Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Miss Sally O'Neil

Molly O'Day and Sally O'Neil

So, I was going to do another dual entry about another pair of sisters but I read so much gossip (aka crap) about these sisters that I wanted to do a separate one for each and call out some of these 'journalists' from the 20's who insulted these lovely ladies. 

Oldest sister first!

Sally O'Neil was born Virginia Louise Noonan on October 23, 1908 in Bayonne, New Jersey. She was the ninth child born to Judge Thomas Noonan and his wife, Hannah. She joined older siblings Thomas, Mary, Gerard, George, Vincent, John, Isabel, and Edmund. (I have read that there were 11 children in the Noonan family, but I can't find any trace of it, so either someone miscounted or a child died in infancy). Sister Suzanne (Molly O'Day) was born the following year.

The Noonans had a pretty privileged upbringing. They employed servants and the children were educated in a convent. But, after such a stuffy learning environment, Sally was looking for some excitement, so she went off to join the vaudeville circuit under the name "Chotsie Noonan." 

She made her film debut in the 1925 short, Yes, Yes, Nanette which also featured Oliver "Babe" Hardy. 

Constance Bennett, Joan Crawford, and Sally

Sally's greatest film success was later that year when she starred in Sally, Irene, and Mary with Joan Crawford and Constance Bennett. Funnily enough Sally played Mary, not Sally. While this film made Sally a famous starlet,  the fame did not last long. She was great in light, flapper fair, but for some reason she just didn't have the right kind of star power. Her only other real film appearance of note was in the 1926 Buster Keaton film, Battling Butler.

Her great success did lead to her being named a WAMPAS Baby Star of 1928 along with Lina Basquette, Lupe Velez, and her sister, Molly O'Day.

Sally did make the transition into talkies, but a thick New Jersey accent and bad case of stage fright turned her film career into one filled with lackluster features. 

She made her last screen appearance in 1938's Kathleen, playing the title role. After she retired from Hollywood, she went back to acting on stage and toured with the USO until the end of World War II. I found this quite interesting considering she supposedly had stage fright in the talkies but could perform in front of a live audience. Not sure how that all worked. 

Sally O'Neil passed away on June 18, 1968 in Galesburg, Illinois from pneumonia. 

She was buried in Memorial Park Cemetery in Galesburg. 

Sally was married once, to Stewart Battles and I am not sure when they were married unfortunately. I do know that they remained married until her death because he was buried nexy to her when he passed away in 1984. 

Along with Chotsie Noonan, Sally was sometimes billed as "Sally O'Neill" and the weirdest one, "Sue 'Bugs' O'Neill." 

"Here's another girl who was plunged into prominence before she was ready to cope with it...Being saucy and piquant are her chief talents now, but time may change that." ~~ Motion Picture Magazine - 1927, putting almost zero faith in Sally. 


  1. Poor Sally and not fair for that Motion Picture Magazine to bring her down. It does seem strange that she would have "stage" fright for film but be Ok with the troops-maybe the troops respected her and the directors and actors didn't

    1. Oh, just wait til you really the stuff said about her sister, Molly! So ridiculous!

  2. I do public speaking five days a week and do just fine. But once there's a camera or recorder in the room, I'm an absolute mess. My goof ups are more permanent than when I speak 'live', so I can understand how Sally must have felt in front of the camera.

    How tacky of that reviewer. Great way to build up her self esteem!

    Anne in Colorado

    1. It seems like more stars were terrified of the microphone than they were of appearing on the stage. Interesting how that works.