Sunday, April 20, 2014

Miss Molly O'Day

Now let us move on to the younger sister of Sally O'Neil, Miss Molly O'Day! (Irish heritage much?)

Molly O'Day was born Suzanne Dobson Noonan October 16, 1911 in Bayonne, New Jersey. She was the youngest child of Judge Thomas Noonan and his opera singer wife, Hannah.

Around 1912 Thomas Noonan passed away, leaving Hannah to quit her singing career to raise her ten children. The family eventually packed up and headed to California. 

Molly was reportedly picked out by Hal Roach to appear in some of his famous Our Gang comedies. In her obituary, her name is mentioned alongside the Our Gang comedies, however, I can't see where she is listed as being in one let alone several. So, maybe it is just me failing at my research, but...I show her first film as being a 1926 Hal Roach film, 45 Minutes from Hollywood. (IMDB erroneously lists her sister Sally O'Neil as being in the film and not Molly). 

The same year she made her screen debut (going by my info at least) Molly and her sister, Sally were both named WAMPAS Baby Stars. 

Molly and Sally appeared together in three films during their Hollywood careers. The first was in 1927's The Lovelorn playing sisters. The second was the 1929 musical The Show of Shows where they appeared in the "Meet My Sister" segment with other Hollywood sister duos. Their third and final film pairing was the following year in Sisters, where they once again played a pair of sisters. 

Richard Barthelmess and Molly

There were/are rumors that Molly's career went downhill and eventually ended because of her very public issues with her weight (oh, we will get to that in a minute, don't worry). However, that doesn't seem to be the case. Instead, it seems that Molly instead chose to get married, have a family, and get away from the ridiculous and unbelievably negative pressures she was dealing with in Hollywood. Can't say I blame her.

Her last film was a 1935 Rin-Tin-Tin feature called Skull and Crown. Kinda sucks when your last on screen feature is with a dog as the star...

Molly O'Day passed away on October 22, 1998 in Avila Beach, California. She was cremated.

Molly was married twice. Her first husband was actor Jack Durant who she married in 1934. The couple had four children: John, Suzanne, Virginia and Jackie. Unfortunately, Jack and Molly divorced in 1951. A year later she married oilman James Kenaston, but they too divorced in 1956.

Now to the part that is just unbelievably ridiculous, the weight war that was waged against Miss Molly O'Day. I mean, first off, look at the pictures of her I have on here and judge for yourself. Does that look like an overweight actress? Even by the standards of 1920's Hollywood, it seems unbelievable to say that she was fat. I want to share with you some of the excerpts from magazine articles from the 1920's to show you what was being said about Miss Molly O'Day.

From Photoplay - August 1928 - "'Molly, you can get as fat as you please. You can eat as much as you please. You can diet as little as you please. We've done all we can. It's your life and you have to live it. As far as we are concerned you are through - that is, until you get down to the right physical size for pictures. Alice White started about the same time you did. We are going to star her in four pictures. Alice was a little heavy but she lost her extra flesh when we told her about it.'" - Producer Al Rockett

"There were four big stories waiting for her as a star for the next season. But in two of them, Molly had to dress up like a real lady. Did you ever see a pumpkin dressed in the evening clothes of a lady?"

"Molly was just the big-little sister of the rather over-populated Noonan family...Just a good little pal who was not exactly fat but most certainly pudgy."

"Molly O'Day is waging a battle as important to her as Waterloo was to Napoleon. To remain on the screen she must lost twenty pounds and lose them gracefully...If Molly wins she will be a full-fledged star at First National Pictures with four pictures each year..."

From Motion Picture Classic - 1928 - "Molly had no particularly outstanding success, but her consistent releases have kept her so much in the public eye that she is worthy box-office material."

From Photoplay 1929 - "And then there is Molly O'Day! What will be the fate of the O'Day? A part of the story was recounted in the August issue of Photoplay, but what of this recent development? Molly is overweight even for a non-professional...She [is] twenty pounds heavier than she should have been for the screen." 

"[Her doctor] believes that the operations will do no good because there is fat all over Molly's body. She is a splendid actress. Her director, her producer, her public know this. But unless she is most sylph-like her art will be completely wasted. This is the demand of the screen!"

And yep, you read that right. Molly went through an operation to "remove the extra flesh on her body." Can you imagine going through a weight loss surgery in the 1920's? And not only that horror show, but it was talked about in magazines with Molly even having her picture taken in the hospital! I felt so bad looking at her in that photo. It just seems like she was trying to be a normal girl wanting to be in the movies, but was getting reamed from all sides about how overweight she was. 

While researching the many stars I have covered on this site, I have never come across so much negativity directed to a star from that time. I kept thinking, "Oh, come on!" while was reading these articles. I hope me writing about Molly will keep her name in a more positive light and to have her be remembered as a beautiful face who graced the silent silver screen. 

Molly, Sally O'Neil, and Isabel Noonan

I also wanted to mention the other Noonan siblings because most of them went on to some kind of success in life. Isabel Noonan worked briefly as an actress but it didn't suit her, so she retired after only a few films. Gerard Noonan played football for Fordham College and Notre Dame before going pro and playing for the Rochester Jeffersons and the New York Brickley Giants. Mind you, this was under the name Jerry Noonan. He also served as a lieutenant in World War I. Another brother, George was on the Olympic Hockey Team (not sure the year) and also briefly played professional football. All I know about older sister Mary Noonan is that she worked as a nurse for the Red Cross during WWI. I don't have any information on Vincent, John, Thomas, or Edmund Noonan unfortunately. 


  1. Unfreaking believable!! I cannot even imagine how she felt after seeing those articles. Bless her heart.

    Anne in Colorado

    1. I know, Anne! Isn't it just ridiculous?! They were way too harsh.

  2. I always enjoy reading your blog about these long forgotten movie stars. Years ago I visited The Ringling Museum near me in Sarasota , FL and was fascinated by the old photos displayed and the old furniture in the mansion owned by John and Mable Ringling from the early 20th century and the heyday of the circus. That part of history is very interesting to me. I love reading your blog. Thanks.

    1. Hi Jennie! Thank you so much for your kind words, I truly appreciate them.
      How cool to visit the Ringling house?? And I bet those pictures were amazing. I love old photos of circus folks, they were so beautiful!

  3. Poor Molly as she looks great to me. Times really have not changed. Remember all the fuss about Kate Winslet's weight when she made Titanic(Not my fav film about this ship)? She was of a healthy wonderful weight. She was not overweight which Hollywood now like to say they are curvy and she was not anorexic which is just about 90% of them there. I feel bad that she had to deal with this crap but she got the best hand-she left! Good for her

    1. I know! Even compared to the female standards of that time, she does not seem overweight.

  4. Thanks for writing about my great-aunt! I was fortunate enough to meet her in the early 90s in Avila Beach. She meant a lot to my dad Dick Noonan, who was her brother Thomas' son. Thank you!

    1. Thank YOU for stopping by, Stephanie! You gotta give me the scoop on how she was in person. She seems like she was one cool cat :)

  5. Nasty and uncalled for. We would call that bullying nowadays, I believe? Good for her that she pressed on, and didn't quit right away. She was lovely.

    Skull and Crown was also James Murray's last film--not exactly good company, but at least she lived another 60+ years afterwards.

    1. The elusive James Murray. I really need to do some digging on him.

  6. I feel touched on a personal level by this.
    I'm 138 lbs and 65 inches and have been called fat for all my life. Oh, how I know how it is when everyone feels entitled to tell you that you should get in shape, that you're not cute enough for life, that you should consider treatment, that you look like a pumpkin in girly clothes -- actually they used the word pig with me, but then again don't we all know the 30's held much more class than these years we live in? :)
    But Molly doesen't look fat at all. Besides, even if she was, she had a face so beautiful I'm sure no one could even think about anything else but how beautiful she was. I hope she didn't suffered too much for all this stupid stuff; I hope someone told her how beautiful she was, I hope she didn't give a Flying damn about Rockett and the Others.
    Thank you for this very interesting article (and very touchy for me, too!).

    1. Thank you for your wonderful comment. I too was touched by what Molly had to go through because I can't believe she was seen as fat. It was especially strange since the ideals of beauty back then were so much different than they are now.
      I hope you are out there workin' it out and owning who you are! I have gained weight over the last couple of years and let it change who I was and it was just recently that I focused on being happy who I am while also wanting to change my weight. I hope you are doing well! :)