Toby Wing

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Toby Wing
Toby Wing by Mortimer Offner.jpg
Martha Virginia Wing

(1915-07-14)July 14, 1915
DiedMarch 22, 2001(2001-03-22) (aged 85)
Resting placeChrist Church Kingston Parish Cemetery, Mathews County, Virginia, U.S.
Years active1924–1938
Dick Merrill
(m. 1938; death 1982)

Toby Wing (born Martha Virginia Wing, July 14, 1915 – March 22, 2001) was an American actress and showgirl.

Early years[edit]

Wing was born in Amelia Court House, Virginia,[1][2] to Paul Wing and Martha Thraves.[3] She had a sister, Gertrude (nicknamed "Pat") and a younger brother, Paul.[4] Her great-uncle was English playwright Sir Arthur Wing Pinero.[5]


Wing began working on-screen at age 9. Her father was an assistant director for Paramount Pictures.[6] In 1931, she became one of the first Goldwyn Girls, and she started her film career in Palmy Days (1932).[2] In 1932, she was seen in Mack Sennett-produced comedies made by Paramount, one starring Bing Crosby. Wing made an impression with producers and moviegoers, but she seldom broke through to leading roles.

Many of her roles were small and barely clothed, before the introduction of the 1934 Production Code, but she became widely recognized as a sex symbol. Since her contracted studio was mired in bankruptcy during much of her career, her work was done on loan, primarily at Warner Bros., and later after her release, on low-budget efforts on a per-film basis. Wing enjoyed a far more successful sideline doing product endorsements and was featured in innumerable fan magazines from 1933-38. She was also well known off-screen for her romances, and was linked to Jackie Coogan (to whom she was engaged during much of 1935),[7] Maurice Chevalier, and Franklin D. Roosevelt, Jr.

Toby Wing played a few leading roles in B features and short subjects. In 1936 and 1937, she worked opposite singer-songwriter Pinky Tomlin in two of his low-budget musical features, With Love and Kisses and Sing While You're Able. The two stars were engaged briefly during late 1937, with the romance ending before their planned wedding, but they remained close until Tomlin's death.

Her last leading role was in The Marines Come Thru, although filmed in Florida in 1938, it did not see general release until 1943 as Fight On, Marines! She retired from movies after marrying the pilot Dick Merrill, more than 20 years her senior, on October 19, 1938, in Fredericksburg, Virginia.[8] Wing completed her acting career on Broadway in the unsuccessful 1938 Cole Porter musical You Never Know, which starred Lupe Vélez, Clifton Webb, Libby Holman, and J. Harold Murray.[9]

The couple retired to DiLido, Florida, where Merrill was assigned Eastern Airlines' New York-Miami route for the remainder of his career. Wing became successful in real estate in California and Florida. Wing and Merrill later settled in Virginia, where they lived together until Merrill's death in 1982.

On February 8, 1960, Wing was honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame located at 6561 Hollywood Blvd.

Personal life[edit]

Wing and Merrill married via elopement when she was 22.[10] They had two sons, neither of whom had survived. Their first son died of what was then termed "crib death" and their second son, Ricky, was murdered in their Miami home in September 1982 at age 42. His murder was reportedly related to his involvement in a large-scale marijuana-smuggling operation in New Orleans. At the time of his death, he was free on appeal of a drug-smuggling conviction.[11]

The Merrills were living in Virginia at the time and the case is still listed as unsolved. The couple was survived by two granddaughters.[12]


Toby and sister Pat Wing, who also worked as an actress, often in the chorus.

Wing's father, a career reserve Army officer, was reactivated for service prior to World War II and was captured by the Japanese in the Philippines in 1942. He survived the Bataan Death March and was later rescued in the Raid at Cabanatuan by U.S. Army Rangers and Filipino guerillas, a story told in The Great Raid (2005). Paul Wing died in May 1957, in a veteran's hospital in Portsmith, VA, following a coronary.[13]

Her younger sister, Pat Wing Gill (1916–2002), was also an actress and chorus girl who largely worked for Warner Bros. Her brother, Paul Reuben Wing (1926–1998), was a billionaire real estate mogul who led a quiet life away from the Hollywood limelight in Lake Elsinore, California.[citation needed]



Short Subjects:

  • Jimmy's New Yacht (1932) - One of Charlie's Girlfriends
  • The Loud Mouth (1932) - Nurse (uncredited)
  • The Candid Camera (1932) - Betty Swan
  • Alaska Love (1932) - Blonde by River (uncredited)
  • Ma's Pride and Joy (1932) - Radio Director's Secretary
  • Blue of the Night (1933) - Blonde in Bathing Suit (uncredited)
  • Rhythm on the Roof (1934) - Bob's Fantasy Sweetheart
  • Star Night at the Cocoanut Grove (1934) - Herself
  • Hollywood Extra Girl (1935)
  • La Fiesta de Santa Barbara (1935) - Herself
  • Hill-Tillies (1936) - Toby
  • Rhythmitis (1936) - Lola Green
  • Sunday Night at the Trocadero (1937) - Toby Wing


  1. ^ Virginia, Birth Records, 1912-2014
  2. ^ a b Lentz, Harris M. (2002). Obituaries in the Performing Arts, 2001: Film, Television, Radio, Theatre, Dance, Music, Cartoons and Pop Culture. McFarland, Incorporated Publishers. p. 317. ISBN 978-0-7864-1278-5. Retrieved February 15, 2020.
  3. ^ Virginia, Marriage Records, 1936-2014
  4. ^ 1930 United States Federal Census
  5. ^ Keavy, Hubbard (June 25, 1933). "Toby Wasn't Pretty". Sunday News. Pennsylvania, Lancaster. p. 5. Retrieved February 15, 2020 – via
  6. ^ Jr, John P. Harty (2016). The Cinematic Challenge: Filming Colonial America: Volume 1: The Golden Age, 1930-1950. Hillcrest Publishing Group. ISBN 978-1-63505-146-9.
  7. ^ Cary, Diana Serra (2004-09-01). Jackie Coogan: The World's Boy King: A Biography of Hollywood's Legendary Child Star. Scarecrow Press. ISBN 978-0-585-46687-3.
  8. ^ Virginia, Marriage Records, 1943-2014
  9. ^ Dietz, Dan (2018-03-29). The Complete Book of 1930s Broadway Musicals. Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 978-1-5381-0277-0.
  10. ^ White, Maury (January 20, 1985). "Surprise! Toby Wing is poster size". The Des Moines Register. Iowa, Des Moines. p. 33. Retrieved February 15, 2020 – via
  11. ^ Cooke, Bill (April 20, 2016). "Four Miami Detectives Recall the Unsolved Murders That Haunt Them". Miami New Times. Retrieved February 24, 2019.
  12. ^ Martin, Douglas (March 27, 2001). "Toby Wing, 85, Pinup Star of the 1930's, Dies". The New York Times. Retrieved February 24, 2019.
  13. ^ Annals of the Wing Family of America Incorporated. Wing Family of America, Incorporated. 1954.

External links[edit]