It’s been a while since my last research blog and I ended up sticking with actors, the last one being Priscilla Lawson. Actually, this time I ended up researching two of them at the same time. One was Sam Buffington, a young actor that tragically ended his life at age 28. The other was Ed Brophy, the subject of this blog. I’ll write Sam’s next.
This blog will be a bit different from my others because WordPress.Com changed how images are inserted. It took me a while to figure out how to do the pictures the new way, and I also discovered that if I attached larger pictures it put them in as a smaller version and there was no way to see them in a readable size. I was eventually able to insert a link to the large version instead and I actually kind of like it. Now you won’t have to scroll through a bunch of large pictures. This is especially good for mobile users. I may have to see if I can go back and redo my other blogs this way.
Anyway, I explained in Priscilla’s blog about FindAGrave.Com’s yearly necrology list, a listing of famous and semi-famous people who died in a particular year. I went through it again and found several promising leads. Promising leads to me are ones that not only interest me but also don’t have much information known about them. Ed stood out to me because I’m a big fan of the old black and white movies, particularly the late 1930’s up into the 1950s, and I recognized Ed right away. When I got to the other sites to read their bios on him they stated that he had started early doing bit parts but since he wasn’t leading man material he switched to the production end of the business for job stability.
In 1929, while being a property manager for Buster Keaton’s business, he ended up helping him in a scene for the movie The Cameraman. The scene was such a hit that Keaton started casting him in more and bigger parts in his new talkies. Here is a link to the scene up on YouTube: Ed & Buster
By 1934 Ed was able to quit the production end of the movies and was acting full time. Although he also did drama, he became more popular with his comedic roles. This was partly due to his appearance and his high-pitched voice. One of his best-remembered roles was as the voice of Timothy Q Mouse in Walt Disney’s Dumbo. By the 1950s he slowed his pace down and took fewer roles. He was filming the John Ford western Two Rode Together when he died on 27 May 1960.
Although there is a ton of information on his film career online, there was hardly anything known about his personal history. His middle name was known though. It was Santree. This can be especially helpful researching since it is such an unusual name. He was born in New York City, died in Los Angeles, and left a widow. Her name was Ann Slater. I also had his birth and death dates. So I started his tree up on Ancestry and got started.
Normally I like to go in order when researching someone, starting with their birth and moving on down their life through the years. It doesn’t always work that way though. However, since I already had his exact birth date (27 Feb 1895) I was able right off to find him up on FamilySearch. Even better, it gave me his parents. The actual document wasn’t there but here is a screen shot of the transcription: Ed’s Birth
I’ve stated in my other blogs that you should always look at the documents if you can because anytime something is transcribed the chance for errors increases. You’ll notice that Ed’s middle name was his mother’s maiden name (a common practice back then) but it was misspelled. If you hadn’t known his middle name you would now have his mother’s name in the tree as Sautree. Anyway, I now had his parents, Thomas J Brophy and Mary E Santree. Their full names turned out to be Thomas John and Mary Elizabeth.
I searched high and low but could not find the family in the 1900 Census nor in the New York 1905 census, but back on FamilySearch I found a death record for his sister, Alice Marie. This was good because she was born in 1901 and died in 1903 so she would not have shown up on any census at all. Many children are lost to history this way. Here is the screenshot: Alice Marie Death
I was able to find them on the 1910 Census though. His mother is now a 41 year old widow. Her parents were both from Ireland. Ed is 15, his brother John is 10 and his brother Thomas is almost 2 years old. The fact that Thomas was almost two means that if Mary was truly a widow then the father must have died within that time. I’d have to remember that for later. Mary shows that she has borne 4 children and 3 are still living. This accounts for the late Alice Marie. Notice that there is also a cousin named Elsie listed with them. This becomes very important later and further reinforces my earlier statement to always look at the document. Sometimes little clues can make or break a search as you’ll see later. Here is the census. The family begins on line 26: 1910 Census
Ed next appeared in the 1915 New York State Census. State censuses aren’t as informative as the U.S. Census so nothing real special is of note in this one. Mary, Ed, John and Thomas are all still living together and they reside in Queens. You’ll find them near the top of the page: 1915 Census
Like most young men of his day, Ed filled out his WW1 draft card. His was done on 5 June 1917, making him 22 years old . He was living at 546 W. 147th Street in Manhattan with his mother and brother. Actually, both brothers are there but Ed is claiming young Thomas and his mother as dependents. He also says he is an assistant director in the movie business and works for the Fine Arts Studio in Hollywood. In 1913 D.W. Griffith, the famed director of the film The Birth of a Nation, had taken over the studio owned by Kinemacolor of America and renamed it Griffith Fine Arts Studio. They also had a location in New York. The second page says he was operated on for some kind of rupture. WW1 Draft Card
I got curious to see if he ended up serving in WW1 and pretty quickly discovered that he had joined the Navy on 21 May 1918 in Brooklyn. He went to boot camp in Norfolk, Virginia from 22 July 1918 to 16 September 1918. He then reported to the cruiser USS Albany the same day he left boot camp. Ed wasn’t there long because he left the ship on 11 November 1918, which was Armistice Day (the end of the war). He was then fully discharged two weeks later. Here is the record: Ed Enlists
Next I found Ed’s 1920 Census, taken on 13 January. In this one Ed is now the head of the family. He’s buying the house they live in and he’s only 24 years old. His occupation is listed as an assistant director in the motion picture business. His brother John is 20 and apparently Ed has helped him out because John claims to be a property manager for the motion picture business. Next up is Thomas, who is 11 and then their mother, Mary. Here’s the census and they begin on line 95: 1920 Census
Ed was issued a passport the same year, on 13 August 1920. I love the passports during this time-frame, not only for the information but for the photo. Many times it will be the only photo that can be found of the person if they aren’t famous. Below is Ed’s. He was 25 when this was taken.
The last three pages of the passport aren’t real useful so I’ll just cover the first two of them. The first page confirms his birth date and place. It also shows that his father was deceased and was born in New York City. Apparently Ed has moved from his house in the 1920 census into the New York Athletic Club within the last few months. The rest of page one shows him to still be an assistant director and that he is leaving to go to Cuba for a month for the motion picture business. Here is page one: Page One
Page two of the passport contains his picture and also reveals him to be 25 years old, 5 feet 5 inches tall, with brown hair and brown eyes. Next on the page is a witness to attest to his statements. This one is an Oliver T Marsh, who is a cinematographer for the Talmadge Studios. The studios were owned by Norma Talmadge and her husband Joseph Schenck. If you don’t recognize her name, she was a hugely famous actress back in the late teens and early 1920s. Her sister had been married to Buster Keaton. As a matter of fact, Ed and his wife Ann became the godparents to their second son, Robert Talmadge Keaton. I Googled Robert and found that he had just passed away in 2009. For more info on Norma: Norma Bio Here is page two of the passport: Page Two
I didn’t find Ed’s departure for Cuba, but I did find his arrival back in New York City on 7 September 1920. There wasn’t much info on the passenger list other than confirmation of his birthday and that he was still living at the Athletic Club. You’ll find him at the bottom of the page: Return from Havana
In truth, when I was searching for the Havana trip I actually found him first on a returning passenger list for another trip he took the month after the Havana one. Info is about the same: Second Trip
At this point I was still aggravated about not finding Ed’s family in the 1900 Census, and I pride myself on my ability to find censuses when no one else has. I decided to go ahead and try again. Using all my tricks I still wasn’t having any luck, or so I thought. One family kept popping up, but their last name was Jefferson. When I went to look at it everything matched except the last name. There was the father, Thomas J, Mary, Ed, John and Thomas were all there and the info matched. Then I saw a daughter, which I knew they didn’t have. I was about to scratch this family off when it hit me. This “daughter” was Elsie, the cousin from the 1910 census. Although she was listed as a daughter, she was actually a niece. So somehow the enumerator had used the middle name of Ed’s brother John as the family surname. I’ve seen dumber things put in by the enumerators though.
In their 1900 Census it shows that the father, Thomas J, was 35 years old and had been married to Mary for about 7 years. His occupation was cotton broker. Earlier when I talked about Ed’s passport, the only thing of note about those last three pages that I didn’t link to was that the last page had another witness statement from an old family friend who claimed to be Ed’s father’s former business partner in a cotton brokerage. So this also confirmed it was the correct family in the 1900 census. Here is the census. They begin at line 79: 1900 Census
I was on a roll so I went after the New York 1905 Census. After a little creative searching I discovered why I hadn’t found them earlier. The transcription, which is what the search engines key in on, had them listed as Bradley instead of Brophy. I submitted the correction and proceeded to look at the census. There wasn’t much special to note except that they are living in the Bronx and that Mary’s mother is living with them. Elsie is still there of course, and considering that she was there at least from 1900-1910 it is entirely possible that they had adopted her. I had already done a bit of exploratory searching for her after 1910 but couldn’t really turn up anything on her. Link: 1905 Census
With this new information about Ed’s father from these two censuses I decided to find more on him, especially his death. There turned out to be a lot of people named Thomas Brophy. I did find one very good candidate in the New York City death index, but being an index there is usually very little information contained in it. Remember in the 1910 census that little Thomas was just under two years old? Little Thomas was born 17 July 1908 so that means Thomas J had to have died sometime between about October 1907 and April 1910 when the census was taken. My likely candidate from the death index died on 26 May 1908, just two months before little Thomas was born. Fortunately I was able to find a news blurb about his death and it confirmed that the Thomas I found in the death index was the correct one. Here is the announcement from the newspaper. Notice also that he was a member of the cotton exchange:
After confirming the death I returned to Ed. In the 1920s he had moved to Los Angeles, and I found him there in the 1930 Census. He is now married to Ann, and they live at 1334-1336 North Harper Ave., an apartment building known as Harper House in West Hollywood. Considering that it says he is renting for $90 a month his apartment must have been very nice. Also note the “R” to the right of the $90 entry. That meant they owned a radio, a big deal back then. Anyway, the census goes on to show that Ed is 35 and Ann is 39. The 1930 census also asked how old you were when you got married for the first time. Ed listed that he was thirty so this meant they got married about 1925. Ann, however, says she was 25. This meant she got married once back about 1916. Ann was also born in New York and was a housewife. Ed was a unit manager in motion pictures. If you check line 67 you’ll find Norma Talmadge. I seem to remember reading that she and her husband were separated at this time. Here is the link: 1930 Census
I was now curious about Ann’s first marriage. The small amount of information I had on her from the 1930 census was all I had on her. I quickly found her marriage though, up on FamilySearch. She had married a Eugene William Pallette on 2 February 1916 in Los Angeles. It also lists her parents, Charles Slater and Margaret Fraser. Here is the marriage: Ann & Eugene Marriage
Knowing his name rang a bell, I Googled Eugene and recognized him immediately. This is Eugene Pallette when he was older and younger:
If you watch old movies at all you’ll recognize him, too. I also realized that if I had read more online about Ed Brophy at the beginning of the research I would have discovered all of this much earlier. In any case, I decided to pursue Ann for a bit longer.
It turned out that Ann had been Norma Talmadge’s private secretary, which is how she met Ed, and I believe Eugene also. Ann and Eugene divorced right about 1919, but when I found her 1920 passport application she listed herself as married. I assume she did this so as not to admit to being divorced or maybe to facilitate getting the passport. Speaking of the passport, here is her photo from it. She was about 30 and a pretty lady:
Before I get to the passport, let’s talk briefly about her 1920 Census, which in her case was done in January. She was listed as a divorced lodger living in Los Angeles with a young married couple who were both actors, Miles Welch and Della Boone. So she is already divorced, or possibly separated, by January of 1920. I found Eugene in Los Angeles also and he is listed as divorced, too. I bring this up because of my earlier statement about her claiming to be married on her passport. There isn’t much else on this census but here is the link (she is the second person): 1920 Census
Now, let’s get back to the passport. It was applied for in July 1920 in New York and on the first page she states that she currently lives at 225 W. 80th Street in New York City and that Eugene also lives in New York City at the Algonquin Hotel. She is also getting the passport to travel to several countries in Europe and is leaving 12 August 1920. Here is the first page: Page One
The second page is the witness page. Her witness is an M S Epstein, one of the managers at Norma Talmadge’s movie company. She is having the passport sent to Norma’s husband, Joseph Schenck. Joseph and Norma are staying at the posh Hotel Marguery on Park Avenue and it appears this trip was going to be a sightseeing tour or possibly a movie location scouting trip of Europe and that they were taking Ann with them. By the way, that hotel is gone now and the spot where it was is now where the JP Morgan Chase Tower is. Now briefly back to the passport, it also shows that Ann is two inches taller than Ed. Here is the link to it: Page Two
The next place I found her was on the return leg of the trip that she mentions in her passport. After leaving Southampton, England on 25 September 1920 she arrived back in New York City on 3 October 1920. She is number 8 on the manifest and if you check numbers 21 and 22 you’ll find Norma Talmadge and her husband, Joseph Schenck. Here is the passenger list: Ann’s Europe Trip
My next search for her turned up another ocean trip, and it was shortly after returning from England. Where she had gotten back from England on 3 October 1920 she turned right around and left on 19 October. This passenger list is from her arrival back in New York on 11 November. When I started scouring the document I noticed that she is traveling with Norma again, who is three people below her on the list. Then I happened to see the ship’s name. It rang a bell to me and I went back to Ed’s info. Sure enough, it was the same trip Ed had made in 1920. As a matter of fact, he is on the previous page of the manifest. Here is the passenger list: Ann 2nd Trip
I hadn’t had any luck so far finding her marriage to Ed so at this point decided to give it a go again. I went back to FamilySearch and tried again. One thing I have discovered about FamilySearch is that you have to try variations of the search terms. For example, if the wife’s name doesn’t work, try the husband’s. It should pick up either but for some reason this works sometimes. In this case, I had no luck again so I put her mother’s name in and up popped both of Ann’s marriages.
I already had the first one so I got started on the marriage to Ed. It is a two-page document. The first page lists their names, residences, and that both are from New York. It shows they got married in Culver City, Los Angeles County, California on 1 July 1925. There are two witnesses. One is Norma Talmadge and the other is E J Mannix. Anyone familiar with the old Hollywood days would know who he was but here is a link to his bio: Eddie Mannix Bio
And here is the link to the first page of the marriage: Marriage Page 1
The second page shows their names and addresses. It shows that it’s Ed’s first marriage and that Ann was divorced. It also lists their occupations and their parents’ info. Ann’s father turned out to be born in England. Then it goes on to give the witnesses names and full addresses. Here is the second page: Marriage Page Two
Further searching for Ed and Ann resulted in two city directories, 1936 and 1938. In both they are living at 335 S. Bristol Ave., Santa Monica, Los Angeles, California. Next up came their 1940 US Census. They are living at 1566 Midvale Avenue in Los Angeles. The enumerator has mistakenly listed Ed’s and Ann’s birthplaces as Michigan. Ed is now shown as an actor and Ann has no occupation. By this time Norma was pretty much out of the picture business and I assume no longer needed a secretary, although it could just be that Ann didn’t need to work anymore. The only other thing to note on this census is that they now have a 28 year old African-American maid who is from Oklahoma. Here is the census: 1940 Census
Ed popped up again in April of 1942 on his WW2 draft card. His middle name is listed as Santry. I kept seeing his name listed both ways throughout the research but am convinced it was Santree. His address is now 533 Burlingame Avenue in Los Angeles. He is working for Universal Studios, which was actually still tied into Norma’s old production company. The back side of the card says he is 5 feet 6 inches and 175 lbs. He also has a hernia scar and an appendectomy scar. I have to assume that the rupture mentioned in his WW1 draft card was from the hernia. His WW2 draft card: Draft Card Front Draft Card Back
This pretty much finishes off Ed with the exception of his death. He died 27 May 1960 in Pacific Palisades, Los Angeles, California. His obituary mentions that his brother Thomas said he died while watching a prizefight on TV. He was buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in Santa Monica. His obit: Ed’s Obit Ed & Ann’s Tombstone
I can’t close this blog until I finish off Ed’s family. Ann passed away three years later, on 11 September 1963. I tried researching her family and think I have the right people in her tree, but there were too many questions about them for me to consider it concrete so I won’t get into it here. Ed’s mother Mary and his brothers all showed up living together up through the 1940 Census. His mother passed away on 7 January 1944 in Manhattan and is buried in the same cemetery as her mother. I am glad I followed Mary’s life on out though. When I found her grave up on FindAGrave it was listed simply as Mary Brophy (and there were many Mary Brophys in New York) with no known info for birth or death. This was due to the rough condition of her tombstone. I was able to see enough of it to confirm it was her and I updated her info there. Welcome back, Mary. Mary’s Grave
As for Ed’s brothers, neither appeared to have ever married or had children. John died 21 December 1970 in Queens, New York and Thomas died there also on 22 February 1979. Both of them were war veterans and are both buried in the Long Island National Cemetery in East Farmingdale, Suffolk, New York. If you’re familiar with my blog on Martin Emmerling, this is the same cemetery where his son Albert is buried.
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Thanks for stopping by! -Ray
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