Vera Van

The October 3 1933 edition of the Toronto Daily Star contained this promotional photograph:


Vera Van (1908-2006) does not have a Wikipedia page, but she does have an Internet Movie Database entry. Her career appears to have peaked in about 1934 to 1936. She lived a very long life, passing away just a few months short of her 97th birthday.


Kitty Kelly and Kosher Kitty

The February 18 1927 edition of the Toronto Daily Star featured a photo of actress Kitty Kelly:


Kitty Kelly (1902-1968), born Sue O’Neil, was a regular Broadway performer until 1930, and then went into movies, appearing in approximately 39 of them between 1930 and the end of the Second World War. She performed in movies and TV series right up to her death from cancer in 1968, appearing in Get Smart, Perry Mason, Batman, and The F.B.I. in the 1960s.

The same edition had an ad for the film version of the musical Kosher Kitty Kelly, which is apparently unrelated:


Kosher Kitty Kelly, the movie, was produced by Joseph P. Kennedy, the father of future U.S. president John F. Kennedy. It is preserved in the Library of Congress, but is missing one reel. Kitty Kelly appears never to have been involved with it.


Loretta Poynton

The April 18 1934 edition of the Toronto Daily Star contained this photo of 20-year-old radio actress Loretta Poynton:


Ms. Poynton went on to star in several radio series in the 1930s, including Dan Harding’s Wife. She apparently retired from radio in the 1940s, and she passed away in 1992.


This, sir, is a broadcast!

The August 11 1934 edition of the Toronto Daily Star contained an ad for a radio broadcast in support of the Daily Star’s Fresh Air Fund.


I did quick Google searches on the cast list, to see if any names turned up.


  • I found a Will J. White who was an actor, but he was born in 1925. I found no reference to a comedian of that name.
  • Albert “Red” Newman was a member of the Dumbells, a group of Canadian soldiers who entertained front-line troops in 1917 and 1918, and went on to success in vaudeville until 1932.

Girl Entertainers:

  • Ida Culley, whose stage name was Claudette Culley, was a pianist who accompanied famous performers such as George Formby and Kate Smith. She formed a team with her husband, Harry Culley (listed under Male Artists).
  • Muriel Donnellan was a harp player who migrated to Hollywood in 1941 and went on to play in studio orchestras in films.

Male Artists:

  • Billy Bissett and Alice Mann (listed under Girl Entertainers) turn up in a YouTube video here, from 1937. (A comment in this YouTube link mentions that they lived in California in the 1970s and 1980s, and were apparently quite wonderful people.) The music would probably be classified as smooth jazz today.
  • Rex Battle was a pianist and composer who played at the Mount Royal Hotel in Montreal from 1922 to 1929, and conducted the Royal York Hotel Concert Orchestra in Toronto from 1929 to 1938.
  • There is a Stanley Maxted who was a Canadian journalist and actor. His Wikipedia page mentions that he started out at the CBC, so that’s where he probably was in 1934.
  • Wishart Campbell was a baritone, songwriter, and pianist, known as “The Golden Voice of the Air”. He became the music director for CFRB from 1945-1960, and then “retired to private business” in the Hebrides.
  • Luigi Romanelli was a conductor and violinist who performed in 1922 in the first concert broadcast on the radio in Toronto.
  • Al Plunkett was another of the Dumbells.
  • An obituary for Harry Culley appeared in the Globe and Mail in 2009. Not sure if this is the same person, as the article mentioned that he started working in a band in 1937.
  • Gordon Sinclair was easily the most famous person in this list – he was a journalist and writer who later became famous as a panelist on Front Page Challenge.


  • Clint Buelhman was a broadcaster on Buffalo, N.Y., morning radio for nearly 50 years.
  • Here’s a picture of Roy Locksley’s Orchestra in the 1920s.
  • R. E. Knowles appears to have been a writer. Two books by someone of that name are listed here, and there is an article by him in the July 15 1935 edition of Maclean’s. I’m not sure if either of these are the same R.E. as the one in this ad; the Macleans article lists the author as R. E. Knowles, Jr., so the books are probably by Senior, and the article is by Junior. Or maybe not.
  • Denton Massey was a descendant of Hart Massey, who founded the Canadian agricultural manufacturing company. He broadcast religious programs on Toronto radio stations both before and after the Second World War, was a Conservative MP from 1935 to 1949, and later became a priest. A picture of him appears here; this caption also mentions Roy Locksley and Kathryn Young (in the Girl Entertainers list).



Sonny Boy’s Bear Story

The November 15 1929 edition of the Toronto Daily Star contained this ad for a children’s record:


Davey Lee (1924-2008) was a child actor who appeared as Sonny Boy in The Singing Fool (1928), Al Jolson’s followup to The Jazz Singer. This movie was a huge hit, becoming the most financially successful film in movie history until Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs passed it in 1937. Jolson’s recording of “Sonny Boy” became the first million-selling record in the United States.

Young Davey – who was three when the movie came out and not quite five when this ad was printed – appeared in some other films, but was pulled out of the movie business in 1930 so that he could have a normal childhood.

As for “Sonny Boy’s Bear Story”, you can find it on YouTube. It’s six and a half minutes in total: the first four minutes is Davey Lee reciting a story about a bear, and the rest is him singing about a bear. Whether you want to listen to it or not depends on whether you want to hear a four-year-old tell a story and then sing – he’s really far too young to be judged by any kind of standards.


Seriously ill

The February 11 1932 edition of the Toronto Globe contained this unfortunate piece of bad news about “famous British playwright” John Drinkwater.


Happily, John Drinkwater survived this bout with pneumonia; unhappily, he passed away five years later, at the too-early age of 54.

Drinkwater’s claim to fame was a play about Abraham Lincoln, written in 1918. This seems an unusual choice of subject for a British playwright, but you can’t argue with success: it ran for 193 performances on Broadway, was turned into a feature film, and was presented on television as recently as 1952.


Entertainment in 1956

The November 5 1956 edition of the Toronto Daily Star contained these two ads for people looking for entertainment options for the evening:



A Google search for Ruthie Price was a bit confusing, as there is a young drummer with that name. But this ad might refer to Ruth Price, an American jazz singer, artistic director, and adjunct assistant professor of ethnomusicology. She is still alive; she will turn 81 this year.

Ralph Sharon (1923-2015) became a naturalized American citizen, and went on to collaborate with Tony Bennett for more than 50 years, touring with him and working on his albums.

Moxie Whitney (1919-1989) was a Canadian musician who led bands in Ottawa, Toronto, Lake Louise, Banff, and various Canadian places between 1946 and 1982, briefly moving away to lead a band in Honolulu and the Bahamas.

I could find nothing on Jean Ramsay and Roy Roberts; either their fame didn’t reach beyond Toronto, or their names weren’t unusual enough for Google to pick them out from their namesakes.


Music in 1946

The October 23 1946 edition of the Toronto Daily Star contained ads for three upcoming appearances by famous musicians.

The first was for violinist Yehudi Menuhin, playing at Massey Hall the next Monday:


Yehudi Menuhin (1916-1999) started his career early – he was a solo violinist with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra when he was seven. He had a recording contract with EMI for seventy years, recording for them in 1929 and 1999.

Next up is another violinist, just billed as Kreisler, scheduled to play at Maple Leaf Gardens in the following month:


Fritz Kreisler (1875-1962) was born in Vienna, and became an American citizen late in life. His first performance in the U.S. was in 1888. Elgar’s Violin Concerto was composed for him.

Finally, there was a pianist, Claudio Arrau, who was to play at Massey Hall that night:


Claudio Arrau (1903-1991) was from Chile, and was a child prodigy – he was reading Beethoven sonatas when he was four. He developed a repertoire large enough to be able to perform at 76 different recital evenings.


Daily Star radio

From 1922 to 1933, the Toronto Daily Star operated its own radio station, CFCA. Here’s a blurb from the October 15 1931 edition of the paper that advertised two upcoming musical soloists:


CFCA stopped broadcasting in response to legislation creating a national public broadcaster (the Canadian Radio Broadcasting Commission, which eventually became the CBC). The Star did not want to compete with a public broadcaster, and did not want to sink money into technological improvements during the middle of the Great Depression.

Google searches for Marie Baker and Elsie Thorpe-Brown turned up nothing – they appear to be lost to history.


New Year’s Eve 1944

The December 12 1944 edition of the Toronto Daily Star contained this ad for a New Year’s Eve event:


Mart Kenney (1910-2006) was the leader of Mart Kenney and His Western Gentlemen, who were a popular dance band in the 1930s and 1940s. YouTube has, among others, a 1939 recording of this band performing “A Shady Tree” and a 1941 version of “Waltzing Matilda”.

Trump Davidson (1908-1978) was a Canadian jazz band leader. At the time of this ad, he was leading a band at the Palace Pier, which he did until 1962.