Joseph Hazelton” “This Man Saw Lincoln Shot”

October 31st, 2018

On April 14, 1865, a schoolboy, with his school books strapped across his shoulder, romped down Tenth Street in Washington DC. As he approached Ford’s Theatre, there standing in front was a tall man with raven black hair and a drooping mustache.

John Wilkes Booth

That man was the actor, John Wilkes Booth; that night, he would change the nation’s destiny. The boy was Joseph Hazelton, a “program boy” and usher at Ford’s Theatre. Shortly before his death in 1936, Hazelton believed he was the only man still living who witnessed the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln (actually, another man who claimed to also witness the assassination, Samuel James Seymore, lived until 1956 (age 96) and appeared on I’ve Got a Secret).

Hazelton was born at Wilmington, New York, on March 26, 1853 but his family later moved to Washington D.C. In the nation’s capital, he served as a Page in the U.S. Senate, and worked as a railroad clerk. He eventually became an actor on the stage, and later in films for over sixty-eight years, appearing in such silent films as Unrest (1914), Please Get Married (1919), and, most notably, in the role of Mr. Grimwig in Oliver Twist (1922) with Lon Chaney.

Joseph Hazelton (far left) as Mr. Grimwig, and Jackie Coogan in Oliver Twist (1922) (click on image to enlarge)

Hazelton would spend his life recalling the memories of Lincoln’s assassination, appearing on radio and lecturing at numerous venues across the country. The following account by Hazelton is an excerpt taken from an article published in Good Housekeeping (February 1927) magazine. The multi-page article, written by Campbell MacCulloch, was entitled, “This Man Saw Lincoln Shot:”

“[In front of Ford’s Theatre, Booth] beckoned me over to him, lifted my cap from my head, ran his fingers through my hair and said: ‘Well, little man, are you going to be an actor some day?’ I replied: ‘I don’t know, Mr. Booth, perhaps.’ 

“Little did I dream at the time that I would spend fifty years of my life in the theatrical profession. Booth took from his pocket a little folder, which contained the coin of the day commonly known as ‘shin plasters’ of the denominations of five, ten, twenty-five and fifty cents. Handing me a ten cent plaster, he pulled my hat playfully over my eyes, patted me on the shoulders and bade me run buy myself something… 

“Well, I went around the Theatre that night, as was my custom…It was a gala night, the play was ‘Our American Cousin’ and Laura Keene was the star. Almost everyone knew that the President would be there… The house was packed, the gold lace of the Army and Navy predominating. The President and his party came late, the second act was on, and as Mr. Lincoln entered the audience rose en masse and cheered, Mr. Lincoln came down to the front of the box…bowed his acknowledgments and took his seat and the play went on. The third act was on and I was standing directly opposite the President’s box, looking up at him…to see how he was enjoying the play. 

“I happened to turn my head toward the main entrance and saw Wilkes-Booth enter. He stopped a moment to say a word to Mr. Buckingham, the door-keeper, then started upstairs to the Dress Circle. As he passed along the side aisle toward the President’s box, I noticed the change in his dress. When he spoke to me in the afternoon he was dressed in the height of fashion…now he was wearing heavy riding boots, spurs, a blue flannel shirt and an army slouch hat. I wondered…what he was doing there on such a gala night dressed in such a garb. 

“I did not have long to wait, there was a flash, a report and President Lincoln has been assassinated. There are not words in the English language to describe the awful hush which fell over the house…no one seemed to take the initiative, until Laura Keene, rushing down to the footlights, cried, ‘Ladies and Gentlemen, the President has been shot!’ then all was pandemonium. 

“When Booth fired the shot he dropped the weapon, a single barrelled (sic) affair, called a derringer, and drawing a Bowie knife ran to the edge of the box. Major Rathbone tried to stop him, and received an ugly wound on his arm. Booth leaped over the rail of the box to the stage, but his spur caught in the American flag which draped the box and he fell to the stage…to my dying day I shall never forget the look of anguish and despair on that man’s face, as he half dragged himself to the center. 

“Then brandishing the knife above his head and with a maniac stare, cried out, ‘Sic Semper Tyrannis’. He managed to get to the stage door where his horse was being held, mounted and rode rapidly away… They carefully lifted the President and carried him across the street to the home of Mr. Peterson, one of our merchants. The building is now being used as the Olroyd Lincoln Museum….” 

At the end of the manuscript, Hazelton describes being under the window of the home where Lincoln’s body was taken, and hearing first-hand that the President had died. On the day that Hazelton told his story to MacCullough, Robert Todd Lincoln, the last surviving son of the martyred President, was laid to rest in a quiet New England community.

In addition, Hazelton would go on the radio every year on the anniversary of Lincoln’s death to tell his story. Click here to listen to Hazelton’s story in his own voice. 

Fascinatingly, Hazelton had some controversial opinions about John Wilkes Booth. He believed that Booth escaped from authorities the evening of the assassination, and fled to South America for a few years, returning to Enid, Oklahoma in 1903. Upon his deathbed, Booth called for a priest and asked for absolution, telling the priest that he was John Wilkes Booth, Lincoln’s assassin. He submitted credentials to the sheriff which indicated that he was Booth.

To corroborate his story, the sheriff was referred to Hazelton, who was living in Hollywood. The sheriff wired Hazelton and asked him if he could come to Enid to identify Booth. As Hazelton was unable to make the trip, he asked the sheriff to wire a description of the man’s right thumb, which was reportedly mangled. Upon receipt of this information, Hazelton wired the sheriff that the man in questions was, indeed, John Wilkes Booth.

Death certificate of Joseph Hazelton (click on image to enlarge)

On Saturday, October 3, 1936, Hazelton was working at Warner Bros. Studio when he suddenly became ill and was rushed to St. Vincent’s Hospital. The following Friday, October 9, he died from pneumonia at age 83. Hazelton had no survivors and his funeral was handled by the Motion Picture Relief Fund through Pierce Brothers mortuary; Hazelton was interred at Hollywood Cemetery (now Hollywood Forever) in an unmarked grave.

The unmarked grave of Joseph Hazelton located in the Garden of Beginnings (Section 2), grave 441.

Hollywood’s “Jinx Mansion”

October 22nd, 2018

 

At this time of year our thoughts are on ghosts and goblins and things that go bump in the night. Bad luck and superstition has followed Hollywood and those who lived and worked there long before the film people arrived.

A house that had its share of bad luck and tragedy was built on the northeast corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Fuller Street more than 100 years ago. Gossip columnist, Louella Parsons, called the home that once stood at 7269 Hollywood Boulevard, “the jinx mansion.” Over the twenty-five years of its existence, it was home to a grocery store founder, a meat packing heir and a Hollywood film producer and his movie star wife. All experienced misfortune and heartbreak during their stay there.

The builder and first resident of the “jinx mansion” was George A. Ralphs, the founder of Ralph’s grocery store, the largest food retailer in Southern California. Every Angelino has shopped at a Ralphs at one time or another.

George Albert Ralphs was born in Joplin, Missouri, in 1850. His family moved to California on a prairie schooner and a yoke of oxen when he was a boy. In Kansas, they joined a caravan and upon reaching Colorado, they were attacked by Indians. Half of the caravan became separated in the fight and no word was ever heard from them again. It was presumed that they were massacred.

The remaining caravan arrived in Los Angeles after eighteen months of travel. Once he was settled, George Ralphs was trained as an expert bricklayer. After losing an arm in an accident, he gave up bricklaying and found work as a clerk in a small grocery store. In 1873, he had saved enough money to purchase his own grocery at Sixth and Spring Streets. From then on, Ralphs prospered, operating three of the largest stores in Los Angeles.

In 1897, Ralphs married Wallula von Keith and together they had two children: Albert and Annabel. In May 1913, Ralphs began construction on a new house on a three-acre lot in Hollywood that he reportedly bought from George Dunlap, the town’s second mayor.

Located on the north side of Hollywood Boulevard at Fuller Street, architect Frank M. Tyler designed the Mission Revival house at a cost of $35,000. With a plastered exterior and a red clay tile roof, the house had sixteen rooms with three baths. The interior was richly furnished in oak and mahogany; onyx and tile mantels adorned the fireplaces. There was a tennis court on the property, and a swimming pool which was emptied often to water the citrus orchards.

The Ralphs mansion as it looked shortly after being constructed

On June 21, 1914, a few months after moving into the house, Ralphs took his family for a week-end outing to the San Bernardino Mountains near Lake Arrowhead. He had just gone up Waterman’s Canyon with his wife and children for an early morning stroll and, having walked a little faster than the others, sat on a boulder to wait for them to catch up.

As his wife approached, he moved over to allow her sit beside him when the boulder, weighing about three tons, gave way and rolled twenty feet down the canyon, carrying Ralphs with it. His leg was caught beneath the boulder and nearly torn from the socket. He was rushed to the Ramona Hospital (now Community Hospital of San Bernardino) where his leg was amputated. Ralphs came out of the anesthetic shortly after, and talked to his wife for a few minutes but he went into shock. George Ralphs died within the hour at 4:15 o’clock that afternoon.

Ralphs body was returned to his home in Hollywood where funeral services were held. The Ralphs grocery stores were closed that day in memory of their founder. After the service, Ralphs was buried in Evergreen Cemetery.

The grave of Ralph’s grocery store founder, George A. Ralphs at Evergreen Cemetery

Mrs. Ralphs remained in the Hollywood mansion for several years, sometimes living there, and at other times, renting it out to such well-known residents as Mira Hershey, owner of the Hollywood Hotel and to actor Douglas Fairbanks. On August 20, 1918, Mrs. Ralphs hosted a political garden party in honor of California Governor, William D. Stephens and as a fund raiser for the war effort.

However, the “jinx” continued.

In 1920, Mrs. Ralphs leased the mansion to John “Jack” P. Cudahy, the son of the millionaire meat-packer, Michael Cudahy. The town of Cudahy, California which is east of Los Angeles, was named for the family.

In 1899, Jack Cudahy married Edna Cowin, daughter of General John Clay Cowin of Omaha. They had four children, Edna, Marie, Anne and Michael. For a time, Cudahy was general manager of his father’s packing plant in Kansas City. While there, he and his wife became estranged after Cudahy attacked Jere Lillis, the president of the Western Exchange Bank, who he suspected of having an affair with his wife. They were divorced, but reconciled two years later and were remarried, living in Pasadena, California.

Cudahy, however, had his problems. In 1914, he was sued for $30,000 in damages after throwing a doctor’s wife against a table. After a stint in the army, Cudahy was given a medical discharge following a nervous breakdown. In 1919, he was sued by the Hotel Maryland for failure to pay a two-year hotel bill amounting to almost $10,000.

Shortly after moving into the Ralphs mansion, Cudahy was under a doctor’s care for an extremely nervous condition and for insomnia. In early April 1921, he disappeared for ten days and it was later learned that he had been living at the Rosslyn Hotel under a fictitious name. Previous to that he had spent three months in a sanatorium.

At the time, Cudahy was reportedly having financial problems. On April 19, 1921, he received a letter from a trust company in Chicago stating that they would not carry a loan unless his sister Clara would vouch for him. Later that night, Clara sent her brother a telegram briefly stating, “Sorry, but find it impossible to do what you ask.”

John Cudahy’s death certificate (click on image to enlarge)

The following morning, at about 10:30am, Cudahy went into his bathroom, retrieved his Winchester shotgun which he used for trap-shooting, and went to his bedroom. Edna claimed that he did not seem to be unusually despondent. At exactly 11:45am, Edna was in her dressing room when she heard a gun shot and rushed into her husband’s bedroom where she found him dead. He had committed suicide by blowing off the top of his head. John Cudahy was buried at Calvary Cemetery in East Los Angeles.

 

Edna and her children moved out of the house shortly after her husband’s suicide. Thirteen years later she was living in a mansion near Vine Street and Franklin Avenue in Hollywood. Actor Lou Tellegen, who had fallen on hard times, was living with her and committed suicide in his bathroom by stabbing himself in his heart seven times with a pair of scissors.

After Cudahy’s suicide, the mansion stood empty for about a year. In October 1922, Mrs. Ralphs sold the house and property to a local realty company for $150,000. They planned to demolish the house and build a 350 room apartment hotel at a cost of one million dollars. For unknown reasons, the hotel was never built and the mansion was spared.

Norma Talmadge and Joseph Schenck

Film producer, Joseph M. Schenck and his wife, actress Norma Talmadge, were the next owners of the “jinx mansion.” The Schenck’s, who were married in 1916, probably moved into the house in late 1922 or early 1923. For the first few years their lives were routine, at least for film people, with the exception of several break-ins in which Norma’s jewelry was stolen.

Gradually, the couple began to grow apart. They separated in 1927 and moved into separate residences; Norma to an elegant West Hollywood apartment building on Harper Avenue, and Schenck moved to a large house in Beverly Hills. They remained married, however, and kept ownership of the Hollywood Boulevard mansion.

In July 1930, Talmadge traveled to Europe for a rest amid rumors that they were getting divorced but the couple denied the rumors, each claiming they were still in love. The following year, Talmadge asked for a divorce and Schenck agreed but she never filed for it. In 1932, she asked again for a divorce and traveled to Europe, supposedly to get one, but once there, she denied the so-called rumors.

During 1932 alone, the Schenck divorce rumors were many and were announced and denied several times. In the meantime, she had an affair with comedian George Jessel until finally, in April 1934, Talmadge and Schenck were divorced in Juarez, Mexico. Three weeks later Norma married Jessel.

The Talmadge-Schenck home as it looked from Fuller Street in the 1920s

Above is the site from the same angle on Fuller Street as it looks today

During all of this, the Schenck’s kept the mansion, and may have rented it out but Schenck reportedly moved back after the divorce. In May 1936, Schenck redecorated the property, adding a two-story cabana and a 60-foot swimming pool that replaced the one installed by the Ralphs, which was filled in by the Cudahy’s.

Notice of Schenck auction (click on image to enlarge)

Bad luck continued to follow Schenck. In 1936, he agreed to pay a bribe to avoid strikes with the unions, but because he made the payoff with a personal check, it came to the attention of the IRS and he was eventually convicted of income tax evasion. In 1940, he finally sold the Hollywood Boulevard “jinx mansion” and all its furnishings in an auction, supposedly to help pay his legal fees. In 1946, Schenck spent time in prison before being granted a pardon by President Harry Truman.

After Schenck sold the mansion, it was razed to make way for Peyton Hall, the first apartment house to go up on Hollywood Boulevard west of La Brea. The colonial-style garden apartment complex included more than 70 apartments. A red carpet rolled all the way from the grand portico to Hollywood Boulevard. There were discreet private entrances and a loudspeaker on the grounds that summoned stars to the studios.

The architect and builders kept the 60-foot swimming pool that Joseph Schenck installed four years earlier and it was used by the residents, including Shelley Winters and Johnny Weissmuller, who once jumped from the roof into the deep end. Other celebrity residents at Peyton Hall included Susan Hayward, George Raft and Janet Gaynor. Cary Grant stayed there during World War II and Claudette Colbert actually owned the complex and sold it in 1946 for about $450,000 to the first of a succession of owners. In 1960, an investment group bought it for $790,000.

In 2013, Peter Chaconas, aka “MR PETE” (Best Host Emmy winner for KTLA, Channel 5 – 1990), who once lived in Peyton Hall, told Hollywoodland:

“I moved into Peyton Hall in 1976. Living there were Richard Guthrie (Days of our Lives), Dave Fleisher (brother of Max-both of Popeye cartoon fame), McLean Stevenson (M*A*S*H), Herman Hover (who had managed Ciro’s), Timothy Patrick Murphy (actor), and Bill Miller (the first Brad in the Rocky Horror Picture Show at the Roxy on Sunset.

“We loved Peyton Hall. I lived in 3 units. A bachelor (just a room w/a bathroom), a studio apartment (with a full kitchen & great stainless steel counters), and a one bedroom-all at 7243 Hollywood Blvd.

“The long pool was amazing (next to the old maids quarters)… Four lanes with hand laid Italian tiles. There was a HUGE old carriage house that we used for parking. You entered from Fuller Street, and also some covered parking near the pool. The movie Eating Raoul was filmed in apartments there. 

“We went on a rent strike for 2 years, to try and save the building. We all deposited our rent into a bank account, and tried our best to lobby the city council to give Peyton Hall a landmark status. But, the land was bought by investors from Taiwan and we were all evicted. They gave us around $1,000 each, and three months to get out.

“We were all very proud to have lived there and really loved the fact that our building had SO much Hollywood history. I sat in my Mustang convertible on Hollywood Blvd and watched them tear down the apartments I had lived in. I should have taken pictures. Now an UGLY complex stands where once a beautiful garden apartment was a fantastic home to those who loved Hollywood. RIP Peyton Hall… We did love you.”

Beginning in 1978, preservationists waged a two-year battle to save the landmark complex –but to no avail. Peyton Hall was demolished in the early 1980s and the recently renamed, Vantage Apartments (formerly the Serravella) was built in 1988 and remains there today.

The Vantage Apartments above is the site of the
Ralphs-Cudahy-Schenck-Talmadge mansion and Peyton Hall

Whether you believe in the “jinx mansion” or not is up to the reader—but it makes an interesting story. If you happen be in the neighborhood of the 7200 block of Hollywood Boulevard on Halloween night, do so at your own risk.

 

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

ladyinblack1

 

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.

(click on image to enlarge)

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

 

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.


Daeida Wilcox Beveridge: the Mother of Hollywood

May 10th, 2018

Daeida Wilcox Beveridge

By Allan R. Ellenberger

Daeida Hartell Wilcox Beveridge was born in Hicksville, Ohio and educated in the public schools of Canton and in a Hicksville private school. She married prohibitionist Harvey Henderson Wilcox of Topeka, Kansas and came to California in 1883. Three years later they purchased a fig orchard in the Cahuenga valley and soon bought the remainder of a 120-acre tract. Shortly afterward – depending on who is telling the story – she met a woman on a train to Hicksville who described her summer home near Chicago that she called Hollywood. The name appealed to Mrs. Wilcox so on her return she named her Cahuenga valley ranch — “Hollywood.”

Harvey Henderson Wilcox

Wilcox was an integral part in the development of the area, laying out the village and the naming the streets. The first pepper trees and flower beds were planted under her personal direction. Among her many gifts was the ground for the city hall, public library, St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, of which she was a member; Christian Church and the Methodist Episcopal Church. It was her early dream of beauty that gave fame to Hollywood, making it noted for its wealth of trees and flowers.

Her husband died in 1891 and two years later she married Philo Judson Beveridge, son of Governor John L. Beveridge of Illinois. They had four children, two of whom survived — Marian and Phyllis. Their home was on the northeast corner of Hollywood Boulevard and Wilcox Avenue (6467 Hollywood Blvd.).

In early July of 1914, Mrs. Wilcox took ill. On August 13, she entered Good Samaritan Hospital where she died the following day. Funeral services were held at the Connell undertaking parlor with interment in the family mausoleum at Rosedale Cemetery next to her first husband (there was no cemetery in Hollywood when her husband died in 1891). Survivors included her second husband, her daughters Marian Pringle and Phyllis Brunson, her mother Anna Hartell, an aunt Sylvia Connell and a niece, Gertrude.

NOTE: In 1937, family members removed their bodies, along with two infant children, Daieda’s mother and her second husband, to the Cathedral Mausoleum at Hollywood Memorial Cemetery where they rest today.

 

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.