Showing this year ay Cinecon 54

August 26th, 2018

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For more information about Cinecon, please click HERE

Beatrice Dominguez: Valentino’s “La Bella Sevilla”

August 21st, 2018

dominguez

She was a vamp. With Spanish mantillas and high combs, and dancing to the sounds of a strumming guitar, she endeared herself to those she entertained. She was born Beatriz Dominguez on September 6, 1896, in San Bernardino, California. Descended from an old California Spanish family, a race of dons, her lineage can be traced back to old Castile who had been Americans for generations. Like her three older sisters, Beatriz was educated at Sacred Heart Convent, and like her younger sister Inez, she appeared in a few short films, but unlike Inez, she liked the medium. Her family, however, wanted her to be a doctor or lawyer; there had been no theatrical people or dancers in their ancestry. But dancing was in her blood. Her mother Petra, was born in Sevilla and never had a dancing lesson, yet she simply danced. Beatriz learned to dance from her. “You see,” Beatriz said, “Spanish dances are all symbolical.” And from her, too, she inherited the priceless mantillas, combs, jewelry and embroidered shawls that she wore.

In 1915 and 1916, Beatriz danced her way into fame when she appeared at the Panama-Pacific Exposition in San Diego. Billed simply as “La Bella Sevilla,” she lent the old Castilian touch to the air of the place.  To the click of castanets and a swirl of silken skirts, through an open archway she danced to the tune of the classic La Jota, black eyes snapping as the applause of the expositions throng bought in more crowds. When Theodore Roosevelt saw her dance, he called her “California’s sweetheart — fairest dancing daughter of the dons.”  .

While performing in San Diego, she had an uncredited role in the Douglas Fairbanks film, The Americano (1916). After the exposition, Beatrice returned to dancing in vaudeville.

“After I left San Diego,” Beatriz recalled, “and had danced at the Mission Inn in Riverside—I wished to act. I called at some of the studios and did not say that I was the premiere dancer at Balboa Park (San Diego). I simply registered as ‘La Bella Sevilla.’ Mr. O. H Davis, who was a vice-president of the Exposition, was appointed general manager of Universal. One day, when I called there, he suggested that I use my own name, because directors were rather afraid to employ a dancer because they reasoned that she could not act. I was baptized ‘Beatriz,’ but at the studios they have turned that into the American ‘Beatrice.’”

The newly rechristened ‘Beatrice,’ returned to films in 1919 in a small role in the Rex Ingram picture, The Day She Paid (1919) followed by another Ingram film, Under Crimson Skies (1920). Carl Laemmle saw her and considered her “an exceptional motion picture type” and gave her a part in The Fire Cat (1921) at Universal. Beatrice became one of the first Hispanic actresses to receive screen billing and to be mentioned in the press. Then, the film that she would be remembered for was offered to her. “Beatrice Dominguez, a Spanish dancer, has been engaged to play in the Metro production of The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, which Rex Ingram is directing,” the local trade papers announced. The film starred the relative newcomer, Rudolph Valentino and his dancing the Tango with Beatrice glamorized the dance and gave him instant celebrity.

Beatrice Dominguez’s death certificate (click on image to enlarge)

In December 1920, Beatrice appeared in the prologue to The Mark of Zorro starring Douglas Fairbanks during its seven week run at the Mission Theater.

In February, she was filming The White Horseman (1921) with Art Acord when she collapsed with a ruptured appendix; she was rushed to the Clara Barton Hospital at 447 South Olive Street. Doctors believed she would recover, but as with Valentino five years later, peritonitis set in; a second operation was necessary. She died from the complications of the operation on February 27, 1921. She was 24. One week later, The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse opened in New York City to rave reviews and made Rudolph Valentino a star, in part because of the Tango scene with Beatrice. .

The home of Beatrice Dominguez at 2522 Elsinore Street in Los Angeles where her funeral was held. (PLEASE NOTE: This is a private home. Please do not disturb the residents) (click image to enlarge)

Beatrice’s funeral was held at her home at 2522 Elsinore Street, where she lived with her mother and sister Inez. The funeral mass was held at the Plaza Church in old Los Angeles with burial at Calvary Cemetery. .

(click on image to enlarge)

(click on image to enlarge)

At the time of her death, her role in The White Horseman was not yet completed, so they had to find a way to write her out of the remainder of the film. Her purpose in the film was to find a treasure. The director brought in a stand-in, of about the same height, dressed her in Beatrice’s costume and had her walk into the scene with her back to the camera and announce that she was called back to her home. She entrusted her mission to another, who was then responsible to find the treasure. Just before her death, she was signed to play the role of a Hindu girl in an adaptation of the Rudyard Kipling story, Without Benefit of Clergy at the Brunton Studios (now Paramount).

 

The 91st Annual Rudolph Valentino Memorial is coming up on Thursday, August 23, 2018 at 12:10 p.m. in the Cathedral Mausoleum at Hollywood Forever Cemetery, 6000 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood. Be there. To learn more about the history of the Valentino Memorial, read the book, Valentino Forever: The History of the Valentino Memorial Service by Tracy Ryan Terhune.

Valentino’s Lady in Black legend grows

August 16th, 2018

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One of the legends that developed after the death of silent screen idol Rudolph Valentino, was about the mysterious Lady in Black. Many have claimed to be her and others have donned the black veil and dress in their memory over the past ninety-one years. Just a few that have laid claim or have been credited to the legend are Pola Negri, Marion Benda, Jean Acker, Estrellita del Regil and her mother Anna, and the one who is most accepted to be the original Lady in Black, Ditra Flame.

Another woman who has a claim on the legend is one that most Valentino fans probably have never heard of. Her name is Florence Harrison. Florence’s story is as mysterious as the woman she was alleged to be.

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Harrison’s claim to the title was not known until several years after her death and was made by her son. This is what is known. Several years ago, a copy of the book, Valentino As I Knew Him, written by the actor’s friend and manager, S. George Ullman, surfaced with the following inscription:

“In loving memory of Rodolpho Valentino and my beautiful mother, Florence Marie Rittenhouse (Marie Valentino) who died in Los Angeles of cancer on March 7, 1947. May my beautiful mother and the beautiful memory of her that I will cherish to my grave and Valentino, may they both rest in peace in each other’s arms! My mother was the original ‘Woman in Black’ and quit when others tried to copy her and make a cheap publicity stunt out of it. T. G. (Tony Guglielmi).”

Florence Marie Rittenhouse was born in Pennsylvania in 1900 to Charles and Lillian (Shuman) Rittenhouse. A professional pianist, Florence married Samuel Harrison and moved to Washington D.C. There the Harrison’s had three children: Warren, Thelma and David. One day in 1934, according to family lore, Florence and her eleven year-old son David, left Washington and moved to California, never seeing her family again. Nothing more is known about Florence until her death from breast cancer on March 7, 1947 at the County General Hospital in Los Angeles. Florence’s remains were returned to Washington D.C. for burial at Cedar Hill Cemetery.

Florence Harrison’s death certificate (click on image to enlarge)

As for David, he enlisted in the Army in 1942. The family claims that he had mental health problems and apparently was not able to live on his own. Were his problems a result of his stint in the Army, since they would never have inducted him if those problems were present.

 

The Tony Guglielmi (Guglielmi was Valentino’s birth name) that signed the book was most likely Florence’s son, David Harrison, but why would he sign it that way? By calling her “Marie Valentino,” was he implying that his mother was married to the actor? Did David, who was born in 1923, believe that he was Valentino’s son? Was Florence one of the many anonymous Lady’s in Black that appeared at Valentino’s memorial over the years? Or were these the wild delusions of a mentally disturbed young man? All we have is a brief inscription on the title page of a Rudolph Valentino biography, so unfortunately we may never know. Florence Harrison is one more name added to the already crowded legend.

The 91st Annual Rudolph Valentino Memorial is coming up on Thursday, August 23, 2018 at 12:10 p.m. in the Cathedral Mausoleum at Hollywood Forever Cemetery, 6000 Santa Monica Blvd., Hollywood. Be there. To learn more about the history of the Valentino Memorial, read the book, Valentino Forever: The History of the Valentino Memorial Service by Tracy Ryan Terhune.


Can Gable be another Valentino?

August 14th, 2018

Latest gift to womenkind dissected

By Harry Carr, Los Angeles Times

August 2, 1931

 

Have the movies found in Clark Gable another Valentino? Every time Gable appears on the screen, an electric shock runs through all the female hearts for miles around. Women are mad about him.

His fan mail looks—for bulk—like the letters to the A.E.F. in France. Letters passionate, adoring, swimming with emotion. But he will never be another Rudolph Valentino.

Valentino had something that Gable hasn’t. No other actor had ever appeared who had what Valentino had. It is a quality hard to describe.

Had he been a woman, I should have said that he stood for the universal Earth-Mother. He was the most fascinating of all characters—the primitive man with a veneer of top hats and shining shirts.

Valentino was more primitive in his heart than our old roughneck friend Bull Montana. He was graceful, charming, finished in his manners—yet he was absolutely primitive. He was the mating call.

He was the warm earth opening its heart to the sun in springtime. He was the cave man dressed up. His instincts were those of childhood.

I remember sitting one night with Mrs. Valentino in their home on Whitley Heights. It was a wild revel of artistic direction—floors of black marble with scarlet cushions on a divan that belonged in the last days of the Imperial Rome. We were looking at Rudy who sat across the room. He was talking to Gloria Swanson. He was graceful, winning—charming.

“Just a primitive child,” said Mrs. Valentino, with half-cynical amusement. “What he would like to be doing is repairing a carburetor on an automobile—or playing with his tallan bulldogs. Do you see the point? And did she?

He liked to touch power. He liked to feel that he could control the great finished engine of steel; he liked to fee the giant strength of those fierce beasts. He liked to realize that they loved him; that he could wrestle and rough-house and punish them, but that they would tear anyone else to bleeding shreds.

Just so he liked to wrestle, to ride Arab stallions. He liked the fierce sun of the desert; the last of the storm.

Rudy had a romantic swagger—a flaming color—an appeal that made women fight like tigers for places on the sidewalk when he passed because they felt instinctively that in his heart he was the age-old call of the man to the woman.

Rudolph was the adored lover of all womankind, yet he was not what you would call a ladies man. He had very few sweethearts—a fact of which he sometimes complained in a most plaintive manner. The truth is, Rudolph was not very interesting to most women when they came to actually meet him. Men, on the other hand, bitterly resented him until they got to know him. Then they liked him.

There ws something honest and appealing in Valentino’s struggle that appealed to men. Even in the greatest days he was always a well-meaning guy having a tough time. Sensitive, bruised, misunderstood, Valentino sorrowed over the fact that men resented his hold over women. He resented the resentment of boys who didn’t like when their girl friends sat with a mysterious light in their glowing eyes, and a transfixed expression of surrender to the dashing young man on the screen.

Gable is a dashing fellow. But he will never be the overwhelming lady-charmer that Valentino was. He knows too well what it is all about.

Valentino didn’t. He was always a mystery to himself. Women adored the little-boy hidden in Rudy. Gable is strictly grown-up. He lacks the appealing innocence of Valentino. There is nothing in him that cries out for help to a female heart. And Valentino cried out.

In soul essence, he was the child hero Romulus—waiting to achieve might deeds—to found Rome—to rear nations—to rack out a new world—but temporarily very much in need of a mother.

Please plan to attend the 91st Annual Rudolph Valentino Memorial on Thursday, August 23, 2018 beginning at 12:10 p.m. at Hollywood Forever Cemetery, 6000 Santa Monica, Blvd., Hollywood.

Booksigning at Egyptian/American Cinematheque

July 15th, 2018

Allan Ellenberger Miriam Hopkins Talk

The Egyptian Theater, 6712 Hollywood Blvd.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

2:00 pm to 5:00 pm

Design for Living begins at approximately 3:30 PM.

This Art Deco Society program begins with an illustrated presentation by author and historian Allan Ellenberger on the life and career of actress Miriam Hopkins, followed by the Ernst Lubitsch comedy classic DESIGN FOR LIVING, in which she shares an apartment with lovestruck Fredric March and Gary Cooper.

Allan R. Ellenberger will sign copies of his new book Miriam Hopkins: Life and Films of a Hollywood Rebel, in the lobby before the film.

Larry Edmunds will be on site to sell books.

Co-presented by the Art Deco Society of Los Angeles
Join us for an illustrated presentation by Hollywood historian Allan Ellenberger on the life and work of actress Miriam Hopkins, whose 40-year career began in the pre-Code era and included three films with legendary comedy director Ernst Lubitsch.

35 mm!
DESIGN FOR LIVING
1933, Universal, 91 min, USA, Dir: Ernst Lubitsch
Playwright Tom Chambers (Fredric March) and painter George Curtis (Gary Cooper) share an apartment in Paris and both fall for lovely interior designer Gilda Farrell (Miriam Hopkins). Gilda can’t make up her mind which man she loves, so she concocts a scheme for the three of them to live together platonically. Of course it’s not long before the two men are figuratively clawing at each other’s throats in this pre-Code delight from director Ernst Lubitsch and screenwriter Ben Hecht, based on Noel Coward’s play.

For details and updates: American Cinematheque

 

Marsha Hunt’s Sweet Adversity @ Laemmle’s Town Center 5, Encino

July 5th, 2018

Laemmle’s Town Center 5

17200 Ventura Blvd #121, Encino, Calif

(310) 478-3836

Show dates: Friday, July 13 through Thursday, July 19

Show Times: Daily: 1:30pm, 4:30pm

 

Marsha Hunt was discovered while on a trip to Hollywood in May 1935. She was 17 years old when she was signed by Paramount Pictures. In the depth of the Depression, she made $250 a week. She went on to a flourishing career at MGM in the 1940’s before her career was cut short by a series of unfortunate events that led to her becoming unfairly blacklisted. Through interviews with Marsha and those who knew her well, Marsha Hunt’s Sweet Adversity explores her life and career achievements as an actress and activist.

The film breaks Marsha’s life story down into three parts – her life before being blacklisted, the period leading up to the blacklist and her life after the blacklist. It shows how the blacklist served as a “springboard” to her second career as a full time activist and humanitarian (though she’s still very much an actor.)

Marsha’s life before the blacklist was a time of great joy and innocence. The period leading up to her being blacklisted provides the drama and tension in the film. Her story is a history lesson that can only be told by someone who was there as Marsha was. She is the only member of the Committee for the First Amendment alive today that can talk about the trip she and others took in October 1947 to support the “Hollywood 19.”

In 1950, her thriving career in radio, television and films came to a screeching halt when her name appeared in the right wing publication “Red Channels.” After witnessing abject poverty while on a trip around the world in 1955, Marsha knew she had to educate her fellow Americans about the dire state of the world. She used her celebrity to help raise awareness and funds for the work that the United Nations was doing on behalf of the planet.

Over the course of the next 60 years, Marsha devoted her life to humanitarian causes such as ending world hunger and homelessness. Over the years, she worked with fellow activists Eleanor Roosevelt and George McGovern (who is interviewed in the film) and celebrities such as John Denver and Valerie Harper (also interviewed) on the issue of fighting world hunger.

Her most powerful and meaningful activism work took place when she was asked to be the “Honorary Mayor” of her hometown, Sherman Oaks. Her crowning achievement as Mayor was opening the first homeless shelter in the San Fernando Valley thirty-two years ago.

Her life story has peaks and valleys that span the course of the 20th century. The underlying theme of the documentary is that Marsha rose above adversity. When life handed her lemons, she made lemonade. When the industry she loved turned its back on her, she forgave them and moved on a second career as a “planet patriot.”

She continues to support causes that she feels need a voice. This film is Marsha’s final act of activism. Through her words and action, this film will serve as an inspirational primer for activists of all ages. (Laemmle)

Praise for Marsha Hunt’s Sweet Adversity:

“A compelling story that’s told with authority … at (age) 100, it’s time to celebrate an actress who, while not a household name, probably should be.” – Jeremy Kinser, Moviemaker.com 

“Best film I have ever seen dealing with the Hollywood blacklist.” – Ed Asner

“Passionate … worth checking out due to the life and nature of this remarkable woman.” – Lara Fowler, Backlots.net

“(Contains many) memorable scenes … Marsha Hunt was as American and as patriotic as her accusers claimed to be.” – Dennis McCarthy, Los Angeles Daily News

About the Film:
Marsha Hunt was discovered while on a trip to Hollywood in May 1935. She was 17 years old when she was signed by Paramount Pictures. In the depth of the Depression, she made $250 a week. She went on to a flourishing career at MGM in the 1940’s before her career was cut short by a series of unfortunate events that led to her becoming unfairly blacklisted. Through interviews with Marsha and those who knew her well, Marsha Hunt’s Sweet Adversity explores her life and career achievements as an actress and activist.

NR

Genre: Documentary
Runtime: 97 min
Language: English

H. J. Whitley: Father of Hollywood

July 5th, 2018

Hobart Johnstone Whitley was born in Toronto, Canada on October 7, 1847, of Scottish-English parentage. As a child he moved to Flint, Michigan, where he was educated in the public schools and later at Toronto Business College. 

Whitley engaged in banking and land development in Kansas City and Minneapolis, establishing banks and townsites along the Northern Pacific Railroad, and for a time managed the H. J. Whitley Land and Mortgage Company. He platted the towns and built brick and stone business buildings in Oklahoma City, El Reno, Chickasha, Enid, Medfore, and other cities on the Rock Island Railroad.

In 1887 he married Margaret Virginia Ross and had two children, Grace Virginia and Ross Emmet. Because of bad health, Whitley came to California in 1893 and the following year established the H. J. Whitley Jewelry Store, for many years the largest in the city. In 1900 he bought the Hurd property north of Hollywood Boulevard, between Wilcox and Whitley, south of Yucca Street, which he later subdivided into what became known as Whitley Home Tract. As a result of the success of this subdivision, one of the first in Hollywood, Whitley became known as the “Father of Hollywood.”

In 1905, Whitley and a group of Los Angeles investors undertook the development of 47,000 acres in the San Joaquin Valley and carried through a similar project involving nearly 50,000 acres in the San Fernando Valley.

(click image to enlarge)

Whitley continued his activities in Southern California property until 1922, when he completed the development of Whitley Heights, which was one of the first hillside subdivisions in Hollywood. The opening of the tract in 1920 was the scene of a public barbeque, with city officials and business men of the city as guests. Whitley Heights would become the first celebrity neighborhood and home to such film stars as Francis X. Bushman, Eugene O’Brien, Barbara La Marr and Rudolph Valentino.

In addition to his real estate development, Whitley was one of the founders of the Home Savings Bank and was identified with the organization of the First National Bank of Hollywood, the First National Bank of Van Nuys and State banks in Canoga Park, Reseda and Corcoran.

On June 3, 1931, while staying as a guest of his son at the Whitley Park Country Club in Van Nuys, H. J. Whitley died in his sleep at the age of 83. Whitley was survived by his wife Margaret, his daughter Grace, son Ross and three grandchildren. Funeral services were conducted at the Strother Funeral Chapel at 6240 Hollywood Boulevard with interment at Hollywood Cemetery.

A Hollywood murder most foul…

June 10th, 2018

Ann McKnight was a 23-year-old dancer and film extra, and one of the hundreds of hopefuls that arrived in Hollywood each year, eager to break into show business.

Ann was born in New Britain, Connecticut on November 19, 1906. Her father, John McKnight was a traveling optician and her mother Annie, was a housewife. Ann’s siblings included Mabel, Ada, Edward and Milton.

After Ann’s father died when she was young, her family moved to Denver, Colorado to live with her older married sister Mabel. In July 1924, Annie remarried to Harry Steck. Ann, along with her sister Ada got the acting bug and moved to Hollywood in October 1927 to try to make it in the movies.

Changing her name to Joy McKnight, Ada found a bit part in the film, Bitter Sweets (1928) starring Barbara Belford and Ralph Graves. However, that appeared to be the extent to her film career other than some possible uncredited extra and bit roles. Yet, in the 1930 Census, she labeled herself as an “actress.” Ann, too, only found extra work and possibly some dance gigs at the local clubs. Finally, she found work as a drug store clerk.

[Note: IMDB.com wrongly confuses this Ann McKnight with another who was a film editor. Their biography and death date is for the McKnight who was murdered in 1930, yet the films listed and birth date are for McKnight, the film editor (it’s not known when she died).]

Instead, both sisters found husbands and were married. Joy wed Jack Hoskins and had twins, Joy and Jack. Ann fell for the charms of William Henry Burkhart and married him on March 27, 1928. From the beginning, Ann’s marriage was filled with physical abuse. In addition, Burkhart was reportedly an alcoholic and took drugs.

Burkhart’s abuses were continuous until finally in July 1929, Ann left Burkhart and lived with her sisters’ family at 933 ½ La Jolla Avenue in West Hollywood. Ann filed for divorce, but Burkhart made threats, telling friends that if he couldn’t have her, “nobody else shall because l will kill her first.”

Burkhart intimidated and stalked Ann over the next few months. Finally, in March 1930, he set a plan in motion to get her back.

On several occasions, Burkhart met with Ann, eager to mend their marriage. Reportedly, Ann told her husband that if he rented an apartment and bought a car, she would give him another chance. He convinced Ann to meet with her on the evening of March 24, 1930, promising to surprise her. She agreed.

That afternoon, Burkhart resigned his position as a bookkeeper with the Los Angeles Gas Electric Company. Then, using a fake name (Charles G. Thompson), and counterfeit checks, he purchased a Ford coupe, and, under the name C. L. Burns, he rented a bungalow apartment at 6742 Franklin Place, one block north of the Hollywood Hotel. He told the landlady that he would return that evening with his wife.

Site of bungalow apartments at 6740 Franklin Place where murder of Ann McKnight was discovered. (click on image to enlarge)

At around 6:30 pm, the couple arrived at Franklin Place where Burkhart introduced Ann to the landlady who was sprinkling the lawn. A few minutes after they entered their apartment, the landlady saw the front door “jerked open” and Ann standing there between the door and screen door. Burkhart came up behind her, placed his arm around her and pulled her back into the apartment as she let out a “moaning cry.” Within the hour, they left in the Ford coupe and went driving while imbibing freely on wine tonic.

Three hours later, Burkhart had returned and knocked on the apartment door of his Franklin Place neighbor, James Thompson and his wife, who were playing cards with another couple. Burkhart introduced himself as their new neighbor and asked for a match. He admitted that he had been drinking, but added, “you might think that I am stiff, but my wife is stiffer.”

After Burkhart left, the Thompson’s and their guests heard a noise, like the falling of a body. Burkhart returned only a few minutes later. “May I speak to you as a friend?” Burkhart asked Thompson and his guest. The three men walked through Burkhart’s apartment and out the rear door to the alley where Ann was laying on the ground. Burkhart explained that his wife “had passed out drunk” and he needed their help to get her into his car.

Murder site photo of Ann McNight’s body: Warning: graphic. (Pinterest) (click on photo to enlarge)

Thompson knelt and checked for a pulse. Noticing blood on her blouse he remarked that she “didn’t look drunk.”

“Well,” Burkhart explained, “she always acts that way when she gets drunk.”

When Burkhart left to move his car closer, Thompson and his friend went inside and called the police. When they returned, they saw Burkhart dragging Ann’s body to the coupe, leaving a trail of blood on the cement behind her.

Aerial view of McKnight murder site at Franklin Place and Highland Avenue. (click on image to enlarge)

 

When the police arrived, they called an ambulance. Burkhart lit a cigarette and told them it was no use, adding, “She is dead.” Burkhart once again claimed that he was drunk but insisted that his wife was “dead drunk.” Officers observed that he did not appear drunk and one even accused him of being “spasmodically” intoxicated, or simulating drunkenness. Later, a stomach pump produced little alcohol.

When he was searched, officers found a fully loaded .38 caliber Smith & Wesson revolver with blood on the handle in Burkhart’s pocket. “You can’t prove I shot my wife,” Burkhart blurted out. Until then, Ann’s cause of death had not been concluded. “Is your wife shot?” an officer asked. Realizing he had made a slip, Burkhart claimed he heard the other officers discussing it.

Ann McKnight Burkhart’s death certificate (click on image to enlarge)

An examination of the Ford coupe found blood and two bullet holes; it was apparent that Ann was killed in the auto at least two hours earlier.

The autopsy determined she had been shot five times; in the arm and chest, and three times in the back. Based on the crime scene evidence, police determined that Burkhart had sexual intercourse with Ann after she was dead. When confronted by police with this observation, Burkhart said nothing but only hung his head.

At Burkhart’s arraignment, he pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity, but later dropped the insanity clause and pleaded not guilty.

Several days later, Ann’s body was interred in a plot at Hollywood Cemetery, just several feet from the wall that still separates the cemetery from Paramount Studios. A wooden cross showing Ann’s name, and birth and death dates, was placed on her grave.

At Burkhart’s trial, Ann’s sister Joy Haskins testified that he allegedly said that no one else would have her sister even if “I have to spend the rest of my life in the penitentiary.”

Burkhart chose not to take the stand in his defense but based on witness testimony and police and ballistic reports, the jury found him guilty of premeditated murder. “I hope Joy is satisfied now,” Burkhart said, knowing that his sister-in-law had campaigned heavily to have him jailed. He later said that Ann’s family was responsible for turning her against him and convincing her to get an abortion shortly after they were married.

William Burkhart’s mug shot at Folsom Prison. (click on image to enlarge)

After the verdict, Burkart’s attorneys filed an appeal with California Governor James Rolph who was sent several petitions to pardon the convicted man. In his letters to Rolph, Burkart claimed he did not recollect killing his wife. He said that drinking and taking morphine tablets that day had dulled his memory. “I was riding around, and I didn’t know who I was with, where I went, or what I did. My mind is blank as to what happened that evening. The next I remember I was in jail; terribly sick and dizzy,” he wrote to the governor.

Burkhart’s mother, Sarah, knowing that her son was facing a death sentence, wrote to California Supreme Court Chief Justice, William Waste, begging him to “save his life”:

“…as I told you his wife is gone, and it will not bring her back, but it will make so many sad hearts so happy just to know he lives,” she pleaded with Waste. Likewise, Joy Haskins asked the governor to consider life imprisonment instead of death, but only because Mrs. Burkhart pleaded with her daily. “…for the sake of his aged mother,” Haskins wrote, “I will be willing to signe [sic] some [thing] for life sentence, but not to help him get out in a few years.”

After nearly a year and five reprieve requests from Governor Rolph, the California Supreme Court upheld the jury’s original decision that “the killing was the product of an abandoned and malignant heart [and] was premeditated finds ample support in the record and warranted the infliction of the death penalty.”

Attorneys made one more attempt to prove that Burkhart was insane, but the physician at Folsom Prison reported that the prisoner’s “emotional reactions are good” and he “does not show any delusions, hallucinations, or abnormal mental processes.”

Remarkably, Governor Rolph made a sixth attempt to save the condemned man from the gallows but Chief Justice Waste informed him that he would not recommend any further reprieves.

Burkhart finally accepted his fate and was scheduled to be executed at Folsom Prison on January 30, 1932, nearly two years after he planned and implemented the murder of his wife Ann McKnight Burkhart. The evening before his execution, he wrote letters to his mother and a sister, both living in Los Angeles.

On the morning of his hanging, Burkhart was nervous as he faced the prospect of the long walk down the corridor to the death chamber. He asked for a glass of water before being taken from his cell, not saying anything during the walk or while on the gallows. Rev. B. H. Householder, Methodist minister from Sacramento, gave him his final spiritual solace.

Burkhart’s execution marked the end of one of the longest and most varied series of appeals in the history of capital punishment in California at that time. Five attorneys, at various times prosecuted appeals for Burkhart, the State Supreme Court refusing three times to recommend commutation of his sentence to life imprisonment.

Location of graves at Hollywood Forever Cemetery (click on image to enlarge)

Though William Henry Burkhart had finally paid the ultimate price for the murder of his wife, there would be another affront committed against the murdered woman. In the area where Ann’s body rests, there used to be a road just a few steps away.

When William Burkhart was executed, he was also interred at Hollywood Cemetery (now Hollywood Forever) and remarkably his body was buried in a plot directly across that road from Ann, lying just a few feet away from his murdered wife. Most likely a last request from the convicted felon performed by his family. However, the road that once separated them, was filled in several years ago and new graves now rest between them.

Ground view of grave locations at Hollywood Forever (click on image to enlarge)

One last travesty; Ann’s grave is now unmarked because the wooden marker that was placed on it at her death in 1930, has since rotted and disappeared decades ago, yet Burkart has a permanent flat granite tablet to mark his grave.

Approximate location of Ann McKnight’s unmarked grave.

Grave marker of convicted and executed murderer William Henry Burkhart.


Lon Chaney in the 1930 Census

May 9th, 2018

Lon Chaney’s home in 1930

LON CHANEY

203 South Mansfield Avenue

Los Angeles, Los Angeles County, California

 Rent, $225

HOUSEHOLD RESIDENTS*

  1. Lon F. Chaney (head), 47 / Colorado / Actor / Movie studio
  2. Hazel Chaney (wife), 42 / California / None.
  3. John F. Jeske (chauffeur), 39 / Germany (1912) / Chauffeur / Private family.

* Information includes relationship to head of household, age / place of birth (year of arrival in this country, if applicable) / occupation / industry.

The preceeding text is taken from my book, Celebrities in the 1930 Census (McFarland & Co., Inc., 2008). The directory provides an extensive listing of household information collected for over 2,265 famous and infamous individuals who were alive during the 1930 United States Census. Please note: The above photographs do not appear in the book.

Miriam Hopkins review by Leonard Maltin

April 12th, 2018

MIRIAM HOPKINS: LIFE AND FILMS OF A HOLLYWOOD REBEL

by Allan R. Ellenberger (University Press of Kentucky)

“A compelling actress who was equally at home in heavy dramas and sophisticated comedies, Miriam Hopkins is due for rediscovery and this book may serve as a linchpin. Author Ellenberger had the cooperation of the actress’ daughter, son-in-law and grandson as well as many friends and colleagues—not to mention a 100-page file maintained by the FBI. Her friend Tennessee Williams referred to her as “a magnificent bitch,” a role she seemed to relish when pitted against her supposed rival Bette Davis in Old Acquaintance. With pages of sources to verify his extensive research, Ellenberger has tried to bring the public and private Miriam Hopkins to life in this welcome biography.”Leonard Maltin