Header Image: The 3 Sisters

The Brian Sisters


In 1938 the girls appeared in three films. They had also appeared in many clubs and possibly in radio broadcasts.

On Saturday 19th February the Brian Sisters were among the celebrities at the M.G.M. annual party at the Biltmore. The Augusta Chronicle of February 21st 1938 reports:
"Other performers who appeared were the Peters Sisters, Mickey Rooney, Adele Girard, Young Doug MacPhail and the Bryan Sisters, three little kids who harmonize as beguilingly as did the Boswells, years back..."

By 1938 the Brian Sisters had established themselves at the show-business school, Lawlor Professional School (later Mar-Ken) in Hollywood, which avoided the split-up of the family that the state apparently favored.

In 1938, the Salt Lake Tribune newspaper of June 5th published a short article about Paul (Bobbie) Thatcher, "teacher of tap dancing", who had "just returned from Hollywood after two years there, connected with the office of Maurice Kosloff, nationally known movie studio director." Mr. Thatcher had taught "a number of former Salt Lake youngsters who have made a place for themselves in the movies."
Apparently, "Among his students have been the three Brian sisters..." — but actually the girls were taught tap dancing at the Meglin Kiddie Dance Studio in Los Angeles. Ethel Meglin offered them free lessons in exchange for the use of their name in her advertisements.
Mr. Thatcher had taught the girls before they left Salt Lake City for Hollywood, and presented them together with three other girls at the Elks Ladies' Club annual fete in a musical revue on 19th May 1934, four years earlier.

Their three films from 1938 included their wonderful performance in Sally, Irene and Mary, where they sang and danced with the three adult stars and certainly did not disappoint! This is one of the best movie appearances of The Brian Sisters, if not the best. Although only about 14, 11 and 10 at the time, they perform delightfully and are the obvious stars of this part of the film. It's easy to see why the film makers delighted in having such talented youngsters available to provide 'kiddie appeal' to their films!

The Lowell Sun newspaper said in the 22nd March 1938 issue:
"The 'Who Stole the Jam?' routine, near the finale, is cute and sweet, with the three little Brian sisters stealing your heart away. They have something different."

They also helped Shirley Temple look good in Little Miss Broadway. On the recent colorized DVD, their second rendering of Be Optimistic is played during the initial DVD menu - it is easily the best song on the DVD and well sung - certainly by Betty and Doris, who were told to 'Sing it like Shirley does'.
Gwen was not allowed in this film; Mrs Temple thought her to be 'unfair competition' to Shirley, so only Doris and Betty appear. They didn't enjoy singing with Shirley, whose singing is nowhere near as proficient as The Brian Sisters. Well, listen for yourself...

The third film of 1938 is less satisfactory to me, although the girls enjoyed it. The Brian Sisters did what they could in Kentucky Moonshine, appearing in two songs – Moonshine Over Kentucky and Sing A Song Of Harvest. If only they had a real opportunity to sing, instead of providing 'ooohs an aaaahs', this could have been far better — but by now their appearances were more a part of the film plot, so the girls had to toe the line.

Forward to 1939


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