It took him a couple of years to break through, and he eventually adopted the stage name of Tony Martin.
After signing with 20th Century Fox in 1936, Martin was cast in the Shirley Temple musical "Poor Little Rich Girl" and the musical comedy "Sing, Baby, Sing," which featured Alice Faye, one of the biggest stars of the era.
Yvonne DeCarlo, married Faye in 1937.
"To many people around town, I was Mr. Alice Faye," he later complained.
When he hit the road to play in nightclubs, the marriage fell apart in 1941, the year he appeared with the Marx Brothers in "The Big Store," singing what became a signature tune — "The Tenement Symphony."
World War II interrupted his career, and his military service was fraught with controversy, including rumors that he had bribed his way into an officer's commission in the Navy. Discharged from the Navy, he joined the Army as a buck private and performed with an Army Air Forces orchestra led by Glenn Miller. He left the Army as a technical sergeant in 1945.
"The war and all my service-connected problems did me one good turn," Martin wrote in his autobiography. "I went into the Navy a real cocky kid. When I came out, I was pretty humble. I had been chopped down to size."
The ruckus threatened his career and made it harder for him to find work after the war.
But in 1946, he recorded "To Each His Own," which became a top 10 hit. That same year, he appeared in the Jerome Kern biographical film "Till the Clouds Roll By." He continued to regularly sing and act in movies through the 1950s.
Martin's string of hit songs that began in the 1930s with "Now It Can Be Told" and "South of the Border" continued in the 1950s with such titles as "Tonight We Love" and "Circus."
During the same time, he was active on radio, appearing on Walter Winchell's "Lucky Strike Hour" and with George Burns and Gracie Allen.
Segueing to television, he hosted "The Tony Martin Show" from 1954 to 1956 on NBC and was nominated for an Emmy as best male singer in 1955.
Through their mutual agent he met Charisse, who went toe-to-toe in films with Gene Kelly and Fred Astaire.
"She stepped out of a dream," Martin later said.
They were married in 1948 and had one son, Tony Martin Jr., who died in 2011 at 60.
Martin's survivors include Nico Charisse, his wife's son by her first marriage, and two grandchildren.
As he entered his late 90s, Martin attributed his stamina to daily calisthenics, giving up smoking in his 60s, eating two meals a day and walking.
Being onstage made him feel young again, he said.
As he marked only his 50th year in show business, in 1981, he paused during a week of shows in a New York club to ask: "What am I going to do? Sit in Beverly Hills and watch the clouds go by?"
Nelson is a Times staff writer, and Luther is a former Times staff writer.
Tony Martin dies at 98; singer-actor in Hollywood musicals
Known for such musicals as 'Ziegfeld Girl' and 'Casbah,' he continued to perform into his 90s. He was also known for a cabaret act with his wife, Cyd Charisse.
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