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Irish Ancestors of Key Largo's Claire Trevor


The suspense of the 1948 film Key Largo is due in no small way to the brilliant performances of its cast. But the only actor in the film to win an Oscar was Claire Trevor who played Gaye Dawn, the put-upon alcoholic girlfriend of gang leader, Johnny Rocco. Trevor’s painful singing of Moanin’ Low is a pivotal part of the film. All the more surprising to discover that Trevor was intensely nervous about singing it on screen.


Claire Trevor had strong Irish connections. Her mother Benjamina Edith Morrison was born in Belfast in 1877 to Robert Morrison and Mary Chambers. Appropriately both came from Holywood. The one in County Down that is. They were married in the Church of Ireland there in 1868.


Benjamina, her mother and her large number of siblings emigrated to the United States in 1891, 3 years after Robert Morrison had made his way there. The Morrison family made their home in New York’s Manhattan where Robert ran a restaurant.


Benjamina trained as a dress maker and in 1902 she married Claire’s father, Frenchman Noel B. Wemlinger, a merchant tailor. Claire was the couple’s only child and she was born in New York on the 8th of March 1910.


Claire attended Mamaroneck High School, NY and won $15 in 1928 for a speaking contest which encouraged her interest in acting. The rest is history. Claire Trevor died on the 8th of April 2000 aged 91 after a long,distinguished Hollywood career. Those in Hollywood County Down might consider making more of the connection.



Historyeye | Claire Trevor's Irish Ancestry


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