Frances Gershwin Godowsky was the only sister of brothers Ira, George, and Arthur Gershwin. On 10 November 1930, she married Leopold Godowsky, Jr., violinist and chemist, co-inventor of the Kodachrome process of color photography. Their wedding occured in the Gershwin brothers' Manhattan penthouse apartment; brother George played "Rhapsody in Blue" on a grand piano.
Frances and Leopold had four children: singer Alexis Gershwin (b. Sandra Frieda, 22 Sep 1934), pianist & composer Leopold Godowsky III (1938-2011), and twin daughters Georgia Keidan and Nadia Natali (b. 1945).
She recorded an album titled "For George and Ira" in June 1973, at the urging of her son, Leopold Godowsky III. On the album, Frances sings 17 Gershwin songs, accompanied by pianists Alfred Simon and Jack Easton.
Obituary by Edward Helmore, 27 January 1999:
FRANCES GODOWSKY was a prolific painter who was better known as George and Ira Gershwin's little sister, Frankie. The last of the Gershwin siblings, she inherited her share of the family talent but was always overshadowed by her brothers who formed one of the century's most remarkable musical songwriting teams.
Despite the comparisons, Godowsky had her moments. She was an accomplished dancer who toured aged 11 in a children's musical, Daintyland, and never let George and Ira forget that, in the days when the brothers were grateful for $15 paychecks from Tin Pan Alley, she was the family's main breadwinner.
In the late 1920s, she sang in a couple of Broadway shows, but, by the time the family moved into the house on West 103rd Street in Manhattan made famous in the film Rhapsody in Blue, Frances seemed resigned to tailoring her career to fit in with that of her older brothers.
She would often be summoned to George's room on the fifth floor and enlisted to sing the Gershwin compositions that would later be Broadway hits. Although she possessed a small voice by the standards of the day, George, who loved her interpretations of his sometimes complicated music and the way she kept the rhythm going, made her his personal chanteuse, and the two entertained at parties in New York.
In early 1928, George brought her along on a European trip to escape a boring doctor she was dating. By the time she returned six months later, she had so wowed Cole Porter at a party in Paris that he designed a show for her at the famous Les Ambassadeurs nightclub where she sang Gershwin tunes with George as her accompanist.
Although the engagement drew professional offers, she returned to New York where she had a new suitor, one of George's poker cronies, Leopold Godowsky Jnr, the son of the celebrated Austrian pianist. They married in 1930 and settled in Rochester, New York, where Leopold helped invent Kodachrome, the revolutionary slide film. Godowsky played a similar role for her husband as she had for her brothers and would pose in a bright red beret and bottle-green dress as a photographic test model.
After George Gershwin's death in 1937, the couple moved to Westport, Connecticut. It was there that Frances Godowsky, who had begun sculpting in Rochester, took up painting and turned out hundreds of oils and acrylics. This accomplishment helped soften the blow for her when the film Rhapsody in Blue came out in 1945 and excised her and her third brother Arthur from the Gershwin family.
Frances Gershwin was born on the Lower East Side of Manhattan on Boxing Day 1906, exactly 10 years the junior of her eldest brother, Ira. The Gershwins had a peripatetic childhood as their father, Morris, repeatedly moved the family to be near his latest job. Ira once calculated that between 1900 and 1917 the family lived in 28 different apartments, 25 in Manhattan and three in Brooklyn.
Although painting remained her main artistic concern, Godowsky re-emerged as a singer in her later years. Her 1975 album, Frances Sings for George and Ira, won acclaim and, after a granddaughter suggested she have vocal training, she began a long-deferred professional career, singing Gershwin tunes at the Lambs Club in Manhattan until two years ago. Her husband and her brother Ira both died in 1983.
NY Times, 21 January 1999:
GODOWSKY-Frances Gershwin (Frankie), on January 18th, 1999. Beloved wife of the late Leopold Godowsky, Jr. Loving mother of Alexis Gershwin, Leopold Godowsky III, Georgia Keidan and Nadia Natali. Cherished grandmother of 8. Adoring sister of the late George, Ira and Arthur Gershwin. Services at Frank E. Campbell, 1076 Madison Ave. at 81 St., Thursday, January 21, at 11:30 AM. Interment private. Contributions in her memory may be made to Channel 13 at 450 W. 33rd St., NY NY 10001.
GODOWSKY-Frances. The Board of Trustees and staff of Carnegie Hall mourn the loss of Frances Gershwin Godowsky. She served as a delightful guide to the Gershwin family history, as well as a participant in the Carnegie Hall's Gershwin Centennial Celebration. We remember her spirit with great fondness, and extend our sympathy to her family. Isaac Stern, President, Sanford I. Weill, Board Chairman
Cremated. Urn is in the Gershwin Mausoleum.
Leopold Saxe Godowsky
1900–1983 (m. 1930)
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