Sunday, September 9, 2018

Hollywood And The Underworld

Gangster films were very popular during the thirties. And Hollywood had many dealings with the underworld in that period. The studios paid protection money to prevent sabotage of the theaters. There was more to it than that. The gangsters became involved in supplying the studios with different things, not all of them legal. Some of the studio bosses liked to gamble with the gangsters. Some stars frequented the speakeasies and gambling joints in the area that were controlled by the underworld. Some of the girls in comedies were somehow linked to gangsters.

Thelma Todd had trouble with gangsters. There were extortion notes ( some were said to be the work of a crazy fan, but later ones might not have been ) and problems related to the Sidewalk Café. They thought that the gangsters might have killed her. But they don't seem to have said much of anything about the gangsters at the time. Later writers attributed the problems to Lucky Luciano, but some more recent writers have cast doubt on that story.

What about Lucky Luciano? Was he actually involved? Could Thelma Todd have been connected to him in some way?

Here we see Pat DeCicco, Gene Malin, Thelma Todd, and Lois Wilson at the club New York in Hollywood in 1932.
In New York, Gene Malin had worked at the Club Abbey, a queer joint that was run by Dutch Schultz.  Dutch Schultz was involved with Lucky Luciano, but eventually Luciano had him killed... as has been said, the authorities watched Luciano after that, and he was not in California with Thelma Todd. But because of Gene Malin, Thelma Todd was linked to Luciano, if only indirectly.

Gene Malin's wife was involved with prostitution, like DeCicco, which could be another connection.* But Patsy Kelly was more closely associated with Gene Malin than Thelma Todd and Pat DeCicco. She was with Malin when he accidently drove his car off a pier into the ocean and drowned in 1933.

Geneva Mitchell was in NIGHT LIFE OF THE GODS ( 1935 ) with Pat DiCicco, 

Pat DiCicco as Perseus in the rear at left, Geneva Mitchell as Hebe at center in front.

Today she is probably best known as the dance instructor in the Three Stooges comedy HOI POLLOI. History also tells us that she had some complaints about the underworld.

In 1932 she gave testimony in court that gangsters had kidnapped her brother. 
Kidnapping was in the news that year as the son of Lindbergh had been kidnapped. A number of movie stars received kidnap threats in the thirties. Thelma Todd and Mae West were both the recipients of kidnap threats that were said to have been the work of lone individuals rather than members of a gang. Bebe Daniels and her family went to live in England to escape this threat.

Doris Houk also worked with the Three Stooges. Today she is probably best known as the brunette who tried to pressure Shemp into marrying her in BRIDELESS GROOMS.

Reblogged from

 She married Fred Otash, a Los Angeles detective alleged to have underworld connections who was involved in a number of scandals. He was also associated with CONFIDENTIAL magazine, a publication that was noted for being scandalous.

June Brewster of the "Blondes and the Redheads" series at RKO married Guy McAfee, who was head of the vice squad. While in that position he owned brothels and gambling joints in Los Angeles.** Later he relocated to Los Vegas, where that stuff was legal, and she went with him.

Reblogged from - which has June Brewster confused with McAfee's previous wife, who had been a Los Angeles madam.

June Lang was in BONNIE SCOTLAND ( 1935 ) with Laurel and Hardy, and later made ZENOBIA with Harry Langdon and Oliver Hardy. 

In 1940 she married mobster Johnny Roselli, who was involved in the Chicago mob's extortion of millions of dollars from the motion picture industry. Roselli had also dated Lina Basquette, who was one of Thelma Todd's friends.

Lona Andre ( left ) and Iris Ardian ( right ) with Laurel and Hardy in OUR RELATIONS ( 1936 ).

Iris Adrian mentioned having been around Lucky Luciano in the 1930's. Although that was when she was in New York. She mentioned Stan Laurel being in New York during that period, too.

Here we see Dorothy Appleby and Barbara Pepper with George Raft and Edgar G. Robinson in MANPOWER ( 1943 ). Dorothy Appleby and Barbara Pepper appeared in many comedies.

Dorothy Appleby was engaged for a time to a lawyer named Sidney Korshak who was linked to gangsters. George Raft had underworld connections and is frequently mentioned in connection with Pat DeCicco. Raft was also associated with gangster Bugsy Siegel, who he knew from New York.

Bugsy Siegel and George Raft

Bugsy Siegel was associated with Lucky Luciano, who is said to have sent him out west. Some people have thought Siegel was around Thelma Todd. He was in Hollywood during the last years of her life, and was around some of the same people. Thelma Todd made her last public appearance at the Trocadero, a Hollywood night club owned by William Wilkerson. William Wilkerson later became involved with Bugsy Siegel in building the Flamingo hotel in Las Vegas.

Bugsy Siegel is frequently mentioned in connection with Jean Harlow, who appeared in Laurel and Hardy comedies before she was a star. 

                    Stan Laurel, Jean Harlow, and Oliver Hardy in DOUBLE WHOOPEE ( 1929 )

Frequently their association is said to have been friendly, but there were also stories of a less pleasant nature. Some people said that he was extorting money from her. Evidently Siegel had a habit of "borrowing" large sums from people which they were afraid to ask him to pay back.

Virginia Hill was another woman who was associated with Bugsy Siegel.

Reblogged from

She wasn't a movie star, but people sometimes thought that she was. She hung out with the stars. She was considered to be something of a celebrity herself.

 Included in the photo are- Ava Gardner, Mickey Rooney, Groucho Marx, Ann Rutherford and Virginia Hill (yes the mob queen) in Hollywood.

The story is that Virginia Hill was introduced to Bugsy Siegel by Pat DiCicco. And Bugsy Siegel was associated with Lucky Luciano. Although Luciano was in prison by the time that DeCicco made the introduction.

Luciano allegedly had Bugsy Siegel killed, just as he'd allegedly had Dutch Schultz eliminated. They said it had something to do with the Flamingo Hotel, on which Siegel had spent vast sums of money after taking the project away from William Wilkerson. Like many other stories about Luciano it was never really proven, but accepted as fact nonetheless.

*Luciano eventually controlled all the prostitution in New York, which was also what he was convicted of, and imprisoned for, in 1936.

**Guy McAfee ran the Clover Club, a Sunset Strip gambling casino that Thelma Todd is known to have gone to.

Iris Adrian:

Dorothy Appleby:

The Man Who Kept The Secrets ( Sidney Korshak ) - Dorothy Appleby mention

Newspaper article announcing engagement:,1660600

June Brewster:

Pat DeCicco:

Gangsters' extortion of money from the studios:

Jean Harlow ( Official site ):

Doris Houck:

Laurel And Hardy:

Lucky Luciano:

Gene Malin and Patsy Kelly:

Guy McAfee:

Geneva Mitchell:

Geneva Mitchell ( Denny Jackson's Glamour Girls Of The Silver Screen ):

Fred Otash:

George Raft:

Johnny Roselli:

Johnny Roselli and Lina Basquette:

Bugsy Siegel and Virginia Hill:

William Wilkerson:


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