Archive | August, 2014

Remembering My Late Uncle, Actor Regis Toomey, On His Birthday Today, August 13th

14 Aug

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Uncle Regis was my mother’s older brother by 20 years and an actor with a long career spanning seven decades of movies and television. You can find his star on Hollywood Boulevard just west of Grauman’s Chinese Theater.

Uncle Regis and his wife, Kathryn, were married 56 years and madly in love until her death in 1981. They had no children, although online biographies often say they had two. Aunt Kathryn was a dancer and choreographer whose claim to fame was choreographing Rose Marie in Paris. She did a lot of volunteer, charity work. My uncle’s full name is John Francis Regis Toomey, but he has been given many inaccurate names.

Regis Toomey performed on Broadway and in hundreds of movies and television shows and starred in lots of “B” movies in the 1930s before becoming a well-known character actor. He was nominated for an Oscar in 1941 for his role in Meet John Doe, a Frank Capra movie. Until just recently, he held a record in the Guinness Book of World Records for the longest screen kiss with Jane Wyman (Ronald Reagan’s first wife) You’re In The Army Now, 1941.

Uncle Regis was a huge dog lover (as a kid, they used to follow him home from school) and he owned dogs most of his life. He was born in Pittsburgh and was already grown when the family moved to Upland, California in 1921 when my mother was two-years-old. He was of Irish descent, 100%, and the first Catholic president of Sigma Chi fraternity at the University of Pittsburgh. He was studying to become a lawyer before he turned to acting. His photographic memory made him a good law student, but also helped him to easily learn his lines when acting.

My uncle became good friends with Ronald Reagan when Reagan served as president of the Screen Actors Guild. Their friendship lasted until his final days when the Reagans were among the last people to see him before his death in 1991. He also recited the Gettysburg Address at President Reagan’s inauguration in January of 1981.

On a personal note, Uncle Regis was a great uncle and I’m happy that I got to know him better in my late teens and early twenties.

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