Photograph by Ray Graham / Los Angeles Times
|Here’s a little bonus: A certain film star’s funeral. See if you can identify the (not very) mysterious pallbearers. |
Update: As most people realized, this is Errol Flynn's funeral. Curiously enough, although the papers reported that Jack Oakie was unable to get into the service because of tight security, he's in this picture. Also shown, from left: Mickey Rooney, Raoul Walsh, Guinn Williams and Otto Reichow. The other folks are unidentified.
Larry Harnisch reflects on Los Angeles history
| She is one of those cold cases that leave all kinds of unanswered questions even when the killer is finally caught, convicted and sent to prison. Nothing about it passes the sniff test. |
We know her name was Helene Funk Jerome, born in New York on March 12, 1908, which makes her 50 at the time of the killing. She was living in a rear apartment at the Las Palmas Hotel, 1738 N. Las Palmas. That's the one used in "Pretty Woman."
She was supposedly a retired actress, but her credentials are rather vague. The Times said she was a graduate of either the Royal Dramatic Academy or the Royal Dramatic Society in London, so I'm guessing it was the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, which has no record of her -- at least online.
Most of her career was spent on the stage in China, The Times said. She never made any movies and shouldn't be confused with Helene Jerome Eddy, who died in 1990.
About 1943, Helene married Edwin Jerome, an actor who had a long career on Broadway before coming to Hollywood, where he appeared in such roles as a butler in "Gigi" and a doctor in "The Three Faces of Eve." They were estranged, he said, but remained friendly. He lived about 2 miles away at 1710 N. Harvard.
It's unclear whether Edwin called the hotel or the hotel switchboard operator called him, but either way, he became concerned when the operator said Helene's phone had been off the hook for a long time. He told police he went to the apartment to investigate and found Helene's nude body. The screen had been torn from a window near the door and detectives inferred that someone had broken in. The autopsy found that she had been strangled.
Edwin told police that he had been there late Tuesday, the night before the killing, and had answered the phone because she was asleep. Edwin said the caller was a man, but didn't get his name.
A few days later, police arrested Edgar Glenn McAdoo, 25, because he closely resembled the police sketch of a man seen with Helene in a bar a few hours before she was killed. McAdoo, who was working as a carhop after arriving from Lubbock, Texas, two months earlier, admitted being in a bar with Helene and said he escorted her back to the apartment but went home to 6674 Yucca St.
Investigators searched Helene's apartment for fingerprints to see if any matched McAdoo and he was given an extensive polygraph exam. However, prosecutors refused to file charges against him. He was released, charged with outstanding traffic warrants and freed on bail.
Next, based on an informant's report, police arrested Miller F. Dowdy, 42, who operated an all-night newsstand at Las Palmas and Hollywood Boulevard. Although the informant said Dowdy had been with Helene on the evening before the killing, Dowdy said he was working all night, although he admitted going on a date with her about three weeks earlier.
Dowdy was released a few days later for lack of evidence and police arrested Jordan Holt, 32, who was captured on a hotel roof and admitted being with Helene on the night of the killing, The Times said. The paper never reported what became of Holt, although he was apparently released.
In September 1960, police found another suspect, Henry Adolph Busch, 29, who admitted strangling three Hollywood women, including his foster mother's sister. He was questioned about Helene's killing, but apparently nothing came of it.
Finally, in November 1962, a 26-year-old shipping clerk from La Puente, Michael John Donahue, walked into the Portland, Ore., police station and confessed to killing Helene. He said he left Los Angeles a week earlier to get away but decided to confess to clear his conscience. Donahue said he followed Helene and a young man (presumably McAdoo) home from a Hollywood bar, then broke in once the man left. They argued and he killed her, he said.
Donahue pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and in April 1963 was sentenced to five years to life in prison.
This is only chronology I can come up with for Helene's killing and it doesn't fit together terribly well: Edwin is at Helene's apartment. It's late and she's asleep. The phone rings and Edwin answers, then he leaves. For the rest of it to work, Helene would have to get up, go to the bar and meet McAdoo, come home with him, and then be killed by Donahue. And Holt is supposed to fit in there someplace.
This lady seems to have been hanging around with an awful lot of low-life men who were much younger; two of them were half her age. And then throw in the guy working at the all-night newsstand; not exactly prime date material. The Times doesn't say anything about what she did for a living. I wonder what was really going on.
Helene was buried at Forest Lawn Memorial-Park. In addition to Edwin, she was survived by sisters Josephine Laroza and Frieda Theis and brothers John and Bernard Funk.
Edwin died a little over a year after the killing, having moved to Altadena. He "reportedly never recovered from the shock of the unsolved murder of his wife," The Times said.
Public records are inconclusive on confessed killer Michael John Donahue. A man by that name died in Long Beach in 1999, but it's unclear if this is the same man.
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Carole Landis, July 27, 1937
|DEAD BODY REPORT
|Victim SCHMIDLAPP, Carole Landis (Mrs.) Residence Address 1465 Capri Dr., Pac Pal. Business Address Eagle Lyon Stud.
|Cause of Death (Poison, Heart Failure, Drowned, Traffic, Gunshot, etc.) App. sleeping tablets.
Motive or Reason (Revenge, Rape, Ill Health, etc.) App ill health
Coroner's Office noticied (cq) Deputy Gooch. Homicide notified.
A note written and left by the deceased; to wit:
I'm really, really sorry to put you through this but there is no way to avoid it.
I love you, darling, you have been the most wonderful mom ever.
And that applies to all our family. I love each and every one of them dearly.
Everything goes to you. Look in the files and there is a will which decrees everything.
Goodbye, my angel, pray for me.
Mr. Rex Harrison visited the deceased on 7/4/48 and left her residence at approx. 9PM. The following day, 7/5/48, Mr. Harrison telephoned twice and the second time the maid informed him she was unable to arouse the deceased. Mr. Harrison went to the house and arrived at approx. 3:00 PM. Accompanied by the maid, went to the deceased's bedroom and found her lying in the bathroom on the floor. The maid went next door and called the police and notified Mrs. Wasson as to what they had found. At that time, Dr. N.K. Forster was called. At the time of our arrival at 3:55 PM, Mrs. Wasson and Mr. Harrison and the maid, Fannie Mae Bolden, were present. Dr. Forster came in shortly after our arrival. He immediately pronounced victim dead. Deceased was
CONTINUED ON CONTINUATION FORM 15.9
|Signature H.W. Brittingham Serial No. 2724
Signature M.J. Layman Serial No. 2606
Approved by (illegible).
If Additional Space Is Required Use Continuation Report Form No. 15.9
|The Daily Mirror would like to thank a reader for sharing a photo of the first page of original LAPD report, which was too murky to reproduce.
|Above and at left, Rabbi Edgar F. Magnin poses with Jewish ceremonial items brought from Europe by Henry Weinberger and his wife and presented to Wilshire Boulevard Temple. The Times says the donations include Paroches (hangings for the Ark) from the 17th, 18th and early 19th centuries. |
Officer Fred A. Browne is scheduled to testify in the trial of Police Capt. Earle Kynette in the Harry Raymond bombing ... Seniors graduate at Occidental College and Mt. St. Mary's College ... And the Knights of Pythias hold an elaborate ceremony at Forest Lawn in tribute to deceased members.
Above, a landmark we actually saved -- sort of. I'm still waiting for the Sinai and Olivet to be reinstalled ... Below, celebrity journalism, 1950s style: Peter Lawford gets clipped by a hit-and-run driver and Gen. Rafael Trujillo of the Dominican Republic is mighty generous with the ladies: A car and a chinchilla coat to Zsa Zsa and an $8,400 ($61,216.70 USD 2007) Mercedes for Kim Novak ... And Red Skelton's son Richard dies of leukemia in the heartbreaking conclusion of a tragic story.
Let's suppose you are a famous comedian with a hit TV show. Fame and wealth are yours--more than you could have ever imagined. You are recognized wherever you go.
Now let's suppose that the doctors at UCLA say your 9-year-old son, Richard, has less than a year to live because of incurable leukemia. Maybe only five months. All that wealth and fame can't bring him even one more day.
You don't know how to explain such things to a 9-year-old, so you haven't told him. Right now, the leukemia is in remission. He has no idea he has such a brief time to live.
But when he sees "The Last Days of Pompeii" on TV and thinks it looks interesting, that's all you need to book a trip for you, your wife, your son and your 10-year-old daughter to Pompeii. There's no way to pack a lifetime's worth of experiences into a year, but you can try, so you add stops in Copenhagen, Switzerland, Rome, Barcelona, Paris, London and Dublin, Ireland.
Although you're not Catholic, you meet Pope Pius XII, who read about your trip in the newspapers and granted a request for a private audience. Pius tells your son: "Life is eternal because of God. So if life is taken away from one person in a family they are never separated because the family will always live together in eternal life with God."
Of course, the reporters follow you everywhere. In Paris, they ask your son what he wants to see first. The Eiffel Tower, he says. And what next? "What else is there?" he asks.
At the Louvre, where your family upstages the artwork, Richard asks why the "Mona Lisa" was smiling. "Because everybody is looking at her," is the answer.
But in London, you are not received so favorably. Some of the British papers see the trip as nothing more than a ghastly publicity stunt by a gauche Hollywood TV star exploiting his son's illness. One paper lectures you to go back to America. Another calls a session with reporters: "a nauseating jamboree." Columnist Simon Ward of the Daily Sketch says: "I was horrified and revolted at the spectacle of this poor little boy being put under the spotlight."
According to the Daily Sketch's description of a news conference, your son: "sat there white-faced and near to tears while the crowd milled around him in the smoke-filled room"
It was only then that your son, Richard, finds out he is dying. He remarks: "Everybody says I'm going to die but that means everybody but me."
You attack the local press and defend yourself on British TV: "I do not believe my son is going to die. I believe in God. I believe in the medical profession. I believe that an answer will be found."
Back in Los Angeles, a British envoy does his best to defend the British press, saying: "I don't think there's a person in Britain who doesn't wish only the best for Mr. Skelton and his son."
In August 1957, you visit the Shrine of Our Lady of Fatima in Portugal, saying: "God alone can save my boy's life as science has done all it can."
Around New Year's 1958, you are hospitalized for what the papers call an asthma attack. A few months later, Brentwood Country Club honors you as the Man of the Year at the United Jewish Welfare Fund banquet.
And then of all the prayers for your son, there was a final one for Richard Freeman Skelton, who died May 10, 1958, a little more than a week before his 10th birthday. You asked him if he wanted a big birthday party and he said no, just a few friends. So you brought a Sears catalogue to the hospital so Richard could pick whatever he wanted. He selected a tent and camping equipment--and a surprise gift for Mother's Day.
As he lay there dying, with an IV in his leg because all the other veins were collapsed from transfusions, he asked: "Daddy, will you get Mama that red blanket for Mother's Day? I don't suppose they'd let me out of here with this cut on my leg."
An hour later, Richard said: "I can't see. Everything is fuzzy." And he was gone. You and your wife, Georgia, sat with him for half an hour, weeping. "I had to sit there and cry," Georgia said. "Richard wouldn't let me cry before. He always chided me if I came into see him with my eyes red."
Then you and your wife came home to tell the news to your daughter, Valentina. You went into Richard's bedroom, decorated with his toys, his favorite camera and the stuffed dog he slept with at night.
Next to Richard's bed was a small suitcase he had packed with underwear, socks and a toothbrush in case the family went on another trip. "He said, 'Mama, you never know when we'll be leaving on a trip. It's best to be ready.' "
Georgia started to turn off the lights and stopped. "No, I can't turn off that light. I don't want it dark in here, not tonight."
Richard was laid in his casket with a cross he'd requested from the pope, his other last wish, in a lavish funeral at Church of the Recessional at Forest Lawn.
Before a crowd of mourners that included Vincent Price, David Rose, Johnny Weismuller and even mobster Mickey Cohen, actor William Lundigan read a eulogy by Gene Fowler, whom Richard nicknamed "Grandpa Wrinklepants."
"This is the end of his brief journey on earth. This is the end of the glad hours we have spent with this bright and shining child.
"We shall say but a few words of farewell to the red-haired boy whose golden years touched so many of us like some heaven-sent miracle.
"What words of ours, grown up though we may be, or wise as we mistakenly think we are, can define the miracle? What praise can awake the sleeping child? Or explain the meaning of God's will?
"Through the cruel months of his illness he did not complain.... Always a most courageous little gentleman. A president and a pope were his friends.... and hundreds of thousands of men, women and children" who had never known him.
"Now he belongs to God. Farewell then, little fellow, and thanks for your short visit with us here on Earth."
The woman at the front gate was extremely professional and helpful, and she gave me precise directions. Norma is in the Columbarium of Sunlight and Sande is in the Sanctuary of Celestial Peace. I was surprised at how many people were simply spending time at the hillside graves, with folding chairs and flowers. A couple of young men were partway up a hillside with a Marine flag.
The Columbarium of Sunlight is quite pretty and I had it entirely to myself. While I was in the area I found the graves of Earl Carroll and Beryl Wallace, who died in a plane crash, Mary Pickford and Atwater Kent, which reminded me of "Millionaires' Row" up at Mountain View Cemetery in Oakland.
The Sanctuary of Celestial Peace was a bit different. I went in the wrong door and in wandering around, stumbled across the crypt of Art Tatum.
"Sande" Crabbe is partway up the wall and while I was getting water for the flower I ran into a couple of women. It turns out Paramahansa Yogananda of the Self-Realization Fellowship is in the same building and they were meditating in front of what appeared to be his crypt. I didn't want to interrupt them to find out.
One of the crypts was elaborately decorated for an Easter egg hunt. I have seen all sorts of grave decorations in searching for Los Angeles history, but this was a first and very nicely done.
April 12, 1957
By Larry Harnisch
Those who say you can never be too rich or too thin never heard of Caren Lynn Crabbe, the daughter of "Flash Gordon" star Buster Crabbe, a young woman of wealth and privilege who weighed 60 pounds when she died at the age of 20.
Crabbe, who was nicknamed "Sande," died at the home of her grandparents, Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Held, 840 Napoli Drive, Pacific Palisades.
A 1954 graduate of the Marlborough School for Girls, Sande had been attending USC and was a member of Kappa Alpha Theta, the Ticktockers of the Los Angeles Charity League and Silver Spoons of California Babies and Children's Hospital. She dropped out of college in March, because "she just couldn't make it," her father said.
Anorexia nervosa was apparently a mysterious affliction in 1957. The Times reported that she died of "malnutrition brought on by an emotional disturbance." The family said Sande had been losing weight for about a year. Still, her death was unexpected, her doctor said.
"It was a complete surprise," said Dr. Carl D. Strouse. "That is why I didn't sign the death certificate."
After an elaborate funeral at Little Church of the Flowers, Sande was buried at Forest Lawn wearing a peach pink nylon gown, The Times said.
"The coppertone metal casket bearing the girl's body was blanketed by a profusion of floral sprays and wreaths--more than 75, mortuary attendants said," according to The Times. "Following the playing of the 'Ave Maria,' the casket was taken to Forest Lawn for emtombment. Members of the family entered the mausoleum but they remained only a few minutes."
Sande was survived by her parents; sister Susan Allen Crabbe, brother Cullen Held Crabbe, who was appearing in the TV show "Captain Gallant of the Foreign Legion"; grandparents Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Held, and grandmother Agnes Akins.