Thursday, June 20, 2019

Leonard Maltin


Leonard Maltin of "Leonard Maltin Presents" presented us with this present.

Reblogged from

While sitting in a doctor’s waiting room yesterday I glanced at a TV monitor tuned to CNN. Imagine my surprise to see a 1935 newspaper clipping about the death of Thelma Todd, a longtime favorite of mine. The reason was simple: heiress and fashionista Gloria Vanderbilt just passed away at the age of 95. She and Thelma were both (unhappily) married to Pasquale “Pat” DiCicco, a shady fellow with possible mob ties who was also an abusive husband. Vanderbilt ended their marriage in 1941 and later remarried, giving birth to a boy we know as Anderson Cooper. The notion that America’s most recognizable newscaster is only two degrees of separation from an actress who died more than eighty years ago is rather incredible.

A publicity shot of Charley Chase and Thelma Todd. The smiles are genuine

It makes me sad that many people only know of Thelma Todd is because of her untimely death and the ongoing mystery surrounding it. With each passing year, it seems, someone new weighs in with theories about her demise.

Lying down on the job: Thelma relaxes with director Norman McLeod between takes on The Marx Brothers feature Horse Feathers. (Grouchophile Steve Stoliar notes, “That appears to be (uncredited writer/producer) Herman Mankiewicz hovering over them, with Zeppo on the chair and writer Arthur Sheekman in the background.” Wow!)

I prefer to think of her as she was onscreen, a buoyant actress who could play serious roles but made a lasting mark in comedies alongside Laurel and Hardy, The Marx Brothers, Wheeler and Woolsey, and Joe E. Brown, to name just a few of her comic costars. Everyone who worked with the actress say she was a lively and fun-loving young woman. (I show my favorite two-reel comedy short, The Pip from Pittsburgh, starring Thelma and Charley Chase every semester to my students at USC and it always gets a positive response.)

Thelma was typecast playing “vamps” in movies like Two for Tonight with Bing Crosby

Allow me, then, to pay tribute to Thelma Todd, not as the subject of a lurid headline but as a radiant star of Hollywood’s past. She deserves it.

Here she is with one of her most distinguished costars, John Barrymore, in Counsellor at Law

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Leonard Maltin is the author of the books MOVIE COMEDY TEAMS and THE GREAT MOVIE SHORTS. In these books he expressed the opinion that it was sad that many people only knew of Thelma Todd because of her untimely death, and he says it again here.

I can understand how he might feel that way. but a focus on the perceived failings of others is not necessarily a good thing.

There are some who say that others have a preoccupation with Thelma Todd's death in order to seem superior, and the making of such statements gives them something to fight over. And those who harp on this theme are guilty of what they claim to be against. They are preoccupied with Thelma Todd's death.

To get back to Leonard Maltin, he had both the Lucky Luciano and Roland West stories as possible solutions to the mystery in his book LEONARD MALTIN'S MOVIE ENCLOPEDIA, and he had the Roland West story in his audio commentary on the DVD of THE DEVIL'S BROTHER. Leonard Maltin hasn't always given out the same story. It might have been better if he had, since none of them have ever been proven, which is what he said to begin with.

I'm afraid that I did not even know who Anderson Cooper was when I read Maltin's missive. Not everyone watches CNN. I don't, myself. Cable television cannot be considered universal as long as it isn't watched universally.

Leonard Maltin used to host a program called "Leonard Maltin Presents" on the Odyssey Channel, in which he would present classic comedy shorts. Not having had access to the Odyssey Channel, I haven't seen that, either.

Leonard Maltin's Movie Encyclopedia:

Leonard Maltin Presents :

New Versions Of Leonard Maltin's Books:



  1. Alan Eichler on facebook: Many now think that Todd's death was DiCicco's doing. In Anderson's video tribute to his mother, he shows a clip of him asking her, "How could you marry a man who killed his first wife?" and Gloria answers with a laugh, "I was only 17."

  2. Benny Drinnon on facebook: Gloria Vanderbilt said in her autobiography that she was told that DiCicco had killed her.