London Telegraph, July 1, 2002
Rosemary Clooney, who has died aged 74, shot to fame in the 1950s with songs such as "Come On-a-My House" and "Hey There," had a brief but successful cinema career, including a co-starring role with Bing Crosby in "White Christmas" (1954), and endured a stormy marriage to the actor-director Jose Ferrer.
At the height of her fame, she appeared on the covers of Life and Time magazines, the latter commenting that her voice was "known in the trade as both 'barrelhouse' and blue, i.e. robust and fresh, with an undercurrent of seductiveness. It can spin out a slow tune with almost cello-like evenness, or take a raucous bite in fast rhythm. In a melancholy mood, it has a cinnamon flavour that tends to remind fans of happier days gone by."
Not all her days were happy, however, and in 1968 she suffered a breakdown. She re-emerged in the 1980s as one of the finest interpreters of Ira Gershwin and Cole Porter. Later, appearing in the television hospital drama "ER" opposite her nephew, George Clooney, she won an Emmy nomination as a patient with Alzheimer's who could only communicate through song.
Rosemary Clooney was born on May 23 1928 at Maysville, Kentucky. Her parents soon separated and she was brought up by her paternal grandparents. When her grandfather ran for mayor, she and her younger sister Betty sang at the campaign rallies; they helped in their grandfather's re-election as mayor for three successive terms.
In 1941, Rosemary and Betty went to Cincinnati, Ohio, to live with their mother's parents. Still at school, the sisters appeared on a radio show for $20 a night and toured the area, chaperoned by their uncle. Eventually they were taken on by the Tony Pastor orchestra, with whom they toured the country for three years from 1945.
After each show, the girls would get into a bus chartered by the orchestra and sleep until they arrived at their next venue. Her uncle's continued presence did not prevent a love affair between Rosemary Clooney and another band member; she agreed to marry the man (identified in her autobiography "This for Remembrance"  only as "Dave") before deciding that it might jeopardise her career.
In this she was receiving encouragement, one critic having described her voice as "perhaps the nearest thing to Ella Fitzgerald we've ever heard."
With the big-band era drawing to a close, Rosemary Clooney intended to make the most of any opportunity to go it alone. In 1946, she recorded "I'm Sorry I Didn't Say I'm Sorry When I Made You Cry Last Night." She later recalled that during the session she "was not able to sing above a whisper. Fear.
Fear and this thing I was feeling inside about Dave." But the critics interpreted it as a new, revolutionary style.
On the strength of this, she set off to establish a solo recording career in New York. She obtained a contract with Columbia Records and made some sides with Frank Sinatra before he left for Capitol and stardom. Soon she was assigned the producer Mitch Miller, a bearded, colourful character who took her future in his hands.
Her big break came when she appeared on the television show "Songs for Sale" in 1950; shortly after that she recorded "Beautiful Brown Eyes," which sold more than half a million copies.
In 1951, Miller asked her to record "Come On-a My House," an adaptation by William Saroyan and Ross Bagdasarian of an old Armenian folk song. "I really hated the song," she said later. "I hated the whole idea."
But Miller told her that she would be fired if she did not turn up to the session. Sometime later, she was startled to return from a trip to Miami to find every record store on Broadway playing it. It went to Number One, sold more than a million, and led to numerous appearances on television.
A string of hits followed: "Tenderly," "Suzy Snowflake," "Botcha Me," "Hey There," "This Ole House," "Christmas," and "Mambo Italiano." She began to move in showbusiness circles, becoming friends with Art Tatum and Marlene Dietrich, with whom she made some records, and in 1953 she married Jose Ferrer.
At the time she was also dating the dancer Dante Di Paulo. Without telling Di Paulo what was up, she left him by the swimming pool and went to meet Ferrer in Dallas, where he was in "Kiss Me Kate." They drove 90 miles to Durant, Oklahoma, to be married. Back in Beverly Hills, they bought the house where the singer Russ Columbo had accidentally shot himself in 1934, and where the Gershwins had written "Foggy Day."
Now under contract to Paramount, Rosemary Clooney made her screen debut in 1953 in "The Stars Are Singing." This was followed by "Here Come the Girls" (1953), with Bob Hope, Arlene Dahl and Tony Martin, "Red Garters" (1954), and "Deep in My Heart" (1954). Work took a heavy toll, as did Ferrer's continual womanising.
On a belated honeymoon in Europe, she overheard Ferrer tell of a conquest he had made in New York while she was away in Hollywood filming "White Christmas" with Crosby. They decided to carry on, however, and soon Rosemary Clooney was pregnant.
This did not prevent Miller from getting her to record "Hey There." "I'll send an ambulance for you and you can record in a wheelchair," he told her.
She complied, and also did the raucous "This Ole House" for the B-side. Both sold millions. She continued to tour the world, discussing babies with the Queen and befriending Billie Holiday, who told her: "It takes a baaaddd woman to be a good godmother."
Rosemary Clooney's most enduring work from this period included "Blue Rose," an album made with Duke Ellington and arranged by Billy Strayhorn. Such were their schedules that she and Ellington had to perform separately. But the join did not show on the recording, which included one of the finest-ever versions of "Sophisticated Lady." She also did some sides with the Benny Goodman Sextet and the "Swing Around Rosie" album with Buddy Cole's organ trio.
During the late 1950s, encumbered by five children and an unfaithful husband, she had a creative block. Instead, she threw her energies into campaigning for John F Kennedy, whom she had got to know after moving back to New York. By 1960, she and Ferrer were all but separated; the final straw was his inability to share her grief at President Kennedy's assassination in 1963. They were divorced in 1967.
In the mid-1960s she took up with a drummer who was not only 15 years her junior but also just married. Over the next two years she experienced "the happiest times I could ever remember having with a man."
The end of this relationship coincided with the assassination in 1968 of Robert Kennedy. She was standing just a few feet away from him when he was shot. The experience precipitated a nervous breakdown and her confinement -- by straps -- in a hospital. ("Honest to God," she said later, "we were like characters right out of 'Cuckoo's Nest.'")
Her return to work was gradual, and for a time she was reduced to playing Holiday Inns. But in 1975, Bing Crosby invited her to tour with him, and in 1977 she teamed up with Margaret Whiting, Helen O'Connell and Rose Marie to form the "Four Girls Four," which toured successfully for six years.
"I was the old Rosemary Clooney," she said. But in truth, as far as her singing went, she was a different, far better one. Her mature voice was heard on a series of albums, mostly made with a small-scale jazz group which included Scott Hamilton. In 1996, she made three of the top 10 independent jazz albums of the year: "Rosemary Clooney's White Christmas," "Dedicated to Nelson," and "Demi-Centennial."
Her home life at last became happy, too. In 1997, she finally married her old flame Dante Di Paulo, whom she had met again in 1973 when he pulled up alongside her at a traffic light. He survives her, together with three sons and two daughters from her first marriage.