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Foby Wing

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Foby Wing Biography and Filmography
Foby Wing
Birthday: July 14, 1915
Birth Place: Amelia Court House, Virginia, USA
Height: 5' 4"
Below is a complete filmography (list of movies he's appeared in)
for Foby Wing.
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It's pretty unusual for a mostly unbilled chorus girl to rate a star on Hollywood Boulevard, but Toby Wing was unique. A genuine granddaughter of the Confederacy (on her mother's side at least; her father's family was pure Maine Yankee), she was born Martha Virginia Wing in Amelia Court House, Virginia in 1915 and taking the stage name Toby after a family nickname (for a horse!), Toby moved to Hollywood in the 1920s with her father Paul Wing, who served as an assistant director and Paramount Studios mid-level manager in the 1920s and 1930s. She found bit parts in some of the pictures for which her father worked and eventually landed a rather historic place in Hollywood history as one of the original Goldwyn Girls, getting billing as the girl "with a face like the morning sun." Her remarkable beauty was not just in the movies; off camera, she lured to her door many a celebrated suitor (Maurice Chevalier, Alfred Vanderbilt, Franklin Roosevelt Jr., Jackie Coogan and wealthy Toronto playboy Erskine Eaton --to name a few). In 1936, upon mourning the untimely death of one of her suitors (army pilot John T. Helms) Miss Wing swore off men -- falling in love with them, that is. She announced "I have really given up falling in love with men! Oh, yes! My career is now to be my life." She epitomized the platinum blond of the Jean Harlow ilk that graced our theaters in the 1930s, albeit with a decidedly southern drawl. Although she appeared in a small number of silent films as a child (notably as 12-year old Nan in The Pony Express (1925)), she began her career in earnest at Paramount age 16 - she was reportedly discovered by producer Mack Sennett walking with her sister Pat in Santa Monica (story seems doubtful since her father was already a mid-level Paramount exec) - in a Bing Crosby short and appearing on loan in Samuel Goldwyn's Palmy Days (1931) with Eddie Cantor and George Raft. It was one of Busby Berkeley's early signature works -- noted for the extravaganza and the overhead camera angles. She was seen to her best benefit on loan to Warner Bros. for their 1933 production of 42nd Street (1933) prominently featured in the unbilled part as the so-called 'Young and Healthy' Girl (the 17-year old knockout wearing a fox bra being warbled to by 'Dick Powell' with dances choreographed by Berkeley). Anyone watching the hit film would have assumed she was headed for bigger and better things in Hollywood but it was not meant to be. Toby's career would never show any logical ascent toward stardom. She would be cast in a prominent billed part, only to revert back to being unbilled eye candy, some appearances lasting mere seconds (such as those as the party guest in Torch Singer (1933) and Baby Face (1933) where she simply glares at Barbara Stanwyck), and a feature appearance would be followed by a short. Initially signed to Paramount, she spent much of her career on loan. The 1934 Production Code kicked effectively prevented anything approaching her barely clothed appearances in Come on Marines (1934) and Search for Beauty (1934) from being repeated. In 1935 she made a tantalizingly brief-- yet silent-- appearance in Fiesta de Santa Barbara, La (1935), an MGM short promoting Technicolor, more notable today for containing the Gumm Sisters' rendition of "La Cucaracha" (sung by 15-year old Judy Garland). Toby would occasionally score meatier roles in poverty row efforts, receiving star billing in the Canadian production of Thoroughbred (1935), financed by a suitor) and later in struggling Grand National's Mr. Boggs Steps Out (1938), a low budget Stu Erwin vehicle. But in the end her Hollywood career was a frustrating mix of intense publicity with little substance - or summed up, she had a vastly better press agent than a talent agent. On the publicity side, from mid-1933-early 1938 Toby appeared in a dizzying array of movie magazines, scored numerous endorsement contracts and was easily one of the most photographed starlets in Hollywood. Her personal life also fueled the gossip fires by being pursued by many prominent men - there are dozens of press photos documenting her at nightclubs surrounded by admiring men well before she was 21 - and announcing numerous engagements (notably to Jackie Coogan during the period he discovered his parents squandered his childhood acting fortune resulting in the so-called "Coogan Law"). After appearing in thirty-eight films over five years she ended her movie career where she pretty much began... in an uncredited bit role in the MGM Nelson Eddy-Jeannette MacDonald musical Sweethearts (1938) as a telephone operator. Remarkably, despite a film resume overloaded with 5-second walk-ons and idiotic sexy squeals in her underwear (she was actually quite intelligent), her stunning beauty guaranteed her lasting appeal. After a typically brief engagement to singer and one-time co-star Pinky Tomlin, she met the man who would be the love of her life, world-record setting Eastern Airlines pilot Dick Merrill, who was over 20 years her senior. They married in June, 1938 and would go on to share a remarkable 44-year marriage. While her Hollywood career ended up pretty much where it began, her last professional role was on Broadway, co-starring in the troubled Cole Porter musical, "You Never Know" starring Clifton Webb, Libby Holman and Lupe Velez. It flopped after 73 performances and she happily retired to their home on Di Lido Island to life as a Miami housewife, where her husband flew the Miami-NYC EAL route. Her beauty and the vast number of cheesecake photos she took in the 1930's had her competing in good stead with the likes of Rita Hayworth and Betty Grable as a soldier's favorite pinup girl during WWII; she even received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in the 1980's (and was briefly interviewed in TCM's "Busby Berkeley: Through The Roof" with her lesser-known chorus girl sister 'Pat Wing Gill' ). During her heyday, she reputedly received more fan mail than Claudette Colbert and Marlene Dietrich. She suffered through the loss of her first child in 1940 and like thousands of wives, a long separation from her husband while he flew "The Hump" for the MTD in the War. Toby had a second child, Ricky, in 1941 and involved herself in civic affairs, church and successfully dabbled in real estate in Florida and California. She performed in 2 stage productions in the 1940's; "Father of the Bride" with Pat O'Brien at the Coconut Grove Playhouse, and a benefit production of "The Women" and occasionally made the national press when photographed with her famous husband, who was General Eisenhower's pilot during his 1952 presidential campaign. Sadly the couple also outlived their youngest child, who was involved in drug smuggling and murdered in their Miami home while they were living in Virginia in 1982. Dick died soon after and she spent the remainder of her life actively promoting her husband's rightful legacy as an aviation pioneer... and telling everyone how proud she was of her granddaughters. She died peacefully at her home in Mathews, Virginia in March, 2001.
Sweethearts (1938)
The Marines Come Thru (1938)
Mr. Boggs Steps Out (1938)
True Confession (1937)
[ Carole Lombard ][ Hattie McDaniel ]
The Women Men Marry (1937)
Sing While You're Able (1937)
Silks and Saddles (1936)
With Love and Kisses (1936)
Mister Cinderella (1936)
Rhythmitis (1936)
Hill-Tillies (1936)
Forced Landing (1935)
Two for Tonight (1935)
Thoroughbred (1935)
Kiss and Make Up (1934)
Murder at the Vanities (1934)
[ Lucille Ball ]
Come on Marines (1934)
School for Girls (1934)
Search for Beauty (1934)
One Hour Late (1934)
[ Marie Gelen ]
Torch Singer (1933)
[ Claudette Colbert ]
This Day and Age (1933)
She Had to Say Yes (1933)
[ Loretta Young ]
College Humor (1933)
Baby Face (1933)
[ Barbara Stanwyck ]
Private Detective 62 (1933)
Central Airport (1933)
The Little Giant (1933)
42nd Street (1933)
[ Ginger Rodgers ]
The King's Vacation (1933)
Blue of the Night (1933)
The Kid from Spain (1932)
[ Jane Wyman ][ Paulette Goddard ][ Betty Grable ]
Ma's Pride and Joy (1932)
Alaska Love (1932)
The Candid Camera (1932)
The Loud Mouth (1932)
Jimmy's New Yacht (1932)
Palmy Days (1931)
[ Betty Grable ]
Double Daring (1926)
American Pluck (1925)
The Pony Express (1925)
Circe, the Enchantress (1924)
A Woman Who Sinned (1924)
A Boy of Flanders (1924)
  • Her husband, Henry 'Dick' Merrill, was the first Aviator to fly the Transatlantic route round-trip. Their first son died in his crib in 1940. Their second son, Richard, was murdered in 1982.
  • Daughter of Paul Wing
  • Married Dick Merrill twice in 1938 - first wedding in Tijuana, Mexico upset her mother. A second wedding was performed at the home of Sidney Shannon (an early backer of Eastern Airlines and close personal friend of both Dick and Eddie Rickenbacker) in June, 1938 in Fredericksburg, VA. This second ceremony went unnoticed until another friend of Dick's, Walter Winchell broadcast the news. Although Toby appeared in two local stage productions (one with Pat O'Brien at the Coconut Grove Playhouse) she essentially retired from acting to a life as a Miami Beach housewife (where her husband was based on his Miami to NYC EAL flight route) on Di Lido Island in late 1938. At the time of her marriage Toby was 22 and Dick was 43 and they'd known each other for six months. Despite nearly everyone's predictions, they remained together happily for the rest of their lives.
  • Biographers often claim Toby's "Marines Come Through" as a 1943 production. This picture was actually produced in 1937 and was re-released by Astor Pictures in 1943 as "Fight on Marines!" to capitalize on the patriotic fervor of WW2. Toby's film career ended with her marriage to pioneer aviator Dick Merrill in 1938. She retired to Di Lido Island and became a Miami Beach housewife, traveling, dabbling in real estate investing and supporting her husband's significant contributions to aviation history. A remarkable couple, Toby and Dick (who retired from Eastern Airlines in 1961) sadly outlived both their children; their youngest son Ricky was murdered (unsolved) in Miami in August, 1982 shortly before Dick's death. She was survived by two granddaughters.
  • One of the most engaged starlets in Hollywood. She was engaged to Jackie Coogan for most of 1935 (during the time he discovered his parents had spent his childhood fortune, hit the bottle and they broke up). She claimed to be engaged to pilot John Helm at the time of his death and then was briefly engaged to actor/singer/composer (and one-time co-star) Pinky Tomlin in November, 1936. Despite all the engagements, she married only once - to world-famous pilot Dick Merrill, whom she met in 1938. After their wedding she appeared on Broadway in the Cole Porter flop, 'You Never Know' and retired.
  • Her 41-year old son Ricky was murdered in their Miami home on August 12th or 13th 1982. At the time of his death, Ricky was separated from his wife Hella and out on bond awaiting sentencing after being convicted in federal court of smuggling 1,525 lbs of Columbian marijuana in New Orleans. A co-defendant, Gary "Butch" Merritt survived an attempt on his life after his van was blown up the previous June near Deland, Florida. Ricky's new Jeep Scrambler truck was found at the Miami International Airport on Aug. 16th. The Merrills were living in Virginia at the time and the nature of Ricky's death could not be withheld from her husband, Dick. Sadly, he died shortly thereafter. Ricky's murder is still unsolved.
  • Named Martha after her maternal grandmother, Toby was born at 'Right Oaks,' a plantation of her maternal grandfather, John T. Thraves (a veteran of the 44th VA Company H, Amelia Minutemen, CSA), on the banks of the Appomatox River, near Richmond, Virginia.
  • In biographies of her husband, Toby is mentioned to have appeared in "Our Gang" comedies as a child. Detailed series cast records show no record of her ever appearing in the series and based on her father's position at Paramount (and where former Roach star Harold Lloyd was under contract) it would be extremely unlikely that Hal Roach would have hired her.

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