The Daily Mirror

Larry Harnisch reflects on Los Angeles history

Category: Suicide

Jimmie Fidler in Hollywood, June 2, 1941

  June 2, 1941, Dolly Sister,  

  June 2, 1941, Comics  

June 2, 1941: The pajama-clad body of Hungarian-born danseuse Jenny Dolly, who with her sister Rosie was the toast of two continents two decades ago, was found dangling from a wrought-iron curtain rod in her luxurious Hollywood apartment, 1735 N. Wilcox Ave., The Times says. 

TWENTIETH CENTURY-FOX AT A GLANCE: Granite-eyed gatemen relaxing into big grins as Jane Withers drives past, Jimmie Fidler says.
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Editor Falls to His Death From Hollywood Landmark


  6331 Hollywood Blvd.  

6331 Hollywood Blvd., now the Scientology HQ, via Google maps’ street view.


  Jan. 25, 1961, Norman Siegel  

Photoplay May 1961 Nothing about Norman Siegel’s death made any sense. The former publicist, now working as the West Coast editor of Photoplay magazine, went to the rooftop snack bar at the Hollywood Guaranty Building on Jan. 24, 1961,  sat at a table near the edge and ordered a cup of coffee.  The next moment, he was gone.

Investigators initially suspected that Siegel, 54,  committed suicide, but he left no notes and further inquiry failed to reveal anything that was amiss in his life. Matt Weinstock wrote: "I saw him at a preview of "The Misfits" the night before his death. He was, as always, gracious and good-humored."

According to Weinstock, “The roof has barriers of varying heights along the edge. At some points the parapets are about 4 1/2 feet tall. At the point from which Siegel fell, the barrier is only 24 inches high.”

Los Angeles County Coroner Theodore J. Curphey (d. 1986) reopened the case in March after attorney Louis Licht, representing the Siegel family, revealed that at the time of his death, Siegel was working on a story for Photoplay titled "An Editor Visits Hollywood" that would feature unusual camera angles, including a view overlooking the city. Siegel was familiar with the roof garden because he once had an office in the building, according to Licht, who said Siegel might have been scouting locations for photos.  

Less than nine months after Siegel’s death, his son  Robert,  a UCLA student, was killed in an airplane crash in the Chicago suburbs. He was 22.

In 1965, the state Industrial Accident Commission ruled that Siegel's death was an accident, a decision that allowed Siegel's family to collect his insurance.


Photoplay Editor Plunges to Death

Editor's Death Stirs Mystery

May 1961 Photoplay listed on EBay

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Paul Coates, Jan. 24, 1961

  Jan. 24, 1961, Mirror Cover  

Jan. 24, 1961: Paul Coates uses the kidnapping and death of Rose Marie Riddle, 6, to explore the story of another young victim of a child molester.

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Movieland Mystery Photo


  Dec. 15, 2010, Mystery Photo  
  Los Angeles Times file photo  

  March 28, 1936, Thelma Todd  

March 28, 1936: The mayor of Ogden, Utah, says he may reopen the investigation of Thelma Todd’s death based on a tip from an informant who overheard a phone call from “a woman in black” who identified the killer while dictating a Western Union telegram to Los Angeles police.  

Los Angeles police told Ogden Mayor Harmon Perry that Todd committed suicide and that the case was closed.

Dorothy Stratten -- ‘Galaxina’

  Nov. 22, 1980, Galaxina

   Aug. 16, 1980, Dorothy Stratten  

Nov. 22, 1980: “Galaxina” is released to movie theaters three months after one of the stars, former Playmate of the Year Dorothy Stratten, died in a murder-suicide. “Since Stratten plays a robot in the title role, there's no telling whether she had talent or not," Kevin Thomas says.

Crown International changed its ad campaign after Stratten’s death, using early concept artwork in ads rather than the planned photos of Stratten, according to  Terri Smith, the company’s publicity director.
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Jimmie Fidler in Hollywood, Nov. 12, 1940

  Nov. 11, 1940, Great Dictator  

  Nov. 11, 1940, Suicide  

Nov. 12, 1940: Eddie Albert, with a brand new schooner yacht, is readying for another Mexican cruise -- and Warners are worried, Jimmie Fidler says. 

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Matt Weinstock, Oct. 27, 1960

  Oct. 27, 1960, Comics

Oct 27, 1960: Matt Weinstock weighs in on Ben Hecht’s discredited claims that Paul Bern’s suicide was a “whitewash.”

CONFIDENTIAL TO IGNORANT AND ASHAMED: Your question is one that troubles many people ... and it is nothing to be ashamed of. I cannot print the answer in my column, but will mail you a personal reply if you will send me a self-addressed, stamped envelope.

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Another Good Story Ruined -- Updated


Sept. 6, 1932: The scene of Paul Bern’s suicide in his home at 9820 Easton Drive.

Oct. 26, 1960, Paul Bern





Oct. 25-28, 1960: In response to an article alleging a “suicide whitewash,” the district attorney’s office reopens the investigation in the 1932 death of movie studio executive Paul Bern.

“Bern's nude body, a wound in the right temple and a .38-caliber revolver, from which a single shot had been fired, clutched in his right hand, was discovered at 11:45 a.m. in a dressing closet off his private bedroom in his rustic mountain home at 9820 Easton Drive, Benedict Canyon,” The Times said in reporting Bern’s death.

[Updated: Oct. 26, 8:19 a.m. The Daily Mirror reports Oct. 26, 1960, that Hecht said: “My story was based on rumor and gossip. I have no evidence whatsoever. My report was based on a story that has been circulating in Hollywood for a long time.]

  Sept. 6, 1932, Paul Bern  

The article alleging a “suicide whitewash,” by screenwriter and former reporter Ben Hecht,  claimed Bern’s note was a forgery.  [The article, evidently titled “Hollywood Nostalgia," appeared in the November 1960 issue of Playboy – an item that is lacking in the Daily Mirror archives.]

However, an examination of grand jury records confirmed that Bern had committed suicide and Hecht eventually admitted to Chief Deputy Dist. Atty. Manley J. Bowler that "he had no reliable information to support his assertion in the article," The Times said.

Now for a fun little detour. Let’s see what Kevin Starr has to say about Bern’s death in  “Embattled Dreams: California in War and Peace, 1940-1950.” [A 1932 incident covered in a book about the ’40s? … in a chapter about the Black Dahlia? No, I’m not kidding.]

Starr says: “Hollywood suicides too numerous to mention in detail included the suspicious death on 5 September 1932 of studio executive Paul Bern, husband of film star Jean Harlow, who allegedly shot and killed himself in the bedroom of the couple's house in Benedict Canyon. Some suspected Harlow of being more than a horrified bystander.”

In fact, according to The Times, Harlow and Bern were supposed to have dinner at her parents’ house, 1353 Club View Drive,  but Bern “decided at the last moment to send the cook and housekeeper ahead with his wife and he planned to follow later.” 

And that tells you just about all you need to know about the caliber of Mr. Starr’s books.

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Widowed by Hasty Words


Oct. 25, 1910: Jessie Emery wanted her husband, Fred, to go to the store and get a bottle of milk and a loaf of bread for dinner. But he had a hard day and didn’t feel like going to the store, so a quarrel began. Fred beat Jessie over the head with a mandolin and she scratched him in self-defense. When his mother and sister came home and asked what had happened, the argument resumed and Fred loaded his cheap .32 revolver…

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Movieland Mystery Photo

 Aug. 28, 2010, Mystery Photo
Los Angeles Times file photo

Photograph by George Lacks / Los Angeles Mirror 

OK, here’s another picture of our mystery woman. And yes, the photo is from the Mirror files.

Update: On the jump, the identity of our mystery guest. Although she was an entertainer, she’s not exactly like our other folks. She has quite a story, though, especially if you have never read about her. I thought she would be a nice change of pace for noir fans who may be a little weary of  The Times bombing.

Here’s our weekend mystery guest. I like to keep things more informal on the weekends so I’ll post all the comments as they come in rather than waiting.

This week’s mystery guest was Aline MacMahon. Her mystery companions were: Marie Nordstrom in Sid Grauman’s stage production of “Once in a Lifetime,” Kaufman and Hart’s satire on Hollywood; Guy Kibbee;  an unidentified fellow; and Robert Knapp, who appeared with her on stage in "The Madwoman of Chaillot."

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Medical Miracle Saves Killer

July 18, 1910, Buster Luitweiler

July 18, 1910, Luitweiler


July 18, 1910: George C. Luitweiler wanted to sell his home at 1134 State St. so he could get money to be treated for tuberculosis. When his wife disagreed, he shot her to death and wounded her sister, then went upstairs to kill himself with cyanide. 

Because the family lived near County Hospital, doctors were able to revive Luitweiler. In 1911, he was found insane and sent to Patton hospital, but he escaped in May 1912, The Times said.

It’s unclear what became of their son, Samuel Henry “Buster” Luitweiler. A news account in the Herald says his grandmother filed papers to become his guardian, but his name doesn’t appear in any online death index.

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Single Mother Attempts Suicide

June 16, 1910, Occidental

June 16, 1910: I was struck by the contrast between the photo of women graduating from Occidental and the pitiful story of a single mother with two little children who was down to her last $7 [$159.17 USD 2009] and spent most of it on a revolver and couple of bullets to kill herself. She shot herself in the head but survived because the bullet flattened itself against her skull. She tells The Times: "I will not try again to kill myself, but, oh, it's awful to have two little children and not to know how to provide for them."

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