Not so Rosy — Tommy Malie (1897-1932)

I was watching again the 1967 movie Thoroughly Modern Millie. The opening scene shows the kidnapping of a young woman (sadly an orphan who was “all alone in the world”) from a boarding house. Before being knocked out by an ether-filled handkerchief, she was happily playing “Looking at the world thru rose-colored glasses” on a tenor banjo (but it was tuned like a ukulele). Tommy Malie wrote that song back in 1926, and it was a hit.

Tommy was orphaned at the age of two, and when he was ten, he lost both arms at the elbow. Nevertheless, he could sing and write songs. He started work at Hiller’s music shop in Pittsburgh, and around 1922 moved to work in New York’s Tin Pan Alley.  His talent earned him $100,000 in a few short years, married a beautiful woman, and things seemed rosy for  him.

Things didn’t stay that way. He had money so he lived fast — too fast for his wife who left him — and then cars, clothes and drink (far too much of it) left him broke. He died derelict and forgotten at the age of 35 in a charity ward of Chicago Hospital.

From the Pittsburgh Press (2 August 1932)

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Published in: on August 14, 2011 at 6:46 pm  Comments (15)  
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  1. Thank you for this information. Tommy Malie was my great uncle. I don’t know much about him, other than his music and what my dad told me (that he had wandered off as a baby and his hands were chopped off when he was playing on the train tracks, and that he was able to hold a pen using the bones in his arms.) I wasn’t aware that he was orphaned at 2 years old. I’m not sure if my dad really knew his uncle (my dad was born in 1921 and would have been a teenager when his uncled died.)

    I am researching my family tree and would appreciate any other information/leads that you may have about Tommy Malie.

    Thanks again.

    Vicki Malia

    Malia is not a mis-spelling. Our family spells our name both ways (Malia and Malie) and both are Anglicized versions of O’Malley (we’re Irish.)

    • Happy to be of some help — It is hard to get information about him. (Have sent you a few more links).

    • Vicki,
      My great great uncle was also Tommie Malie
      My grandmother was Julia Sullivan Rozik
      Who was your uncle and your father? My grandmother was Tommie’s niece.

      My sister and I were looking for any information on Tommie and I came across your post.

      Any info is appreciated

      Thanks, Tracy

  2. Is there a way for me to find the chords for this song? Ive been looking everywhere online and i cant seem to find anything. I would very much appreciate it if you knew if i might find it somewhere.
    thanks!

  3. My name is Barry Michael O’Hare. Tommie Malie was my mother’s brother. My father’s name was Anthony O;Hare. Both were born in Pittsburgh Pa in 1898. I am interested in lerning anything I can about “Uncle Tommie”.

  4. I wasn’t aware of the “orphaned at 2” bit either. I’ve been collecting Uncle Tommie’s sheet music for a few years and it not very easy to find. I’d like to compare notes with you. My Dad’s brother is Viki’s Dad. I have a couple of old newspaper articles that are corroborated by the above article.

    Pat Malie

    • I’m happy to help if i can.

      • I have identified 19 songs co-composed by Tommie Malie. He was a lyricist and often collaborated with other composers and lyricists. I can provide my list if requested. I am curious if he ever performed or recorded his own songs.

      • Tommy Malie is my great grandmother’s cousin. An hour after finding this page I have developed an inexhaustible curiousity regarding this legendary lyricist. Any information you could possibly send me…pictures, articles, anything… would be greatly appreciated. And thank you for posting this.

  5. Tommy was my grandpaps brother, if he was as tough as my granddad and my aunt Annie (Barrys Mum) i’m sure there are stories out there that would be quite interesting.

    Shawn Malie

    • Shawn,
      Great to hear from you! Thanks for dropping by.
      Michael

      • Shawn, we are related. My name’s Mike McCool. I’m 23 years old & I live in the south hills area of Pittsburgh. My great grandmother was Mary O’ Malley, a cousin of Tommy Malie. All my life I’ve heard stories of this famous songwriter in the O’ Malley/Malie/Malia family and had almost given up hope he actually existed. If you have any stories or information about Tommy, or could even tell me about your Granddad & aunt, I would greatly appreciate it if you’d e-mail me.

  6. As I understand stories from my dad all of Tommie’s sibs were orphaned, and when they got to a certain age , they pulled them out
    1 at a time. has any of you heard that story, I believe I’m remembering
    Right.

    • Tommie Malie is my great great uncle
      My grandmother was Julia Sullivan Rozik

      I have never heard that all the siblings were orphaned
      Do u have any other information on Tommie?

      Thanks
      Tracy Donsen


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