Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Lawrence Eagle Tribune Article On Donati's Book

The Lawrence Eagle Tribune article about William Donati's new book.

LAWRENCE — Thelma Todd was a drop-dead gorgeous blonde who was born and raised in Lawrence and went off to Hollywood to become a star at a time when the motion picture industry was moving from the silent era to the talkies.

By the time of her death at the age of 29 on Dec. 16, 1935, she was a sassy starlet nicknamed "Hot Toddy" who had appeared in about 100 films — silents and talkies — including "Horse Feathers" and "Monkey Business" opposite the Marx Brothers.

Her death would unleash a media frenzy and spawn endless theories worthy of movie scripts about what led to her demise.

As evidenced by this weekend's Academy Awards, Hollywood in the past year or so has been looking back to its roots in silent films. Two movies — "The Artist" and "Hugo" — are nominated for best motion picture.

Coincidentally, feeding into this nostalgia is a new book "The Life and Death of Thelma Todd" by University of Las Vegas English professor William Donati.

"The purpose of my book is to set the record straight about Thelma Todd. She deserves an honest biography," Donati said during a telephone interview from Nevada.

"She died too young and was not able to fulfil her potential either as an actress or a business woman. Hers is the classic story of the American dream. She would go see movies in Lawrence and like many dreamed of being in them and she was able to achieve that," said Donati, whose book was published last month by McFarland & Co., Inc. Publishers of North Carolina.

Todd was found dead slumped over the front seat of her car in a garage at a restaurant on the Pacific Coast Highway in Hollywood.

Rumors swirled about it being a mob hit, the act of a jealous lover or suicide. Her death was ruled an accident due to carbon monoxide poisoning.

Donati first learned about Todd while talking to Ida Lupino, the English-born actress and director who knew Todd. Donati has also written biographies about Lupino and gangster Lucky Luciano.

For the book, Donati spent several days in Lawrence speaking with Todd's cousins, who showed him scrapbooks and other memorabilia. He also visited Saunders School and South Congregational Church on South Broadway which Todd attended. He strolled through Campagnone Common, something Todd often did.

"I did my best to walk in her footsteps. I really got a sense of her presence there," he said. "She was always so happy to come back to Lawrence because she felt at home."

It was in Lawrence that Todd got the acting bug. Todd entered beauty pageants first becoming Miss Lawrence, then winning Miss Massachusetts in 1925. She went on to compete for Miss America. Todd appeared in two silent films in Lawrence before entering the Paramount School in New York.

Donati did much research at the Lawrence History Center and Lawrence Public Library looking through city directories, photographs, and reading newspaper clippings about Todd.

Donati said his goal was to debunk the myths about her death. "She was slowly climbing the ladder in Hollywood; she had no reason to commit suicide because she was really happy," he said.

This is the first biography written about Todd since "Hot Toddy", published in 1989, followed by a TV movie based on that book, "White Hot" with Loni Anderson.

Hal Roach Studios publicity photo of Thelma Todd

You can preview this book at Google Books:


Y can buuy this book online from Amazon Books:


No comments:

Post a Comment