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Carol Richards, 84; sang classic `Silver Bells' with Bing Crosby

March 23, 2007|Valerie J. Nelson | Times Staff Writer

Carol Richards, a singer best known for the Christmas classic "Silver Bells," which she recorded with Bing Crosby, has died. She was 84.

Richards died of heart disease March 16 at Indian River Memorial Hospital in Vero Beach, Fla., her family announced.

After winning a singing contest in 1946 promoted by Bob Hope, she started appearing with him on television and met Crosby.

The duet "Silver Bells" was featured in the 1951 Hope film "The Lemon Drop Kid," but another version sung by Crosby and Richards made the song famous, according to the American Music Preservation website.

In movie musicals, Richards dubbed the singing voice of several actresses. Two highlights of her career were performing for Cyd Charisse with Gene Kelly in "Brigadoon" (1954) and Fred Astaire in "Silk Stockings" (1957), said Jean Laughlin, one of her daughters.

In the 1950s, Richards was a regular on "The Bob Crosby Show," a daytime television program that starred Bing's younger brother.

Richards also appeared on various TV variety shows and worked frequently with Danny Kaye and Jerry Lewis, among others.

Born Carol June Vosburgh on June 6, 1922, in Harvard, Ill., she was one of four children of George and Martha Vosburgh. Her father worked for the Northwestern Railroad.

Richards began performing at 4, but her mother thought she was acting "like a diva" at 6 and wouldn't let her take the stage again until she was 11, Richards said in a 2003 interview with the Press Journal in Vero Beach.

At 16, she married and was known as Carol Lutzhoff, "a terrible name for show biz," she said in 2003. In honor of a favorite nephew, she changed her last name to Richards.

By 1966, she had moved from North Hollywood to Chicago and married her fifth husband, Edward Swiedler, who survives her. Her third husband died, and her other marriages ended in divorce.

In Chicago, she regularly appeared on Don McNeill's "The Breakfast Club" radio show but stopped performing after marrying Swiedler.

Swiedler had six children and she had five.

"I was a little busy," she said in 2003.

Richards is also survived by numerous children and stepchildren, 19 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren.

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valerie.nelson@latimes.com

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