Archive for the ‘Hollywood Tragedies’ Category

The tragic story of Pierre Collings

Thursday, February 8th, 2018

Time, fame and money trip lightly in Hollywood, and the men and women who have them one day, find themselves alone and penniless the next. So it was with Pierre Collings, screenwriter, whose screenplay of The Story of Louis Pasteur (1936) won him two Academy Awards in 1937. Sadly, he would not survive to the end of that year.

The second eldest of five children, Lysander Pierre Collings was born on September 22, 1900, in Truro, Nova Scotia, where his father Otto was a mining engineer. Otto and his wife Martha were both American citizens, and when they returned to the states, they had Pierre naturalized as an American citizen.

Collings entered motion pictures as a messenger boy at the Pickford-Fairbanks Studios when he was 17-years-old. Over time he became a cameraman [Alimony (1924) and Untamed Youth (1924)] at the Brunton Studios (now Paramount); an assistant director, and then a writer. Among Collings early scripts were A Woman of the World (1925), and Good and Naughty (1926), both starring Pola Negri; The Grand Duchess and the Waiter (1926), with Adolph Menjou and Florence Vidor; the Louise Brooks classic, The Show Off (1926), and the continuity for the Marx Brothers’ Animal Crackers (1930).

Sadly, very little is known about Collings personal and professional life. In December 1926, Collings married Natalie Harris at New York’s Little Church Around the Corner. The couple was divorced in 1930. In 1928, Collings was to direct Alex the Great, but for unknown reasons the film was taken over by Dudley Murphy.

Between 1924 and 1930, Collings kept relatively busy writing screenplays, however between 1930 and 1937, he only produced two screenplays, one of which was as an uncredited dialogue contributor on British Agent (1934) starring Leslie Howard and Kay Francis. It could be during this time that some of his personal problems began. In August 1935, he was arrested for drunk driving.

The following December, he signed with Warner Bros. and was assigned, along with writer Sheridan Gibney, to write the screenplay for The Story of Louis Pasteur (1936), which was to star Paul Muni in the title role. During the production of the film, Collings mother, Martha died unexpectedly and was buried at Hollywood Cemetery.

The Story of Louis Pasteur would prove to be Collings biggest success professionally. Both he and Gibney were nominated for two Academy Awards for Original Story and for Screenplay. Reportedly, after finishing the screenplay Collings suffered a nervous breakdown and was not able to attend the ceremony on Oscar night. When Collings and Gibney won both awards, Gibney accepted the Oscars for his writing partner.

Soon after, Collings health improved enough so he could write the screenplay for a projected Warner Bros. film, Houdini the Great which was scheduled to star George Raft. For whatever reason, the project never materialized. After this, he had problems finding work again and started drinking and soon fell into more bad health and poverty. Stories circulated that he actually pawned one of his two Oscars in order to survive, but this cannot be confirmed. The following July, he was arrested on an intoxication charge that was filed by his landlady. He pleaded not guilty.

Pierre Collings died here at his father’s home at 12315 N. Huston Avenue in North Hollywood (PLEASE NOTE: This is a private residence. DO NOT disturb the occupants)

Pierre Collings death certificate (click on image to enlarge)

Collings was collaborating with songwriter Carrie Jacobs Bond on a screenplay based on her popular song, “I Love You Truly” when he died from pneumonia at his father’s home in North Hollywood on December 21, 1937. His funeral was held at Pierce Brothers Chapel and he was interred at Hollywood Cemetery near his mother.

Collings was already forgotten. The Los Angeles Times did not publish an obituary – only his name listed in the death notices. However, three weeks later, Lee Shippey, a columnist for the Times made this mention of him in his column:

“Little Pierre Collings, who wrote the script for Louis Pasteur, died the other day. His close friends tell me his decline in health resulted from heartache and despair because, after that truly great picture, he was given hardly any work. The producers thought one Louis Pasteur was great, through some accident, but the public wouldn’t stand for another picture like that – not when it could go to the next show house and see Ben Bernie. In fact, I think the sin of Hollywood is that it gathers genius from all the world and then says to it: ‘You mustn’t do your best or anything approaching it. Our public wouldn’t understand it.’” 

Pierre Collings grave at Hollywood Forever is located in Section 2W near the grave of Florence Lawrence.

Four months after Collings’ death, Charles Mackay, a wanna-be actor down on his luck, was living at Hollywood’s Mark Twain Hotel. Mackay had graduated from Washington and Lee University the year before, and decided to “try” Hollywood. His friends encouraged him, however, his father, a prosperous St. Louis broker, told him it was a mistake; he could go if he wanted, but “don’t come home for help.” Mackay ignored his father’s advice and intended to prove him wrong.

By April 1938, Mackay was down to his last quarter. His only way to pay for lodging was to work on a rock pile. He returned one evening to his room, sweaty, tired and discouraged. In hopes of finding a clean shirt, he looked through a closet that was reserved for the belongings of guests who left the hotel without paying their rent. In the closet, Mackay discovered a threadbare blue sweater, and wrapped in the sweater was one of Pierre Collings’ Oscar statuette.

Charles Mackay, center, is shown holding the Oscar given to Pierre Collings. At left is Donald Gledhill, secretary of the Academy, and at right is screenwriter Arthur Caesar.

Concerned that he would be arrested for stealing the Oscar if he tried to return it, Mackay walked Hollywood Blvd to think. By chance, he met Arthur Caesar, himself an Academy Award winning screenwriter for Manhattan Melodrama (1934). He told Caesar his story and the writer took him and the Oscar to the Academy’s office, where the secretary told him that Collings had died in poverty a few months earlier. It was assumed that, probably in need, Collings had been forced to leave the sweater and Oscar as hostage for his unpaid rent.

However, another story later circulated that Collings’ Oscar was somehow stolen by a thief who found it too hot to sell and ended up hiding it in the hotel’s closet.

The Academy gave Mackay $25, told him to clean up, and assumingly, kept the Oscar.

While researching this story, I contacted the Academy and was told that neither of Pierre Collings’ Oscars was in their possession, and there were no records of the transaction. It’s possible that the unclaimed statue is lying in a box in the Academy’s attic or, since his father was living at the time, it was returned to him. In any event, both Oscars won by Collings appear to be missing.

If you watch the Academy Awards ceremony this year, when the award for Best Screenplay is presented, remember Pierre Collings – may he rest in peace.

Please follow and like us:

The Doty Twins Tragedy

Saturday, December 25th, 2010

 HOLLYWOOD TRAGEDIES

Weston and Winston Doty; the lost twins from “Peter Pan”

 

  

 

 

By Allan R. Ellenberger

 

For nineteen years, Winston and Weston Doty, twin brothers, lived together, went together and developed the close comradeship that comes only to boys of their kind until the Montrose flood swept down on them during a New Year’s Eve party and ended their lives.

 

Weston and Winston, the twin sons of Clarence “Jack” Doty – radio actor and one time leading man for Edna Park – and Olive Nance Naylor, were born on February 18, 1914 in Malta, Ohio. Before the twins were five years old, their parents separated and Olive moved the family to Los Angeles where she gained employment at the Palmer Photo Play Corporation. It was here that she formed connections to get the twins into films. Weston was originally named Wilson at birth; however once he began appearing in films with his brother, his name was changed.

 

 

Winston and Weston Doty in “One Terrible Day” (1922)

 

The Doty twins film credits included a few Our Gang shorts and as the twin Lost Boys in the 1924 version of Peter Pan starring Betty Bronson. The pair were talented radio performers and, at the age of 15, they graduated from Venice High School. In 1931-32 they attended the architectural school of the University of Southern California where they gained more fame as cheer leaders for the Trojans’ football team. Unfortunately after two years they had to drop out to earn enough money to complete their schooling.

 

On Sunday evening, December 31, 1933, the boys left their home at 1026 Amoroso Place, Venice to attend a New Year’s party given by Henry Hesse at 2631 Manhattan Avenue in Montrose. Weston escorted Mary Janet Cox to the party and Winston took Gladys Fisher. A steady rain had been falling in Los Angeles since early Saturday morning. The chief topic that evening – besides the rain – was the next day’s Rose Bowl game between Stanford and Columbia Universities.

 

At midnight, the twins called their mother and wished her a happy new year.  It was the last time she would hear their voices. A short time later, Henry Hesse heard water rushing around the house. He stepped to a rear door, just in time to see the porch swept away. Rushing inside he grabbed his wife, ran for another exit and shouted: “Everybody get out!”

 

As the party guests reached the outside, they stepped off into several feet of swirling water as the walls of the home crumbled. Hesse said he held to his wife and battled the constantly rising waters to the street, then grabbed a floating tree trunk, placed his wife astride it and started to swim. Three blocks from their demolished home the log rammed into a concrete wall, where the two held on safely until the waters subsided.

 

 

Above is Manhattan Avenue, Montrose after the New Years flood in 1934 where the Hesse house once stood and where the Doty twins lost their lives (lapl)

 

 

On New Year’s Day, searchers found Winston and Weston’s bodies lying close together in the debris in the Verdugo Wash. Mary escaped the flood but Gladys was also drowned. Once the flood waters had subsided, a total of 35 people had lost their lives that night.

 

 

 

Funeral services for 19 year-old Winston and Weston Doty were conducted at the Union Congregational Church in Venice followed by cremation at Woodlawn Cemetery in Santa Monica, where they are interred. The following year, their father Jack died alone from a heart attack in a Chicago hotel.

 

 

 

 

 

 __________________________________________

 

Please follow and like us:

Hollywood Tragedies…

Monday, July 7th, 2008

HOLLYWOOD TRAGEDIES

Virginia Rappe

 

 

A modeling photo of Virginia Rappe (courtesy Joan Myers) 

 

Today is the 117th birthday of Virginia Rappe, who is best known for her tragic and controversial death in 1921. Film researcher Joan Myers is presently working on a detailed account of the Arbuckle trial.

  

By Joan Myers 

 

Virginia Rappe was born in Chicago on July 7, 1891. In 1907 she began working as a artist’s model; she quickly segued into the new field of commercial fashion modeling. For the next few years she traveled throughout the northwest and eastern seaboard doing live modeling for fashion shows and posing for advertising and fashion photography. In 1914 she began designing and marketing her own line of clothing; later that year she moved to San Francisco to market her designs at the Pan Pacific International Exhibition. In the spring of 1916 she decided to try for a career in films and again relocated, this time to Hollywood. 

 

 

She continued her modeling career in Hollywood. In early 1917 she was hired by producer Fred Balshofer and given a prominent co-starring role in Balshofer’s Paradise Garden opposite screen idol Harold Lockwood. Balshofer hired her again the next year to co-star with popular cross-dresser Julian Eltinge and newcomer Rudolph Valentino in Over the Rhine. This film was not released until 1920 when Balshofer recut it and released it under the title An Adventuress.

 

 

In 1917, Rappe began a relationship with comedy actor/director/producer Henry Lehrman. She appeared in at least four films for Lehrman: His Musical Sneeze and A Twilight Baby (1920) with Lloyd Hamilton, Punch of the Irish (1921) with Frank Coleman and Lige Conley, and A Game Lady (1921) with Hamilton and Coleman. All but two of these films (A Twilight Baby and Punch of the Irish) are lost. It is possible Rappe may have had additional roles with Lehrman, but none have so far been identified.

  

 

On September 9, 1921, four days after attending a party thrown by Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle, actor Lowell Sherman, and director Fred Fischbach at the St. Francis Hotel, Rappe died of a ruptured bladder in San Francisco. Arbuckle was arrested for her murder the next day. The murder charge was eventually reduced to manslaughter, for which Arbuckle was tried three times. The first two trials ended in hung juries; Arbuckle was acquitted of the charge at the end of the third trial, but his career was ruined. 

 

 

Virginia Rappe’s grave at Hollywood Forever Cemetery

 

 ___________________________________________________

 

 

Please follow and like us: