Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Frances McCoy.....Search Ended

Welcome Back! I took a much-needed break from blogging, during the month of August, and now I'm back, with a new posting three times a week - Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. I appreciate the comments people have made about my blog, and about my autographed photo collection in general, and I hope every reader will find future postings as informative and entertaining too.
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On Thursday evening, August 21, 2008, the nearly 20-year search for actress Frances McCoy ended. Fellow 'Three Stooges supporting players' researcher Frank Reighter sent me a scan of a news article in a 1943 issue of the military publication, The Stars and Stripes. He found it in a section of the genealogy website Ancestry.com. The article was about a USO entertainment troupe touring Europe to entertain U.S. armed services personnel. One of the entertainers was "singer Frances McCoy, of New York". Reference was made to Miss McCoy looking for her brother, T/Sgt. Harry Popper, who was in the Air Corps. A photograph of Frances with some other people was included in the article.
With this new information, that her family name was "Popper", I proceeded to research the vast resources at Ancestry.com and found her family in the 1930 US Census, living in New York City. With an approximate birth year for Harry, I then was able to locate his date of death and an obituary. The obit mentioned several survivors, but Frances was not one of them. There were a few children of Harry's, though, and I located his daughter Victoria, living in California. I called, and she confirmed that her aunt was indeed Frances McCoy, the actress who appeared in 1930's "Soup to Nuts", the first screen appearance of a group of comics who would later be known as The Three Stooges. Victoria was pleasantly surprised that people are interested in her aunt's career, and we had a lengthy conversation during which she told me some vital family history.

Frances was born in Poland, on December 25, 1910 (some sources give the year as 1912), as Franya Popowsky. Her parents were Sam and Yetta Popowsky (this name was later 'Americanized' to 'Popper'). Her family emigrated to the U.S. in about 1913-1914 and lived in New York City, until they moved to Los Angeles in 1930. Frances, who'd become a stage actress in NYC, was offered movie roles. While her movie career never took off as hoped, she continued performing in a few movie musical shorts and nightclub revues, until she married and left the business.

As Frances Katchen, she died on June 20, 1976, a resident of River Edge, New Jersey.

Frank will continue communicating with Frances' niece to obtain more information about her career, photos, etc.

6 comments:

Peter said...

Welcome back Bill! And what a great posting to mark your return! More superb sleuthing work on your part!

Bill Cappello said...

Thanks, Peter, for the 'welcome back'. And as for the sleuthing, it's always a thrill when the 'find' is finally discovered.

Ben said...

Great post and welcome back, I missed the updates in August but we all need a rest sometimes! Just wanted to say what an interesting read to start the day!

Anonymous said...

Hello, I have a photo that looks just like the one posted here of Frances McCoy, but the hair is dark. Written on the back is a notation about Soup to Nuts, and Fox Films. Just curious if maybe she was a brunette at some time? I have some old movie star pictures I'm trying to identify, thanks!

Rebecca Stearns said...

I was doing some genealogy for a friend and saw this family (the popper's) next door to them. When ever I notice someone interesting in the neighborhood I look them up. It was interesting to see your info and I am always glad that they are being remembered.

She lived with her widowed mom and brothers in the Bronx!

john brezina toth said...

Thank you for this Frances McCoy info. I've wanted to know about her since seeing Soup To Nuts.