Bobby Breen was a true child star of the 1930s. He was born Isadore Borsuk in Montreal, the son of Hyman and Rebecca, poor Jewish immigrants from Ukraine. Soon after, the family, including his three older sisters, moved to Toronto. His sister Susan, a music student, noticed the boy’s singing talent as early as the age of three. After lessons with her music teacher, he began to sing in public, winning prizes at competitions. By the age of six, little Isadore, who had become Bobby Breen, was singing in shows around the US. In New York, he enrolled in the Professional Children’s School and got the part of Bob Hope’s newsboy son in the Broadway musical Say When (1934). He became a star in 1936 when he joined the cast of Eddie Cantor’s weekly radio show. That same year he was hired by RKO and quickly became the studio’s leading child star.
The caption attached to the original Bobby Breen photo by John Meihle and distributed by RKO Radio Pictures, states in part, “Bobby’s boyish charm and amazing high tenor voice are especially adapted to motion picture work. The boy will soon star in RKO Radio’s Rainbow on the River.”
Bobby Breen’s career was shortened somewhat after his voice changed when he was about 13 years of age. He made only 9 films between 1936 and 1942. After his film career and after a stint in the US Army during World War II, he continued to work in nightclubs and as a musical performer in stock. In the 1970s, Breen and his wife, Audre lived in Florida, where they ran a successful theatrical agency. Audre Breen died three days before her husband who was immortalized on the cover of the 1967 Beatles album Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, his face appearing between George Harrison and Marlene Dietrich.
Also see: Two advertising glass slides from Bobby Breen movies scanned from originals in the Northernstars Collection.
Features & TV Movies:
Let’s Sing Again (1936)
Johnny Doughboy (1942)