Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Mysterious Mr. Lee

If you've done research on Agnes you learn very quickly that you have an outrageously hard time finding anything out about Jack Lee.  He appears in 1930 and disappears, more or less, in 1952 after their divorce.  His last known film was "The Desk Set" with Spencer Tracey and Katherine Hepburn.  His part was about 4 minutes long and he didn't utter a word.  He is one of the "Board" members who is on a tour of the newspaper.  A sad, sad end to a career that began with some promise.


In The Beginning

John Griffith Lee was born in San Francisco June 5th, 1902 to Marshall Robert Lee, an actor, and his wife Susan.  They lived at 1633 Webster in San Francisco.  Marshall is listed on an early voter registration form as a decorator and Susan as a home maker.  I have been unable to find any record of any siblings for Jack.  It seems that Jack was the namesake of his father's brother John Griffith Lee.  Jack had another impressive relative, his aunt, Harriet Lee.  Harriet is the woman responsible for the holiday called Mother's Day.  She was a school teacher and a superintendent of a school district in California.

Little is known about Jack's mother.  I have yet to determine what her last name was.  His father, however, is quite another matter.  Marshall Robert Lee proved to have had a colorful life as an actor on the stage.  In fact, on the 1930 census Marshall is living in the same hotel as Jack in New York and was apparently working somewhere on the stage.

Marshall Robert Lee acted all over the place.  He traveled to England many times and is listed on several arrival lists in Southampton England.  He traveled to Cherbourg, France.  He worked on the stage in Chicago and was performing there when he filled out his draft registration form during the first World War.  In 1908 he sailed from Victoria British Columbia to San Francisco.  I am sure that I have only scratched the surface of his travels.  In the 1916 voter registration list for San Francisco his occupation is listed as designer but every other piece of documentation represents him as an actor.

Marshall was born June 8th, 1875 in Woodland, Yolo County California.  He was the son of  Milroy Griffith Lee and Abigail Stoddard.  His siblings were:
Abner Grisham Lee
Abigail Lee
Thomas Edwin Lee
Harriet Stoddard Lee
Helen Lee
John Griffith Lee, after whom Jack was named
Martha Lee
Jane S.Lee
Mary A. Lee
Agnes L. Lee, ironic isn't it
Alice Anna Lee
Minna Bell Lee

It was a large family and in 1877 it was a large family without a father.  Milroy passed away that year leaving behind Abigail and their thirteen children.  Milroy's brother, Abner, stepped in as head of the household and
Abigail took over housekeeping for him.  Abigail would live until 1917 when she passed away at the age of 78.  The Lee family was living in Nicolaus, Sutter County, California.

Both Milroy and Abigail were born in Illinois  Milroy to George Washington Lee of Virginia and Mahala Elvira Griffith of Tennessee.  Mahala is listed as having passed away in 1852 "while crossing the plains."  George Washington Lee survived the crossing and passed away in California in December of 1870.

Abigail was born in Illinois to Thomas Aster Stoddard of Massachusetts and Mary Jane Cochrane of New York.  This family too made it's way to California where Thomas and Mary Jane died between 1869 and 1870.  These families were made up of pioneers strangely similar to those portrayed in the movie "How the West Was Won" which would feature their descendant Jack's ex wife Agnes Moorehead.

The Actors Who Never Were Or Not

It seems that Jack like his father Marshall decided to take up the profession of acting.  I haven't, to date, found one reference to either Marshall or his son Jack in any newspapers that expound upon their careers. However, if you take a look at the Internet Broadway Database you will find quite a different picture.

It seems that for a few short years Jack Lee spent a good deal of time on the stage.  Allegedly, he was late for his own wedding because of a matinee.  If he was it was a matinee off Broadway.  But he did work intermittently in the 1930's on Broadway:

Too Many Heroes [Original, Play, Drama] November 15, 1937 - November 1937
  • Performer: Jack Lee [Lassiter]
The Holmeses of Baker Street [Original, Play, Comedy] December 9, 1936 - January 1937
  • Performer: Jack Lee [Tom Braggs]
The Dubarry [Original, Musical, Operetta] November 22, 1932 - February 4, 1933
  • Performer: Jack Lee [Gentleman of the Ensemble]
Marching By [Original, Musical] March 3, 1932 - March 12, 1932
  • Performer: Jack Lee [Lieutenant Muller, Ensemble]
Subway Express [Original, Play, Drama] September 24, 1929 - May 1930
  • Performer: Jack Lee [Edward Tracy]
His longest stint appears to be eight months from September of 1929 to May of 1930.  I have been told he did radio but haven't been able to document that with any newspaper back up.  If he did radio it may have been uncredited.  I have been told that he did touring shows and again I cannot back any of that up with newspaper documentation.  If reviews and advertisement are the stuff of a successful acting career neither man can be called successful.  I can find no record of a Marshall Lee ever performing on Broadway.  I did find a Robert Lee whose career happened at about the same time but I have no way of proving that Marshall used his middle name as a professional name.  In order to have traveled as much as Marshall did one has to assume that he was able to support himself and his family but the only proof I can offer of that is the family address in 1916 when they lived at 1633 Webster in San Francisco California.  However, that same document also lists Marshall, as I mentioned before, as a decorator.  The only thing I can say with any certainty about Marshall is that he was a registered Democrat.

Coming in the next installation Mr. Agnes Moorehead

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