Ruth Etting (November 23, 1896 – September 24, 1978) was an American singer and actress of the 1920s and 1930s, who had over 60 hit recordings and worked in stage, radio, and film. Known as "America’s sweetheart of song", her signature tunes were "Shine On, Harvest Moon", "Ten Cents a Dance" and "Love Me or Leave Me".
As a young girl in Nebraska, Etting had wanted to become an artist; she drew and sketched all the time. At sixteen, her grandparents decided to send her to art school in Chicago. While Etting attended class, she found a job at the Marigold Gardens nightclub; after a short time there, Etting gave up art classes in favor of a career in show business. Etting, who enjoyed singing in school and church, never took voice lessons. She quickly became a featured vocalist at the club. Etting was then managed by Moe Snyder, whom she married in 1922. Snyder made arrangements for Etting’s recording and film contracts as well as her personal and radio appearances. She became nationally known when she appeared in Flo Ziegfeld’s Follies of 1927.
Etting intended to retire from performing in 1935, but this did not happen until after her divorce from Snyder in 1937. Harry Myrl Alderman, Etting’s pianist, was separated from his wife when he and Etting began a relationship. Snyder did not like seeing his former wife in the company of other men and began making telephone threats to Etting in January 1938. By October, Snyder traveled to Los Angeles and detained Alderman after he left a local radio station; he forced the pianist to take him to the home of his ex-wife at gunpoint. Saying he intended to kill Etting, Alderman, and his own daughter, Edith, who worked for Etting, Snyder shot Alderman. Three days after Alderman was shot, his wife filed suit against Etting for alienation of affections.
While Alderman and Etting claimed to have been married in Mexico in July 1938, Alderman’s divorce would not be final until December of that year. The couple married during Moe Snyder’s trial for attempted murder in December 1938. Etting and Alderman relocated to a farm outside of Colorado Springs, Colorado, where they were out of the spotlight for most of their lives. Her fictionalized story was told in the musical film Love Me Or Leave Me (1955) with Doris Day as Ruth Etting and James Cagney as Snyder.