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)