William Gaxton

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b. Arturo Antonio Gaxiola, 2 December 1893, San Francisco, California, USA, d. 12 February 1963, New York City, New York, USA. Appearances in amateur productions led to a desire to pursue a theatrical…
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Artist Biography by

b. Arturo Antonio Gaxiola, 2 December 1893, San Francisco, California, USA, d. 12 February 1963, New York City, New York, USA. Appearances in amateur productions led to a desire to pursue a theatrical career. Gaxton performed as a singer in vaudeville for some years, interrupted by World War I during which he was in the US Navy. In 1922 he made his first Broadway appearance; this was in Irving Berlin’s Music Box Revue and over the next few years developed his singing and stagecraft. His breakthrough came when he took a starring role in Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart’s A Connecticut Yankee (1927). In this show, Gaxton sang what was to become an enduring standard, ‘Thou Swell’, and in the process began to secure his lasting stage fame. In 1929 he consolidated his standing, this time in Cole Porter’s Fifty Million Frenchmen, singing another standard-to-be, ‘You Do Something To Me’. In the early 30s he was in successive George and Ira Gershwin musical comedies, Of Thee I Sing (1931) and Let ’Em Eat Cake (1933), then went into Porter’s Anything Goes (1934). In all three of these shows, Gaxton’s elegant sophistication was contrasted with Victor Moore’s bumbling comedic stage presence, while in the Porter show he had two more hit songs, a solo, ‘All Through The Night’, and a duet, ‘You’re The Top’, with co-star, Ethel Merman.

Later in the 30s, Gaxton extended his popularity through the American adaptation, by composer-lyricist Irving Caesar, of Robert Stolz’s White Horse Inn (1936), and which bore the touch of many other composing and lyric-writing hands. In this show, Gaxton played Leopold the head waiter who is secretly in love with aristocratic Katerina Vogelhuber, played by Kitty Carlisle. Gaxton was in Porter’s Leave It To Me! (1938, which also featured Moore), Louisiana Purchase (1940), and Hollywood Pinafore (1945). During the early 40s Gaxton made a handful of musical films, among them Best Foot Forward (1943, opposite Lucille Ball), and Billy Rose’s Diamond Horseshoe (1945, with Dick Haymes, Betty Grable and Phil Silvers), but despite the merits of the films Gaxton’s commanding stage presence did not adapt well to the screen. He returned to stage with Nelly Bly (1946), but the show flopped and shortly thereafter Gaxton retired.