Singer and comedienne Mabel Todd (1907-1977) was born in the Los Angeles area shortly before it became America’s film capitol. She sang and danced in vaudeville as a kid, sometimes in a two act with her sister Marcia.
Vaudeville led to work in radio, where Todd was dubbed “The Little Ray of Sunshine”. She met Morey Amsterdam when the two were regulars on the show Al Pearce and His Gang. The pair married in 1933, and continued working together on The Laff and Swing Club. Todd developed her own take on a Dumb Dora character, with Amsterdam as her feeder, a very popular kind of act at the time.
In 1937 Todd began to get roles in movies, small supporting parts, but usually flashy and memorable ones as a vivacious dumb blonde. (Thelma Todd had died two years earlier, else there might might have been a certain amount of confusion). Mabel Todd earned 19 screen credits, including such movies as Varsity Show (1937), Hollywood Hotel (1937), Gold Diggers in Paris (1938), The Cowboy and the Lady (1938), Blues in the Night (1941), The Talk of the Town (1942), The Ghost and the Guest (1943, penned by Amsterdam), and Abbott and Costello’s In Society (1944). By the time of her last few films she had been busted down to the status of an uncredited extra. Her last film work was in 1946.
In 1945 Todd and Amsterdam were divorced. Todd married her second husband, one Michael Santino in Las Vegas in 1947. (This was very early in Vegas history. Bugsy Siegel had opened the Flamingo only the year before). The marriage only lasted until 1950, with Todd alleging abuse in the divorce proceedings. She retired just as Amsterdam was becoming nationally known with his own weekly TV variety show in 1952.
To learn more about vaudeville, consult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.
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