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Martha Virginia Wing (1915 - 2001)

A photo of Martha Virginia Wing
Martha Virginia Wing
1915 - 2001
Born
July 14, 1915
Amelia Court House in Amelia County, Virginia
Death
2001
Home in Hudgins, Mathews County, Virginia
Other Names
Toby Wing
Summary
Martha Virginia Wing was born on July 14, 1915 at Amelia Court House in Amelia County, Virginia, and died at age 86 years old in 2001 at Home in Hudgins, Mathews County. Martha Wing was buried at Christ Church Kingston Parish 370 Main St, in Mathews.
Updated: August 22, 2022
Biography ID: 192714044

Martha Wing's Biography

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About Martha

Introduction

Martha Virginia "Toby" Wing was an American Actress. Her father was photographer, Paul Reuben Wing (1891-1957) and her mother was equestrian Martha Gill Thraves (1893-1981). She had siblings Gertrude and Paul. Gertrude was also an actress and Paul was a businessman, involved in real estate.

Toby's film career began when she was nine. Her father was working as an assistant director for Paramount Pictures and her mother was employed as a Hollywood stunt rider. After about ten uncredited juvenile roles Toby became one of the first "Goldwyn Girls" in "Palmy Days" in 1931.

Toby appeared in more than forty feature films and fourteen short subjects during the period of 1924 to 1938. She was memorable, though uncredited, as the "young and healthy" blonde in "42nd Street" in 1933. Among other low budget features, she starred in "Silks and Saddles" 1936. Her last movie was "The Marines Come Thru" filmed in 1938 and released again in 1942 as "Fight On, Marines!". She also appeared on Broadway in the Cole Porter musical "You Never Know" 1938. In 1939 she toured with Rita Rio and her "All Girl Orchestra" to help raise money for charity.

While in Hollywood, she was a stand-in for Carole Lombard and Jean Harlow, was a celebrity spokeswoman for Max Factor Makeup, and she was a tabloid sensation due in part to her well-known romances with such prestigious leading men as Jackie Coogan, a child star and better known as "Uncle Fenster" on television's "Adams Family" in his later years, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Jr., and Maurice Auguste Chevalier.

Toby retired from films at age 23 after her marriage to aviation pioneer, Henry Tyndall "Dick" Merrill (1899-1982) in 1938. Dick was 20 years her senior. The couple had two sons, Henry Tyndall Merrill Jr. (1939-1940) and Richard Wing Merrill (1940-1982). Henry did of "crib death" and Ricky as murdered in his parents' Miami home in September 1982, at age 42. He was on bail for smuggling marijuana. The murder is still unsolved.

She was an ardent member of the Episcopal church, had a second successful career in real estate, and died on 23 March 2001 in Mathews, Virginia aged 85.

Toby Wing has a star recognizing her contribution to the Motion Pictures Industry on the "Hollywood Walk of Fame" at 6561 Hollywood Boulevard. See more about her career and life at IMDb Biography of Toby Wing
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Martha Virginia Wing
Most commonly known as
Martha Virginia Wing
Full legal name
Toby Wing
Other names or aliases

Name & aliases

Where did Martha Wing last live?
Last place lived

Last residence

July 14, 1915
Birthday
Amelia Court House in Amelia County, Virginia
Birth location

Birth details

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Ethnicity & Family History

Toby was Caucasian.

Nationality & Locations

Toby was born in Virginia and died in Virginia. In between, she lived in DiLido, Florida with her husband and she sold real estate in California and Florida. During her film career, she lived in California.

Education

Did Martha finish grade school, get a GED, go to high school, get a college degree or masters? What schools or universities did Martha attend?

Religion

dd/mm/yyyy
Baptism date
Unknown
Place of worship

Baptism date & location

Toby was a dedicated Episcopalian.

Professions

Toby was an actress and had a successful career in real estate after she married and retired from acting. She was also a stand-in for Jean Harlow and Carole Lombard and a spokeswoman for Max Factor Makeup.

Personal Life

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Military Service

Did Martha serve in the military or did a war or conflict interfere with her life?
2001
Death date
natural causes
Cause of death
Home in Hudgins, Mathews County, Virginia
Death location

Death details

dd/mm/yyyy
Funeral date
Christ Church Kingston Parish 370 Main St, in Mathews, Mathews County, Virginia 23109, United States
Burial location

Gravesite & burial

Obituary

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Martha Wing passed away at age 86 years old in 2001 at Home in Hudgins, Mathews County, and was buried at Christ Church Kingston Parish 370 Main St, in Mathews. Martha Virginia Wing was born on July 14, 1915 at Amelia Court House in Amelia County, Virginia.

Average Age & Life Expectancy

Martha Virginia Wing lived 12 years longer than the average Wing family member when she died at the age of 85.
The average age of a Wing family member is 73.
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Memories: Stories & Photos

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Toby Wing
Photo of actress Toby Wing shared on Ancestry by "Genakin"
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Facebook Fan
via Facebook
08/22/2022
I wrote her a letter and she signed it with, "They say I still look cute!"
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Facebook Fan
via Facebook
08/22/2022
She was born in 1915 & died in 2001 .
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IMDb Biography of Toby Wing
It's pretty unusual for a mostly unbilled chorus girl to rate a star on Hollywood Boulevard, but Toby Wing was unique. A genuine granddaughter of the Confederacy (on her mother's side at least; her father's family was pure Maine Yankee), she was born Martha Virginia Wing in Amelia Court House, Virginia in 1915, later taking the stage name Toby after a family nickname (for a horse!). Her father Paul Wing was an Army officer and she spent her childhood divided between Virginia and the Panama Canal's American Zone. Toby moved to Hollywood in the 1920s with her father, who, after his discharge, became an assistant director and Paramount Studios mid-level manager. Toby and her sister Pat Wing grew up fantasizing about becoming movie stars and moving to Hollywood in the mid-1920's afforded her to score a small number of juvenile parts in Paramount silents her dad was working on, most notably appearing as 12-year old Nan in The Pony Express (1925).

She retreated from acting to finish her schooling at her parents' insistence. Stories differ, but she struck up a friendship with Jack Oakie who introduced her to Samuel Goldwyn at a party (Paramount studio publicists, always a questionable source of facts, claimed she was discovered by Mack Sennett with her sister, Pat, while walking to the Santa Monica Pier. Either story seems plausible since she soon found herself working for both men). She was the last graduate of the studio's in-house high school in 1933. A natural brunette, she dyed her hair platinum blond and by 1932, at age 16, she landed rather historic place in Hollywood history as one of the original Goldwyn Girls, billed as the girl "with a face like the morning sun" in Eddie Cantor's hit Palmy Days (1931) and then found herself at Paramount working on an early Bing Crosby short. The choreographer on the Eddie Cantor film was Busby Berkeley who would later hire her for a choice, albeit unbilled, role in 42nd Street (1933).

Her remarkable beauty was not just in the movies; off camera, she lured to her door many a celebrated suitor (Maurice Chevalier, Alfred Vanderbilt, Franklin Roosevelt Jr., Jackie Coogan-- to whom she was engaged to during most of 1935, singer Pinky Tomlin -- briefly engaged in late 1937-- and wealthy Toronto playboy Erskine Eaton - to name a few). In 1936, while mourning the untimely death of one of her suitors (army pilot John T. Helms, whom she claimed to be secretly engaged) Wing swore off men - falling in love with them, that is. She announced "I have really given up falling in love with men! Oh, yes! My career is now to be my life." Her numerous engagements became something of a joke around Hollywood.

Career-wise, she was seen to her best benefit while on loan to Warner Bros. in 42nd Street (1933), prominently featuring her in the unbilled part as the so-called "Young and Healthy Girl" (the 17-year old knockout wearing a fox bra being warbled to by Dick Powell with dances staged by Berkeley). Anyone watching the hit film would have assumed she was headed for bigger and better things in Hollywood but it was not meant to be. Toby's career would never show any logical ascent toward stardom. She would be cast in a prominent billed part, only to revert back as uncredited eye candy, with some appearances lasting mere seconds (such as those as the party guest in Torch Singer (1933), Private Detective 62 (1933) -- a 3-second shot as Warren William's supposed girlfriend-- and Baby Face (1933) where she simply glares at Barbara Stanwyck), and a feature appearance would be followed by a short. Initially signed to the financially ailing Paramount, she spent much of her contract there on loan. The 1934 Production Code effectively prevented anything approaching her barely clothed appearances in Come On, Marines! (1934), Murder at the Vanities (1934) and Search for Beauty (1934) from being repeated. In 1935 she made a tantalizingly brief - yet silent - appearance in La Fiesta de Santa Barbara (1935), an MGM short promoting early 3-strip Technicolor, more notable today for containing the Gumm Sisters' rendition of "La Cucaracha" (sung by 15-year old Judy Garland).

Toby occasionally scored meatier roles in poverty row efforts, receiving star billing in the cheapie Canadian production of Thoroughbred (1936), financed by a suitor, and later in struggling Grand National's Mr. Boggs Steps Out (1938), a low budget Stuart Erwin Jr. vehicle. But in the end her Hollywood career was a frustrating mix of intense publicity with little substance - and summed up, she had a vastly better press agent than a talent agent. On the publicity side, from mid-1933 -early 1938 Toby appeared in a dizzying array of movie magazines, scored numerous endorsement contracts and was easily one of the most photographed starlets in Hollywood. Her personal life also fueled the gossip fires by being pursued by many prominent men -- there are dozens of press photos documenting her at nightclubs surrounded by admiring men well before she was 21 -- and announcing numerous engagements (notably to Jackie Coogan during the period he discovered his mother and stepfather had squandered his childhood acting fortune, resulting in the so-called "Coogan Law").

After appearing in thirty-eight films over five years she ended her movie career where she pretty much began, in an uncredited bit role in the MGM Nelson Eddy-Jeanette MacDonald musical Sweethearts (1938) as a telephone operator (note: her appearance in this film is in dispute and may have been cut from the final print). Remarkably, despite a film resume overloaded with 5-second walk-ons and parts calling for idiotic-yet-sexy squeals in her underwear (she was actually quite intelligent), her stunning beauty guaranteed her lasting appeal. After a typically brief engagement to singer and one-time co-star Pinky Tomlin, she met the man who would be the love of her life, world-record setting Eastern Airlines pilot Dick Merrill, who was more than two decades her senior. They married in June 1938 and went on to share a remarkable 44-year marriage. After her Hollywood career ended she accepted a role on Broadway, co-starring in the troubled Cole Porter musical, "You Never Know" that starred Clifton Webb, Libby Holman and Lupe Velez which flopped after 73 performances.

She happily retired to their home on Di Lido Island to life as a Miami housewife, where her husband flew the Miami-NYC EAL route. Her beauty and the vast number of cheesecake photos she took in the 1930s had her competing in good stead with the likes of Rita Hayworth and Betty Grable as a soldier's favorite pinup girl during WWII. During her heyday, she reputedly received more fan mail than Paramount stars, Claudette Colbert and Marlene Dietrich. She suffered through the loss of her first child in 1940 and like thousands of wives, a long separation from her husband during WW2. He flew "The Hump" for the MTD and endured her father's capture at Bataan (he survived the Death March and subsequent imprisonment). She had a second child, Ricky, in 1941 and involved herself in civic affairs, church and successfully dabbled in real estate in Florida and California.

Toby and her husband were devoutly religious and she taught Sunday school at Miami's All Saints Episcopal Church well into her 80s. She performed in two stage productions in the 1940s : "Father of the Bride" with Pat O'Brien at the Coconut Grove Playhouse, and a benefit production of "The Women" and occasionally made the national press when photographed with her famous husband, who was General Eisenhower's pilot during his 1952 presidential campaign. The couple continued to appear publicly at aviation events throughout the 1960s and 1970s during which time Dick Merrill was actively involved in Sidney Shannon's Air Museum in Virginia. Sadly, the couple also outlived their youngest child, who was involved in large-scale marijuana smuggling and murdered in their Miami home while the Merrills were living in Virginia in 1982. She was widowed soon afterward and spent the remainder of her life actively promoting her husband's rightful legacy as an aviation pioneer. She received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in the 1980s and was briefly interviewed in TCM's Busby Berkeley: Going Through the Roof (1998) with her lesser-known chorus girl sister, Pat Wing [Gill]. Toby died peacefully in her home in Mathews, Virginia in 2001, survived by, among others, two granddaughters. Her sister died a year later.
- IMDb Mini Biography By: Patrick King (additional info by Jack Backstreet)
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Toby Wing Gravesite
The grave of actress Toby Wing in Mathews Virginia. She is buried with her husband and sons in Christ Church Kingston Parish Cemetery,
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Toby Wing, Glamour Shot
A photo of actress Toby Wing in a Hollywood Glamour shot.
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Toby Wing
Toby Wing (1915-2001) - American Actress was born as "Martha Virginia Wing" on 14 July 1915 in Amelia Courthouse, Virginia. Her parents were photographer, Paul Reuben Wing (1892-1957) and equestrian, Martha Gillis Thraves (1893-1981). Toby's film career began aged nine, when her father was working as an assistant director for Paramount Pictures and her mother was employed as a Hollywood stunt rider. After about ten uncredited juvenile roles Toby became one of the first "Goldwyn Girls" in "Palmy Days" 1931.

Toby Wing appeared in more than forty feature films and fourteen short subjects from 1924 to 1938. She was memorable, though uncredited as the "young and healthy" blonde in "42nd Street" 1933. Among other low budget features, she starred in "Silks and Saddles" 1936. Her last movie was "The Marines Come Thru" filmed in 1938 and released again in 1942 as "Fight On, Marines!". She also appeared on Broadway in the Cole Porter musical "You Never Know" 1938. In 1939 she toured with Rita Rio and her "All Girl Orchestra" to help raise money for charity.

Toby Wing retired from films aged 23 after her marriage to aviation pioneer, Henry Tyndall "Dick" Merrill (1899-1982) in 1938. The couple had two sons, Henry Tyndall Merrill Jr. (1939-1940) and Richard Wing Merrill (1940-1982). She was an ardent member of the church, had a second successful career in real estate and died on 23 March 2001 in Mathews, Virginia aged 85. Toby Wing has a star recognising her contribution to the Motion Pictures Industry on the "Hollywood Walk of Fame" at 6561 Hollywood Boulevard.

additional information -

Her father Paul Reuben Wing (1892-1957), an army officer in WWII was captured by the Japanese and survived the "Bataan Death March". Her sister Gertrude Madison "Pat" Wing (1914-2002) was also an actress and chorus girl. Her brother Paul Reuben Wing Jr (1926-1998) was a successful businessman involved in real estate. Her son Richard Wing Merrill (1940-1982) was murdered in the family Miami home in 1982 aged 42. His death was reportedly related to a drug smuggling operation, though the case is still listed as unsolved.
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Becky Kelly
via Facebook
02/20/2018
She is Beautiful.
Reply
Dennis Mcavena
via Facebook
02/20/2018
Loved her the The Warner's Gold Diggers Movies!
Reply
Toby Wing 002
Toby Wing (1915-2001) - American Actress was born as "Martha Virginia Wing" on 14 July 1915 in Amelia Courthouse, Virginia. Her parents were photographer, Paul Reuben Wing (1892-1957) and equestrian, Martha Gillis Thraves (1893-1981). Toby's film career began aged nine, when her father was working as an assistant director for Paramount Pictures and her mother was employed as a Hollywood stunt rider. After about ten uncredited juvenile roles Toby became one of the first "Goldwyn Girls" in "Palmy Days" 1931.

Toby Wing appeared in more than forty feature films and fourteen short subjects from 1924 to 1938. She was memorable, though uncredited as the "young and healthy" blonde in "42nd Street" 1933. Among other low budget features, she starred in "Silks and Saddles" 1936. Her last movie was "The Marines Come Thru" filmed in 1938 and released again in 1942 as "Fight On, Marines!". She also appeared on Broadway in the Cole Porter musical "You Never Know" 1938. In 1939 she toured with Rita Rio and her "All Girl Orchestra" to help raise money for charity.

Toby Wing retired from films aged 23 after her marriage to aviation pioneer, Henry Tyndall "Dick" Merrill (1899-1982) in 1938. The couple had two sons, Henry Tyndall Merrill Jr. (1939-1940) and Richard Wing Merrill (1940-1982). She was an ardent member of the church, had a second successful career in real estate and died on 23 March 2001 in Mathews, Virginia aged 85. Toby Wing has a star recognising her contribution to the Motion Pictures Industry on the "Hollywood Walk of Fame" at 6561 Hollywood Boulevard.

additional information -

Her father Paul Reuben Wing (1892-1957), an army officer in WWII was captured by the Japanese and survived the "Bataan Death March". Her sister Gertrude Madison "Pat" Wing (1914-2002) was also an actress and chorus girl. Her brother Paul Reuben Wing Jr (1926-1998) was a successful businessman involved in real estate. Her son Richard Wing Merrill (1940-1982) was murdered in the family Miami home in 1982 aged 42. His death was reportedly related to a drug smuggling operation, though the case is still listed as unsolved.
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Family Tree & Friends

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Martha's Family Tree

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1915 - 2001 World Events

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In 1915, in the year that Martha Virginia Wing was born, in May, the RMS Lusitania was sunk by a German torpedo. The Lusitania was a British passenger ship that was sailing from New York to Liverpool England. She sank in 18 minutes - 1,198 died and 761 survived. While travelers were the main casualty - and commodity - the Lusitania did carry wartime weapons. "Remember the Lusitania" became the rallying cry of World War 1.

In 1936, at the age of 21 years old, Martha was alive when on November 3rd, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was reelected to a second term. He ran against Republican Governor Alf Landon (Kansas), defeating Landon in the popular vote by 60.8% to 36.5%. Vermont and Maine were the only two states in which Landon won. John Nance Garner IV became the Vice-President in this election.

In 1945, at the age of 30 years old, Martha was alive when on January 9th, the (over 8 month long) Battle of Luzon began in the Philippines with the United States and Filipino forces attacking Japanese forces - with the intent to take back control of the Philippines. By March, the Allies had taken control of all of the strategically and economically important locations in the Philippines but pockets of resistance held out until the surrender of Japan in August.

In 1969, when she was 54 years old, on January 20th, Richard M. Nixon became the 37th President of the United States. Previously the Vice President to President Eisenhower, Nixon was the only President to resign in office - in his second term.

In 1980, she was 65 years old when on December 8th, ex-Beatle John Lennon was shot and killed by Mark David Chapman in front of his home - the Dakota - in New York City. Chapman was found guilty of murder and still remains in jail.

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