Finding Marjorie (my search for a Winnipeg Kiddie)

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After completing the blog on John Robert Fox I needed another one to fill my time. I almost didn’t pick Marjorie for two reasons. One, she had died young. This made me afraid it would be a short blog like my one on actor Sam Buffington. Two, she was from Canada. Nothing personal against Canada, especially since I was born there, but they are similar to England when it comes to records. This is especially true for the census. The latest available publicly is from 1921, compared to 1940 for the USA. At least Canada’s is better than England, their latest being 1911. Come on England, loosen up! I do like Canada and England when it comes to church records though. The U.S. church records are nowhere near as good. I decided to give it a test run and was able to complete her tree easily over a weekend. Afterwards it seemed to be a good candidate for my next blog. 

According to online sources she was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba in 1904, the first child of Robert and Nettie Guthrie, and began entering local talent shows when she was only four years old. Her popularity there increased over the next few years and by the time Canada was involved in World War One she and other children were entertaining returning wounded troops with various charitable organizations. As the war got bloodier and the amount of troops increased the need for a more permanent entertainment group grew. The troupe was formed and began performing in 1916 under the name The Winnipeg Kiddies. Here are some pictures of them:  Kiddies1   Kiddies2   Kiddies3

They were comprised of about a dozen children that were mostly stage veterans and Marjorie was consistently singled out as the backbone of the group. This was probably helped out by the fact she was later only 4 foot 11 inch tall and could pass as a younger performer for longer. Many others would stay with the group for years. One of these was Thelma Wolpa. A few years younger than Marjorie, they both later ended up forming their own Vaudeville act, pretending to be sisters named White. Thelma is better known today for her role in the 1936 movie Reefer Madness. 

In Connecticut in 1924 Marjorie married Eddie Tierney, another Vaudeville performer. Now the three of them performed together and then eventually just husband and wife. As Vaudeville started dying off, Marjorie started doing Broadway in New York. This lead to her 1929 signing with Fox Studios and the beginning of her Hollywood career. She was a hit, especially in comedies (her favorite roles). Her last film was in The Three Stooges’ first short film with Columbia Pictures in 1934, Woman Haters. She played Larry’s wife in that film. Here’s a brief clip from it of her and Larry: Clip

On 20 August 1935, Marjorie and some friends were driving in Santa Monica, California when the open-top car she was in collided with another and rolled, pinning her underneath. She died in the hospital the next day from internal injuries.

So we begin her genealogical story with her birth of course. She was born Marjorie Ann Guthrie in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada on 22 July 1904. Movie studios listed it as 1907 but it was normal for them to shave off a few years. Even her grave still shows 1907. The official birth date comes from the Manitoba Vital Statistics. Here’s a screenshot of the index. Marjorie Birth

Marjorie’s father was Robert Stewart Guthrie, who was born 29 March 1872 in Simcoe, Ontario, Canada. His parents were Thomas Guthrie and Marion Gilchrist. Marjorie’s mother was Nettie Guiletta Rowe. She was born 22 November 1880 in Fordwich, Huron, Ontario, Canada to Jesse Roe and Anna Tanner. Some of her siblings used the Roe name and some used Rowe. The two surnames interchanged at times on different documents for all of them.

I found Marjorie’s parents’ marriage in the Manitoba Marriage Index. They were married in Winnipeg on 9 July 1902 and Marjorie was born two years later. Whether her parents had any other children prior to her birth that didn’t survive is unknown but I never found any proof of it. 

The next official document was from the 1906 census, taken on 30 June of that year. It shows her and her parents living in Winnipeg and what appears to be three other people boarding with them. This is confusing though because the relationship to head of the family letter should be a “B”, not “R”. Maybe it stands for Resident or Roomer? Or is it Relative? Hopefully someone in the Great White North can answer this for me. 1906 Census

On 13 Aug 1906 Marjorie’s brother, Orville Tanner was born. This was followed on 7 Oct 1910 by her brother, Morley Rupert. The following year the 1911 census was taken. Her father had recently bought a large rooming house at 350 Pacific Avenue and in the census they appear to be doing a booming business as there are 16 lodgers. I checked online and using the Google street view discovered that it is now a parking lot or an empty field. 1911 Census

In the 1912-1914 time-frame Marjorie’s brother Stewart was born. In truth, he should be listed in the Manitoba birth index since the 100 year wait has passed but apparently they are a tad behind updating their records. On 9 May 1916, Marjorie’s only sister, Belva, was born. The following month the 1916 census was taken. I noticed early on that the censuses in Canada seem to rarely have a date on them but in this one Belva is listed as one month old, hence the June date for the census I just gave you. The family is now living at 717 Williams Avenue, which now appears to be a large parking garage. Her father is still in the milling business and Marjorie is a student so not yet a full-time entertainer. There is a widowed Irish servant living with them but as near as I can tell she doesn’t actually work for them. 1916 Census

Keep in mind that Marjorie has been performing off and on since she was four and was doing much more of it during the war years. Here are two examples from the local newspaper, The Winnipeg Tribune. The first is from 5 June 1917 and the second is from 23 June 1917. News1  News2.  She was still with the Kiddies in 1920. This is another Winnipeg Tribune story from 8 January 1920 where they are still entertaining Canada’s war veterans. News3  Here is a typical ad for a show in 1920. 1920 Ad 

The following year the 1921 Census was completed. The few things of note in this census are that they are still living at their Williams Avenue address along with many boarders, her father is still a grain merchant, and Marjorie is now listed as a performer and has earned $900. 1921 Census

In December of 1921 Marjorie headed out by herself for the USA. On Christmas Eve she entered the U.S. in St. Albans, Vermont. Page one of her immigration arrival document shows her as 17 years old and her nearest relative being her mother at the 717 Williams Avenue address from earlier. She put down her ultimate destination as San Francisco, California. Before we go to page two don’t forget to notice she is listed as number 14 on page one. You’ll need to use that number to find her on page two. When you get to that page it says she is going to visit her friend, Myrtle Wolpa, who lives in San Francisco. I assumed this was the mother of Thelma Wolpa, whom we mentioned earlier in the blog. I didn’t pursue Thelma to find out though. Page two also shows that Marjorie is planning on being in the U.S. for two months. Page1  Page2

I found numerous articles about Marjorie and Thelma throughout 1922 and their stand-out performances in New York City. One of them in particular caught my eye. There were a few inaccuracies in it but this was apparently done on purpose by Thelma’s mother, who did turn out to be that Myrtle Wolpa from earlier. She is pretending to be the mother of both of them and since the girls pretended to be sisters named White for their act, she became Mrs. White in the article. This is from the Brooklyn Daily Eagle on 2 July 1922:  1922 Interview

1923 turned out to be a very busy year for the girls. I found them through the newspapers many times. January had them in North Dakota. They were in Montana in February. By April they were in Nebraska. They were in San Francisco from October to early December and by the end of the year they were performing in Asheville, North Carolina.

For 1924 I found them everywhere from Ogden, Utah in February to Ottawa, Canada in October and back in Brooklyn, New York in November. Speaking of 1924, there was another performer with their troupe during this time named Edwin J Tierney. He and Marjorie ended up getting married on 10 Aug 1924 in Greenwich, Connecticut. I had seen this mentioned online but could never find any hard documentation of it. This is mostly due to the lack of online records from Connecticut. What we do know comes entirely from a news story about it from the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. Here’s the story about it. Marjorie’s Wedding

We need to stop here and discuss Edwin Tierney. When I first started researching this blog I could find absolutely nothing about him anywhere online. He was mentioned a few times concerning Marjorie but nothing else. There wasn’t even a single family tree out there with him in it. This is very unusual. Consequently, this made finding records on him that could be confirmed as him almost impossible. I only had a name, and there were many Ed Tierneys out there. I didn’t want to leave him as a blurb on some website as the sole representation of his life. After searching a little more I found a website that mentioned how after they got married Marjorie’s popularity increased and Ed’s involvement in the show business world decreased. He had ended up opening a dance studio in Los Angeles. This was the break I needed. Assuming it took a few years for this all to happen I started searching the Los Angeles, California area for him. Suddenly I came across a 1931 Pasadena city directory with his name and he ran a dance studio. Finally! Now I had something on the guy. 1931 Directory

Now that I knew for certain where and when they were, I searched the 1930 Census for them in the Los Angeles. Found them living in Los Angeles at 5930 Manola Way. In the census, I found out that Ed was 31, making him born about 1899. He was born in New York, as were his parents. The age at first marriage answer on the census also validated their 1924 marriage. Ed is a dance instructor for the movie business and Marjorie is an actress. They are also doing well enough financially that they now have a 36 year old Danish servant. 1930 Census.  This opened the floodgates for me and I was able to find most of his life’s genealogical history, but I’ll get back to that in a bit.

I came across a passenger manifest from 10 November 1929 where he and Marjorie were flying from Los Angeles to San Diego. It shows them as living at 1919 Argyle Avenue in Los Angeles. This address is now low-income senior housing. 1929 Flight  The last document I found for Marjorie and Ed together was a passenger manifest where they had sailed from Shanghai, China on 3 November 1934 and arrived in Los Angeles on the 24th. They are each on their own sheet. Marjorie 1934 Arrival  Ed 1934 Arrival   This manifest on Ed is what really opened it for me more than anything, even the 1930 census, because it gives his actual birth date, 5 June 1897. With this I began delving into his life story in earnest and I’ll write it here as a brief timeline of his life up to this point.

Edwin Joseph Tierney was born 5 June 1897 in Manhattan, New York. Ed’s Birth  His parents were Andrew Joseph Tierney Sr and Louisa Giles. Andrew was born 6 June 1864 in New York City and both of his parents were from Ireland. Louisa was born 5 July 1870 in New York and both of her parents were from Ireland also. Their other three surviving children were Walter John, born 1889; Florence Mary, born 1891; and Andrew Jr, born in 1894. 

Andrew Sr was a telegrapher and the family lived in Manhattan until sometime between 1905 and 1910, when they moved to the Bronx, where Louisa died on 22 April 1915. This is also where Andrew Sr died on 25 March 1924. 

On 26 June 1917, Ed enlisted with Company A, 107th Infantry, 27th Division. He was later cited for valor for bravery under fire during a battle at Vendhuile, France on 29 September 1918. Ed Enlistment   Ed’s Valor Story. He was then discharged honorably on 17 Apr 1919.

Ed returned home to the Bronx where he was living with his father during the 1920 Census. Sometime between then and his marriage to Marjorie in 1924 he got involved in show business, and dancing in particular. This brings us back to where I left off with Ed and Marjorie earlier.

Before I get to Marjorie’s death I found three news tidbits worth reading. One in particular discusses how her increased success and Ed’s career change did not destroy their marriage as it had for so many others. 1928 News  1930 News  1931 News

Maybe it was a precursor of things to come but she was injured in an automobile accident in Philadelphia in December of 1931 when her cab hit another car. She ended up with bruising and three broken ribs. 1931 Accident

On 20 August 1935 Marjorie was a passenger in a car driven by a Marlow Lovell and riding down the Roosevelt Highway in Santa Monica.  Supposedly, Lovell sideswiped a car, which resulted in the car overturning and pinning Marjorie underneath. She was believed to have minor injuries but she turned out to have internal injuries and broken ribs again. She died the following day from internal hemorrhaging.  Marjorie’s Death News

As is the norm when I do these blogs, I’ll finish off with what I know about the rest of her family’s lives. First off is her husband. 

Four months after Marjorie died, Ed was partying with some friends and ended up on the spur of the moment marrying a young widow named Evelyn Marie (Flynn) Riker in Arizona while on their way to see her sister get married. This was done after the young lady supposedly drank too much brandy and claimed soon after to not remember anything and to file for an immediate annulment. It became known as The Brandy Marriage and is actually quite entertaining. Here are three stories about it and the actual marriage record. Notice on the record that her signature sure seems awful clear for being a drunk signature.  Brandy 1  Brandy 2  Brandy 3  Marriage Record

After the annulment (which he did not contest) was granted Ed pretty much disappears. I was unable to find him in the 1940 Census or his WWII draft card. He did die in Los Angeles though, on 4 October 1959 and is buried in the Los Angeles National Cemetery.

Marjorie’s father went on to sell his mill business in the 1920s and then passed away two years after Marjorie, on 23 Sep 1937.

I didn’t cover it earlier but Marjorie’s mother, Nettie, made many trips to the United States to help her and her sister’s (Belva) show business careers. I also think that Nettie and Robert may have divorced by the 1930s because I found her living in Toronto during much that time while Robert had stayed on in Manitoba. Eventually, Nettie settled in Cleveland, Ohio and passed away there on 24 June 1947. She is buried in the Highland Park Cemetery there.

Marjorie’s brother, Orville, got married in 1927 in Ontario to Elsie Genevieve Harrison but I think they later divorced. He settled down in Ontario eventually and died there in 1986.

Her brother, Morley, married a Phyllis Mildred Lily Sweet but they divorced sometime in the late 50s or early 60s after moving to the United States. Morley became a U.S. citizen and died in Phoenix, Arizona in 1966.

As far as her brother, Stewart, he was a tougher nut to crack and I never really got a handle on him. He doesn’t appear to have ever left Canada. I never found any real record of him, marriage, immigration or anything. I found one possible death for him in the 1970s in Ontario but could not confirm it.

This leaves Marjorie’s baby sister, Belva. She had also gone on in to show business, mostly singing and piano-playing as near as I could tell. She had at least two marriages, both of which were probably divorces and then she faded out of the news. Without knowing what name she ended up with, I was not able to find anymore on her. I thought with a name like Belva it would be easier but was rather surprised at how many Belvas were out there. 

In the end, Marjorie first appears as another up-and-coming star whose flame is extinguished too early. She was obviously very talented but, realistically, at the time of her death she was making as many B movies as A. We’ll never really know how far she could have gone but from what I’ve seen so far I believe she would have ended up more famous than she is now. And to me, she was as cute as a button…..

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Thanks for stopping by! -Ray

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