Footage of Hollywood and Los Angeles from the 1963 Sexploitation flick, "Hollywood's World of Flesh".
Available @ SomethingWeird.com
repost courtesy~ andrew crane~ hollywood/antebellum correspondent
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This year marks the 77th anniversary of Thelma Todd’s mysterious death.
We tend to think of her as a star of the talkies, but she was active in films from late 1925, and she worked her way up the ladder fairly quickly, playing leads within a couple of years. Her fans will scowl at me for saying this, but I think the talkie revolution knocked her career off track; from that point on she tended not to play leads, and she was more often cast in comedies than in dramas. I know, I know— you love those comedies. Well, so do I, but I’m not sure that doing two-reelers for Hal Roach was the career she most wanted for herself.
Let me say right upfront: I’m no authority on the facts about Thelma’s death. But then I’m not sure that anybody is. The only book-length examination is Andy Edmonds’ Hot Toddy(1989), which I’ve skimmed but haven’t read. I don’t want to read it. There are so many mistakes in Edmonds’ books on Virginia Hill and the Arbuckle manslaughter trials that I don’t want to absorb any more misinformation about the Todd case.
Others who have read her book have skewered it for accuracy issues. Front and center is the assertion that Thelma was murdered on the order of Lucky Luciano, a scenario for which there’s no evidence whatsoever.
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The back of the photo shows that it was used in November 1935, to illustrate a story about threats the actress had been receiving.
So it’s no wonder that when Todd turned up dead later that year, people began whispering about murder, and they’ve been whispering ever since.
We often hear about the studios’ power to squelch official investigations into such things, but the Los Angeles Police Department went right to work on the Todd case. There was an autopsy and a grand jury hearing. Some of this material is available. Her death certificate can be seen here, and there’s even a company selling a copy of the 125-page coroner’s inquest report. The police files seem to be off-limits; I’ve heard they’ve been sealed, like those on the Black Dahlia case.
Thelma Todd’s Cafe, photographed the day her body was discovered, December 16, 1935. Among the few things that all sources agree upon is that Todd co-owned the Cafe with the more-or-less retired director Roland West. Another idea, widely and confidently disclosed, is that the second floor was dedicated to illegal gambling, an operation coveted by organized crime figures. Whether that’s even true or not, I don’t know, and considering all the half-truths and wild guesses that permeate the reporting about Todd’s death, I hesitate to accept it. Did mobsters kill her? Andy Edmonds says so, and points to Lucky Luciano; Black Dahlia researcher Donald Wolfe also thinks so, but he points to Bugsy Siegel. Neither author offers much in the way of hard evidence.
Newspaper sketch of the crime scene. After a dinner party at the Trocadero, Todd was dropped off at the Cafe at about 3:15 on the morning of Sunday, December 15, 1935. Her body was discovered in her car, inside the unlocked garage near the top right-had corner of this sketch, on the morning of Monday, December 16.
The coroner found a significant level of carbon monoxide in her blood, and determined that death was caused by carbon monoxide poisoning. At the time Thelma was discovered, the ignition was on, but the car’s engine had died with a couple of gallons of gas still in the tank. The theory is that Thelma, cold and unable to get into her apartment at the locked Cafe, trudged up to her car in the garage, started it up and turned on the heater. In time, she was overcome by odorless carbon monoxide fumes in the closed garage.
Skeptics of the official account say that Thelma’s body showed signs of a beating, variously involving broken ribs, a broken nose, a chipped tooth or some combination thereof. I don’t see anything like that in these photos, but then I haven’t read the coroner’s report. Of course, if the coroner did shoot down that theory, some would say he was only covering up the true facts. Ultimately, nothing changes the mind of a devoted conspiracy theorist.
One complication for the official story is that the man living in the apartment above the garage testified that he never heard the car start. But some sources say that the engine on Thelma’s 1932 Lincoln Phaeton was particularly loud.
Another point of contention is the report that the coroner found peas and carrots among the contents of Thelma’s stomach, and we’re told that these were not on the Trocadero’s menu.
When Thelma’s body was discovered that Monday morning, she was still wearing the same clothes she’d worn to the Trocadero party.
Interestingly, nearly every version of the story tells us that her shoes were found to be in pristine condition, suggesting that she couldn’t possibly have walked up the hill all the way from the Cafe, and that therefore her body must have been placed in the car by… someone. But clearly, the soles of the shoes (at least that one on the left) most certainly are scuffed. So much for that theory.
Also from the Examiner photo file was this copy of an anonymous letter the police received shortly after Thelma’s death. It seems to be sincere. What do you think?
Click on the image to enlarge.
Thelma Todd lies in state at Pierce Brothers’ Mortuary. After the funeral, her body was cremated, and her mother retained the ashes until she herself died. The ashes were later buried with the mother’s remains.
repost courtesy~ christopher snowden~ los angeles/antebellum correspondent