Dorothy Kilgallen

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Dorothy Kilgallen
Dorothy kilgallen.jpg
Born Dorothy Mae Kilgallen
(1913-07-03)July 3, 1913
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
Died November 8, 1965(1965-11-08) (aged 52)
Manhattan, New York City, U.S.
Cause of death Apparent alcohol and drug combination overdose
Resting place Gate of Heaven Cemetery
Hawthorne, New York
Nationality American
Education Erasmus Hall High School
Alma mater The College of New Rochelle
Occupation Media personality, author, journalist, panelist
Religion Roman Catholic
Spouse(s) Richard Kollmar (m. 1940–65) (her death)
Children 3

Dorothy Mae Kilgallen (July 3, 1913 – November 8, 1965) was an American journalist and television game show panelist. She started her career shortly before her 18th birthday as a reporter for the Hearst Corporation's New York Evening Journal after spending two semesters at the College of New Rochelle. In 1938, she began her newspaper column, The Voice of Broadway, which eventually was syndicated to more than 146 papers.[1][2] She became a regular panelist on the television game show What's My Line? in 1950.

Kilgallen's columns featured mostly show business news and gossip, but also ventured into other topics such as politics and organized crime. She wrote front-page articles on the Sam Sheppard trial and later the John F. Kennedy assassination.

Early life and career[edit]

Kilgallen, born in Chicago, was the daughter of newspaper reporter James Lawrence Kilgallen (1888–1982) and his wife, Mae Ahern (1888-1985).[3] She was Roman Catholic.[1] Dorothy had one sibling, a sister six years her junior named Eleanor (1919-2014). The family moved to various regions of the United States until 1920, when the International News Service hired James Kilgallen as a roving correspondent based in New York City.[4] The family settled in Brooklyn, New York. After completing two semesters at The College of New Rochelle, Dorothy Kilgallen dropped out to take a job as a reporter for the New York Evening Journal. This newspaper was owned and operated by the Hearst Corporation, which also owned International News Service, her father's employer.[5][6]

In 1936, Kilgallen competed with two other New York newspaper reporters in a race around the world using only means of transportation available to the general public. She was the only woman to compete in the contest and she came in second. She described the event in her book Girl Around The World, which is credited as the story idea for the 1937 movie Fly-Away Baby starring Glenda Farrell as a character partly inspired by Kilgallen.[2]

During a stint living in Hollywood in 1936 and 1937, Kilgallen wrote a daily column primarily read in New York, which provoked a libel suit from Constance Bennett, "who in the early thirties had been the highest paid performer in motion pictures", according to a Kilgallen biography, "but who was [in 1937] experiencing a temporary decline in popular appeal."[citation needed]

Back in New York in 1938, Kilgallen began writing a daily column, the Voice of Broadway, for Hearst's New York Journal American, which the corporation created by merging the Evening Journal with the American. The column, which she wrote until her death in 1965, featured mostly New York show business news and gossip, but also ventured into other topics such as politics and organized crime. The column eventually was syndicated to 146 newspapers via King Features Syndicate.[1][2] Its success motivated Kilgallen to move her parents and Eleanor from Brooklyn to Manhattan, where she continued to live with them until she got married.

On April 6, 1940, Kilgallen married Richard Kollmar, a musical comedy actor and singer who had starred in the Broadway show Knickerbocker Holiday and was performing, at the time of their wedding, in the Broadway cast of Too Many Girls.[7]

Early in their marriage, both Kilgallen and Kollmar launched careers in network radio, Kilgallen with her radio program Voice of Broadway, which was broadcast on CBS during World War II,[8] and Kollmar with a long stint in the nationally syndicated crime drama in which he played Boston Blackie.

Beginning in April 1945, Kilgallen and Kollmar co-hosted a WOR-AM radio talk show, Breakfast With Dorothy and Dick, from their 16-room apartment at 640 Park Avenue. The show followed them when they bought a Neo-Georgian townhouse at 45 East 68th Street in 1952.[9] The radio program, like Kilgallen's newspaper column, mixed entertainment with serious issues. Kilgallen and Kollmar continued doing the show from their home until 1963,[10] long after the terminations of other radio shows on which each had worked without the other.

Kilgallen was among the notables on the guest list of those who attended the coronation of Queen Elizabeth in 1953. Kilgallen's articles about the coronation won her a Pulitzer Prize nomination.[citation needed]

What's My Line?[edit]

The What's My Line? panel in 1952. From left: Dorothy Kilgallen, Bennett Cerf, Arlene Francis and Hal Block, with John Daly as the host.

In 1950, Kilgallen became a panelist on the American television game show What's My Line?, which was telecast from New York City on the CBS television network from 1950 to 1967. She remained on the show for 15 years, until her death. Fellow panelist Bennett Cerf claimed that, unlike the rest of the panel members, whose priority was getting a laugh and entertaining the audience, Kilgallen was interested mainly in guessing the correct answers. Cerf claimed she would extend her time on camera by asking more questions than necessary, the answers to which she knew would be affirmative.[11]

Cerf said after Kilgallen's death that she had had a politically conservative point of view, that of a "Hearst girl," which differed from the more liberal views of himself and others who worked on their television show.[12]

In the same interview, Cerf specified that her opinion of Joseph McCarthy, United States senator from Wisconsin, had contrasted with opinions held by him and their television colleagues.[12] He added that all four What's My Line? panelists had shared a dressing room every Sunday, and Kilgallen published in her column information that her colleagues had revealed in their weekly conversations.[12] Cerf, speaking for his fellow panelists, the panel moderator, John Daly and himself in an audio-tape-recorded interview at Columbia University two years and two months after Kilgallen's death, said, "We didn't like that."[12]

Controversy[edit]

Sinatra feud[edit]

Though Kilgallen and Frank Sinatra were fairly good friends for several years and were photographed rehearsing in a radio studio for a 1948 broadcast, they had a falling out after she wrote a multi-part 1956 front-page feature story titled "The Frank Sinatra Story". In addition to the New York Journal-American, Hearst-owned newspapers across the United States ran the story.[13] Thereafter Sinatra made derogatory comments about Kilgallen's physical appearance to his audiences at nightclubs in New York and Las Vegas,[13][14][15] though he stopped short of mentioning her name on television or during interviews for magazines and newspapers.[13]

Sam Sheppard murder trial[edit]

Kilgallen covered the 1954 murder trial of Dr. Sam Sheppard. The New York Journal American carried the banner front-page headline that she was "astounded" by the guilty verdict because of what she argued were serious flaws in the prosecution's case.[16] The doctor, whose specialty was osteopathic neurosurgery,[17] was convicted of bludgeoning his wife to death at their home in the Cleveland suburb of Bay Village.

At the time of the Cleveland jury's guilty verdict in December 1954, Kilgallen's sharp criticism of it was controversial and a Cleveland newspaper dropped her column in response.[18][19][20] Her articles and columns in 1954 did not reveal all she had witnessed in the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas. Nine years and some months after the verdict and the judge's immediate pronouncement of the life sentence,[21] she revealed publicly, at an event that was held at the Overseas Press Club in New York, that the judge had told her before the start of jury selection that Dr. Sheppard was "guilty as hell."[22]

Attorney F. Lee Bailey, who was working on a habeas corpus petition for his client Dr. Sheppard,[23] attended the Overseas Press Club event, heard what Kilgallen told the crowd and then asked her privately if she would help him.[23][24] "Some days later," as Bailey wrote in his memoir The Defense Never Rests,[23] "we obtained a deposition from Dorothy that was inserted into the petition submitted to" Carl Andrew Weinman, judge for the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio. Bailey also included in the habeas corpus petition a statement from Edward Murray, who had worked in 1954 as a court clerk at the Cuyahoga County Court of Common Pleas. Similar to Kilgallen's statement, Murray's statement indicated that the original Sheppard judge, Edward J. Blythin, had declared Dr. Sheppard guilty even before the grand jury's August 17, 1954 indictment of Dr. Sheppard.[23]

In July 1964, four months after the Overseas Press Club event where Kilgallen broke her silence about the deceased Judge Blythin, Judge Weinman of the federal court granted Bailey's habeas corpus petition,[23] Dr. Sam Sheppard was released from prison amid much newspaper publicity,[23] and Dr. Sheppard met Kilgallen at a "late-night champagne party" (as described by Bailey in The Defense Never Rests) in Cleveland.[23] After Kilgallen's death, Dr. Sheppard was retried and acquitted.[23][25]

Kilgallen and the Kennedy assassination[edit]

Kilgallen was publicly skeptical of the conclusions of the Warren Commission's report into the assassination of President Kennedy and wrote a number of articles on the subject.[26] She obtained a copy of Jack Ruby's testimony to the Warren Commission, which she published in August 1964 on the front pages of the Journal American,[27] the Philadelphia Inquirer,[28] the Seattle Post Intelligencer,[29] and other newspapers. Most of that testimony did not become officially available to the public until the commission released its 26 volumes of hearings and exhibits in November 1964, around the time of the first anniversary of the assassination.[30]

Death[edit]

On November 8, 1965, Kilgallen was found dead on the third floor of her five-story townhouse. She had succumbed to a fatal combination of alcohol and barbiturates, possibly concurrent with a heart attack, according to medical examiner James Luke.[31]

At the time of her death, Kilgallen and Richard Kollmar had been married for 25 years, and she left behind three children. On November 11, Dorothy Kilgallen's funeral mass was held at her parish church, St. Vincent Ferrer on Lexington Avenue. Approximately 2,000 people attended it.[32] She was interred in a modest grave at Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Hawthorne, New York.

The footstone of Dorothy Kilgallen in Gate of Heaven Cemetery

On the following Sunday night's What's My Line?, telecast live on November 14, To Tell the Truth regular panelist Kitty Carlisle, who had been a guest panelist on three previous episodes of What's My Line?, filled in for Kilgallen temporarily. She said on camera that although she was occupying Kilgallen's seat, she could never take her place. [33]

Kilgallen has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on Hollywood Boulevard.[34] The archives of the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce list her as one of the 500 people who were chosen to receive the first stars on the walk of fame. The stars were installed on sidewalks in 1960 and 1961, several years before she died.[35]

Filmography[edit]

  • Sinner Take All (1936)
  • Fly Away Baby (1937)
  • Pajama Party (Uncredited, 1964)

Bibliography[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Riley, Sam G. (1995). Biographical Dictionary of American Newspaper Columnists. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 157. ISBN 0-313-29192-6. 
  2. ^ a b c Signorielli, Nancy (1996). Women in Communication: A Biographical Sourcebook. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 245. ISBN 0-313-29164-0. 
  3. ^ Gingrich, Arnold (1936). Coronet. David A. Smart. p. 55. 
  4. ^ Lynn, Frank (December 23, 1982). "JAMES L. KILGALLEN DIES AT 94; A REPORTER FOR OVER 75 YEARS". NYTimes.com. Retrieved June 16, 2016. 
  5. ^ Lynn, Frank (December 23, 1982). "JAMES L. KILGALLEN DIES AT 94; A REPORTER FOR OVER 75 YEARS". NYTimes.com. Retrieved June 16, 2016. 
  6. ^ Liebenson, Donald (May 4, 2003). "Upi R.i.p.". ChicagoTribune.com. Retrieved June 16, 2016. 
  7. ^ Arnaz, Desi (1976). A Book. William Morrow, Inc. pp. 86–91. ISBN 0-688-00342-7. 
  8. ^ "Kilgallen Renewed" (PDF). Billboard. March 7, 1942. p. 6. Retrieved February 11, 2015. 
  9. ^ Kilgallen, Dorothy. "The Voice of Broadway", New York Journal American (May 30, 1952)
  10. ^ Suskin, Steven (2006). Second Act Trouble: Behind the Scenes at Broadway's Big Musical Bombs. Hal Leonard. p. 243. ISBN 1-55783-631-0. 
  11. ^ Cerf, Bennett (session 16) (1968-01-23). Notable New Yorkers. Interview with Robbin Hawkins. Columbia University Libraries Oral History Research Office. New York City. Retrieved 2008-04-27. 
  12. ^ a b c d Cerf, Bennett (session 16) (1968-01-23). Notable New Yorkers. Interview with Robbin Hawkins. Columbia University Libraries Oral History Research Office. New York City, New York. Retrieved 2008-04-27.  at p.739.
  13. ^ a b c Kelley, Kitty (1986). His Way: Frank Sinatra, the Unauthorized Biography. ISBN 978-0-553-05137-7. 
  14. ^ McNally, Karen (2008). When Frankie Went to Hollywood: Frank Sinatra and American Male Identity. University of Illinois Press. p. 197. ISBN 0-252-07542-0. 
  15. ^ Fong-Torres, Ben (2006). Becoming Almost Famous: My Back Pages in Music, Writing, and Life. Backbeat Books. p. 153. ISBN 0-87930-880-X. 
  16. ^ Kilgallen, Dorothy (1954-12-22). "Sheppard Guilty; Dorothy Kilgallen Astounded By Verdict". New York Journal American. p. 1. 
  17. ^ legitimate source on Sam Sheppard's career specialty -- a Cleveland historical society
  18. ^ Feagler, Dick (1998-12-09). "1st Officer At Sheppard Murder Holds To View". The Plain Dealer. pp. 2A. 
  19. ^ Dirck, Joe (1998-12-13). "Facts On Sheppard Don't Bother Some". The Plain Dealer. pp. 1B. 
  20. ^ Pollack, Jack Harrison (1972). Dr. Sam: An American Tragedy. H. Regnery Co. p. 205. 
  21. ^ United Press (old wire service) report of Judge Edward Blythin's pronouncement of a life sentence for Sam Sheppard moments after the jury's guilty verdict -- as seen on front page of newspaper The Victoria Advocate in Victoria, Texas
  22. ^ "Sam Sheppard: Some 35-year-old questions". The Plain Dealer. 1989-08-08. pp. 1B. 
  23. ^ a b c d e f g h Bailey, F Lee; Aronson, Harvey. The Defense Never Rests. Signet. ISBN 9780451126405. Retrieved 13 May 2016. 
  24. ^ Pollack, Jack Harrison (1972). Dr. Sam: An American Tragedy. H. Regnery Co. p. 205. 
  25. ^ Pollack, Jack Harrison (1972). Dr. Sam: An American Tragedy. H. Regnery Co. p. 205. 
  26. ^ Read this article in its entirety and you learn that Kilgallen did write "a number of articles on the subject" even though a nationally known lecturer says they went nowhere.
  27. ^ New York Journal American August 18–20, 1964 front pages
  28. ^ Philadelphia Inquirer August 19–21, 1964 front pages
  29. ^ Seattle Post Intelligencer August 19–21, 1964 front pages
  30. ^ Rosenbaum, Ron (November 1983). "Pieces of the Puzzle" [a sidebar in an article titled] "Still On the Case". Texas Monthly pg. 156 Texas Monthly piece titled "Pieces of the Puzzle" on page 156 in November 1983 issue – one of many articles with the umbrella title "Oswald's Ghost"
  31. ^ "Medical Examiner on Dorothy Kilgallen: Combination of Alcohol and Barbiturates". New York Herald Tribune. November 16, 1965. p. 25. 
  32. ^ Scroll down approximately a third of the way toward the bottom and you find a clipping from The Miami News edition of November 11, 1965. Headline is "Mass Held For Dorothy Kilgallen." It includes the detail of the approximate head count: 2,000.
  33. ^ : Scroll down past the heading Gil Hodges & the Senators in all caps and you find a paragraph about Kitty's four appearances as a What's My Line panelist, tv.com; accessed December 15, 2015.
  34. ^ "Hollywood Star Walk: A guide to the thousands of stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame". latimes.com. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved November 19, 2014. 
  35. ^ Los Angeles Times source on archive that has evidence of when Dorothy Kilgallen got her star on Hollywood Walk of Fame. The relevance to this article is that she was alive when she received it.

External links[edit]