08 April 1903
New Brunswick, New Jersey,
United States of America
13 August 1970|
Los Angeles, California,
United States of America
American actor, the nephew and adopted son of James C. Morton. Putting some of the pieces together (detailed below), it appears that Al's actual birth parents were Josephine and Charles E. Van Duyne. Al had a sister, Edna (b. 1902), plus a brother, Eduard, who died in infancy in 1905. Charles died in 1907, and Josephine also passed during the kids' youth (date unknown). Al and Edna went to live with Josephine's sister Mamie and her husband, James C. Morton. Mamie (née Huls or Hulse) was also a performer, known as Mamie Diamond, and she and her sister "Josie" performed in vaudeville as "The Diamond Sisters." In the 1920s, young Alfred performed with James, Mamie, and Edna in vaudeville as part of a family act.|
Alfred was married at least twice. His first marriage was to Elizabeth Rose Parsons, a 21-year old stenographer from Hempstead, New York, on 13 February 1929 in Islip, Long Island, New York. Listing his name as Alfred Lankton Morton, he gives his age as 25 (which would be true), yet he gives his birth date as Apr. 8, 1902 (a year earlier than it should be); he lives in Freeport, New York, and is working as an actor. They quickly split; in the 1930 Census over a year later, Elizabeth is living with her parents and lists herself as single. Union #2 was to Joan Beck, a 22-year old dressmaker born in West Palm Beach, Florida, on 3 June 1940 in Culver City, California; Alfred Morton, age 37 and divorced, is working as an actor for MGM. Joan filed for divorce in July 1943, then again in September 1944; the second time, it was granted a month later.
On his World War II draft registration card (signed 15 Feb 1942), Alfred Morton again gives his birth year as 1902. His employer is given as Central Casting, and his statistics on the flip side are as follows: 6 ft. tall, weighs 150 lb., has gray eyes, blonde hair, a light complexion, and "scars on [his] right wrist & near [his] left eye."
The pieces I put together to reach my conclusions above:
--- The 1905 New Jersey State Census has the Van Duynes -- Charles, Josephine, Edna, Alfred, and Eduard -- living in New Brunswick, New Jersey; Alfred's birth date is listed on the census sheet as "Apr 1903," which matches the info given on his later vital records (some of which give New Brunswick as his place of birth), while Edna's is given as "June 1902," which matches decently with info given on Edna's appearances given in the 1915 and 1925 New York State Censuses.
--- Aunt/adopted mother Mamie's obituary in Variety (28 Sep 1927) mentions her late sister Josie, and that they had previously performed together as "The Diamond Sisters." (It also claims Alfred and Edna were Mamie and James' natural children.)
--- The New Jersey Marriage Index states James Lankton (James C. Morton) and Mamie Huls (Mamie Diamond) were married in 1908, about five years after Alfred's birth and six or so years after Edna's.
--- The 1925 New York State Census helps confirm Edna and Alfred were not James and Mamie's biological children. Ten years earlier, in the 1915 New York State Census, Edna M. (age 13) and Alfred J. (age 12) are presented as James and Mamie's children, but the 1925 NY State Census identifies the respective relationships of Edna (age 23) and Alfred (age 22) to James as "A.D." and "A.S." -- James and Mamie's adopted daughter and adopted son.
--- Various reports from July 1929 and April 1930, regarding Edna suing James for her back salary from 12 years of performing with the Morton family act (further detailed on James' page); Edna stated that James was, in fact, her uncle, and that she lived with him and her aunt (unnamed in the reports, but should be Mamie) after the death of her actual mother when Edna was a child, and that eventually, when James remarried after the death of the aunt (Mamie died in 1927, and James married his new partner, Corinne Arbuckle, in late 1928), she and her brother (also unnamed, but should be Alfred) were replaced in the act.
--- Alfred does say on both his 1929 and 1940 marriage certificates that James was his father, and on the 1929 certificate that Mamie Hulse was his mother; the mother section is left blank on the 1940 certificate. It's possible that Al may not have known the names of his biological parents, or perhaps in the 11 years since his first marriage he had forgotten Mamie's maiden name; either option could explain the lack of maternal info on the 1940 certificate. In the 1940 Census, James and Alfred are listed as father and son.
Real name: Alfred J. Van Duyne
Films listed on this page: complete Hal Roach filmography;
plus 1 film with Babe Hardy.