Rita Winchell

 


Harry Mahoney and Rita Winchell

I am happy to give some details to you about Rita Winchell. She is the younger sister of Paul Winchell. She did ventriloquism for the first 20 or so years of her life and was very accomplished but once she got married her performing career changed. Rita had 5 children and by way of 2 of her children, Nancy Olsen and Jeffrey Barr I am able to give you most of this information.

Born on Feb 18-1929 and died Sep 14, 2011 are the dates of the life span of Rita Winchell. Rita had a toy ventriloquist first which was a Dummy Dan and I am pleased to show you pictures of her with that figure. She is only around 7 years old.

(Click on pictures for larger view)

 

 

Her next figure was called Harry Mahoney and she told everyone that it was carved for her by her brother Paul. I certainly can’t be positive of that and neither can her children but looking at the picture of her with that figure he sure looks like a Theodore Mack figure to me. In any case it is a great figure.

 

 

In 1940 Paul Winchell gave his sister the Frank Marshall figure for her 11th birthday.

 

 

The promotional picture (at top of page) shows Rita with blond hair but according to her children her hair was dyed for the promo pictures. She was dark haired. This promotional picture was taken when Rita was 16 years old. I must say she was a very good looking girl. Blonds were the rage in the 1940’s so it makes sense to have done this.

I have been given this great newspaper article that was written about Rita, by her son Jeffrey, and have included it here for you to read. The article talks about Rita’s audition with Shirley Temple for a movie and she was not chosen but her figure Harry was. Supposedly Harry danced with Shirley but unfortunately no pictures exist to show Harry with Shirley and I did find some clips of Shirley dancing with a ventriloquist figure but that figure looked like a Herbert Brighton figure from England. A very neat story.

 

 

 

Rita never actually stopped performing when she had her children. That's when she started doing the local shows, and she did them throughout the kids childhoods, in Santa Clara and Grass Valley, CA. She even co-hosted a morning TV show in the late 1960s in Grass Valley. She probably did shows until the late 1970s. Nancy’s daughter Jamie was born in 1979 (that's Nancy’s reference point), and that's why She could tell me with good certainty that she didn't have many, or maybe any, gigs after that time. Although she did take Harry out for the family and friends.

She passed away this past September (2011) at the age of 82. Harry Mahoney was with her for 71 years. A quote from Rita’s daughter Nancy, “Of all her kids, I thought she liked him best!” (This was a joke, of course. He was the only one who didn't get into any trouble.)
 
 
 

See Harry Mahoney in the Ventriloquist Central Collection

 


Early Rita Winchell at dinner with her Mom and Paul Winchell

Clara, Paul Winchell, Dottie, Ruth Cleve, Rita, Sol

Writing on back says Miss Santa Monica 1940s
   

 

 

Harry Mahoney and Rita Winchell

Rita with son Danny and Harry - 1973

Rita and Harry in newspaper 1983
   

 

 

Rita with 4 of her kids 1996

Harry Mahoney and Rita Winchell 1999

Rita Winchell Birthday 2010
 

 


Jeffrey Barr and Nancy Olsen
Special thanks to Nancy and Jeffrey for providing pictures and information about their Mother, Rita Winchell

 

See Harry Mahoney in the Ventriloquist Central Collection