Thursday, May 13, 2010

Noel Toy: Caught in the Act

By chance I came across a fabulous series of photos of Noel Toy at Google's LIFE image archive. They were taken by Nina Leen, one of the magazine's first female photographers. The February 9th, 1942 issue of LIFE featured an article about the flourishing wartime nightclub scene in New York City. Noel Toy, who was fan dancing at Leon & Eddie's at the time, appeared in the piece, and these photos look like they might be outtakes from the assignment.

In the fall of 1941 Noel left San Francisco, where she had got her start at the Forbidden City, for a gig at Leon & Eddie's, which according to the LIFE article was the place to go for "sly ditties, fan dancers, smoky jokes and a general old-style, hot-spot atmosphere". She was so popular that she stayed at the club for half a year. Noel once told a reporter, "If I'd stayed there any longer, they would have had to reverse the name 'Leon' and made it 'Noel and Eddie's'."

Ad from Billboard (February 21, 1942)

Here's the caption about Noel that appeared in the LIFE article:
Chinese Fan Dancer
Noel Toy provides a traditional dash of nudity to Leon & Eddie's floor show. Miss Toy majored in French in college, never drinks, goes out with New York dramatic critics. She is named Noel because she was born on Christmas.

The mention of "New York dramatic critics" refers to George Jean Nathan, who was Noel's "little pet monkey" for a time (according to columnist Dorothy Kilgallen). I don't know how long the romance lasted, but Noel soon settled down with actor Carleton Young in 1945. They were together for nearly 50 years, until his death in 1994.

* Photographs courtesy of


ewaffle said...

Outtakes indeed!

Noel Toy certainly was a lovely young woman and her state of dishabille here isn't what Life or its competitors was publishing then.

You have a very finely woven net that you use when trawling for these great images--not much seems to get past for which your readers (or at least this one) give thanks.

SpyMonkey said...

You enriched my life once again Dave. Good images are always welcome!!

dleedlee said...

Va-va-voom! :D

duriandave said...

Hehe... I knew Noel would get some wolf whistles from the gents in the audience. ;)

lightning in a bottle said...

that top photo is fantastic. bird of paradise.

duriandave said...

... and some fine appreciation from the ladies. :)

nora falchero said...

Very frou-frou, haha! I like things like this.

duriandave said...

Hi Nora! It seems the girls like the feathers and the boys like what they're hiding. ;p

Eddy said...

hi Dave
wow what a great find! Noel is gorgeous.
found this on youtube
apparently she was in "Big Trouble in Little China"

duriandave said...

Yeah, that's a great film, Eddy! I posted it here about a year ago. Here's the link. The post includes some more biographical information.

Noel does indeed make a brief appearance in Big Trouble in Little China. She plays the madame of the brothel. It's too bad her part wasn't a little bigger. Or at least they should've given her some juicier lines.

Anyway, I've got another post about Noel coming up and will included a screen capture of her from Big Trouble.

Tars Tarkas said...

Very nice!