The Doty Twins Tragedy


Weston and Winston Doty; the lost twins from “Peter Pan”





By Allan R. Ellenberger


For nineteen years, Winston and Weston Doty, twin brothers, lived together, went together and developed the close comradeship that comes only to boys of their kind until the Montrose flood swept down on them during a New Year’s Eve party and ended their lives.


Weston and Winston, the twin sons of Clarence “Jack” Doty – radio actor and one time leading man for Edna Park – and Olive Nance Naylor, were born on February 18, 1914 in Malta, Ohio. Before the twins were five years old, their parents separated and Olive moved the family to Los Angeles where she gained employment at the Palmer Photo Play Corporation. It was here that she formed connections to get the twins into films. Weston was originally named Wilson at birth; however once he began appearing in films with his brother, his name was changed.



Winston and Weston Doty in “One Terrible Day” (1922)


The Doty twins film credits included a few Our Gang shorts and as the twin Lost Boys in the 1924 version of Peter Pan starring Betty Bronson. The pair were talented radio performers and, at the age of 15, they graduated from Venice High School. In 1931-32 they attended the architectural school of the University of Southern California where they gained more fame as cheer leaders for the Trojans’ football team. Unfortunately after two years they had to drop out to earn enough money to complete their schooling.


On Sunday evening, December 31, 1933, the boys left their home at 1026 Amoroso Place, Venice to attend a New Year’s party given by Henry Hesse at 2631 Manhattan Avenue in Montrose. Weston escorted Mary Janet Cox to the party and Winston took Gladys Fisher. A steady rain had been falling in Los Angeles since early Saturday morning. The chief topic that evening – besides the rain – was the next day’s Rose Bowl game between Stanford and Columbia Universities.


At midnight, the twins called their mother and wished her a happy new year.  It was the last time she would hear their voices. A short time later, Henry Hesse heard water rushing around the house. He stepped to a rear door, just in time to see the porch swept away. Rushing inside he grabbed his wife, ran for another exit and shouted: “Everybody get out!”


As the party guests reached the outside, they stepped off into several feet of swirling water as the walls of the home crumbled. Hesse said he held to his wife and battled the constantly rising waters to the street, then grabbed a floating tree trunk, placed his wife astride it and started to swim. Three blocks from their demolished home the log rammed into a concrete wall, where the two held on safely until the waters subsided.



Above is Manhattan Avenue, Montrose after the New Years flood in 1934 where the Hesse house once stood and where the Doty twins lost their lives (lapl)



On New Year’s Day, searchers found Winston and Weston’s bodies lying close together in the debris in the Verdugo Wash. Mary escaped the flood but Gladys was also drowned. Once the flood waters had subsided, a total of 35 people had lost their lives that night.




Funeral services for 19 year-old Winston and Weston Doty were conducted at the Union Congregational Church in Venice followed by cremation at Woodlawn Cemetery in Santa Monica, where they are interred. The following year, their father Jack died alone from a heart attack in a Chicago hotel.








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12 Responses to “The Doty Twins Tragedy”

  1. Barry Lane says:

    What a great story Allan.
    Thanks Barry,

  2. ellen glasgow says:

    Very interesting, but aren’t Mary & Janet the same person? Gladys was the other date.

  3. CatM says:

    I think the house, once gone, was gone for good. A flood control channel is there now.
    The house may be gone but Manhattan Avenue is still there and a house is at that address.

  4. Lynn L. says:

    Thanks for such excellence, Allan.

  5. Harry Martin says:

    I love hearing the story behind the headstone and this one is must for me next time. Thank you, Allan!

  6. Mary Mallory says:

    Very sad story. There is a lot of tragedy with Peter Pan. I just read the book Neverland: J. M. Barrie, the Du Mauriers, and the Dark Side of Peter Pan. 3 of the 4 Davies boys on whom the story of Peter Pan is based committed suicide later on.

  7. Scatter says:

    As always, a fascinating story sir.

    Being utterly fascinated with LA, Hollywood, and the history of the movies, your blog has become one of my favorite spots on the Web. Thank you so much for sharing with us!
    My pleasure 🙂

  8. V.E.G. says:

    Winston and Weston Doty was the direct descendants of Edward Doty, the Mayflower passenger. Remember the year, SIXTEEN TWENTY. Also, Winston and Weston Doty was the distant cousins of George Washington!

  9. Anonymous says:

    Thank you for remembering, the story, the photographs and the excellent blog post. Their father, Clarence “Jack” Doty, is also remembered for his radio broadcasts.

  10. Tina Gibbs says:

    Is anyone aware of people who are descendants of the Twins? I have some photos they might want.

  11. I don’t know where to be. I grew up in Venice California back in the early 1960’s. I’m sixty six years old. As an adult I lived in Santa Monica. I thought I knew a lot about the actors of the silent era and of all the child actors of silent film’s. When I recently read about Winston & Weston Doty and only have one photo of them I was heart broken to have read of their passing. The woodland cemetery is not far from where I live today. I don’t understand why I feel the way that I do. I’ve never met the twins. Now that I know they are close by I will visit them as often as I can. I’ve met many silent film’s Stars in my days, 1970’s through the 1980’s and even some of the original Little Rascals from the silent era. To the Doty Twins I say, May the Lord Keep you close by. I will never forget you two. And to your friends of yesterday, Jack Davis, Allen “farina”Hoskins, Johnny Downs, Jack Halon, J.R. Smith, George freckles” Warden, Joe Cobb, Jackie Condon, Peggy Cartwright and Mary Korman. To each and every one of you, I love you and greatly appreciate your hard work in silent film’s and for making me laugh so much. Thank you. You’re in my heart forever. Respectfully, Anthony

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