The Real Max Broida, AKA Buster Brodie


John Broida and Sons 25 July 1930 Pittsburgh PA

Broida Family (Click to see family tree)

The real Max Broida, also known as “Buster Brodie” on stage (See “Talented Tuesday- Max Broida-Now Starring as Buster Brodie“), was the third of ten children born to Zelig/John Jacob Broida and his wife, Sarah Gitel Frank Broida. John and Gitel were immigrants, born in Eišiškes, Salcininkai, Lithuania (also known as Eishyshok, Poland or Russia) in the late 1850s. John came to the US in 1874, and Gitel in 1881, the same year they married. (We don’t know if the plan was for John to come first and get established, then bring over Gitel, or if John had traveled back to his homeland and asked her to join him and marry, or if they met in the US.) Max was born 11 October 1885 in Pittsburgh, Allegheny County, Pennsylvania.

Max Broida, circa 1894. Cropped from family portrait.
Max Broida, circa 1894? Cropped from family portrait. (Click to enlarge.)

Max was brought up in Pittsburgh, which had a flourishing Jewish population.  There were many Russian immigrants too, so they would have had some sense of ‘home.’ John had a very strong Yiddish accent even into the 1930s, per his grand-daughter, so Max probably spoke Yiddish, and maybe knew Hebrew as well. Max’s younger brother Samuel Broida, born in 1889, died in 1891 at the age of 2 years, 9 months; two other siblings died young. By 1897, with the birth of Max’s youngest brother Harold H. Broida, it was a family of seven sons. They seemed to have moved fairly frequently but stayed in Pittsburgh, where the family of nine was living at 1102 Fifth Avenue in 1899.

The year 1900, when Max was 14, was a difficult year. The family had moved to Denver, Colorado by 07 June 1900 when the census was taken- but only part of the family was in Denver. John, Gitel, their oldest son Joseph Jacob Broida, and youngest son, Harold H. “Harry” Broida were with them. There were four boarders in the home, but their other five sons could not be found in the census.

Much research over many years culminated in us learning that Gitel had died of pulmonary tuberculosis in Denver. So dear Max and four of his brothers had been separated from their mother for almost a year, maybe two years, and she likely died tragically without all her children by her side. Her body was returned to Pennsylvania for burial, where all her sons could pay their last respects. (See posts listed in notes below for details.)

But where had Max been during those years? We finally realized that the school-age sons had been placed with relatives while Gitel and John were in Denver. Max, who was enumerated as “Moros” (so we initially thought it was his brother Morris listed, but the age was wrong) and with an earlier birthdate (August 1885) along with his older brother Louis, age 16, were living with their paternal aunt, Kate Broida York, and her family in the Carnegie Borough of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania. They were noted as nephews, and their nine cousins, ranging in age from 27 to 3, were living in the household as well. Kate’s husband Joseph York was a dry goods merchant, and his two oldest sons, as well as Louis, may have worked in the store with him. Max and the other children likely helped out at the store when they were done with their schoolday.

In 1910, the John Broida family was enumerated mostly together again. Max, age 24, was living with his father, who had remarried about 1904 to Fannie __, plus an ‘aunt’ Ethel (may not be actually related but was treated like a sister), and his brothers Joseph, Louis, Phillip, and Theodore. Max’s youngest brothers, Morris, age 14, and Harold, 13, had continued living in St. Louis, Missouri with their ‘uncle’ Jacob, who actually was their father’s cousin. There are family stories that some of the boys were not very happy in their temporary homes after Gitel’s move to Denver and her subsequent death. It must have been a very hard time for a close-knit family to be separated.

Max, Phillip, and Theodore were listed as laborers in a shop in the 1910 census, with Louis listed as a clerk in a clothing store, and Joseph a merchant. Their father was the proprietor of a clothing store, so it is possible that some or all of the sons worked for him. They might also have worked for Frank & Seder, a Pittsburgh department store. Their mother’s maiden name was Frank, many Broidas worked in the Frank & Seder stores, and the families socialized together as well.

Max Broida 1916
Max Broida at the wedding of his brother, Theodore “Dave” Broida on 20 Aug 1916 in Denver, Colorado. (Click to enlarge.)

We do not know what happened next, or when for Max Broida. His oldest brother Joseph married about 1906, Phillip in 1910, brothers Louis and Morris both about 1913, Theodore married in 1916, and Harold about 1918. The above picture is from the wedding portrait of Theodore Broida and Lucy Shatzke in Denver, Colorado, on 20 Aug 1916- perhaps Max was the Best Man?

Max’s father, John/Zelig Broida, and his wife Fannie emigrated to Tel Aviv, Israel, in September of 1920. He did come back to visit at least once, in June of 1937. Hopefully Max was able to see his father at that time. Zelig died in 1938, in Israel.

The obituaries for Max in the Los Angeles Times and in Variety tell us that Buster Brodie, Max’s stage name, was an original ‘Buster Brown,’ and he toured the country advertising Buster Brown shoes, possibly even working in plays as Buster Brown. He also worked in the circus, maybe as a clown (did he run away from home to join the circus?), and vaudeville as well before he began his film career in the mid-1920s. Film was the new medium and Buster Brodie was in silent films and then graduated to the talkies when they began. We know he was in a silent short in 1925, and was still acting in movies in 1947. There are a few years that we do not know what he was in- 1929, 1930, 1936, 1939, and 1948, the year of his death. It is hard to see how he could have supported himself some years, with so little work produced. (The years noted on his filmography are the years the picture was released, so he may have worked more hours than it appears.) Buster/Max may have needed to work a second job, as so many actors must do to pay the bills.

Documenting Max or Buster is difficult in Los Angeles. There was a ‘Max M. Brodie,’ salesman, listed as a Republican and living at 651 W. 42nd Place, in Los Angeles in the 1916 California Voter Registrations. Could this be our Max Broida, working while trying to break into film?

‘Max Buster Brodie’ was listed as a salesman in the 1924 California Voters Register for Los Angeles, living at 1020 W. Pico St., and registered as a Republican. (Note the new middle name.)

Next we find ‘Buster M. Brodie’ at 2603 W. Pico St., working as an actor, and noted as a Republican in the 1928 California Voters Register. Buster/Max was not listed in 1929-1931, but then we find him listed with the same name (‘Buster M. Brodie’) and address in the 1932 Los Angeles City Directory. He was also listed that year in the Voters Register, at 1843 W. 6th St.; he declined to state his political party.

Interestingly, the ‘Max M. Brodie,’ salesman, from 1916 was listed in 1932 at 1043 W. 6th St., and a Republican. He also was listed in years between, and a Mrs. Elizabeth J. Brodie, a housewife and Republican, lived at the same address for many of those years. No one has found evidence that Max ever married. Mrs. Brodie was also listed in the Voter’s Registration book after Buster died in 1948, as was ‘Max M. Brodie.’ Names have sometimes been continued on the voter’s roles after death, or is this evidence that they are not the same man?

Another intriguing bit of information: ‘Max M. Brodie’ lived at 1043 W 6th St in 1932, and ‘Buster M. Brodie lived at 1843. In 1936, Buster M. Brodie, actor, was living at 1043 W 6th St, where Max M. lived 4 years earlier. Is this a joke these guys/this guy is playing on future family historians? One would think the Voter Registration Books would get it correct, but Max was an actor, and who knows how many personas he could have presented? Or perhaps the imagination rambles too far…

Buster M. Brodie, actor, was found in the 1939 Los Angeles City Directory at 5640 Santa Monica Blvd. That is the address of the El Cortez Hotel, where he was a resident for many years. Buster died there on 09 April 1948. His close friend Chester Conklin, himself a comedian, found Buster, who died of a heart attack at age 61. (Chester is an interesting person- his fourth marriage was to a woman he met in the home for elderly actors- he was 79.)

Buster Brodie/Max Broida obituary in the Los Angeles Times, 09 Apr 1948.
Buster Brodie/Max Broida obituary in the Los Angeles Times, 09 Apr 1948. (Click to enlarge.)

Buster Brodie was buried in Pierce Brothers Valhalla Memorial Park, North Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, in Lot 5, Section 7690, Memorial G. He is listed on Find A Grave in the ‘Famous’ section.

Buster Brodie/Max Broida obituary in Variety, 14 Apr 1948.
Buster Brodie/Max Broida obituary in Variety, 14 Apr 1948. (Click to enlarge.)


Notes, Sources, and References: 

1) 1899 Pittsburgh, PA City Directory: U.S. City Directories, 1821-1989 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2011.

2) 1900 US Federal Census for John Broida: Year: 1900; Census Place: Denver, Arapahoe, Colorado; Roll: 120; Page: 5B; Enumeration District: 0126; FHL microfilm: 1240122. 1900 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2004.

3) Posts that detail more of the Denver story:

4) We have not seen information on any census as to name or sex of the unknown sibling, but the 1900 US Federal Census states that Gitel had borne 10 children.

5) 1900 US Federal Census for Max and Louis Broida, Joseph York, head of household- Year: 1900; Census Place: Carnegie Ward 1, Allegheny, Pennsylvania; Roll: 1366; Page: 2B; Enumeration District: 0354; FHL microfilm: 1241366. 1900 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2004.

6) 1910 US Federal Census for Jacob (John) Broida, head of household- Year: 1910; Census Place: East Pittsburgh Ward 3, Allegheny, Pennsylvania; Roll: T624_1293; Page: 21A; Enumeration District: 0064; FHL microfilm: 1375306. 1910 United States Federal Census [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations Inc, 2006.

7) Los Angeles City Directory, 1939- U.S. City Directories, 1821-1989 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Operations, Inc., 2011.

8) California, Voter Registrations, 1900-1968 on

9) An image of 5640 Santa Monica Blvd.- not a very good part of Los Angeles these days.,-118.312778,3a,75y,182.9h,90t/data=!3m4!1e1!3m2!1sTdOrFA4ii0KG0oLcVNsxPQ!2e 

9) Chester C. Conklin (1886-1971) was a comedian who acted in silent films as well as talkies- over 280 of them. He created a character and broke into vaudeville, then minstrel shows and circuses as a clown. He may have met Buster Brodie in one of these venues, or they may have met out in Hollywood. Conklin became one of Charlie Chaplin’s ‘Keystone Kops’ and they became lifelong friends.  Both Chester and Buster worked in many studios, and both with the Three Stooges (though in separate shorts). Conklin was married four times- his last in 1965 when he was 79, she 65; they both were living at the Motion Picture Country Home and Hospital. Wikipedia article:

10) See also “Talented Tuesday: Max Broida-Now Starring as Buster Brodie”-

11) Again, a special thanks to Frank Reighter, who shared the above obituaries and other information about Buster’s career.


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3 thoughts on “The Real Max Broida, AKA Buster Brodie”

  1. Thank you so much for the marvelous biography. My interest lies in the fact that I found a large picture taken in front of the Hotel Hunt in 1928 with the inscription “To Ruth & Harry from Buster Brodie” The sigh on the hotel reads:
    Largest Number of Little People ever Assembled Under One Roof In America at Hotel Hunt, Culver City, Calf, October 7th, 1928. I would like to pass this photo along to any relatives of Mr. Body.

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