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Bobby Breen

bobby breen, bobby breen movies
Isadore Borsuk November 4, 1927 – September 19, 2016, better known as Bobby Breen, was a Canadian-born American actor and singer He was a popular male child singer during the 1930s and reached major popularity with film and radio appearances


  • 1 Early life
  • 2 Child star at RKO
  • 3 In the military
  • 4 Adult years
  • 5 Personal life
  • 6 Death
  • 7 Awards
  • 8 Filmography
  • 9 In popular culture
  • 10 References
  • 11 Further reading
  • 12 External links

Early life

Breen was born Isadore Borsuk on November 4, 1927 according to some sources he was born in 1928 in Montréal, Canada, the son of Hyman and Rebecca Borsuk His parents were poor Jewish immigrants from present-day Ukraine They, along with Breen's three older siblings, migrated from Kiev to Montreal, Quebec, Canada, in 1927 Soon after, they relocated to Toronto His singing talent as a boy soprano was discovered at age three by his sister Susan, herself an aspiring musical student who was several years his senior While their parents did not show any particular interest, Susan decided to help him achieve stardom With the assistance from her music teacher, Breen got a chance to perform in front of an audience in a nightclub Soon, he began winning prizes in theatre competitions, providing significant amount of income to the poor family Due to his gained popularity, the two siblings decided to look for work and recognition in the United States Financed by Susan, they traveled to Chicago by bus in 1934, where he began working with people such as Gloria Swanson and Milton Berle in local theater productions Breen later relocated to New York City The foreign-sounding last name of Borsuk had been anglicised to Breen prior to their arrival in the United States

Child star at RKO

Bobby Breen and Henry Armetta in Let's Sing Again 1936

Breen went to Hollywood in 1935, where he received singing lessons from a vocal coach Film producer Sol Lesser, who had discovered Jackie Coogan, signed Breen to RKO Radio Pictures Around this time, he became a regular performer on Eddie Cantor's weekly radio show in 1936 , where his talents as a boy soprano were appreciated by the listeners Prior to the release of his first motion picture, Let's Sing Again, he was compared to other child stars of the era such as Freddie Bartholomew and Shirley Temple In terms of his vocalist abilities, he was described as a combination of Allan Jones, Nelson Eddy and Al Jolson His debut saw him being top-billed with Henry Armetta as his co-star He sang La donna è mobile, among other songs, in the movie

Satisfied with his debut for the studio, RKO signed a deal with him for three additional movies He was cast in another musical later the same year called Rainbow on the River, co-starring May Robson and Alan Mowbray He sang Ave Maria and the film's title song Rainbow on the River Kurt Neumann, who had directed Breen in his first two pictures, worked with him for the last time in Make a Wish in 1937 His co-star was Basil Rathbone In a 1938 article, he was referred to as one of the rare cases of child actors succeeding in an adult-dominated industry

By the time he had completed filming Escape to Paradise in 1939, his voice was gradually changing due to puberty As a result, he retired from the film industry, despite being originally contracted for two additional movies, and instead focused on his education at Beverly Hills High School He described the sudden voice change in a 1977 article:

When you've been a child star and suddenly find yourself with a husky voice, it's hard to convince agents that you're not over the hill I stopped singing at 16 because of the huskiness and took up the piano I had the knack for it, but never wanted to be a concert pianist I just wanted to be back in the world I'd known all my life

His popularity did not immediately wane during his hiatus, receiving mail from numerous fans across the United States and United Kingdom He briefly returned to the screen in 1942 to appear as himself in Johnny Doughboy, starring Jane Withers As an adult, he expressed skepticism about children working in the entertainment industry He also signed a contract with Decca Records when he began his Hollywood career, and had moderate success with a series of 78 rpm records in the late 1930s

In the military

Breen enlisted in the infantry in the US Army during World War II He and fellow Hollywood actor Mickey Rooney were soon assigned to entertain the troops, despite him having retired from show business Breen was hospitalized in France in 1945 towards the end of the war For his war efforts, he was awarded the Bronze Star Medal

Adult years

After his discharge from the US Army, in 1946, he initially struggled to find work as he returned to show business He did some theatre workas well as some radio appearances in New York during this period Because of his voice having changed since becoming an adult, he took singing lessons to reinvent himself by adapting to a new tenor singing style

Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, he worked as a singer in nightclubs and as a musical performer in stock theatre, later serving as a guest pianist for the NBC Symphony Orchestra on radio, and hosting a local TV show in New York He also recorded briefly for the Motown label, singing on two singles and produced an unreleased album in 1964 called Better Late Than Never Berry Gordy had hoped for Breen to become his first white contracted artist, but ultimately changed his mind because the singer did not suit the type of music Motown produced In 1953, Breen appeared on ABC's reality show, The Comeback Story, to explain how his career nose-dived as he entered his teen years and how he fought to recover

Since the 1970s, he and his late wife Audrey had been working in Florida as entrepreneurs, booking agents and producers arranging musical shows performed by various entertainers at smaller, affordable venues The business idea is called a "condominium circuit" In later years, it has focused on hiring aged stars of the past, including Debbie Reynolds, Mickey Rooney and Ann Blyth

Personal life

In November 1948, he went missing while on a private flight from Waukesha, Wisconsin, to Hayward, Missouri Several planes went searching for him for one-and-a-half days before it was discovered that he had been staying at a hotel anonymously without telling anyone He was fined 300 US dollars

Breen married fashion model Jocelyn Lesh on November 9, 1952 The couple had a son, Hunter Keith Breen, in 1954 Four years later, the marriage became unsustainable, with Jocelyn claiming that he had physically injured her They went their separate ways, but the divorce was not finalized until February 1961 He married the president of the City of Hope National Medical Center Audrey Howard around 1962

He lived with his family in Tamarac, Florida, and worked as the owner/operator of Bobby Breen Enterprises, a local talent agency Starting in 2002, he made occasional concert appearances

His sister Susan died in 2002 That same year, he underwent bypass surgery due to blocked arteries in his heart


He died of natural causes in Pompano Beach, Florida, on September 19, 2016, three days following the death of his wife


On February 12, 2012, he was the recipient of the "Forest Trace Honorary Octogenarian:Turn Back Time" award


With Louise Beavers in Rainbow on the River 1936
1936Let's Sing AgainBilly Gordon
Rainbow on the RiverPhilip Ainsworth
1937Make a WishChip Winters
1938Hawaii CallsBilly Coulter
Breaking the IceTommy Martin
1939Fisherman's WharfTony Roma
Way Down SouthTimothy Reid Jr
Escape to ParadiseRoberto Ramos
1942Johnny DoughboyHimself

In popular culture

  • Breen was one of the people represented on the cover of The Beatles' album Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band He found his inclusion on the album cover surprising
  • Lenny Bruce mentioned Breen in his comedy routine "The Palladium"


  1. ^ https://wwwboysoloistcom/artistaspvid=705
  2. ^ a b "Former Boy Soprano Bobby Breen Lost In Plane" Medicine Hat News November 23, 1948 p 4 Retrieved July 4, 2016 
  3. ^ a b "Bobby Breen, a Child Star Who Hit a High Note in the 1930s, Dies at 87" The New York Times Retrieved 24 September 2016 
  4. ^ a b "Bobby Breen, Boy Soprano of 1930s Hollywood Musicals, Dies at 88" The Hollywood Reporter September 22, 2016 Retrieved September 23, 2016 
  5. ^ Bergan, Ronald September 27, 2016 "Bobby Breen obituary" The Guardian Retrieved November 2, 2016 
  6. ^ Foster 2003 p 37
  7. ^ a b Shaffer, George October 24, 1937 "Bobby Breen's Success Story" Unidentified pp 6–7 Retrieved July 6, 2016 
  8. ^ "Coming soon:Hawaii Calls" The Montana Standard January 9, 1938 p 59 Retrieved July 4, 2016 
  9. ^ Shaffer, George October 24, 1937 "Bobby Breen's Success Story" Unidentified pp 8–9 Retrieved July 6, 2016 
  10. ^ a b "Bobby Breen Is Vet Trouper At Age of 9" Brownsville Herald February 21, 1937 p 28 Retrieved July 4, 2016 
  11. ^ a b Breen, Bobby February 11, 1974 "Bobby Breen Now Florida Producer" Monroe News Star p 9 Retrieved July 6, 2016 
  12. ^ "Young singing sensation is in Ritz treat" Anniston Star October 4, 1936 p 11 Retrieved July 4, 2016 
  13. ^ "Bobby Breen, boy radio star, in 'Let's Sing Again'" Ames Daily Tribune July 18, 1936 p 5 Retrieved June 5, 2016 
  14. ^ "Bobby Breen wins audiences in Iowa" Cedar Rapids Gazette December 26, 1936 p 4 Retrieved July 4, 2016 
  15. ^ "Bobby Breen to sing at Olympic" Altoona Mirror September 2, 1937 p 21 Retrieved July 4, 2016 
  16. ^ Tildesley, Alice October 23, 1938 "What Are Your Child's Chances in Hollywood" Ogden Standard Examiner p 30 Retrieved July 4, 2016 
  17. ^ Thomas, Elsia January 5, 1944 "Eddie Cantor brings back two proteges" Bluefield Daily Telegraph p 12 Retrieved July 4, 2016 
  18. ^ "Bobby Breen quits as voice changes" Ogden Standard Examiner December 2, 1939 p 2 Retrieved July 6, 2016 
  19. ^ a b Frame, Lanie April 22, 1977 "New Concept Brings Stars To Audiences" Port Charlotte Daily Herald p 5 Retrieved July 6, 2016 
  20. ^ Othman, Frederick August 27, 1942 "Veterans of Movies, Still in High School, Reminisce About the "Good Old Days"" Mason City Globe-Gazette p 18 Retrieved July 4, 2016 
  21. ^ Vale, Virginia September 10, 1942 "Star Dust" Albert City Appeal p 3 Retrieved July 4, 2016 
  22. ^ "Bobby Breen big boy now" Medicine Hat News November 11, 1942 p 6 Retrieved July 4, 2016 
  23. ^ Quirk, Florence October 2, 1942 "Romantic twosomes" The Paris News p 3 Retrieved July 4, 2016 
  24. ^ "Around New Mexico" Albuquerque Journal December 27, 1967 p 20 Retrieved July 6, 2016 
  25. ^ Bobby Breen at 78 discography
  26. ^ Lawrence, Larry April 30, 1948 "Bobby @Breen Bounces Back Into Stardom:Women Still Claim Him" The Journal pp 18–19 Retrieved July 6, 2016 
  27. ^ "Mickey Rooney And Bobby Breen Patients Of Local Soldiers" Charleroi Mail March 28, 1945 p 9 Retrieved July 4, 2016 
  28. ^ a b "Bobby Breen Will Make Appearance" Ames Tribune February 25, 1946 p 8 Retrieved July 4, 2016 
  29. ^ Luther, Paul November 28, 1947 "Inside radio" Cumberland Evening Times p 29 Retrieved July 4, 2016 
  30. ^ Johnson, Erskine October 28, 1952 "Hollywood" The Courier-Express p 7 Retrieved July 6, 2016 
  31. ^ Foster 2003 p 50-51
  32. ^ Callahan, Mike and Edwards, David, "Motown Album Discography, Part 1 1961-1981" Retrieved April 28, 2008
  33. ^ Lyons, Leonard October 2, 1953 "The Lyons Den" Amarillo Daily News p 20 Retrieved July 5, 2016 
  34. ^ a b Gubernick, Lisa November 22, 1999 "Bobby and Audre Breen Give Aging Stars A Place to Shine on the Condo Circuit" The Wall Street Journal Retrieved July 6, 2016 
  35. ^ "Bobby Breen Apologizes" The Athens Messenger November 24, 1948 p 1 Retrieved July 4, 2016 
  36. ^ Wilson, Earl November 11, 1952 "It Happened Last Night" Defiance Crescent News p 12 Retrieved July 6, 2016 
  37. ^ "Bobby Breen Divorced" Lake Charles American-Press February 17, 1961 p 19 Retrieved July 6, 2016 
  38. ^ Foster 2003 p 51
  39. ^ Once Upon a Time in Paradise:Canadians in the Golden Age of Hollywood, p 53, at Google Books
  40. ^ Foster 2003 p 55
  41. ^ Baron, Sharon February 16, 2012 "Tamarac Resident is Presented with Honorary Octogenarian Award" Tamarac Talk Retrieved July 6, 2016 
  42. ^ Julien 2009 p 93
  43. ^ Foster 2003 p 50
  44. ^ "Chopped garlic An obit of note Georgia Gibbs" Puregarlicblogspotcouk Retrieved 27 September 2016 

Further reading

  • Foster, Charles 2003 Once Upon a Time in Paradise:Canadians in the Golden Age of Hollywood 1st ed Ontario:Dundurn Press pp 35–55 ISBN 978-1550024647 
  • Julien, Olivier 2009 Sgt Pepper and the Beatles:It Was Forty Years Ago Today 1st ed Routhledge ISBN 978-0754667087 
  • Holmstrom, John 1996 The Moving Picture Boy:An International Encyclopaedia from 1895 to 1995 Norwich, Michael Russell, pp 153–154
  • Dye, David 1988 Child and Youth Actors:Filmography of Their Entire Careers, 1914-1985 Jefferson, NC:McFarland & Co, pp 25–26

External links

  • Bobby Breen on IMDb
  • Bobby Breen at the American Film Institute

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