A Blog For Thelma Todd
Thelma Todd was a star of silent movies and later the talkies. She is remembered as much today for her mysterious death as she is for her films. In this blog, we take a look at Thelma Todd, her movies, and various commentaries.
Regular coverage of this story stopped in January 1936, but occasionally there would be more news items after that.
From January 19, 1936.
January 19, 1936 part 2
The sudden death of John Gilbert drew attention from the case of Thelma Todd, but coverage of that story would have ended in any case, as did the investigation itself.
An article that originaly appeared in the LA Times January 26, 1936.
January 26, 1936 Part 2
Thelma Todd's part was largely eliminated from THE BOHEMIAN GIRL because Stan Laurel was afraid that adverse publicity would hurt the picture.
March 28, 1936
Although there was no proof that Thelma Todd had been murdered, there likewise had been no proof of suicide. Some people complained about the way the authorities had handled the case. Sometimes they would point to this particular incident. It is mentioned in a number of books about Hollywood's Unsolved Mysteries.
October 12, 1936
After selling Thelma Todd's posessions, Mrs. Alice Todd went back to live in Massachusetts, where she would live for the rest of her days.
The investigation continues and so does the news coverage. But will it ever lead anywhere?
Busby Berkely was in bad traffic accident not long before Thelma Todd died, and his wreck doesn't seem to have been all that far away from the Sidewalk Cafe. Here we see stories pertaining to the two tragedies run side by side.
December 24, 1935 at lower magnification.
December 24, 1935 at higher magnification.
Sid Grauman had the Chinese theater where movie stars left their footprints in the cement. The others were all involved in Thelma Todd's Sidewalk Cafe. Rudy Schafer's son was the source of some of the information in Donati's book on Thelma Todd.
Thelma Todd's height had previously been stated to be five feet four inches, but this article gives a height of five feet three inches.
Czechoslavakia's invasion by Germany ( beginning in 1938 ) was another step that led to the second World War.
Dec. 25, 1935 pt. 2 at lower magnification.
December 25, 1935 shown at higher magnification.
Rudy Schafer ( who had the same name as his father, pictured in an above article ) told us details of gambling that was going on at the Sidewalk Cafe. These details were not made public at the time.
Thelma Todd had a niece named after her, so there was another Thelma Todd.
Only this Thelma Todd was really her cousin, Thelma Todd only called her her niece.
Thelma Todd had bought a lot of Christmas presents shortly before her death, this picture shows one of the recipients with one of them. Some other people recieved their presents after her death.
When it was suggested that Thelma Todd had comitted suicide, others pointed out that Thelma Todd had been making preparations for celebrating Christmas and said that they believed that she thought she would still be alive at that time.
A sad development for her loved ones at any rate, particularly for little children, for whom the holliday was supposed to be a time of happiness.
Los Angeles, Dec. 16 (INS) -- Missing since Saturday night, beautiful blonde Thelma Todd, famous screen actress, was found dead today behind the wheel of an automobile at her beach home near Santa Monica.
Although death, according to preliminary investigation by Detective Lieut. A. S. Roselli, appeared to have been due to natural causes, an investigation of a possible murder was begun, Roselli said.
Police ordered her body taken to the morgue for examination to determine the exact cause of death.
The first theory advanced was that death was due to monoxide gas fumes, but police said they were uncertain as to this.
Friends were reported to have found the body and summoned police.
Police said they were informed that Miss Todd had been last seen early Saturday morning, shortly after she left a party given by Ida Lupino at the Trocadero Cafe on Sunset boulevard.
According to Roland West, business partner and manager of Miss Todd's cafe, she left the party around 3 o'clock Saturday morning.
At that time, Sid Grauman, the theatre man, called West at his home on Potesano Drive, near the Seaside Cafe, and informed West Miss Todd was on her way home.
Not more than six months ago Miss Todd received extortion and death threats, which were mailed either in San Francisco or New York.
HER CAFE THREATENED
One of the notes demanded payment of $10,000. The note ordered her to pay the $10,000 to Abe Lyman, noted orchestra leader.
Federal agents said the would-be extortionists were trying to get Lyman as an involuntary go-between. Lyman was amazed that his name was used.
Threats to "blow up" her cafe on the Roosevelt Highway were contained in one of the notes.
Two arrests were made by G-men in New York as the result of the notes and threats.
Thelma Todd was a pretty blonde Lawrence school teacher who started to fame by way of an Elks beauty contest in which she was chosen "Miss Massachusetts." That was in 1925, when she was 18 years old. With the beauty award went a scholarship to the Paramount School of Acting and a screen test.
Many other pretty girls throughout the United States had a similar chance but Miss Todd was one of the few who clicked in the studios. One of her most attractive appeals as a comedienne was that despite her beauty she was not loath to appear awkward or grotesque if it would bring a laugh.
LAWRENCE MOURNS IDOL
The scores of friends and relatives and admirers who watched with pride as beauteous Thelma Todd strode upwards along the ladder of screen fame learned with a shock today that the little girl they knew had died suddenly.
Her aunt, Mrs. Alex Raymond, was nearly prostrated when she received the news. The school department, where Thelma was once listed as a prospective school teacher, was thrown into sadness.
The story unfolds further, but the outcome remains uncertain as the investigation continues.
Roland West, Mrs. Alice Todd, and May Whitehead - better copy of photo in next article.
Showing the Thelma Todd articles on this page at lower magnification to get them all in.
Section from upper left shown at increased magnification.
Section from lower left shown at increased magnification.
Section from the right shown at increased magnification.
Picture of funeral.
Envelope that contained threat to waiter Alex Hounie.
Threat to waiter Alex Hounie, made up of words cut from newspapers or magazines.
The items on the lower left of this section refer to Mussolini's war against Ethiopia. This was one of the actions that eventually led to the second World War.
Mussolini afterwards wanted Hal Roach to come to Italy to make movies and Rosina Lawrence would go to Italy to make one film. The rest of the movie industry had some complaints about the idea of Roach being associated with Mussolini, an Axis partner of Germany's Hitler.