Monday, December 3, 2012

Who Was Arthur Murray?

Arthur Murray
America's Dancing Master was born Arthur Murray Teichman onNew York's Lower East Side on 1895. His first recollection of dancing was when a girl noticed his shyness t school aance and coaxed him into trying a few steps with her. In no time Arthur felt he could dance pretty well and crashed all the immigrant weddings in his neighbor hood, thus leaning all the steps of the various nationalities. he then entolled at Castle House, a chain of dancing schools owned by Irene Castle. He proved such an adept pupil that shortly he became an instructor.

Upon completion of high school, Arthur took a four-year course in business administration at Georgia Institute of Technology. But upon graduation he returned to dancing-Baroness de Cuddleston took him with her to Asheville, North Carolina where she ran dancing academics at the hotels. Arthur was paid one hundred dollars weekly, but he had an idea of his won and after a short while left for new York city.

In 1923 he took a one-room office at 229 Broadway and ran ads headlined How I Became Popular Overnight. In them he promised to make anone who subscribed to his mail-order school an expert fox-trot dancer in no time. Some forty thousand people replied.

Murray, who has been described as looking like a retired undertaker. opened a school that soon mushroomed into several schools in several cities. He hired instructors and concentrated on the business end, including promotion. He proved a genius at both. By 1941 his yearly gross was $2million. By 1951 it had resen to $22 million. When he sold out his interests in 1964 from schools as far away as South Africa, Australia, and Germany, as well as in every major city in North America, was $55 million.

A 1922 Arthur Murray Ad.
The biggest boom for his chools was the advent of television. His Arthur Murray Party becan in 1950 as a summer replacement. it took until 1968 to get a sponsor for it, but by that time it was trouncing its competition, Desilu Playhouse, 24.7 to 18.7 in the ratings. Since Arthur's personality is somwwhat flat and he speaks with a lisp, most of the on-camera chores fell to his wife, the former Kathryn Kohnfelder, whom he married in 1925. In spite of her voice, which somewone aid sounded like that of a long distance operatior, she was quite popular.

Even before people at hom could see couples dancing, the Murrays promoted their schools, on radio. During the fourties, the hit song "Arthur Murray Taught Me dancing in a Hurray" made his method and name household words. Two presidential candidatees took lessons at the murray studios. Both learned to dance but neither was elected. Eleanor Roosevelt took rumba lessons at the Washington, D.C. studios. Murray claims that the only people he had not been able to teach were mantal defectives. he seldom took a private pupil. One exception was heiress Eleanor Close Hutton, who paid him five thousand dollars for the course.

He wrote three books: How to Become a Good Dancer, with K.K. Murray, Arthur Murray's Dance Secrets, and Let's Dance. The Murrays had a large and very valuable collection of modern paintings.

Until they retired from their 452 schools the Murrays, who had twins, Phyllis and Jane, were very much a part of the Manhattan social scene. From their home in Honolulu they frequently visited New York for large charity balls or an occasional television appearance. On Anne Bancroft's CBS special in 1970, Murray danced briefly with the star.

The Arthur Murray still offers a free initial dancing lesson, but beware, it will cost you just about everything from then on.

He died in 1991 at the age of 95.

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