it closed in 1971. But since Ogunquit Playhouse was a rival of her brother’s theater, competing for the same summer audiences, she never performed there.


“So this is my first appearance,” Morgan said.

The staff of the Ogunquit Playhouse, which opened in 1933, often looks for ways to connect audiences with the theater’s past and with the “golden age” of musicals, said Deborah Warren, the theater’s managing director. So hosting a party and Q&A with Morgan, who embodies that era and whose career began in Maine, is a great way to do that.

“People here have known her a long time and know that she’s one of the jewels of our community,” said Warren.

Album cover of “The American Girl from Paris” by Jane Morgan. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

Morgan has spent summers in Kennebunkport since she was child and also has a home in Naples, Florida. Born in the Boston suburb of Newton, Massachusetts, Morgan enrolled at the Juilliard School in New York City. While at Juilliard in the late 1940s, she sang in New York hotels and restaurants and was discovered by French music entrepreneur Bernard Hilda, who asked her to come sing at his nightclub in Paris. She ended up staying there for five years, learning to sing in French. She met Frank Sinatra in Paris – who thought she was French – and he helped her make connections with people in music and show business back in New York.

Back in the U.S. in the 1950s, she appeared on the star-making “Ed Sullivan Show” and returned many times over the next two decades. Her biggest hit song, “Fascination,” was released in 1957 and reached the top 10 on several record charts of the day. It became her signature song and help spread her reputation. But recording it, Morgan says, was an accident.

It was an old song, written in 1905. Morgan was invited to watch a group called the Troubadours record it one day.


“My friend who ran (the recording company) said, ‘Maybe you should go in the studio and make a couple cuts, just for fun,’ ” recalled Morgan. “I didn’t know the song. I just read it off a piece of paper. They (the record company) liked it, and the next day they released it. ”

Morgan went on to record a total of 42 albums and songs of all genres, including “A Girl Named Johnny Cash” in 1970, which was an answer song to country star Cash’s song “A Boy Named Sue.” She performed it on Cash’s TV show the next year. She also performed lead roles in many stage and Broadway musicals,  including “Can-Can,” “Kiss Me Kate,” “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes” and “Mame.”

In the mid-’60s, she married film and TV producer Jerry Weintraub. Living in California, she cut back on performing substantially by the early 1970s, largely to take care of the couple’s children.

While living near Hollywood, in Beverly Hills, Morgan and her husband were friends with lots of well-known performers. She was friendly with singers Johnny Mathis and Dean Martin, among many others, and was on Martin’s TV show.

“He was the most fun of all those guys. He had a great sense of humor and was just very lighthearted about how he approached his work,” Morgan said of Martin. “He never rehearsed. But he knew everything he had to do.”


Over the years, Morgan has performed for six presidents: John F. Kennedy, Richard M. Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush. The list includes two Democrats and four Republicans, making Morgan a bipartisan entertainer.

“I was a performer. I didn’t care whether you were a Democrat or a Republican,” said Morgan. “Even though I was a Republican. Though later on I switched.”

The elder Bush was a childhood friend. They both spent summers in Kennebunkport and were about the same age.

Two gowns worn by Jane Morgan during her career, at her home in Kennebunkport. She says performing in thirty pound gowns is one reason why she’s lived so long. Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

One of her longtime friends in Kennebunkport, Maine real estate developer Howard Goldenfarb, said Morgan is a “caring, kind, tough person who knows what she wants.” He said the fact that she agreed to speak on stage in front of a potential crowd of 650 people shows how passionate Morgan is about musical theater and Maine.

“She loves theater and loves performing,” said Goldenfarb. “Her career started here in Kennebunkport, at the playhouse, and I think that’s something she wants to recognize.”

The event at Ogunquit Playhouse is a partnership between the theater, the Weintraub Family Foundation, and Barbara and Howard Goldenfarb.


Though she hasn’t sung in public in a while, Morgan thinks about singing again at some point. She sings in the pool at her home.

“A lot of the songs that I sang, they’re not popular anymore. You know, people don’t sing those songs anymore,” said Morgan. “But I think sometimes about singing again. And I know I can sing. But I haven’t made it part of my program.”

No matter where she’s lived, Morgan says she makes it a point to return to Kennebunkport. She’s been in the same house since 1957, and although she’s lived all over the world, she considers Maine home.

“I fell in love with Maine as a little girl, and it just became home,” Morgan said. “My husband, my kids, all loved coming here and had a wonderful time here. I love to fish, casting flies. But I can fish with worms, too.”

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