Classic Movie Travels: Mabel Todd

Mabel Todd

Mabel Todd
Mabel Todd

Mabel Todd was born on August 13, 1907, in Los Angeles, California, to Richard and Helen Todd, and grew up in Glendale, California. Her father worked as a salesman.

At an early age, Mabel and her sister, Marcia, performed as a singing duo in vaudeville. Mabel later sang on the radio regularly and was dubbed “The Little Ray of Sunshine.”

In 1933, she and comedian Morey Amsterdam married and worked together on The Laff and Swing Club radio show.

Todd made her film debut in Varsity Show (1933) and signed a contract with Warner Brothers. She appeared in supporting roles in films such as Hollywood Hotel (1937) and Gold Diggers in Paris (1938), typically in comedic roles that allowed her to express a zany persona and a high-pitched voice. Off-screen, she could typically be seen riding her scooter on the Warner Brothers lot.

Additionally, she provided the singing voice in the cartoon Katnip Kollege (1938).

In 1942, Todd made an appearance on television, performing on one of the first televised talent shows of the day.

portrait Mabel Todd

By 1943, she took on a starring role in The Ghost and the Guest (1943), written by Amsterdam. She also traveled the country during World War II to perform as part of the USO and boost troop morale.

In 1945, Todd and Amsterdam divorced. The end of their relationship was particularly bitter, with Amsterdam refusing to speak about her from that point on. At around the same time, her film career plateaued; she was only able to secure small roles. Her final film role would occur as a florist in Wife Wanted (1946).

Todd continued to work on radio and on the stage over the years. She eventually married Matthew Santino, roughly 15 years her junior, in November 1947 and separated in February 1948. The relationship also ended in a highly publicized divorce by 1950. In court, she testified that Santino was verbally and physically abusive during their short marriage.

Soon after, she retired from the entertainment industry altogether. She passed away on June 2, 1977, in Los Angeles. She was 69 years old.

Todd was cremated and interred at Queen of Heaven Cemetery in Los Angeles, California.

Today, some of Todd’s former residences remain. In 1910, Todd and her family resided at 6510 Denver Ave., Los Angeles, California. The home stands.

6510 Denver Ave., Los Angeles

In 1920, Todd and her family lived at 1208 S. Glendale Ave., Glendale, California. This home no longer stands.

By 1930, Todd’s mother passed away. Todd lived with her father and boarders at 416 N. Maryland Ave., Glendale, California. This home remains.

416 N. Maryland Ave., Glendale, California
416 N. Maryland Ave., Glendale

In 1940, Todd and Amsterdam lived at 269 W. 72nd St., New York, New York. Both were radio singers and this point. This building stands.

269 W. 72nd St., New York, New York
269 W. 72nd St., New York City

They also rented an apartment at 801 Filmore St., San Francisco, California, which stands.

801 Filmore St., San Francisco

Todd and Amsterdam also resided at 11616 Otsego St., Los Angeles, California, which stands.

11616 Otsego St., Los Angeles
11616 Otsego St., Los Angeles

–Annette Bochenek for Classic Movie Hub

Annette Bochenek pens our monthly Classic Movie Travels column. You can read all of Annette’s Classic Movie Travel articles here.

Annette Bochenek of Chicago, Illinois, is a PhD student at Dominican University and an independent scholar of Hollywood’s Golden Age. She manages the Hometowns to Hollywood blog, in which she writes about her trips exploring the legacies and hometowns of Golden Age stars. Annette also hosts the “Hometowns to Hollywood” film series throughout the Chicago area. She has been featured on Turner Classic Movies and is the president of TCM Backlot’s Chicago chapter. In addition to writing for Classic Movie Hub, she also writes for Silent Film Quarterly, Nostalgia Digest, and Chicago Art Deco SocietyMagazine.

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