Four Dark Tales From Old Hollywood

The Golden Age of Hollywood is often associated with bright lights and glamorous stars, but unknown to outsiders Tinsel town had a dark side as well. Betrayal, drug abuse, sexual assaults, and murder took place in the shadows so as not to dim the bright lights. As much as we now know there are still secrets from Hollywood’s yesteryear which have been taken to the grave by many.

Suicide of Peg Entwistle: Actress Peg Entwistle came from a family of stage performers, managers, and agents who immigrated to the United States to continue their craft in New York. She too followed in her family tradition and became a talented and renowned actress onstage before the bright lights of the movie business called her to Hollywood. For a while Peg Entwistle and her husband split their time between New York and Los Angeles before finally committing to the West Coast in 1932 and got a role in the movie Thirteen Women alongside superstars Myrna Loy and Irene Dunne. However most of her scenes in the movie were left on the cutting room floor when it was finally released, which played a large part in driving Entwistle into a deep alcohol-fueled depression. On September 18th 1932 the aspiring actress leapt to her death from the iconic Hollywoodland sign leaving behind an infamous note proclaiming among other things “I am afraid, I am a coward”. Peg Entwistle was cremated and her ashes were sent to her family in Ohio, but ever since her tragic death several witnesses have reported seeing her spirit wandering the grounds around the famed sign.

Murder of Ted Healy: Ted Healy’s career in show business began as a comedian on the vaudeville circuit where he became a superstar alongside with his collaborators; Moe Howard, Larry Fine, and Shemp Howard whom were dubbed his “Stooges”. Healy’s vices got the better of him as these three “Stooges” of his embarked on their own career and as we know from history they kind of did alright for themselves (especially once Moe’s brother Jerome “Curly” Howard was brought into the act). In December of 1937, Healy got involved in an altercation at the Hollywood bar, the Trocadero. Oscar winning actor Wallace Beery, infamous producer/gangster Pasquale DiCicco, and producer Albert R. Broccoli, got into a fight with Healy which eventually spilled into the alleyway outside. With numbers not on his side the comedian suffered a brutal beating and he died from his injuries days later. One would think this would be where the scandal would be a star-studded arrest in a murder case, but one would be wrong. Refusing to lose one of his biggest box office draws, MGM studio head Louis B. Mayer insisted that Wallace Beery should immediately head to Europe on vacation. With Beery overseas and out of the limelight, Mayer called in favors with Hollywood’s notorious fixers and made sure that in the end it was Ted Healy’s alcoholism which killed him and not the beating which was witnessed at the Trocadero.

Jean Harlow’s Husband: With platinum blonde hair, a sharp comedic timing, and screen presence for days Jean Harlow was Hollywood’s original “blonde bombshell”. As such she had no shortage of suitors during her tragically short career one of whom was Paul Bern, a producer/screenwriter/director for the studio, who became her second husband in 1932. In a case of stupid men having a ribeye steak at home but still going out to eat garbage food, Bern was involved in an affair with his secretary and other women. After only two months of dating, the police were called to the couple’s Beverly Hills home where the MGM executive was found dead on the bathroom floor with a bullet in the head. The presence of a suicide note led to the case being quickly ruled as such but questions still lingered. Before the police were called, Harlow’s butler called Louis B. Mayer who sent his fixers to the scene before the cops arrived. Further making matters suspicious it was Mayer himself who presented the short suicide note to authorities at the scene. By all accounts despite being married to a cinematic sex symbol, Paul Bern had no problem straying it is safe to assume to Jean Harlow had finally had enough and the powers-that-be at MGM ensured one of their biggest stars would not face any legal ramifications.

Death of Lupe Velez: The actress Lupe Velez known as the “Mexican Spitfire” was one of the most popular actresses of the 1930’s with films like; the Girl from Mexico and Honolulu Lulu. In 1933, Velez married actor, Johnny Weissmuller, a former Olympian who earned fame playing the characters, Tarzan and Jungle Jim across a number of films mostly during the Pre Code era. Their marriage came to an with a divorce in 1939 and five years later in 1944, Lupe Velez took her own life at age 36. In the final period of her life, the actress had become embroiled in scandal when an affair with actor, Harald Maresch left her pregnant. Considering a note was found at the scene of her death, the coroner had no problem ruling Lupe Velez’s death a suicide, but it was not long before murmurings began to pop up that something more was at play. A favorite rumor was that Gary Cooper was actually the father of her child and used his connections to have it covered up. Others still claim that her death was in fact an accident or someone with malicious intent was responsible. After so many decades and so many rumors and whispers so much about her death has been shrouded and distorted that we may never get a full idea of what happened.