Here are 10 things you should know about Ruby Keeler, born 109 years ago today. She was one of the biggest stars of early movie musicals.
Jack Carson, one of the busiest character actors of his day, was born John Elmer Carson 107 years ago today.
Here are 10 things you should know about Jack Carson…
The wonderful Joan Blondell was born into a vaudeville family on August 30, 1906, in New York City. Happy birthday, Ms. Blondell, wherever you may be!
Here are 10 things you should know about Joan Blondell…
The wonderful Joan Blondell was born into a vaudeville family 110 years ago today in New York City. A performer from early childhood, she provided a spark to just about any picture or program she appeared in. Here are 10 JB Did-You-Knows:
- Blondell toured with her family’s act, the Bouncing Blondells, until she was 17, at which point the family settled in Dallas, Texas.
- In Dallas, Blondell became a beauty contest contestant under the name Rosebud Blondell. She won the 1926 Miss Dallas pageant, was a finalist in an early version of the Miss Universe pageant in May of that year, and came in fourth in that year’s Miss America pageant in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
- Blondell relocated to NYC around 1927 to join a stock theatrical company, and in 1930, she appeared on Broadway opposite James Cagney in a play called Penny Arcade (Cagney would soon make his film debut in the film version of the play, Sinners’ Holiday; Blondell was in that picture, too, but she already had a small handful of films to her credit at that point). Both Cagney and Blondell repeated their Broadway roles in the film version at the insistence of Al Jolson, who’d seen the play on Broadway and purchased the film rights, though the play had closed after just three weeks.
- Blondell and Cagney made six pictures together at Warner Brothers—more than any other actress.
- Blondell was a WAMPAS Baby Star in 1930.
- Blondell was married three times—to cinematographer George Barnes for just under three years, to actor and crooner Dick Powell for just under eight years and to theatrical impresario Michael Todd for just under three years. She had a son with Barnes and a daughter with Powell.
- When she signed with Warner Brothers, Jack Warner urged her to change her name—he thought Inez Holmes had a nice ring to it—but Blondell refused.
- In 1972, Blondell published a novel, Center Door Fancy, that was said to be something of a roman à clef, with characters based on former husband Dick Powell and his third wife, June Allyson, with whom he had an affair while married to Blondell.
- Blondell was nominated once for an Oscar, in the Best Supporting Actress category for her work in The Blue Veil (1951).
- In a career that lasted a half-century (if you count vaudeville, her career lasted 75 years), Blondell totaled more than 150 combined credits in pictures and on television. She worked until the very end, with her two final films released after her death of leukemia in 1979.
Happy birthday, Joan Blondell, wherever you may be!
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!