Brenda Allen

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Brenda Allen (born Marie Mitchell) was a madam based in Los Angeles, California, whose arrest in 1948 triggered a scandal that led to the attempted reform of the Los Angeles Police Department (L.A.P.D.). Allen received police protection due to her relationship with Sergeant Elmer V. Jackson of the L.A.P.D.'s administrative vice squad, who reportedly was her lover.

Early career[edit]

Allen began work as a prostitute in Los Angeles in the 1930s, though she already had several prior morals charges in other US cities. She rose to prominence around 1940 as the successor to Ann Forrester (aka "Black Widow"), who had previously run a $5,000-a-week prostitution syndicate but was convicted and handed a prison sentence.[1]


After an attempted robbery of Brenda Allen and Sergeant Jackson in which Jackson shot and killed the perpetrator, the press and other members of the police became aware of their relationship. Wiretaps led to the arrest of Allen and the resulting publicity to the convening of a grand jury.

The publicity from the grand jury revelations of police corruption led to the resignation of L.A.P.D. Chief Clemence B. Horrall and his replacement by retired Marine Major General William A. Worton, who had served with the Marine Corps' III Amphibious Corps at the Battle of Okinawa.[2]


Worton was appointed by L.A. mayor Fletcher Bowron on a temporary basis. He served from July 1949 to August 1950, when he was replaced as chief by William H. Parker, who had served the general as a special aide and then as head of Internal Affairs (Horrall's deputy chief, Joe Reed, also resigned after being shamed by grand jury testimony.) It was Parker, in his 16-year reign as police chief, who is credited with cleaning up the L.A.P.D.

Cultural impact[edit]

The relationship between Allen and Jackson was depicted in author John Gregory Dunne's 1977 novel True Confessions, which was later turned into a movie starring Robert de Niro and Robert Duvall (as Jackson).

Brenda Allen was played by Joan Van Ark in the CBS made-for-television film Shakedown on the Sunset Strip (1988).

The story of Brenda Allen also plays a role in the 2011 video game L.A. Noire.

The scandal appears in the James Ellroy novels The Black Dahlia, The Big Nowhere and Perfidia, and is mentioned extensively in the book "LAPD '53" for which Ellroy provided text to photographs provided by the Los Angeles Police Museum.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Los Angeles Times Rasmussen, Cecilia; History of Hollywood Madams Is Long, Lurid; November 30, 1997, Web August 30, 2011
  2. ^ "CALIFORNIA: Brenda's Revenge". Time Magazine. 11 July 1949. Retrieved 14 August 2011.

Further reading[edit]