Thelma Todd

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Thelma Todd
Thelma Todd 1933.jpg
Todd, c. 1933
Born
Thelma Alice Todd

(1906-07-29)July 29, 1906
DiedDecember 16, 1935(1935-12-16) (aged 29)
Cause of deathCarbon monoxide poisoning (suspicious)
Other namesAlison Loyd
OccupationActress
Years active1926–1935
Spouse
(m. 1932; div. 1934)
Todd in Corsair (1931)
Thelma Todd's Sidewalk Cafe,[1] 17535 Pacific Coast Highway, Pacific Palisades
Sidewalk Café
image icon Cocktail Room. Jewel Carmen's residence can be seen on the hill in the background.
image icon House of Jewel Carmen , 1930
image icon Thelma Todd's Inn postcard[2]
image icon Thelma Todd at Sidewalk Café Entrance[2]
image icon Sidewalk Café, Exterior 1933
image icon Sidewalk Café, Exterior 1935
image icon Thelma Todd in her car 1935
image icon garage, Exterior, distant 1935
image icon garage, Exterior, close 1935
image icon Photo diagram 1935
image icon Chez Roland Beach Club, 1949
Todd in Corsair (1931)

Thelma Alice Todd[3] (July 29, 1906 – December 16, 1935)[4] was an American actress and businesswoman who carried the nicknames "The Ice Cream Blonde" and "Hot Toddy". Appearing in about 120 feature films and shorts between 1926 and 1935, she is remembered for her comedic roles opposite ZaSu Pitts, and in films such as Marx Brothers' Monkey Business and Horse Feathers and a number of Charley Chase's short comedies. She co-starred with Buster Keaton and Jimmy Durante in Speak Easily. She also had roles in several Wheeler and Woolsey and Laurel and Hardy films, the last of which (The Bohemian Girl) featured her in a part that was cut short by her sudden death in 1935 at the age of 29.

Early life[edit]

Todd was born in Lawrence, Massachusetts,[4] to John Shaw Todd, an upholsterer from Ireland,[5] later, a superintendent of streets,[6] an alderman, and Lawrence's commissioner of health and charities in 1912[7] and Alice Elizabeth Edwards, an immigrant from Canada.[8] She had an older brother, William, who died in an accident in 1910.[5][9] She was a bright and successful student. Intending to become a schoolteacher, she enrolled at the Lowell Normal School (now University of Massachusetts, Lowell) after graduating from high school in 1923.[7] As a student, she earned money as a model, entered beauty pageants in her late teens, gained the attention of Elks Lodge 65, was crowned 1925 Miss Lawrence, and won the title of 1925 Miss Massachusetts.[7] While representing her home state, she was spotted by a Hollywood talent scout. She was offered a slot at the Paramount Players School[10] in Astoria, Queens, New York City, at a time when Paramount Studios was training would-be-actors in acting, diction, athletics and manners.[7] Of the 16 members of her cohort, only Charles "Buddy" Rogers also made it to Hollywood. Todd later found work, in 1929, at Hal Roach Studios.[7]

Career[edit]

Film[edit]

During the silent film era, Todd appeared in numerous supporting roles that made full use of her beauty but gave her little chance to act. With the advent of the talkies, she was able to expand her roles when producer Hal Roach signed her to appear with comedy stars such as Harry Langdon, Charley Chase, and Laurel and Hardy.

In 1931, Roach cast Todd in her own series of 17-to-27-minute slapstick comedy shorts. Attempt to create a female version of Laurel and Hardy, Roach teamed Todd with ZaSu Pitts for 17 shorts, from "Let's do Things" (June 1931) through "One Track Minds" (May 1933). When Pitts left in 1933, she was replaced by Patsy Kelly, who appeared with Todd in 21 shorts, from "Beauty and the Bus" (September 1933) through "An All American Toothache" (January 1936). These shorts often cast Todd as a levelheaded working girl doing her best to remain poised and charming despite numerous problems and her ditzy sidekick's embarrassing antics.

In 1931, Todd starred in Corsair, a film directed by Roland West, with whom she become romantically involved.[3][11]

Todd became highly regarded as a capable film comedian, and Roach loaned her to other studios to play opposite Wheeler & Woolsey, Buster Keaton, Joe E. Brown, and the Marx Brothers. She also successfully appeared in dramas, such as the original 1931 version of The Maltese Falcon starring Ricardo Cortez as Sam Spade, where she played Miles Archer's treacherous widow. She appeared in around 120 feature films and shorts in her career.

Todd continued her short-subject series through 1935 and was featured in the full-length Laurel and Hardy comedy The Bohemian Girl. It was her last role before her untimely death at age 29. Although she had completed all of her scenes, producer Roach had them re-shot, fearing negative publicity. He deleted all of Todd's dialogue, and limited her appearance to one musical number.[12]

Sidewalk Cafe[edit]

Originally built in 1928, by architect Mark Daniels, as the Castellammare housing tract business block,[13] in August 1934, Todd opened, in partnership with Jewel Carmen and Roland West, Thelma Todd's Sidewalk Cafe,[14] at 17575 Pacific Coast Highway, Castellammare, Pacific Palisades, Los Angeles. The ground floor of the building housed the restaurant; on the second floor, Todd and West lived in adjoining ocean-view apartments, with only a sliding wooden door separating their bedrooms.[15][2] and held parties in the adjacent, private nightclub named Joya's (for West's ex-wife Jewel Carmen); the third-floor, hexagonally-shaped, had a dance floor and bandstand.[14] It attracted a diverse clientele of Hollywood celebrities, and many tourists.[16][17][18][19][20]

Personal life[edit]

Todd was briefly married to Pat DiCiccio, who supposedly had ties to the mob. The relationship was volatile with DiCiccio being very abusive to Todd, resulting in her filing for divorce & changing her will to only leaving him $1- so he couldn't contest it and try to get more.[21]

Death[edit]

On the morning of Monday, December 16, 1935, Todd was found dead, wearing a mauve and silver gown, mink wrap and expensive jewelry,[22] in her chocolate-colored 1934 Lincoln Phaeton convertible[22] inside the garage[23] of Jewel Carmen, a former actress and former wife of Todd's lover and business partner Roland West. Carmen's house was approximately a block from the topmost side of Todd's restaurant.[24][1][25] Her death was determined to have been caused by carbon monoxide poisoning. West is quoted in a contemporaneous newspaper account[26] as having locked her out, which may have caused her to seek refuge and warmth in the car. Todd had a wide circle of friends and associates and a busy social life.

Police investigations revealed that she had spent the previous Saturday night (December 14) at the Trocadero, a popular Hollywood restaurant, at a party hosted by entertainer Stanley Lupino and his actress daughter Ida. She had a brief but unpleasant exchange there with her ex-husband, Pat DiCicco. However, her friends stated that she was in good spirits and were aware of nothing in her life that suggested a reason for her to commit suicide.[27] She was driven home from the party in the early hours of December 15 by her chauffeur, Ernest O. Peters.[26]

LAPD detectives concluded 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. A coroner's inquest into the death was held on December 18, 1935.[28] Autopsy surgeon A. P. Wagner testified that there were "no marks of violence anywhere upon or within the body" with only a "superficial contusion on the lower lip."[29] There are informal accounts of greater signs of injury.[30] The jury ruled that the death appeared accidental, but recommended "further investigation to be made into the case, by proper authorities."[31]

A grand jury probe was subsequently held to determine whether Todd was murdered. After four weeks of testimony, the inquiry concluded with no evidence of foul play.[32] The case was closed by the Homicide Bureau, which declared the death "accidental with possible suicide tendencies." However, investigators found no motive for suicide, and Todd left no suicide note.[32]

Todd's memorial service was held at Pierce Brothers Mortuary at 720 West Washington Blvd in Los Angeles.[33] The body was cremated. After her mother's death in 1969, Todd's remains were placed in her mother's casket and buried in Bellevue Cemetery in her hometown of Lawrence, Massachusetts.

Legacy[edit]

For her contribution to the motion picture industry, Todd has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6262 Hollywood Blvd.[34]

Filmography[edit]

Film
Year Title Role Notes
1926 Fascinating Youth Lorraine Lane Silent
1926 God Gave Me Twenty Cents Dance-Hall Girl Uncredited
1927 Rubber Heels Princess Anne Silent
1927 Fireman, Save My Child Uncredited / Silent
1927 Nevada Hettie Ide
1927 The Gay Defender Ruth Ainsworth
1927 The Shield of Honor Rose aka Flora Fisher
1928 The Noose Phyllis Silent
1928 Abie's Irish Rose Part-talkie
1928 Vamping Venus Madame Vanezlos the Dancer / Venus
1928 Heart to Heart Ruby Boyd
1928 The Crash Daisy McQueen
1928 The Haunted House The Nurse Silent
1928 Naughty Baby Bonnie Le Vonne
1929 Seven Footprints to Satan Eve Martin Produced as both a silent film and part-talkie
1929 Trial Marriage Grace Logan
1929 House of Horror Thelma
1929 Unaccustomed As We Are Mrs. Kennedy Short
1929 The Bachelor Girl Gladys
1929 Cherchez la Femme Hortense
1929 Her Private Life Mrs. Leslie First full length talkie
1930 Her Man Nelly
1930 Another Fine Mess Lady Plumtree Short, Uncredited
1931 No Limit Betty Royce
1931 Command Performance Lydia
1931 Chickens Come Home Mrs. Hardy Short, Uncredited
1931 Swanee River Caroline
1931 The Hot Heiress Lola
1931 Aloha Winifred Bradford
1931 The Maltese Falcon Iva Archer Alternative title: Dangerous Female
1931 Broadminded Gertie Gardner
1931 The Pip from Pittsburg Thelma Short
1931 Monkey Business Lucille Briggs
1931 Corsair Alison Corning Credited as Alison Loyd
1931 On the Loose Thelma Short
1932 The Big Timer Kay Mitchell
1932 This Is the Night Claire Mathewson
1932 Horse Feathers Connie Bailey
1932 Speak Easily Eleanor Espere
1932 Klondike Klondike
1932 Deception Lola Del Mont
1932 Call Her Savage Sunny De Lane
1933 Air Hostess Sylvia C. Carleton
1933 Cheating Blondes Anne Merrick / Elaine Manners
1933 Fra Diavolo Lady Pamela Rocburg Alternative titles: Bogus Bandits
The Devil's Brother
1933 Mary Stevens, M.D. Lois Cavanaugh
1933 You Made Me Love You Pamela Berne
1933 Sitting Pretty Gloria Duval
1933 Son of a Sailor The Baroness
1933 Counsellor at Law Lillian La Rue
1934 Palooka Trixie Alternative titles: Joe Palooka
The Great Schnozzle
1934 Hips, Hips, Hooray! Amelia Frisby
1934 The Poor Rich Gwendolyn Fetherstone
1934 Bottoms Up Judith Marlowe
1934 Cockeyed Cavaliers Lady Genevieve
1934 Take the Stand Sally Oxford
1934 Lightning Strikes Twice Judith 'Judy' Nelson
1935 After the Dance Mabel Kane
1935 Two for Tonight Lilly
1936 The Bohemian Girl Gypsy queen's daughter (final film role)

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Croddy, Marshall; Jenning, Patrick (2017). Testimony of a death: Thelma Todd: mystery, media and myth in 1935 Los Angeles (Revised ed.). Redondo Beach, California: Bay City Press. ISBN 9781530498475. OCLC 1242965029.
  • Edmonds, Andy (1989). Hot Toddy: The True Story of Hollywood's Most Sensational Murder. New York: William Morrow and Co. Inc. ISBN 0-688-08061-8.
  • Parish, James Robert; Leonard, William T; Mank, Gregory W; Hoyt, Charles (1979). The Funsters: 62 jesters of the silver screen. New Rochelle, N.Y.: Arlington House. ISBN 9780870004186. OCLC 924799414. James Robert Parish and William T. Leonard ; with Gregory W. Mank and Charles Hoyt.[35][36]
  • Morgan, Michelle (2015). The Ice Cream Blonde: The Whirlwind Life and Mysterious Death of Screwball Comedienne Thelma Todd. Chicago, Illinois: Chicago Review Press. ISBN 9781613730386.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Primo, Jacqueline (May 14, 2015). "Property that Housed Thelma Todd's Sidewalk Café Sold for $6 Million, Exclusive Look Inside". Palisadian Post. Archived from the original on December 9, 2017. Retrieved December 8, 2017.
  2. ^ a b c "Thelma Todd's Sidewalk Café". Pacific Palisades Historical Society. Retrieved January 13, 2022.
  3. ^ a b Erickson, Hal. "Thelma Todd". Allmovie.com. Archived from the original on December 22, 2015.
  4. ^ a b "Almanac of Famous People". Biography in Context. 2011. Retrieved December 25, 2015.
  5. ^ a b 1910 United States Federal Census
  6. ^ "The Mysterious Death of Massachusetts Movie Star Thelma Todd". New England Historical Society. May 17, 2017. Archived from the original on August 27, 2018. Retrieved January 13, 2022.
  7. ^ a b c d e Painter, Steven M. (July 28, 2013). "In remembrance Thelma Todd on her would-be 107th birthday". Eagle-Tribune. North Andover, MA. Retrieved December 25, 2015.
  8. ^ The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, "Pedigree Resource File," database,FamilySearch("Archived copy". FamilySearch. Archived from the original on May 22, 2018. Retrieved June 9, 2016.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) : accessed 2016-06-09), entry for Thelma Alice /Todd/.
  9. ^ Lightning Bolt (December 16, 2020). "The Murder of Thelma Todd". Home Brewed Mojo. Archived from the original on March 3, 2021. Retrieved January 13, 2022.
  10. ^ Thelma At The Paramount Players School
  11. ^ Wright, David (2002). Joyita: Solving the Mystery. Auckland University Press. p. 3. ISBN 1-86940-270-7.
  12. ^ Louvish, Simon (2002). Stan and Ollie, The Roots of Comedy: The Double Life of Laurel and Hardy. Macmillan. pp. 339. ISBN 0-312-26651-0.
  13. ^ Pascoe, Sue (January 30, 2019). "Open House for Thelma Todd Building". Circling The News. Pacific Palisades. Retrieved January 13, 2022.
  14. ^ a b "Thelma Todd's Sidewalk Cafe´ - 91801". Los Angeles Public Library Photo Collection. 1933. Retrieved January 13, 2022.
  15. ^ "This Exclusive (Michelle Morgan) Book Excerpt Unearths the Mysterious Dead Body of the Golden Age Film Star Thelma Todd". IndieWire. October 28, 2015. Retrieved January 13, 2022. their bedrooms were separated only by a sliding wooden door.
  16. ^ Wallace, David; Miller, Ann (2003). Hollywoodland. Macmillan. p. 21. ISBN 0-312-31614-3.
  17. ^ Benny Drinnon (January 30, 2014). "Thelma Todd's Sidewalk Cafe". A Blog For Thelma Todd Thelma Todd (Blog). Archived from the original on June 3, 2018. Retrieved December 8, 2017.[unreliable source?]
  18. ^ Benny Drinnon (January 28, 2014). "Home Movies - Thelma Todd's Sidewalk Cafe As Parker's Pharmacy". A Blog For Thelma Todd Thelma Todd. Archived from the original on December 8, 2017. Retrieved December 8, 2017.
  19. ^ "Hollywood Historic Photos - Pacific Palisades 1931 #1 Thelma Todd's Cafe, Pacific Coast Highway". Archived from the original on December 8, 2017. Retrieved December 8, 2017.
  20. ^ "Hollywood Historic Photos - Pacific Palisades 1931 #2 Thelma Todd's Cafe on Pacific Coast Highway". Archived from the original on December 8, 2017. Retrieved December 8, 2017.
  21. ^ Sanello, Frank (May 5, 1991). "Murder of '30s Starlet Thelma Todd No Longer Mystery". Chicago Tribune. Archived from the original on October 4, 2018. Retrieved January 13, 2022. The TV movie is based on the 1989 best-seller Hot Toddy by Andy Edmonds. The author interviewed an unnamed source who was with Todd shortly before her death. The source, described as a retired Hollywood executive with underworld ties, provided the author with details of Todd`s last hours and the identity of her murderer.
  22. ^ a b Welkos, Robert W. (May 29, 2002). "A Mystery Revisited". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on August 15, 2020. Retrieved January 13, 2022.
  23. ^ "Journalistic Integrity or Getting The Shot?". Los Angeles Public Library. Retrieved June 11, 2020.
  24. ^ Donati, William (January 10, 2014). The Life and Death of Thelma Todd. ISBN 9780786488179.
  25. ^ Blake, Lindsay (October 27, 2008). "Thelma Todd's Sidewalk Cafe". IAMNOTASTALKER. Archived from the original on February 9, 2010. Retrieved January 13, 2022.
  26. ^ a b "Thelma Todd Feared Gangs". The Milwaukee Journal. December 18, 1935. Retrieved January 10, 2016.
  27. ^ Thelma Todd "Mysteries & Scandals" on YouTube
  28. ^ Donati, William. The Life and Death of Thelma Todd. McFarland & Company, Inc., 2012, p. 104.
  29. ^ Donati, William. The Life and Death of Thelma Todd. McFarland & Company, Inc., 2012, p. 368
  30. ^ Morgan, Michelle (November 1, 2015). The Ice Cream Blonde: The Whirlwind Life and Mysterious Death of Screwball Comedienne Thelma Todd. Chicago Review Press. pp. 211, 212. ISBN 9781613730386.
  31. ^ Donati, William. The Life and Death of Thelma Todd. McFarland & Company, Inc., 2012, p. 174
  32. ^ a b Donati, William. The Life and Death of Thelma Todd. McFarland & Company, Inc., 2012, p. 187
  33. ^ "Thelma Todd's Funeral". The Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles, California: newspapers.com. December 20, 1935. p. 9. Retrieved January 13, 2022.
  34. ^ "Thelma Todd". The Los Angeles Times. December 17, 1935. Archived from the original on September 28, 2015. Retrieved April 18, 2014.
  35. ^ Schemering, Christopher (December 2, 1979). "Treats from Tinseltown". Washington Post. Retrieved January 13, 2022. The lengthy biographies are appreciative, not critical, and don't exactly tax the mind, but neither do most of these comedians, who allow us to escape from it all, too.
  36. ^ "Parish, James Robert". Encyclopedia.com. Retrieved January 13, 2022.

External links[edit]