Here are 10 things you should know about Toby Wing, born 105 years ago today. She was never a star, but she’s remembered fondly by old-movie buffs for her many memorable small parts and cameos.
Actress Toby Wing was born Martha Virginia Wing in Amelia Court House, Virginia, 101 years ago today. She was never a star, but she’s remembered fondly by old-movie buffs for her many memorable small parts and cameos. Here are 10 TW Did-You-Knows:
- She took her screen name Toby after the nickname her father had given a horse.
- After serving in World War I, Wing’s father moved to Hollywood to serve an assistant director and mid-level executive at Paramount Studios. He also served in World War II and was for a time was a prisoner of the Japanese in the Philippines; he survived the infamous Bataan Death March.
- Her sister Madison was also a film actress, under the name Pat Wing. Madison appeared in 32 pictures between 1923 and 1937, though she generally went uncredited.
- As a child, Wing took a few small parts in silent pictures before refocusing on her studies at her parents’ insistence.
- She was romantically paired with an impressive roster of prominent men—Maurice Chevalier, Alfred Vanderbilt, Franklin Roosevelt Jr., Jackie Coogan (Wing and Coogan were engaged for a time) and Pinky Tomlin among them.
- Wing’s best-remembered role was in the 1933 Warner Brothers musical 42nd Street, where she was the “Young and Healthy” girl opposite crooner Dick Powell.
- Wing’s career alternated between sizable roles and cameos (with the latter being prevalent). Mostly, she served (and ably so) as eye candy, though she occasionally scored more prominent roles when she appeared in Poverty Row pictures.
- After being engaged—but not wed—to a long string of men, Wing married prominent aviator Dick Merrill, who was 22 years her senior. Many were skeptical of the union, but the pair enjoyed wedded bliss until Merrill’s death in 1982.
- Wing appeared on Broadway in Cole Porter‘s You Never Know, a troubled production that lasted just 73 performances; Wing appeared in the production alongside Clifton Webb, Libby Holman and Lupe Velez.
- Wing and Merrill settled in Miami Beach, Florida, where she dabbled in real estate and taught Sunday School at All Souls’ Episcopal Church into her 80s.
Happy birthday, Toby Wing, wherever you may be!
As a small Easter egg for the Cladrite Radio community, we thought we’d offer the following:
Did you know that the lovely Irving Berlin standard “Easter Parade” is a reworking of an earlier Berlin tune? It’s true. In 1917, Berlin wrote a song called “Smile and Show Your Dimple.” It was recorded by Sam Ash, recording artist and Broadway star (he also played dozens of bit parts in pictures), but that recording didn’t catch on with the public, so in 1933, when creating the score for the Broadway musical revue “As Thousands Cheer,” Berlin revisited the song, composing new lyrics and tweaking the melody a bit to create the song that is still so well known today.
So we’re sharing a 1933 recording below of Webb singing the song backed by the Leo Reisman Orchestra, along with a 1942 Harry James rendition, a 1939 recording by the Guy Lombardo and His Royal Canadians, Bing Crosby singing the song backed by the Victor Young Orchestra in 1948, a Gene Austin recording from 1933, and Sam Ash‘s 1918 recording of the song that fostered “Easter Parade,” “Smile and Show Your Dimple.”
In Chapter 9 of In Your Hat, the 1933 tell-all memoir by Hat Check Girl to the Stars Renee Carroll, she offers recollections of more celebrities than we could possibly list here. Many of the names are still familiar; others all but forgotten. A few we couldn’t even track down via the internet, and heaven knows we tried.
EVEN Fred Keating, the magician, once forgot where he put his hat check!
But hat check girls, even red-haired ones, have memories, so sometimes when business at my window is slack, I sit and think of the million and one things that have happened between the celebrity-laden walls of Sardi’s. Incidents, names, personalities galore, and sometimes just a casual word will start my train of thought along almost forgotten tracks. Would you like to lift the lid of the Carroll cranium and see what’s going on inside?
Here comes George Jean Nathan, world’s best critic by his own admission. I’ll never forget the day I bawled him out because he insisted on having his hat set apart from the others—and how embarrassed he was. I never suspected anyone could embarrass him . . . telling Warner Baxter that he was my favorite movie star, only to be overheard by Richard Dix to whom I had dished out the same line only two days before . . . the day Helen Menken, reddest of the red-heads, gave us a big surprise by changing to the color gentlemen are supposed to prefer . . . Incidentally, she never takes her gloves off when she eats!
And here is Robert Garland, who pilots (or piles-it) the dramatic column in the World-Telly, and is a regular customer as a certain blind spot in the roaring Fifties (they’re roaring further uptown now). He’d been a regular patient at the drink infirmary for more than a year when one night he showed at the barred door and knocked the magic knock. A weary, unshaved faced appeared in the aperture.
“Hello, Tony, I wanna come in.”
“Who are you?” the face inquired.
Infuriated because he had spent his good shekels for so many nights and still remained a dim bulb in the big sign, he shouted back the first thing that came to his mind—a catchline from a New Yorker cartoon.
“You must remember me,” yelled Garland, “I’m the guy who punched my wife in the nose here last night.”
And he was ushered in with any more undue ceremony!
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