Toby Wing

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Toby Wing
Toby Wing - Mr. Boggs Steps Out.jpg
Wing in Mr. Boggs Steps Out (1938)
Martha Virginia Wing

(1915-07-14)July 14, 1915
DiedMarch 22, 2001(2001-03-22) (aged 85)
Resting placeChrist Church Kingston Parish Cemetery, Mathews County, Virginia
Years active19241938
(m. 1938;died 1982)

Toby Wing (born Martha Virginia Wing; July 14, 1915 March 22, 2001), "Toby" being an old family nickname, [1] was an American actress and showgirl, once called "the most beautiful chorus girl in Hollywood".


Early years

Wing was born in Amelia Court House, Virginia, [2] [3] to Paul Wing and Martha Thraves. [4] Her father, a career reserve Army officer, was an assistant director for Paramount Pictures. [5] He was reactivated for service prior to World War II and was captured by the Japanese and survived the Bataan Death March.

Toby and sister Pat Pat & Toby Wing Argentinean Magazine AD.jpg
Toby and sister Pat

Her sister Gertrude (known as Pat Wing) also worked as an actress (often in the chorus). She also had a younger brother. [6] Her great-uncle was English playwright Sir Arthur Wing Pinero. [7]


Wing began working on-screen at age 9, having a few bit parts in silent movies through her father's job. [8] In 1931, she became one of the first Goldwyn Girls, and she started her film career in Palmy Days (1932). [3] In 1932, she was seen in Mack Sennett-produced comedies made by Paramount, one starring Bing Crosby. Wing made an impression with producers and moviegoers, but she seldom broke through to leading roles.

Many of her roles were small and barely clothed, before the introduction of the 1934 Production Code; she became widely recognized as a sex symbol; once being described as the most beautiful chorus girl in all of Hollywood. [9] Since her contracted studio[ specify ] was mired in bankruptcy during much of her career, her work was done on loan, primarily at Warner Bros., and later after her release, on low-budget efforts on a per-film basis. Wing enjoyed a far more successful sideline doing product endorsements and was featured in innumerable fan magazines from 1933–1938.

Wing played a few leading roles in B features and short subjects. [10] In 1936 and 1937, she worked opposite singer-songwriter Pinky Tomlin in two of his low-budget musical features, With Love and Kisses and Sing While You're Able .

Her last leading role was in The Marines Come Thru. Although filmed in Florida in 1938, it did not see general release until 1943 as Fight On, Marines! Wing completed her acting career on Broadway in the unsuccessful 1938 Cole Porter musical You Never Know , which starred Lupe Vélez, Clifton Webb, Libby Holman, and J. Harold Murray. [11]

On February 8, 1960, Wing was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame located at 6561 Hollywood Boulevard. [12]

Personal life

She was well known off-screen for her romances, and was linked to Jackie Coogan (to whom she was engaged during much of 1935), [13] Maurice Chevalier, Alfred Vanderbilt, Franklin Roosevelt Jr. and others. [1] Wing and Pinky Tomlin were engaged briefly during late 1937, with the romance ending before their planned wedding, and they remained close until Tomlin's death.[ citation needed ]

She married the pilot Henry "Dick" Merrill via elopement to Tijuana when she was 22, he being more than 20 years her senior, on October 19, 1938 in Fredericksburg, Virginia. [14] [15] She retired from movies after marrying.

The couple had two sons; both predeceased their parents. Their first son died of what was then termed "crib death" and their second son Ricky, was murdered in their Miami home in September 1982, at age 42. His murder occurred while he was out on bail pending an appeal for a New Orleans marijuana-smuggling conviction. As of 2016 the case remained unsolved. [16]

The couple retired to DiLido, Florida, where Merrill was assigned Eastern Airlines' New York-Miami route for the remainder of his career. Wing became successful in real estate in California and Florida. They later settled in Virginia, where Merrill managed the Shannon Air Museum in Fredericksburg until his death in 1982. [17] She is interred in Christ Church Kingston Parish Cemetery in Mathews County, Virginia. [18] The couple was survived by two granddaughters. [1]



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  1. 1 2 3 Martin, Douglas (March 27, 2001). "Toby Wing, 85, Pinup Star of the 1930s, Dies" . The New York Times . Retrieved February 24, 2019.
  2. Virginia, Birth Records, 1912-2014
  3. 1 2 Lentz, Harris M. (2002). Obituaries in the Performing Arts, 2001: Film, Television, Radio, Theatre, Dance, Music, Cartoons and Pop Culture. McFarland, Incorporated Publishers. p. 317. ISBN   978-0-7864-1278-5 . Retrieved February 15, 2020.
  4. Virginia, Marriage Records, 1936-2014
  5. Harty, John P. Jr. (2016). The Cinematic Challenge: Filming Colonial America: Volume 1: The Golden Age, 1930-1950. Hillcrest Publishing Group. ISBN   978-1-63505-146-9.
  6. 1930 United States Federal Census
  7. Keavy, Hubbard (June 25, 1933). "Toby Wasn't Pretty". Sunday News. Pennsylvania, Lancaster. p. 5. Retrieved February 15, 2020 via
  8. Oliver, Myrna (March 29, 2001). "Toby Wing; MGM Dancer Appeared in 38 Films". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on April 14, 2022. Retrieved April 15, 2022.
  9. "Glorifying the American Girl: Adapting an Icon", Cynthia J. Miller; "The Adaptation of History: Essays on Ways of Telling the Past" edited by Laurence Raw, Defne Ersin Tutan; McFarland, 2012; page 33
  10. Hischak, Thomas S. (2008). The Oxford Companion to the American Musical. Oxford University Press. ISBN   978-0-19-533533-0.
  11. Dietz, Dan (March 29, 2018). The Complete Book of 1930s Broadway Musicals. Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN   978-1-5381-0277-0.
  12. "Toby Wing". Hollywood Walk of Fame. October 25, 2019. Archived from the original on January 24, 2021. Retrieved March 10, 2022.
  13. Cary, Diana Serra (September 1, 2004). Jackie Coogan: The World's Boy King: A Biography of Hollywood's Legendary Child Star. Scarecrow Press. ISBN   978-0-585-46687-3.
  14. Virginia, Marriage Records, 1943-2014
  15. White, Maury (January 20, 1985). "Surprise! Toby Wing is poster size". The Des Moines Register. Iowa, Des Moines. p. 33. Retrieved February 15, 2020 via
  16. Cooke, Bill (April 20, 2016). "Four Miami Detectives Recall the Unsolved Murders That Haunt Them". Miami New Times . Archived from the original on April 20, 2016. Retrieved February 24, 2019.
  17. "Hall of Fame Member Spotlight: Harry T. "Dick" Merrill – Virginia Aeronautical Historical Society (VAHS)".
  18. Wilson, Scott. Resting Places: The Burial Sites of More Than 14,000 Famous Persons, 3d ed.: 2 (Kindle Locations 25047-25048). McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers. Kindle Edition.