Header Image: The 3 Sisters

The Brian Sisters


When they arrived in Hollywood from Idaho in 1934, Meda enrolled the girls in the state school. This would have been perfectly satisfactory, if only the school authorities had permitted their pupils to have time off for their professional needs.

The teachers resented young performers and gave them a hard time; the school system as a whole did not respect what they were doing and did not tolerate their absences. All too soon it became apparent that, if their absences continued, the girls would be made wards of the state of California, their young professional careers curtailed, and the family broken up. This clearly would have been a total disaster. It was also unreasonable, since their grades were good and they were good students.

This was a problem for the Brians, and had been a problem for many other children beforehand. Needless to say, there was a solution - at a price.

Mar-Ken School in 1940

Meda enrolled the girls at the Lawlor Professionals School (soon to become Mar-Ken) in Hollywood.
As far as I can tell, this was after they had met Connie Boswell in 1936, and it might even have been at Connie's instigation.

This picture is of Mar-Ken school as in 1940, at 6107 Franklin Avenue.

The School was dedicated to educating the entertainment industry children of Hollywood. Because of this, theeducation was specifically tailored to provide leave of absence when needed, and to include some acting tuition together with the statutory subjects.
At last the girls could continue with their career without fear of separation, and mix with other children who were also working in the Hollywood entertainment business. Many of the alumni could have been the children of well-known actors and actresses, whose parents wished them to be educated in the show-business manner. There are some rather well-known family names in the list of alumni.

The school principals, Mrs Lawlor and later on Mrs Bessire (when it became Mar-Ken in November 1937), were known to take children at reduced rates, or even to take the sibling of a top young actor at no charge, but the Brian Sisters were unlikely to have been this fortunate.
My personal (and totally unsubstantiated) feeling is that Connie Boswell, who greatly admired the Brian Sisters, might have underwritten their fees 'behind the scenes', in order that the girls didn't need to worry.

Although most of the earlier records from the School are not available, mar-ken.org has painstakingly obtained and extracted much of the available material and is well worth a visit if you have an interest in the School.

For us, concerned only about The Brian Sisters, most of the school web-site is of little interest.
The specific pages containing consolidated information on Gwen, Doris and Betty are quite fascinating, though. See below for a listing.

The girls are pictured together in the Mar-Ken 1941 yearbook. Here is the picture, enlarged as much as possible. You will easily recognize them from left to right as Doris, Gwen and Betty:

The Brian Sisters at Lawlor Professional School

Thanks to Alan Simon for providing this image.

A photo of each of the Seniors appears in the Year Book; this is Betty in 1941:

Betty as a Senior from the 1941 Yearbook
Betty graduated and left school in this year (1941)
Doris and Gwen still attended Mar-Ken in 1942 but had left by 1943 (See below)

The recorded information reveals other things about the young Brian Sisters:

Pomona State Fair:

From the September 27, 1940 Mar-Ken Journal:
SNOOPER: Entertaining at the Pomona Fair recently were those triple song birds, the Brians. And very nice too, I hear

Tin Pan Alley

From the October 25, 1940 Mar-Ken Journal:
YOU AND I, FROM PRIMARY TO JUNIOR HIGH: The Brian Sisters are not in school this week. They are working in a Twentieth Century Fox picture starring Alice Faye. After seeing Alice in Lillian Russell and hearing her on the radio we are looking forward to a good performance in Tin Pan Alley.

From the November 8, 1940 Mar-Ken Journal:
WHO'S WORKING: The Brian Sisters finished work in Tin Pan Alley.


From the December 16, 1938 Mar-Ken Journal:

From the Mar-Ken 1940 Yearbook:
  • She likes to collect recipes and skate at the Rollerbowl.
  • Her favorite song is “Vol Vistu Gaily Star”.
  • Her ambition is to be a dress designer.
  • Betty played the part of Giddy in the Juniors' 'Walt Disney Production'.
From the Mar-Ken 1941 Yearbook:
  • Betty is listed as being in the Seniors and a photo of her was published.
  • Betty Brian. A really good vocal artist who plans to continue with motion picture work after that diploma is safely in her hand. If you want to get on the good side of her learn to play good Boogie-Woogie and buy her banana splits.
  • Favorite sayings – “Oh Yeah?”
  • “Just Imagine” - Betty Brian not liking Boogie-Woogie.
  • "Forecast of Coming Attractions":  Betty Brian will be the Boogie-Woogie Bugle girl of Company B.
  • "Betty Brian Bequeaths": To Marilyn Reynertson her raves over Boogie-Woogie.


From the 1940 Mar-Ken Yearbook, as a Freshman:
  • Look out, bugs! — here comes Doris! It's true, they better scatter, for here comes "Do Do", all set to be a bacteriologist (although strange for a girl) and she means business – bug business. But really, otherwise she possesses normal qualities, for she relishes the mastication of food – if she doesn't have to do the dishes! Second only to the eating of food, Doris enjoys a good roller skate, and too, finds real delight in her original hobby of collecting samples. Her favorite book has been the colorful "Wizard of Oz", and rhapsodies must be her special item. Play "Big Town Rhapsody" or "Rhapsody in Blue" and she'll thrill through and through.
From 1941 Mar-Ken Yearbook, as a Sophomore:
  • Truckin' up to meet us with a Boogie Woogie beat,
    Is Doris "Boogie" Brian with her rhythm hot and sweet
    It seems she loves to roller-skate, likes tennis games and cheese,
    And she wants to learn to play real Boogie Woogie if you please.
  • I gazed in the eyes of Gloria Delson, saw perfection there,
    I admired the glowing titian locks of Doris Brian's hair.
From 1942 Mar-Ken Yearbook, as a Junior:
  • The healthy lungs ought to do her a lot of good because she wants to become a singer. "Red" likes to play the piano, sing and roller skate, but not all at the same time. Her favorite song is "Never Again", and she particularly likes writing screwy letters.
  • Junior Jingles:
  • Doris Brian, Doris Brian,
  • For her songs we're always crying,
  • With her sisters two she sings,
  • And when she does her cares take wings.
  • Composite Junior:
  • A pretty girl is like a melody  - - -  Or is She?
  •          In the annals of music it may be,
  • A pretty girl is like a melody
  •         But, here in Mar-Ken I looked around
  • And here is the pretty girl I found!
  • ...(lists the best points of the Junior Girls)...
  • Doris Brian  .    .    .  Hair
  • Last Will and Testament of the Senior Class:
  • Section XIX.
  • Ann Gillis bequeaths:
  • 1).  Her beaming smile to Norma Culver.
  • 2).  Her ability of the trio to Doris Brian and her sisters.


From the January 24, 1940 Mar-Ken Journal:
  • Gwen Brian is the Cinema Editor of this issue of Mar-Ken Journal “Grades” [School] insert.
From the September 27, 1940 Mar-Ken Journal:
  • Gwen Brian is the Assistant Editor of this issue of Mar-Ken Journal – “Grades [School]” Insert.
  • Class Organization: The Junior High room, this year, has been organized according to the United States government. The election was held by ballot. The results are as follows: Judicial Department: Supreme Court, Associate Justice – Gwen Brian.
  • Gwen was at Santa Monica this summer.
From the October 11, 1940 Mar-Ken Journal:
  • Gwen Brian is the Assistant Editor of this issue of the “Grades” supplement to the Mar-Ken Journal and co-wrote an editorial on “Promptness and Attendance.”
From the October 25, 1940 Mar-Ken Journal:
  • Gwen Brian is Assistant Editor in this issue of the “Grades” supplement to the Mar-Ken Journal and co-authored an article about a visiting German teacher.
From the November 8, 1940 Mar-Ken Journal:
  • Gwen Brian is Assistant Editor of this issue of Mar-Ken Grades insert in the Journal.
From the 1940 Mar-Ken Primary & Junior High Yearbook:
  • Gwen Marie Brian was Secretary of her eighth grade class. She wrote a section in the Yearbook on the grade and junior high open house held in 1940.
From the January 10, 1941 Mar-Ken Journal:
  • Gwen Brian is the Cinema Editor of this issue of the Mar-Ken Journal.
From the 1941 Mar-Ken Primary & Junior High Yearbook:
  • Gwen Brian served as Associate Justice of the Student Body Supreme Court. She was Cinema Editor for the Mar-Ken Journal. She co-authored an article about her class visiting the new Hollywood Library and how a library is organized.
From the 1942 Mar-Ken Primary & Junior High School Yearbook:
  • In Eighth Grade Class Ambitions, Gwen is sure she wants to be an airplane mechanic in spite of the mathematics needed.
  • Famous Sayin': Gwen … "Scotty! Stop it. Don't you think he's cute?" [In reference to Scotty Beckett, 1½ years younger than Gwen, who co-starred in Our Gang Follies Of 1936].
  • Class Predictions: “We are sure Gwen will have more boy friends than Peggy Hopkins.”
  • Gwen wrote, “My Pet Hate” for the Yearbook:    'I, Gwen Brian, am of such an angelic disposition there is nothing I dislike. I hate short finger nails, short hair, long dresses, bald heads and buck teeth. But, mind you, there is nothing . . . absolutely nothing I dislike.

Gwen also published two poems in the 1942 yearbook.

Letter to Gerry Morgan

Also, take a look at the letter sent by Gwen's' class of 1937 to ill classmate Geraldine Morgan and signed by those present that day.
Today Gerry doesn't remember the Brian Sisters.

Click on the small image to see the letter.

From the 1943 Yearbook onwards, there is no mention of the Brians at Mar-Ken.

Thanks to Alan at mar-ken.org for permitting me to reproduce all this school information.


Betty was in the Senior class at Mar-Ken in 1941 and graduated in that year.

Doris transferred to the Hollywood Professional School in her senior year, and graduated in 1944.

Gwen didn't graduate from high school.

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