Friday, July 27, 2012

O, Willy Boy.

My name is Jessica, and I am addicted to newspaper archives that contain articles about silent movie stars.

There. First step is admitting to the problem. But seriously, it is amazing to read through all these articles, but what is really surprising is how bad the spelling is of the names are! "Mabel Normand" for instance, oy vey.

I wanted to see what I could dig up about the scandal involving the murder of director William Desmond Taylor and boy oh boy, they just doused the papers in this story. It was totally scandalized, but reading it now all these years later makes it perfect!

Here is what I dug up...

"Conflicting stories were told to the police as to the time of the shooting. According to Douglas McLean, who lives near by, he heard the shot at 9 o'clock. Another report was that the shooting occurred about 2 o'clock in the morning. Miss Edna Purviance, who lives in a house adjoining the Taylor bungalow, returned home about midnight last night and at that time, she said, saw a light burning in Taylor's apartment, but thought nothing of it. Miss Purviance and Miss Normand were talking over the telephone this morning when Taylor's colored servant found the body and shouted 'Murder! Murder!'"
The New York Times February 3, 1922

"Miss Mabel Normand was the only one of a number of motion picture actors and actresses subpoenaed who was called to the stand. She testified she called upon Taylor Wednesday night, leaving at 7:45 o'clock or about 15 minutes after the shot was fired...Miss Normand, at the request of the detective re-enacted the scene at the Taylor apartments Wednesday nights when she called there and left shortly before the time the police say the tragedy occurred. Miss Normand said she was in the apartment about forty-five minutes, all the time being passed in the living room where Taylor's body was found the next morning. She pointed out the positions of the various positions of the furniture in the room and indicated that she and Taylor conversed. Taylor walked with her to her automobile and conversed with her chauffeur and herself for a few minutes, she explained, further leaving the front door of his apartment open. His only servant had left about fifteen minutes before, to be gone for the night."
The Troy Sunday Budget February 5, 1922 

"Mrs. E.L. Robins, former wife of William Desmond Taylor...tonight told of her marriage with the murdered man...She said she could throw no light on the mystery of his death. 'I married in December, 1901. William Cunningham Deane-Tanner of Dublin, Ireland. He disappeared in October 1908. We could assign no reason for his disappearance except possibly amnesia. In 1912 I got a decree of divorce in the state of New York and was awarded the custody of my only child, Ethel Dalsy Deane-Tanner, now 11. In August, 1914, I married Edward C. Robins. Two and a half years ago, I discovered that William Desmond Taylor had been Mr. Deane-Tanner. I have no further statement which possibly could be of interest. The news of Mr. Deane-Tanner's death was a great shock to my daughter and me.'"
The Troy Sunday Budget February 5, 1922 

"Detectives have a pale pink nightgown of filmy silk, trimmed with lace, positively identified as belonging to a movie star. It had been in the bungalow. It disappeared the day after the murder. Taylor was shot at a desk containing letters that later disappeared...Pictures and letters from women were found. Letters from Mabel Normand disappeared but were found later...Two theories have been advanced. One is that jealousy over a woman was the motive. The other is that revenge growing out of a former employee's alleged forgeries and thefts inspired the slaying. Robbery was not the motive. Nothing was stolen. No weapon was found at the scene of the crime. All doors were locked when the crime was discovered."
The Pittsburgh Press February 10, 1922 

"Two men and a woman whose names are now known to the Los Angeles police murdered William Desmond Taylor, the movie director, according to a statement made to Sheriff Coffin by Harry M. Fields, a prisoner in the Wayne County jail. Sheriff Coffin said Fields told him that he drove the slayers to and from the scene of the murder in an automobile and that he received $900 for the job...On the night of the murder Fields drove the two men and a woman to Taylor's bungalow...The trio went into the bungalow and returned in a few moments, whereupon he drove them away, the prisoner's added, and continued that the plot to kill; Taylor was conceived in a 'hop joint' in Los Angeles. He is quoted by the Sheriff as saying he got the $900 on his return to the 'hop joint,' after the Taylor slaying, with the men and the woman. He did not know the motive for the murder and did not know whether the man or the woman were paid for their part in it."
The New York Times February 23, 1922

 "Mary Miles Minter sailed away today to forget. The picture star whose 'I love you, I love you, I love you,' note to William Desmond Taylor, the murdered movie director, brought her name into that mysterious tragedy, sailed for the Orient on the liner Wilhelmina under an assumed name. She was recognized 20 minutes before the ship cleared."
The Pittsburgh Press March 16, 1922 

Mary Miles Minter and William Desmond Taylor

"William Desmond Taylor came into my life when I was 17 years old age. He was the first man to call me 'Miss Minter.' 'How do you do, Miss Minter,' he said to me when first we were introduced, and then he smiled. Always before I had been called Mary and treated like a child."
Providence News August 15, 1923

"Miss Minter declared that it was true she had been engaged to Taylor before his death...The affection which soon grew up between the girl in 'teens and the middle aged motion picture director, was the beginning of quarrels between mother and me" the statement continues. On one occasion, says the actress, her mother openly upbraided Taylor because of his attentions to her daughter...'For two days,' she relates, 'I hardly spoke to him, and then I apologized for mother's action.' 'We were never engaged in the sense that he had asked me to marry him and I had promised,' the story stated. 'I had always hoped that some time we would be married.'"
Providence News August 15, 1923

 "William Desmond Taylor was an Adonis in the film city, known by many women and loved by a few. Mary Miles Minter, who was a close friend of Taylor, was again questioned...but she could add nothing to the evidence. Mabel Normand, who was with the director a short time before his murder, will be called before the prosecuting attorney upon his return to Los Angeles. But there was little hint of scandal and no proof of it in the life of Taylor....The drug trade was at its height in Hollywood and Taylor fought it at every turn."
Palm Beach Daily News March 24, 1926

"He (former governor, Friend W. Richardson) declined to say whether the suspect is a man or or woman, but Richardson, who made his startling statement in Berkely, declared that murderer was an actress."
The Miami News December 22, 1929 

"Mabel Normand, the greatest of all screen comediennes died without realizing the only ambition she had during the last months of her life. She wanted to hear the confession of the person who killed William Desmond Taylor, film director, but when she succumbed to tuberculosis yesterday in the Pottenger Sanitarium at Monrovia, the crime seemed no nearer solution than the day it was committed. As far back as a month before her death she told investigators: 'I hope to God that before I die they find the slayer of William Desmond Taylor. They say they know I didn't do it,' she kept repeating. 'Yet, they always want to question me about it.' When Mabel Normand said that she did not have a chance to recover from tuberculosis."
The Pittsburgh Press February 24, 1930 

"...The next question the sister (Margaret Shelby) was asked by Attorney Clyde-Murphy was: 'Is it your contention that your mother killed William Desmond Taylor?' 'I don't have to answer that,' was the answer. 'Well, have you stated that to anyone?' she was asked. Her attorney's objections barred an answer."
The Pittsburgh Press May 6, 1937 

"It was the testimony of Mary Miles Minter, plump 35 year old ex-film star, who was Taylor's sweetheart; Mrs. Margaret Fillmore, her sister, and Mrs. Charlotte Shelby, their mother. The full content of their statements was unknown, since the session was secret. But District Attorney Baron Fitts did say Mrs. Fillmore testified that James Kirkwood, one-time screen hero, had been in love with Miss Minter. 'But Kirkwood isn't implicated in this case,' Fitts said...When Miss Minter was asked if she and Kirkwood went through a mock marriage ceremony in Santa Barbara, when she was 15 years old, she laughed and said, 'Wouldn't you like to know.'"
The Deseret News May 7, 1937

"Two of her [Miss Minter's] diaries, one of which, she said recorded her 'emotions and sensations' after Taylor was slain, also were brought before the grand jury...It was a statement by Mrs. Fillmore about the diaries and another statement about her mother that actuated the sudden resumption of interest in the case. Mrs. Fillmore, estranged from her mother, is suing Mrs. Shelby for $48,000 allegedly taken from her...Mrs. Fillmore testified in the deposition that she went to a safety deposit box and took the two diaries belonging to her sister. 'I did it on purpose,' the deposition said. 'I did it to give her two diaries that were so diabolical and so pathetic they made Mary Astor's diary look like a postscript. I didn't want Mrs. Shelby to publish them against this girl.' Returning from the grand jury room, the mother, Mrs. Shelby, said she had not been questioned about anything Mrs. Fillmore said. She said the jurors asked her if she shot Taylor, or if she knew who did. 'I said no to both questions,' she laughed."
The Deseret News May 7, 1937 

"Police used a fluoroscope today, to hunt for a bullet that Mary Miles Minter was said to have fired into a wall for a joke two years before William Desmond Taylor, the movie director, was murdered. The lead slug, if found, will be compared with the one that was fired into Mr. Taylor's back at his bungalow 15 years ago...Miss Minter, blond star of the silent picture era, was Mr. Taylor's sweetheart. Miss Minter's mother, Mrs. Charlotte Shelby, told of the bullet in the wall at the house where the family once lived...Mrs. Shelby, who was questioned by a grand jury last month about a gun she had about the time of the Taylor killing, announced that she had a theory of her own about the case. 'I believe Mr. Taylor was slain by someone who has never been under investigation-that his death resulted from the fact that he was thwarting the attempt of underworld characters to lead Mabel Normand into the drug habit.'"
The Pittsburgh Press June 13, 1937 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

O, Flo.

Hello, hello! I have returned. I went to Nashville for the weekend and got back a few days ago. I am actually in the process of moving there, so trying to get my stuff down there and get stuff together here. Ugh, moving is a headache!

Anyway, I wanted to post some more archive tidbits that I found, this time, about Florence La Badie. Some of these are from when she was alive and then some of them were from after she passed away. I tell you what though, these are very cool to read through. You learn a lot about what their lives were live during their time.

"To know Florence La Badie is to love her, and still her many photoplay friends all over the world love her just because of the winning smile and sweet personality which greet them from the motion picture screen. To my idea of a charming, beautiful, vivacious personality that goes to make a popular photoplay actress, I truly think that Miss La Badie is beyond parallel."
The Toronto Sunday World Mary 29, 1914

"I had been invited to lunch at the beautiful La Badie home on Riverside Drive, and felt at home immediately thru the warm reception tendered by Florence's mother. It is a home to be proud of, and worthy of the fair occupant, who is an only child and not a bit spoiled. We chatted and Flo played on the piano and sang."
The Toronto Sunday World May 29, 1914

"Then she told me that, while working in a picture one day, she was seated on her horse, waiting to ride in the scene, when the signal was given to start. Then horse ridden by one of the extra men reared in the air, and as its front feet came down, he struck her in the face, breaking three of her teeth and giving her a very swollen lip and bruised jaw as well. 'I think that is about the closest shave I have ever had to being killed,' she said. 'Had I been half a foot nearer I would have been.'"
The Toronto Sunday World May 29, 1914

"She was born in Canada and in her early career studied art, painting, sculpture. She had appeared in more than 100 motion picture plays of the Thanhouser, and played the lead in the serial picture, 'The Million Dollar Mystery.' Miss La Badie is survived by her mother. She made her home at the St. Andrew Hotel, Broadway and Seventy-Second Street."
New York Times October 14, 1917

"Miss La Badie was a splendid emotional actress and also a daring athlete. The directors in working with her did not have to spur her on to take chances for the sake of a good scene. Their trouble was in holding her back so that she would not injure herself."
Milwaukee Journal October 17, 1917

Monday, July 16, 2012

O, Olive.

I was looking through some archived newspapers for Olive Thomas and came across a few articles about her death. I actually learned a few new things from reading these, which is great! I learned her mother's name and the fact that she remarried after her first husband (Olive's father) died and also what Olive's last words were. Pretty cool stuff...

"Olive Thomas died at 10:15 o'clock this morning in the American Hospital at Neuilly. She had been in a state of coma since yesterday evening and the end was without pain."  New York Times, September 11, 1920

"Investigation also is being made by the police of rumors of cocaine orgies intermingled with champagne dinners which lasted into the early hours of the morning, that have been afloat in the American colony..." 
New York Times, September 11, 1920

"Her rapid rise to fame and fortune in the theatrical world was due almost entirely to her unusual beauty, which led a friend to persuade her...and try her fortune in New York on the stage."
New York Times, September 11, 1920

"Miss Thomas was known to Broadway, New York, as the 'girl with a thousand sweethearts.'"
The Milwaukee Journal, September 11, 1920

"...Dr. Joseph Choate, the American physician who had charge of the case at the American Hospital was quoted as saying that the fatal solution contained 12 grams of the poison, enough to kill 25 men. The prompt action of Jack Pickford in giving her an emetic saved her from immediate death, but the end was inevitable."
Providence News, September 11, 1920

"...her last words, uttered in the midst of both mental and physical agony, were a self-reproachful 'This is what Paris has done for me.'"
The Pittsburgh Press, September 13, 1920

"'Olive and myself were the greatest pals on Earth and her death was a ghastly mistake,' declared the young husband [Jack Pickford], who is no more than a boy. 'We had both cancelled our work in America to take a belated honeymoon. We were the happiest couple on the ship coming over from New York. She gave a birthday party for me on board. When she arrived in Paris, Olive's only thought was to buy some dresses and get back home to complete her picture contract. Then she planned to settle down for quiet home life and to care for our babies, if any came.'"
Pittsburgh Press, September 13, 1920

"The tragic influence of Olive Thomas' death in Paris provided the motive for the suicide of Miss Anna Daly, who took Vernol at the Hotel Seville on Saturday night, the police declared today after an investigation. Miss Daly and Miss Thomas had been friends from childhood. Both were born at McKees Rocks, near Pittsburgh, and spent their girlhood there. They attended the same school and worked in the same store. Miss Daly is the second woman friend of Olive Thomas to take her life since the noted film actress died in Paris. Both took poison."
Pittsburgh Press, September 21, 1920

"'I was in Paris at the time of Miss Thomas' death,' Mr. [Owen] Moore said. 'All stories about drinking and wild parties are wrong. We had parties together all of us, of course, and we had things to drink, naturally, but there was no such thing as carousing. Olive Thomas did not commit suicide. It was her intent to take one of the many tonics that had been prescribed for her run down condition when she took the bichloride of mercury. Miss Thomas wanted to live and begged the doctors not to let her die. She felt particularly that her family was dependent upon her. She always spoke tenderly of her husband and there was not a quarrel between them. Jack Pickford is going to California soon but will not take part in any film presentation for some time.'"
The Milwaukee Journal, September 26, 1920

"The estate of Olive Thomas Pickford, film star and wife of Jack Pickford, who died by poison in Paris on September 10, 1920, was appraised yesterday at $37,094 gross and $27,644 net, all of which goes to her mother, Mrs. Lourene VanKirk of St. Louis. The report shows that her husband paid all the funeral expenses. Her property included $8,000 as the value of two autos, and the remainder consisted chiefly of jewelry and clothing."
New York Times, July 15, 1922

Friday, July 13, 2012

Dark Star: wives of John Gilbert III

I just need to point this out before I begin this entry about Leatrice Joy. I am watching Gaslight while typing this, and I have to say Charles Boyer is ever so dreamy. That accent and those dark, handsome looks...take me now! And Ingrid, what a beautiful face. Perfection.

And now, on to business. Leatrice Joy I think is Jack Gilbert's most famous wife. She was his first famous marriage and it resulted in the birth of his first child, Leatrice Gilbert Fountain. It wasn't until many years later that Leatrice began appearing at screenings of her father's movies and talking about her memories of him. I think it is interesting that in her book, she refers to her father by his first name and only sometimes refers to him as her father. I think it is because she saw her dad as two different people: the movie star and "great lover" and then her father who loved her dearly. I want to point out that a lot of the info for my entries has come from Leatrice's book, so definitely check it out and gain some more info about the man himself.

Jack first met Leatrice Joy in 1918 on the set of the movie One Dollar Bid. She walked onto the set to see him in the middle of a scene with their co-star, Louise Glaum. She later said, "There was a wild look in his eyes. I thought he was the most attractive man I ever saw. What impressed me was his air of confidence. He seemed to know exactly what to do and I wondered if I'd ever feel that sure of myself in front of a camera."

Before filming her first scene, Leatrice covered her with in a white powder make up so that her skin would look flawless on the screen. You have seen how made up even the guys on the silent screen look, right? Imagine what the gals had to go through! Anyways, with Leatrice covered in this white make up, everything she touched also got covered in the powder...including Jack and his clothes. He was not happy about having his brand new jacket ruined and he stormed off the set to try and get it clean. Leatrice followed him crying and apologizing over and over again.

The two saw each other off and on but Jack just couldn't seem to make up his mind. He really had strong feelings for her, but he also liked to go around with other ladies. He didn't sleep with him (he claimed) but he was spending a little too much time with them and buying them gifts. Leatrice agreed to give him another chance if he gave her duplicates of the gifts he gave other girls. "One of the gifts was a white enameled elephant in which to burn the oil he had given Bebe Daniels. I didn't even know he was seeing her! That night the phone rang at about two in the morning I answered it and it was Barbara La Marr. She said, 'Oh, Leatrice darling, may I speak to Jack, please?' I said, 'Of course, dear,' and then threw the phone under the bed and went back to sleep."

When they were together, they were very happy and when they were apart, they were sad. The relationship still remained slightly strained though and it had a lot to do with Leatrice's director and mentor, Cecil B. DeMille. He did not like Jack at all and he hated having his protege being romantically involved with him. DeMille frequently gave Leatrice ultimatums when it came to her career and her personal life: either have a career or stay with Jack. Leatrice's career was really climbing, so she chose her career...but still saw Jack in quiet. Her intense devotion to DeMille really made Jack wonder what was going on between the two. He was convinced that they were having an affair and the very thought of it enraged him. But, I think for the most part he tried to keep it to himself.

 When she went away for a few months to shoot a movie, she sewed little red hearts in Jack's pajamas to remind him of her while she was away. They also wrote each other frequently, expressing how much they missed each other. Sometimes the greatest love affairs involve an intense amount of passion, both good and bad.

The time had finally come for the two to get married and they did so in a secret ceremony in 1922.

If DeMille hated the idea of Leatrice dating Jack, he was beyond livid when he heard that they got married. Once again, he gave her an ultimatum and once again, she chose her career...but remained married. Jack was pissed at his new wife's inability to stand up to this bully so he packed up and moved into a house with his friends Paul Bern and Carey Wilson. It wasn't exactly what you would call a "bachelor pad" though considering Jack and Carey were both married, even if they were estranged at the time.

Leatrice felt awful about the state of her marriage and wanted to try and mend it the smoothest way possible. So, she decided the best way would be to slowly transition into his life again by going to parties where she thought he would be. One night, she attended such a party and Jack did show up...with Bebe Daniels on his arm and she was dressed in her best vamp ensemble. Leatrice was of course hurt by this sight but she didn't let it show. While dancing the night away, Jack and Leatrice kept making eyes at each other until finally he got her alone long enough to convince her to go back home with him.

Things seemed fine until exhaust started to get the better of Leatrice. In a matter of months she worked on and completed five pictures without a break. Her exhaustion put her even more on edge and less likely to put up with any of her husband's shenanigans. They went weeks without talking or seeing each other until one day they agreed to meet at a church and talk things out face to face. They told one another how happy they were together and thought it best to stay that way. However, Jack wanted more. He wanted a baby. Leatrice on the other hand was not gung ho on the idea. Her career was really going places and she didn't want to take such a long break from the spotlight in order to start a family. Jack then made a completely asinine remark to her. He told her that he was going to have a baby in the near future either with her or with a prostitute on the street. Somehow this changed Leatrice's mind. Good Lord...

We all know what happened next of course...Leatrice did in fact get pregnant. Jack was over the moon upon hearing the news. He immediately started pampering her and just showering her with love and gifts. He sometimes went a little overboard, like when he took her out to see John Barrymore in Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde at the movie theater. Halfway through the film, he grabbed her arm and led her out of the theater, telling her that the movie's subject matter was not appropriate for a woman in her condition.

Interestingly enough, for all his pampering, his philandering ways didn't completely stop. His new lady friend about town was stage actress Laurette Taylor. They loved making home movies and putting on little skits and laughing and flirting, all of this for everyone to see. Tsk, tsk... The final straw for Leatrice came when a telegram arrived at their home. It read: "Darling, thanks for the roses. It was equally hard to leave you. Always, Laurette." After this slap in the face, Leatrice packed up and moved back in with her mother. When Jack home and found his wife gone, he freaked out. He called his friends but no one would tell him where she was. The next day, he finally found out where she was and send her roses and a note asking for her forgiveness and for her to come home. Wrong choice of flowers there, Jack! Leatrice sent him a note back: "Darling, thanks for the roses. It was equally hard to leave you. Always, Leatrice." NICE!!

Mutual friends intervened and kept telling Leatrice what a great guy Jack was and that she really needed him because of the baby which was due in a matter of weeks. She decided they were probably right and so one day she headed to the home Jack shared with his two buddies. She walked in the door and saw a mess of liquor bottles and over turned ash trays all over the carpet. She didn't even bother going all the way in to find Jack, she just turned and left. A week later, she filed for divorce.

Leatrice Joy and baby Leatrice Joy

During the horrible mess of a divorce, on September 6, 1924, Leatrice Joy II was born. Jack was not allowed to see his new daughter per his soon to be ex wife and brother in law. The hospital nurses felt sorry for Jack though and did allow him to see her. He sent Leatrice a note telling her that he had seen their daughter and loved her already. She wrote a note back asking him to move out of the house so she could have a proper place to bring her baby home to. He tried to convince her to change her mind but she didn't budge.

During the divorce proceedings Jack kept holding out hope that she would change her mind. And I think both of them still harbored feelings for the other even after the divorce. Sometimes though, no matter how hard you try, you can't fix something that is just completely and utterly broken.