In doing research on a project, I was astounded to learn that Morey Amerstdam, known for his role as comedy writer Buddy Sorrell on The Dick Van Dyke Show was married prior to his wife of nearly fifty years, Kay Patrick.
I had met Morey on a few occasions and he never spoke of being married prior to Kay. His memoir or most research about Morey never discussed his first marriage to burlesque, vaudeville, screen and radio comedienne Mabel Todd. Morey was married to Todd for 13 years (1932-1945) and also did a radio program with her.For a few years, Mabel was the “star” of the family.

I had never heard of Todd, who at one time was under contract to Warner Brothers in the 1930s and early 1940s.

She is pictured above with Ted Healy.

She was a vaudeville headliner and did an act with her husband-similar to Burns & Allen, Jack Benny and Mary Livingston or Fred Allen & Portland Hoffa. They eventually appeared on radio together and Morey also worked as a writer.

Mabel became a popular comedienne, clearly holding her own with the likes of Ted Healy and others.

Todd was a noted classic “Dumb Dora” type of comic with the voice of a Gracie Allen.
These two clips have her with Ted Healy (Three Stooges “creator”) :
in the 1937 “Hollywood Hotel”, just before Healy’s death.
Here is a great wacky clip from a so-so film called “Blues In The Night” (1941), which interestingly stars future director Elia Kazan. This song is by Mabel Todd and an unidentified quartet.
The second clip below, has her in a Vitaphone “Soundie” from Al Capp’s ‘Lil Abner.

From IMBD:

Mabel Todd was born Mabel Dodds on August 13, 1907 in Los Angeles, California. Sadly her mother died when was very young. Mabel had a lovely singing voice and began her career in vaudeville. She and her sister Marcia often performed as a duo. Mabel started singing on the radio where she nicknamed “The Little Ray of Sunshine”.

She married comedian Morey Amsterdam in 1933 and the couple worked together on The Laff and Swing Club radio show. Mabel made her film debut in the 1937 musical Varsity Show. She signed a contract with Warner Brothers and was given supporting roles in Hollywood Hotel and Gold Diggers In Paris. With her blonde hair and high pitched voice Mabel was typecast as a dumb comedienne. She was a popular personality on the Warner Brothers lot where she was often seen riding her scooter. In April 1942 Mabel appeared in one of the first televised talent shows.

The following year she starred in the film The Ghost And The Guest. Her husband Morey had written the script for her. During World War 2 she traveled across the country entertaining the troops in a USO show. Mabel and Morey split up in 1945. Their divorce was so bitter that he refused to ever speak about her again.

By this time Mabel’s movie career had stalled and she could only get bit parts. Her last role was playing a florist in the comedy Wife Wanted. She continued to work on the radio and appeared in several stage shows.

Mabel made headlines in 1950 when she divorced her second husband Matthew A. Sontino. In court she accused him of beating her with a shoe and giving her a black eye. She retired from show business and lived a quiet life away from the spotlight. Mabel died on June 2, 1977 at the age of sixty-nine. She was cremated and her ashes are buried at the Queen Heaven’s cemetery in Los Angeles, California.

She was an interesting talent that is truly forgotten- even by her first husband -Morey Amsterdam.


From film and animation historian Jerry Beck:

Mabel Todd can also be heard in the 1938 Merrie Melodies cartoon KATNIP COLLEGE whose soundtrack uses outtake musical tracks from HOLLYWOOD HOTEL (1937) and OVER THE GOAL (1937).