Almost half way through this murder mystery series, I have decided to take a bit of a sinister and unusual turn film-star wise.
The death of 1920s and 1930s star Thelma Todd.
Before a bit of research Ms Todd was fairly unknown to me, yet from 1926 to 1935, she made 120 pictures, starring in comedic roles in films such as ‘Speak Easily’, ‘Monkey Business’ and ‘Horse Feathers’, as well as numerous Laurel and Hardy movies throughout the years.
During the silent years of films, Thelma had numerous supporting roles, but once the talkies began her star truly began to shine. Classed as a “highly capable film comedienne”, she was found dead in her car inside the garage of Jewel Carmen, an actress and former wife of Todd’s lover and business partner, Roland West.
Despite her death being determined as carbon monoxide poisoning, police were curious about whether it was accidental, suicidal or the result of a vicious murder.
One account of the scene read: “The ignition was on, but the engine not running and the door of the garage had been partially open. There were two gallons of fuel inside the car, and a smudged hand print on the door.”
The detectives of the LAPD concluded at first that Todd’s death was accidental, the result of her either warming up the car to drive it or using the heater to keep herself warm. Other evidence however, pointed to foul play, yet the Grand Jury eventually ruled her death as suicide. Since her body was cremated, a second more thorough autopsy could not be carried out and it was also believed that she could have been the target of extortion, but refused to pay. It is also possible that she was locked in the garage by her assailant after she started the car. Blood from a wound was found on her face and dress, leading some to believe that she was knocked unconscious and placed in the car so that she would succumb to carbon monoxide poisoning.
Once described as the “Ice-Cream Blonde”, Thelma once scandalised her local community by refusing to wear underwear. Sadly, she was only 29 years of age when she died, her death still described one of the greatest-ever Hollywood whodunnits.