Posts Tagged ‘Pierce Brothers Mortuary’

Death of the Innocent The Murder of Frank Raymond

Sunday, January 22nd, 2012

 HOLLYWOOD HISTORY

 

Frank Raymond, Jr. circa 1904

 

 

By Allan R. Ellenberger

 

The dark side of Hollywood existed long before the film industry arrived in town.

 

When Frank Kellogg Raymond made Hollywood his family’s home in 1901, many in town at once thought that his wife Kate was a bit odd. Frank worked in the government print shop in Washington D.C. and would spend one weekend a month with his family in Hollywood. Frank chose a neat little plot of land on the corner of Selma and Las Palmas and hired a contractor to build his family a home. Kate, however, would get involved and submit plans and specifications to several contractors. She promised to pay each of them, but failed to carry out her promises. Legal action was considered, but the idea was discouraged by Pastor Newell of the Presbyterian Church, who made it clear that the woman was mentally erratic and could hardly be held responsible for her actions.

 

Fourteen-year-old Frank Raymond attended the local Fremont grammar school in Miss Willis’ eighth grade class and was regarded as one of her brightest pupils. His mother did not have many friends in Hollywood. Had it not been for Frank, Jr., who had a large circle of friends and was popular with most everyone in town, she would have lived the life of a recluse.

 

Kate however, was clearly a brilliant and highly educated woman and had a small but significant library in her home. She was also an accomplished artist, having painted several beautiful pictures which decorated her West Selma Street home.

 

However there evidently were problems at home and on occasions she made references to her husband who worked in Washington D.C., and with whom she said she could not live. She told neighbors that she came to California on account of Frank’s health but that the real reason was that she and her husband could not agree. What friends she had stated that she never made any definite charges against him, but, from her strange manner and her continual efforts to confide her troubles to someone, the information was not taken too seriously.

 

Not long after, the Raymond’s separated and Frank returned to Washington D.C. full time and left Kate and Frank Jr. in Hollywood. “We were never able to get along well together,” Raymond later testified. “My wife was always of a high strung nature and always wanted things I could not get for her.”

 

Several times she confided her problems to the wife of Dr. H.A. Newell, pastor of the Presbyterian Church where Frank attended Sunday school. She said they had little to live on and her husband failed to send enough money to support her in comfort. On occasions she often talked of suicide which horrified Mrs. Newell, who tried to get her to look upon the pleasant side of life. Kate’s Hollywood neighbors believed that she was deranged and referred to her as “that crazy woman.”

 

In early 1906, Kate and Frank Jr. visited Washington D.C. where she attempted reconciliation with her husband, which was unsuccessful. Upon her return to Hollywood she appeared to be more dejected and Frank also reflected his mothers’ sorrows and illusions.

 

After returning from the east she volunteered at a rummage sale for the Presbyterian Church where she said she worked hard and sold many items but didn’t take a receipt. Several days later it was whispered at the Ladies Aid society meeting that she had appropriated them. Some used the term kleptomania in connection with her name and others were less kind. The items were valued at less than a dollar.

 

She evidently proved her innocence and wanted a letter of vindication but the pastor said that she was not a member and such a letter could not be given. It was also stated that it would be an admission that the church was wrong and so Kate may sue them for libel. She appealed to the minister, who she said “shut the door of his home” in her face and would have nothing to do with her even though she begged him to give her a fair hearing.

 

Kate brooded over this for days. “I had tried so hard and it was an awful shock to me,” she later said. “Every time I looked at my boy his innocent little soul seemed to appeal to me and tell me that the lad’s good intentions would be misunderstood and that he would fare no better than myself among a world of criminals.”

 

She began to believe that Frank would be better off if she sent him to “his Maker.” She waited and finally the shame of what the women in the church had said about her worked on her conscience and she decided her son should be spared from the consequences of any sin she may have committed.

 

Within a few days Kate attempted to buy chloroform from the local pharmacy, saying she intended to clean some clothes. The druggist argued with her about the amount she needed and offered to give her a small medicine bottle full instead.

 

Word quickly spread that Kate was trying to purchase chloroform and a well-known Hollywood resident learned of it and telephoned the drug store and warned the druggist to not sell it to her. When she heard this Kate fainted and fell to the floor. In her disorientation she said:

 

“I want to take myself and my son out of this wicked world, where he will be away from the temptation to swear and steal and cheat as the other boys do. I want him to leave here as pure as he came into the world.”

 

Because of this, Frank was summoned from Washington because Kate was about to be examined for insanity, but when she promised to accompany her husband back to Washington, no action was taken. At the last moment she refused to return east with him.

 

 

Because the numbering of the streets were changed in Hollywood around 1910, the exact location of the Raymond house is not known, but it was near the intersection of Selma and Las Palmas Avenue (above). The address at the time was 450 West Selma Avenue.  

 

 

On Tuesday, April 10, 1906, Kate and Frank Jr. worked around the grounds of the house. Kate told the gardener, Mr. Cranblit, that the next day she would leave him a letter on the doorstep instructing him what was to be done, explaining that she might sleep a little later than usual and did not wish to be awakened.

 

That evening she wrote two notes. One was addressed to her mother, Martha Cooper who lived in San Diego, and the other to Mrs. Cranbilt, the gardener’s wife.

 

“My Dear Mother: To you I leave all in this house – what you care to give to Mrs. Cranblit. She lived in a little house in the rear, and has a warm, kind heart. This shock will nearly kill you, too, and our separation will not be for long.

 

“In this better world we will come to understand things better than we did here, where all the mists will be cleared away. My boy will be safe from other temptations of this wicked world. I ask the forgiveness of any I have ever wronged intentionally. The world is against me and this is the only cowardly act I’ve ever been guilty of doing.”

 

In her note to Mrs. Cranblit she wrote:

 

“The God I’ve tried to serve so faithfully has forsaken me, and I cannot leave my boy to this wicked part of the world where he will be considered weak-minded if he does not lie and cheat.”

 

That evening, Kate waited until Frank went to sleep and then entered his room. He was lying on the lounge with his face turned towards her.  She packed the door and windows with towels then locked the door and turned on the gas. Kate kneeled on the floor beside her son.

 

The next morning, as Cranblit approached the house he detected the odor of gas. He rushed to the neighbors residences and, with two other men, broke down the rear door. The men were almost knocked to the ground by the amount of gas that rushed out of the kitchen. It was several minutes before they could enter.

 

Once Cranblit could finally enter the bedroom, he found Frank lying dead on the lounge and Kate, moving slightly, was half way under one of the beds.  Cranblit dragged Kate through the kitchen to the screen porch. Dr. Edwin O. Palmer, Hollywood’s city health officer was notified and a nurse was brought in to attend to Kate until she regained consciousness.

 

“Where is my boy—my little Frank,” Kate asked.

 

Neighbors who had gathered at the house did not speak of her son’s death, instead telling her that he had been taken away. They assured her that her mother was on her way to Los Angeles.

 

“I do not wish to see my mother,” Kate screamed. “Don’t allow her to come into this house. I never wish to see her again in my life. My only regret is that I did not kill myself.”

 

When her mother did arrive later that night, she was met by her son, John Cooper, who took her directly to Hollywood. Cooper put the blame directly on his sister. Her inability to live with her husband was on account of her actions and treatment of him, and was due to her mental condition. Mrs. Cooper claimed her daughter was a victim of acute melancholia and was given to illusions.

 

When Frank Raymond was wired of what had happened, the initial report was that both his wife and son were dead. “Mrs. Raymond killed herself and little boy last night. Wire instructions or come on,” read the telegram. Raymond left Washington that night by train for Hollywood.

 

When the news of Frank’s death became known, it affected his classmates at Fremont grammar school. Out of respect for the dead boy the flag was lowered to half-mast and was kept there until Frank’s burial.

 

In the meantime, Kate was taken to the county hospital and placed under arrest. When she was informed that her son was dead, she rejoiced and repeated: “I am glad he is dead. It is better for him. He is beyond wickedness now. I will kill myself when I have an opportunity. It will come, I am certain. They cannot prevent my killing myself. It is best for all concerned.” Over the next week Kate was closely watched, day and night, after trying to commit suicide by strangling herself in her bedclothes.

 

On April 15, 1906 Frank Raymond arrived in Los Angeles. He visited the morgue to view his son’s body, but said little to the attendants at Pierce Brothers morgue. He spoke to Coroner Trout and although he had not lived with his wife for several years he refrained from saying anything bitter about her. However he inferred that he believed his wife was insane for some time, and that criminal action should not be taken against her for the murder of his son.

 

The citizens of Hollywood were divided over her guilt. Nearly everyone who knew her believed that she was insane but there were others who said she should be charged with murder and be punished for her act. A former neighbor, J.G. Gunsolus and his wife believed that she was not insane when she turned on the gas and killed her son. Kate had often spoken to Mrs. Gunsolus about her family problems and had threatened to take her own life on several occasions.

 

The following day the inquest was held at the Pierce Brothers where Frank Raymond was asked only a few questions. Kate’s mother told the jury that her daughter had been mentally unsound since the birth of her son.  Other witnesses described the manner in which young Frank was put to death and told how they found the body lying on a little cot, while his unconscious mother was in a kneeling position by the bedside. Other Hollywood residents described Kate as erratic, peculiar and probably insane.

 

The coroner’s jury took two minutes to find Kate Raymond insane.  Frank Raymond sat close to his son’s body as the verdict was read. “We find that Frank Raymond came to his death through asphyxiation during the temporary insanity of his mother, Mrs. Kate B. Raymond,” the verdict read. It was suggested that Kate would, in all probability, be examined before an insanity commission in the superior court and sent to an asylum.

 

That afternoon, the funeral of Frank Raymond Jr. was held in the chapel of Hollywood Cemetery.

 

 

The grave of fourteen-year-old murder victim, Frank Raymond at Hollywood Forever Cemetery.

 

 

Bottom center of photo is the tombstone of Frank Raymond. The grave is located in the far north eastern section of Hollywood Forever Cemetery.

 

 

 Afterward, Raymond paid a visit to his wife at the county hospital.

 

The following day Kate appeared before the board of insanity commissioners. When her case was called, she went forward, slowly unwrapped the white veil from her face and smiled at the men who were about to try her. “I killed little Frank you know,” she told the shocked men. “I just killed him that was all. Now that I have sent his sweet, sinless soul to the protecting arms of the Maker, I am willing, only too willing, that my soul should be lost forever. I gave up my hope of the hereafter in order that he might be spared, and do you think I am unhappy that it is so?”

 

Kate was committed to the Southern California State Hospital in San Bernardino, California. Frank Raymond divorced his wife and later remarried. He eventually became the private secretary for Congressman Thomas F. Ryan of Topeka, Kansas. Raymond died in January 1914 and was buried at the Congressional Cemetery in Washington D.C.

 

Kate was released from the asylum in early 1910 and took a ship to San Francisco and found a job as a waitress in a restaurant on Sixth Street. On the boat she met a man and got involved in a scheme with him, posing as persons of wealth. They checked into the St. Francis Hotel and cashed a bad check for $75. Her accomplice was arrested.  

 

For two years Kate roamed around California. Finally on June 8, 1912, the body of Kate Raymond was found on a Santa Barbara beach. While she was washed up by the waves, there was no water found in her lungs. It was believed that she first took poison. The two paragraph newspaper report told of her earlier attempts at suicide and the death of her son. The headline read: “Finally Succeeds.”

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Belle Bennett profile

Saturday, May 1st, 2010

HOLLYWOOD PROFILES

Belle Bennett, mother of the screen

 

 

 

 

By Allan R. Ellenberger

 

Belle Bennett is not a name that is well remembered today. Yet she had a successful stage and film career and is best known for her “mother” roles, in particular the 1925 silent film classic, Stella Dallas.

 

Belle Bennett achieved stardom beginning with a girlhood career in the circus. She was born on April 22, 1892 in Milaca, Minnesota, the daughter of circus owners, William and Hazel Bennett. Her father, known as Billie, was one of the pioneer showmen of the circus, who arrived in the United States in 1898 and established himself in St. Paul, Minnesota. His wife, and later Belle, played with him in his stock company. Belle technically began her stage career when her mother carried her on the stage as the baby of The Fatal Wedding. Her mother recalled that she proved to be a good trouper and did not interrupt a single scene by crying.

 

Belle first appeared before the public at the age of 13 as a trapeze performer in her father’s circus. Later she became a member of a stock company, then went to Broadway and played in productions for David Belasco.

 

In 1916 she came to Culver City and signed a contract to make westerns for the Triangle Company. In her early films, Belle supported such stars as Alma Rubens, Gloria Swanson and Olive Borden. When Triangle closed, Belle returned to the stage with the Alcazar Stock Company of San Francisco.

 

Actress Marjorie Rambeau encouraged Belle to seek a place on Broadway and deluged A.H. Woods with letters and newspaper clippings until the producer wired her to come east. Belle made her debut on Broadway in Happy Go Lucky, substituting for Muriel Martin Harvey.  Other plays for Woods included Lawful Larceny, replacing Margaret Lawrence; The Demi Virgin, substituting for Hazel Dawn, and The Wandering Jew, in which she won the favor of Broadway audiences in her own right.

 

Belle was married three times: her first husband was Jack Oaker a sailor at the San Pedro submarine base. Her second husband was William Macy, who was the father of her two sons, William and Theodore. She divorced Macy and married director Fred Windermere in 1924.

 

Belle’s greatest success was in films. She appeared in numerous inconsequential film roles over a period of years until 1925 when she was among seventy-three actresses up for the leading role in Samuel Goldwyn’s production of Stella Dallas.   

 

A few days before a decision was to be made, Belle’s sixteen year-old son William was badly hurt in a scuffle with some other boys. The injury was at first not thought to be serious, but when he was taken to the hospital his condition grew gradually worse. During that brief time he expressed hope that his mother would be chosen for the part of Stella. He said he did not see how they could think of anyone else. Sadly William did not recover from his injuries and he ultimately died. The following day Belle was told that she had received the part.

 

The first few days of filming were difficult but she found solace in her friendship with Lois Moran, who played her daughter in the film. Until then Belle had told people that William was her brother. The reason, she said afterward, was that she wanted to hide her age from the studios, for she had always appeared as a woman of around 24, ten years younger than her real age.

 

 

 

 

Stella Dallas was a resounding success and Belle received stunning reviews for her role. The New York Times said that Belle “gave such a remarkable performance as Stella that she seems to live through the part…”

 

The “mother” role in Stella Dallas (later played in the remake by Barbara Stanwyck) typed her for the remainder of her career. Subsequently she appeared in Mother Machree (1928), Battle of the Sexes (1928), The Iron Mask (1929) and Courage (1930).  

 

In early 1930, Belle suffered a nervous breakdown and was diagnosed with general carcinomatosis, a form of cancer. She recovered but only appeared in three films over the next two years. In the summer of 1932, taking a break from films, Belle went on an extended vaudeville tour. While appearing in Philadelphia she collapsed on stage, but was revived and insisted on “carrying on” in the best theatrical tradition. The effort aggravated her condition and she was sent to Harrisburg hospital for blood transfusions which enabled her to regain her strength.

 

However in September her condition worsened and she was rushed from New York by plane to Hollywood, where she was admitted to Cedars of Lebanon hospital.  Apprised of the severity of her condition, her husband returned from New York.

 

On several occasions during the next two months, she was reported near death, but always rallied and continued to fight; close friends commented that she had the will to live. Yet, on November 4, 1932, her fight ended when she died at 9:15 p.m. The only person with her at the end was her son Theodore; her husband had only just left the room shortly before she passed. Belle Bennett was only 40 years old.

 

On November 6 her funeral was held at Pierce Brothers Mortuary, her body lay in a pure white coffin, banked with a vari-colored spread of flowers, while relatives and intimate friends filled the pews of the chapel. The service was conducted under the auspices of Christian Science, including a reading of selections from the Psalms and the Scripture and the committal of the soul to the care of the Lord.

 

For two minutes the mourners bowed their heads in silent prayer. John Vale, who once acted on stage with Belle a decade earlier, was the soloist, rendering “Shepherd Show Me How to Go,” and “Oh, Gentle Presence,” both authored by Mary Baker Eddy.

 

Then the congregation joined the reader in oral rendition of the Lord’s Prayer. There was no eulogy and the services over, the mourners filed past the bier. Among those who attended were Mary Pickford, for years a close friend of Belle’s, Sidney Olcott, one time her director, and Jean Hersholt, Thelma Todd (whose own funeral would be held in the same chapel in less than three years), Norma Shearer, Zasu Pitts, Russell Simpson and Joe E. Brown. Later that day, Belle Bennett was interred at Valhalla Cemetery in Burbank.

 

The grave of Belle Bennett at Valhalla Cemetery – Block H, Section 8351, Grave 6 (Allan R. Ellenberger photo)

 

 

Belle left no will and it was later revealed that her estate was valued at less than $5,000, which was a surprise considering that she had at one time been a wealthy woman. Her husband and son shared the estate.

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Click below for a brief scene from the 1929 silent adventure film, “The Iron Mask”, featuring Belle Bennett as the Queen Mother, discovering Gordon Thorpe as her long-lost son (the evil twin).

 

 

 

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