Margaret Nearing: From the High Wire to Hawaii

We post about Margaret Nearing (Margaret Yvonne Allen, 1913-83) today less because of her minor movie career than her time in show business that preceded it. Already singing professionally by age 4, Margaret became best known in the variety world for the act she performed with her sister Rose, two years her senior, in which the pair sang and danced on a tightrope. Billed initially as the Davies Sisters, and then as the Nearing Sisters, starting at age 7 and 9, they were said to be “the youngest and only song and dance high wire act in the world”, playing circuses, rodeos, vaudeville, theaters, and fairs throughout the U.S. For a time, they had their own show on San Francisco radio station KFWI.

A turning point for the team came when they were booked to play the E.K. Fernandez Circus in Hawaii in the late ’20s. Though Rose was still a teenager, Fernandez was smitten with her and made her his wife. The circus life was to be hers for the next several decades.

Now working as a single, Margaret continued to sing on the radio, and attempted to break into the movies. She appeared in a dozen pictures over a four year period, usually as an uncredited extra or in a chorus part. As such, you can see her in Meet the Baron (1933), Flying Down to Rio (1933), and March of the Wooden Soldiers (1934). She also got a couple of proper leading roles. With Arthur Jarrett and Neely Edwards she starred in the Columbia musical short Roamin’ Thru the Roses (1933). And she co-starred with Tom Tyler in the B movie western Fast Bullets (1936). Then she, too, heard the call of the islands, and married Hawaii mucky-muck Kenneth Olds, a former hula dancer and descendant of Hawaii’s royal family who became a real estate dealer and state legislator. In her later years, Nearing ran her own community theatre.

To learn more about vaudeville, please see No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, and for more on classic comedy film please read Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube.