Film Noir Friday (on Saturday) Behind Locked Doors [1948]

behind-locked-doors

Welcome! The lobby of the Deranged L.A. Crimes theater is open. Grab a bucket of popcorn, some Milk Duds and a Coke and find a seat.

Tonight’s feature is BEHIND LOCKED DOORS, starring Richard Carlson and Lucille Bremer.

Enjoy the movie!

IMDB says:

Newspaper reporter Kathy Lawrence (Lucille Bremer) is hot on the trail of judge-turned-wanted-fugitive Finlay Drake (Herbert Heyes). Lawrence believes Drake is hiding out in a mental institution and avoiding arrest by pretending to be insane. To prove her theory, Lawrence hires private investigator Ross Stewart (Richard Carlson) to infiltrate the asylum. But Drake soon catches on and, before long, Stewart finds that his life is in the hands of the very man he is there to capture.

The Street With No Name [1948]

STREET_WITH_NO_NAME

Welcome! The lobby of the Deranged L.A. Crimes theater is open. Grab a bucket of popcorn, some Milk Duds and a Coke and find a seat.

Tonight’s feature is THE STREET WITH NO NAME, starring Richard Widmark, Lloyd Nolan, and Barbara Lawrence.

Enjoy the movie!

TCM says:

After two gang-related killings in “Center City,” a suspect (who was framed) is arrested, released on bail…and murdered. Inspector Briggs of the FBI recruits a young agent, Gene Cordell, to go undercover in the shadowy Skid Row area (alias George Manly) as a potential victim of the same racket. Soon, Gene meets Alec Stiles, neurotic mastermind who’s “building an organization along scientific lines.” Stiles recruits Cordell, whose job becomes a lot more dangerous…

If I Had a Hammer

willys tiger2 Early in the morning of December 9, 1935,  38 year-old Mabel Willys ran from her home at 2737 Clearwater Street and accosted milkman Earl Hopper as he was making his deliveries.  “I’ve just killed my old man.” she said.  Indeed she had.  And he’d been dead for about 12 hours.

Mabel had delivered multiple hammer blows to the head and body of Dr. Walter Hammond, her 61 year-old common-law husband, thus ending his 10 day drinking spree and 8 years of abuse at his hands.

Mabel and Walter’s relationship had never been a happy one. Walter had a drinking problem of gargantuan proportions and would often go on binges that lasted for days. He wasn’t a maudlin, teary-eyed drunk, nor was he a lovable one. When Walter had consumed too much booze he became violent, and the object of his rage was Mabel.

Everyone has a limit, and 8 years of continuous abuse was it for Mabel.

willys inquestWhen Detective D.R. Patton arrived at the scene he found Hammond dead on the floor with the hammer still embedded in his head.  Mabel immediately admitted the slaying. She said that “…he had it coming.” She went on to tell detectives: “Sure I did it, he beat me and I decided a long time ago to kill him.”  Apparently she had taken her inspiration from the 1922 Clara Phillips case. Clara had taken a hammer to Alberta Meadows, the woman she thought was stealing her husband. The attack was so vicious that Phillips was dubbed “Tiger Girl”.

Mabel grinned at the detectives and announced: “I’m Tiger Woman No. 2.”

She went on to say that she wasn’t sorry for what she had done: “He has never treated any woman right–he never treated me right.  He treated me awful.  I took it as long as I could.”  In a matter-of-fact tone she told Detective Lieutenants Patton and Hurst that she was neither intoxicated nor insane at the time of the murder. She told them that Hammond had accused her of having hidden $5,000 in the back yard. When she denied it, Hammond began to beat her.  Mabel said:  “…I’m black and blue all over.  He has hit me a lot lately–we’ve been drinking steadily since Thanksgiving.  You saw those empty bottles at the house.”

willys candidCalmly Mabel described the murder in detail:  “After I hit him the first time with the hammer and knocked him down he began to howl.  I went over and put the window down so nobody would see it.”

“He crawled back and forth in the hall–I don’t know how many times I hit him then, four or five.  He is the hardiest person.  It did not seem he’d have that much energy. He crawled to the end of the hall and then back by the bed.”

willys booze“He was talking all of the time until the last time.  When he got back by the bed he died. Just before he died, he said ‘What is the matter, have you gone nuts?’ and I told him I couldn’t live with him and I couldn’t live without him.”

Mabel continued her recounting of the killing:

“When I first struck him he fell on the bed and then he came back at me. He was a big powerful man.  He took the hammer away from me and began kicking me and we fought back and forth. He was up and down several times, then he began crawling on his hands and knees and I kept hitting him.”

Detectives asked Mabel why she’d continued to hammer Walter when he was on the floor, and she replied:  “Because he was so hard to knock out.”

Given everything that had transpired during their relationship it should come as no shock that Walter and Mabel had met in 1927 at the Jack Dempsey vs. Gene Tunney boxing match. Walter had recently separated from his wife and according to Mabel: “…he fell for me and I fell for him.”  They had separated once about six years before the murder, but got together again. She had begun as his housekeeper, but fairly quickly they began living as man and wife.

After Mabel  ambushed Earl Hopper, the milkman, she asked him to walk her to the house. Along the way she told him that she had pulled a “..second Clara Phillips hammer murder.” Once they’d arrived at the house Mabel asked Hopper to phone the police, which he did from a cafe at Fletcher and Riverside Drives. Mabel had stayed in the house with Walter’s corpse for about twelve hours before she had stopped Hopper’s milk wagon. Why had she waited so long? “I wanted to get the house cleaned up before anybody came,” she said. She told detectives that after Walter died she had collapsed in a faint over his body. When she came to and realized what she’d done she decided to clean the house, take a bath, and change her clothes.

Radio officers responded to Hopper’s call and arrived at the house. When Mabel opened the door they were surprised to see that she appeared to be freshly bathed.  She explained her tidy appearance to them by saying: “Yes, I knew you would be coming and I wanted to look nice.”

On December 12, 1934 Mabel was formally charged with Walter’s murder.  The Coroner’s jury found that Walter’s death was the result of a compound skull fracture caused by hammer blows, and  brought in a verdict recommending that Mabel be held for trial.

Despite her confession, Mabel entered a plea of not guilty. At her trial several witnesses came forward to corroborate her assertions that Walter had frequently beaten her and threatened her life. Strange that at least 4 witnesses testified to having been present when Mabel was given a thrashing, yet none of them intervened to stop the violence.

The jury was given a lot to ponder. They weren’t quick to arrive at a verdict and spent one night sequestered before returning to Judge Fox’s courtroom on March 12, 1936. They had found Mabel guilty of manslaughter.

willys verdictMabel was all smiles as the foreman read the verdict and she later said: “Of course I knew all the time they’d never hang me.  My conscience is clear.  I didn’t murder that man.  I merely retaliated against him.”

For beating Walter to death Mabel believed she ought to be given probation, but instead she received a sentence of from 1 to 10 years in the women’s prison at Tehachapi.

willys_mug

Photo of Willys from San Quentin mug book found on ancestry.com and courtesy of the California State Archives.

Mabel didn’t seem to mind, she smiled again at the camera when she was led away to begin her term. Maybe she thought prison life couldn’t be worse than living with Walter had been.

I haven’t been able to confirm Mabel’s release date from Tehachapi, but my best guess is that, provided she behaved herself, she was out in 5 or fewer years.

Pushover [1954]

PUSHOVER_1954

Welcome! The lobby of the Deranged L.A. Crimes theater is open. Grab a bucket of popcorn, some Milk Duds and a Coke and find a seat.

Tonight’s feature is PUSHOVER [1954], starring Fred MacMurray, Phil Carey, and Kim Novak.

Enjoy the movie!

TCM says:

A carefully planned bank heist by hoodlum Harry Wheeler and his partner leaves a policeman dead and $200,000 stolen. After the police investigation, headed by Lt. Carl Ekstrom, identifies Wheeler as the culprit, Eckstrom assigns detective Paul Sheridan to befriend Wheeler’s girl friend, Lona McLane, who has moved into an apartment in town. Paul stages a meeting with Lona and a powerful attraction develops between the two. Paul takes Lona to his apartment for the night, then spends the next several days with her. Later, Eckstrom, Paul and his partner, Rick McAllister, devise a stakeout across from Lona’s apartment, and wait for Wheeler to contact her. On Paul and Rick’s first shift, Lona leaves the apartment and Paul follows her, only to be startled when she drives to his apartment. He meets her there and she accuses him of having staged their meeting and asks if he is a cop. Paul admits to being a detective, but insists that he has been seeing her for personal reasons.

The Good Die Young [1954]

gooddieyoung

Welcome! The lobby of the Deranged L.A. Crimes theater is open. Grab a bucket of popcorn, some Milk Duds and a Coke and find a seat.

Tonight’s feature is THE GOOD DIE YOUNG [1954], the film stars Laurence Harvey, Gloria Grahame, Richard Basehart, Joan Collins and John Ireland.

Enjoy the movie!

TCM says:

Three good men – a broken boxer, an American veteran trying to win back his mother-dominated wife, and an air force sergeant married to a faithless actress – are corrupted by Miles Ravenscourt, an amoral “gentleman.” Because they need money, they let Miles lure them into his scheme to rob a postal van with a large cash cargo.

The Devil in Orange County – 2015 Update

Several months ago I promised to provide an update, when I had one, on the results of a letter writing campaign asking California Governor Jerry Brown to overturn the upcoming parole of Arthur Craig Hulse for the 1970 murder of gas station attendant Jerry Wayne Carlin. Craig was also sentenced for his participation in the slaying of Florence Brown, a young wife and mother who had been car-jacked on her way to a PTA meeting.

Below is the follow-up on the story.

murder suspects

In 2013 I wrote a series of posts entitled “The Devil in Orange County” about one of the most notorious cases in the county’s history. My brother and I knew one of the killers, Arthur Craig  Hulse.   Nicknamed “Moose” he had been a visitor to my family’s home on many occasions during the time that he and my brother were in junior high school together.

Just days before Craig was busted, a good friend and I picked him up hitch-hiking. We had heard about the murders, they were headline news. On June 2, 1970 a gas station attendant, Jerry Wayne Carlin, had been beaten to death with a hatchet during a robbery that netted his killers $73, and  the following day a school teacher, Florence Brown, had been stabbed multiple times. Her mutilated remains were discovered two weeks later in a shallow grave off of Ortega Highway. We had no idea that Craig was involved until we heard about his arrest.

I suggest that you read the posts for details about the crimes which resulted in Craig, 16 at the time, being tried as an adult and sentenced to life in prison. When I followed-up on his case nearly two years ago I discovered that he was still incarcerated and had been denied parole for the 13th time in October 2012. He was not supposed to be eligible again for 5 years.

Since I began this blog in December 2012, I’ve written about more than 300 historic crime cases, and I have been surprised at the number of emails that I’ve received from the family members of both victims and perpetrators. One of the most touching emails I have received was from Patricia Kramer, Jerry Wayne Carlin’s widow.  Patricia wrote to me in October 2014 to inform me that Craig’s parole date had not only been moved up a few years, but that he had been granted release.

craig hulse photoPatricia lives out of state and wasn’t notified of the parole hearing in time to make arrangements to attend, so Craig’s request for release went unopposed. We organized a letter writing campaign to ask Governor Brown to overturn the parole because at his previous hearing, about a year before, the board had stated that Hulse still constituted an unreasonable danger to the public. What could have changed in such a short time?

The big change had come with the adoption of Senate Bill 260 “Justice for Juveniles with Adult Prison Sentences” which went into effect on January 1, 2014. The bill requires that the parole board “…review the cases of people who were under the age of 18 at the time of their crime and look at them differently than it does people who were adults.”

As a result of SB 260, Craig was able to request an earlier hearing–and it was at that time that his parole was granted.

There are some very complicated issues surrounding appropriate sentencing and/or treatment of juveniles who commit serious crimes; and there are no easy answers.

California is one of a small handful of states which grants authority to the governor to overturn a parole board’s decision. While in office Governor Brown has disagreed with the board in about 20% of the cases, so there were no assurances that Craig’s parole would be overturned.

A couple of days ago I heard from  Patricia. She told me that she had received word that Governor Brown had denied Craig’s release and that he would be eligible again in early 2015.

Patricia said that she will continue to oppose Craig’s release for as long as she lives.

Here are links to the 4 part series: The Devil in Orange County

The Devil in Orange County

The Devil in Orange County, Part 2

The Devil in Orange County, Part 3

The Devil in Orange County, Part 4

Antone Christ’s First Venture in Crime

The Great Depression began with the stock market crash on “Black Tuesday”, October 29, 1929. The U.S. stock market collapsed with losses for the month totaling $16 billion–an astronomical sum in any age or by anyone’s measure.

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By 1932 the nation’s unemployment rate was 23.6% and nearly half of all the banks that had been in business in 1929 had closed their doors. Able-bodied young men and women were having a tough time finding employment, but getting a job was especially difficult for sixty-three year old Antone Christ. He was at a time in his life when he should have been retired, not pounding the pavement looking for work.

Christ, formerly of Miami, Florida, had once been a wealthy businessman but he had lost $100,000 [equivalent to $1.5 million in today's currency] in a bank failure. To add to his stress, the rapid mathematical calculator (in book form) that he had been attempting to market was evidently a tough sell. I’m guessing that the calculator was a sort of speed math that, once learned, would enable a person to solve fairly difficult calculations mentally–no paper, pencil, or abacus needed.  Perhaps Christ’s calculator failed because the average Joe had nothing positive to enumerate.  No earnings, no savings–just money going out the door.

Antone and his wife had only been married for a couple of years, and had moved to Los Angeles in 1931, presumably, as had so many others, to get a fresh start. Christ’s inability to get a job, and his constant brooding over the fortune he had lost, had made him a desperate man.

A little after 10 a.m. on February 15, 1932, August J. Martz, was in his office on the second floor of the building at 758 West Seventh Street when the door opened suddenly and a man stepped in. The man was Antone Christ and he was holding a gun.

Martz said:

“I thought it was a joke.  He forced me to get up.  Then I had to take from his pocket what appeared to be a bomb.  He forced me to put it in my pocket, but wires extended from it and were attached to what appeared like a detonating contrivance he kept in his pocket.  He had a sling around his neck, through which he put his hand that held the gun he kept trained upon me.  In this fashion we descended the stairs and walked east on Seventh Street for nearly three blocks until we came to the Bank of America.  All the time we were walking he kept cautioning me not to try any funny business; not even so much as a glance sideways.  I don’t know how he knew I had an account at the Bank of America.  I had never seen the man before.  He told me to draw out every cent I had in the bank.”

Christ and Martz entered the bank and walked toward a teller’s window.  Two bank guards, G.J. Fitzpatrick and George Constantineu, watched the pair enter and wondered what the hell was going on. Christ may have been momentarily distracted by the activity in the bank– and Martz saw an opportunity for escape.  He said:

“I saw Fitzpatrick and I made up my mind to take a chance on the bomb and jump.”  

When Martz made his dash the wires that connected him to Christ pulled loose. One, two, three…no explosion. On the chance that the contraption might still detonate, Martz ran to divest himself of the black cylinder he had carried in his pocket. He was relieved to discovered the cylinder was stuffed nothing but paper wadding.

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Fitzpatrick and Constantineau cautiously approached Christ who had produced a nickel-plated .38 caliber pistol  from his pocket and began to wave it above his head.

“Stand back; don’t touch me.”

Fitzpatrick demanded that Atone give up his weapon, but instead Antone took a step backward. He continuing to slowly move back, still holding the gun. Finally he bumped up against a counter and was forced to stop. As dozens of bank employees watched, Antone lifted the gun up to his head and fired.

antone christ headlineStill breathing, Christ was rushed to the Georgia Street Receiving Hospital where he died on the operating table.

Detective Lieutenant Luke searched the dead man’s clothing and found 25 cents and an envelope. On the envelope was a single sentence written in pencil:

“My first venture in crime, or will I suicide?”

Christ’s brief criminal career was over.

Film Noir Friday–Sunday Matinee: Night Train to Munich [1940]

Night Train to Munich_10

Welcome! The lobby of the Deranged L.A. Crimes theater is open. Grab a bucket of popcorn, some Milk Duds and a Coke and find a seat.

Today’s matinee feature is NIGHT TRAIN TO MUNICH [1940].  The film stars Margaret Lockwood and Rex Harrison.

I’m stretching the noir definition with this film–but maybe not to the breaking point. One definition of film noir is that it is “a film marked by a mood of pessimism, fatalism, and menace”. Certainly there are elements of noir in this  war-time thriller.  Has there ever been anything more more menacing than Nazis?

Enjoy the movie!

TCM says:

The Nazis invade Prague in 1939, and inventor Axel Bomasch, who is developing armor plating that is essential for Allied defense, attempts to flee to England with his daughter Anna. Anna is captured, however, and taken to a concentration camp, where her captors interrogate her about Bomasch’s location. She refuses to divulge what little information she has and soon becomes friends with Karl Marsen, a teacher imprisoned for his anti-Nazi views.

 

Film Noir Friday: The Guilty [1947]

guilty_xlg

Welcome! The lobby of the Deranged L.A. Crimes theater is open. Grab a bucket of popcorn, some Milk Duds and a Coke and find a seat.

Tonight’s feature is THE GUILTY [1947],  directed by John Reinhardt and based on a story by Cornell Woolrich; the film stars Bonita Granville, Don Castle, Regis Toomey, John Litel, and Wally Cassell.

Enjoy the movie!

TCM says:

In New York City, Mike Carr goes into Tim McGinniss’ bar to wait for Estelle Mitchell, whom he hasn’t seen since Estelle’s twin sister Linda was murdered six months earlier. He then recounts for Tim the story of Linda’s death: Mike’s roommate, Johnny Dixon, who was in the Army with him, frequently suffers spells in which his nerves collapse. Linda and Johnny are very much in love, but Estelle, a vamp, is determined to have Johnny for herself.

Cops Behaving Badly: Edward P. Nolan, Conclusion

nolan_picIn a drunken rage LAPD detective Edward P. Nolan shoved Robert Wilson, the salesman who had been dancing with his sweetheart, Grace Duncan, into the bathroom of room 815 at the Lankershim Hotel.

Nolan was shouting obscenities and waving his service weapon around. Wilson stayed in the bathroom and locked the door, the other occupants of the room, Dan Smith, Jimmy Balfe, and Helen Burleson, fled into the hallway where they watched through the doorway as Nolan beat and kicked Duncan. The woman’s screams were loud enough to bring Floyd Riley, a bellboy, up to the 8th floor—but he didn’t want to confront Nolan either.  He said:

“He looked like a wild man to me.  His eyes gleamed and her cursed incoherently.  I could smell liquor on his breath.

Grace rolled over onto her stomach but the beating continued. At one point Dan Smith yelled at Nolan to stop, but was told to “mind your own business”. Addressing no one in particular, the drunken cop declared:

“I’ve done everything for this woman.  I’ve paid for her room, bought her food and paid installments on her car.”

Apparently in his mind the things he’d done for her entitled him to beat her. The terrified witnesses watched as he drew his revolver and repeatedly bashed her over the head until she stopped moving. Then he fired a couple of shots into the floor.nolan headline2

Once it appeared that his rage was spent, Wilson, Balfe, Smith and Riley tentatively approached Nolan.  He allowed himself to be taken back to his second floor room. He muttered the entire way that he loved Grace, but her battered body told a different story—one of uncontrollable jealousy and bad booze. After arriving at his room he downed several more glasses of gin, then he passed out on the floor.

The LAPD was called and Acting Captain Frank Condaffer, who had been Nolan’s superior officer for years, swore to out the complaint charging the cop with murder.

Grace’s two daughters, Edna (17) and Mary Jane (14) visited “Daddy” Nolan in jail. Sobbing, whether in grief or self-pity, Nolan wrapped his arms around the girls. The girls told officers that he had always been good to them.

nolan sentencedNolan was denied permission to enter an insanity plea and jury selection began on November 9th. With several eye-witnesses to the fatal beating of Grace Duncan it didn’t seem that Nolan had much of a chance to beat the rap. Helen Burleson testified that Nolan had been in a frenzied rage when he cornered Grace Duncan in the 8th floor room and beat her to death.

Attorneys for Nolan tried twice more to get permission to enter an additional plea of not guilty by reason of insanity, but the motion was denied each time. When the insanity plea went nowhere, Nolan took the stand and said that he had no memory of anything that had happened after he threw Grace out of his room.

Following four hours of deliberation, the jury returned a verdict of guilty of first-degree murder and Nolan was sentenced to life. He was lucky, the prosecution had wanted to see him hang.nolan_quentin_ancestry_resize

Nolan entered San Quentin on January 9, 1932. Look closely and you’ll notice that his stated profession was propman.  Cops, even those who have been disgraced, aren’t welcomed by the other inmates. If he was smart, Nolan never mentioned his decade on the Los Angeles Police Department to his cellmates.

On February 1, 1932 the State Board of Prison Terms and Paroles denied Edward Nolan’s request for release.  The Board informed him that he would have to serve 10 calendar years before they would review his application again.

Nolan was released in early March 1942, but he didn’t enjoy his freedom for very long. He died on July 20, 1943 in a VA facility in San Francisco.