Film Noir Friday: Road House [1948]

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 ROAD HOUSE starring Ida Lupino, Cornel Wilde, Richard Widmark, and Celeste Holm.

IMDB says:

At a seedy nightclub and bowling alley near the Canadian border, owner Jefty Robbins (Richard Widmark) is in love with his new cabaret singer, Lily Stevens (Ida Lupino), who only has eyes for Jefty’s best friend, bar manager Pete Morgan (Cornel Wilde). Although he tries to keep his distance, Pete soon falls for Lily’s charms. But when the couple tries to run away together, Jefty and jealous cashier Susie Smith (Celeste Holm) conspire to frame them for a crime they didn’t commit.

Enjoy the movie!

End of Watch: Nathan Oscar Longfellow — Thanksgiving Day, 1923

There is no such thing as a routine day in law enforcement. On Thanksgiving Day, 1923, a City of San Fernando motor officer, Nathan Oscar Longfellow, rode out to the scene of a reported riot on the 1300 block of Celis Drive.

NYPD motor officer on his motorcycle c. 1920

One hundred people filled the street, none of them too stuffed with turkey and pie to celebrate the holiday. There was no riot. The large gathering was peaceful except for one man, Francisco Casade, 45, a laborer who was drunk, loud, and creating a disturbance.

Longfellow rolled up on his motorcycle prepared to quell a riot. He found one unruly drunk.

Nathan Oscar Longfellow

Before a crowd of witnesses, Longfellow placed Casade under arrest for disturbing the peace and placed him in the sidecar of his motorcycle.  As the motorcycle pulled away Casade attempted to escape.

Witnesses watched as Longfellow tried to restrain his prisoner.  Casade produced an automatic pistol he had concealed under his vest. He fired three times. Longfellow dropped to the pavement.

The crowd, enraged by the shooting, fought Casade to the ground and held him until other officers arrived.

An ambulance transported Longfellow to the San Fernando Hospital where he died a few days later. The officer was a 21-year-old former clerk who had had joined the San Fernando Police Department 13-months earlier.

Fearing that citizens in the neighborhood would storm the local jail and lynch him, police took Casade to the Los Angeles County Jail and held him without bond.

The county grand jury heard testimony from J.W. Thompson, Chief of Police in San Fernando, Deputy Sheriff Charles Catlin, who investigated the case, and Mrs. G. Strathern, a witness to the shooting. The statements were enough indict Casade for Longfellow’s murder.

On January 11, 1924, the jury in the Francisco Casade trial informed Judge Reeve that they could not reach a verdict. The judge ordered them sequestered until the morning of the 12th. Maybe all the jury needed was an overnight incentive.

The jurors tried, but they squared off: six for hanging and six for life imprisonment. A conference between the District Attorney’s office and the judge resulted in a continuance until January 14.

Judge Reeve had no choice but to dismiss the jury after the foreman told him that six of the jurors held out for hanging and would not budge. They ordered a second trial to begin on January 18.

Casade’s public defender tried to use his client’s intoxication as a mitigating circumstance. He failed to convince his recalcitrant client to plead guilty and avoid the death penalty. Casade rolled the dice.

After two hours of deliberation, the jury returned a verdict of guilty for first degree murder. They sentenced Casade to hang.

Appeals are automatic in a death penalty case, and Casade’s snaked its way through the system to the State Supreme Court.  In September 1924 the court upheld the sentence.

Holidays proved unlucky for Casade. He killed officer Longfellow on Thanksgiving Day 1923 and hanged for the crime on Valentine’s Day 1925.

On this day when we give thanks, let’s honor those people who have paid the ultimate price to keep us and those we love safe: law enforcement, firefighters, members of the military. They deserve our respect and support.

Nathan Oscar Longellow

In memory of Nathan Oscar Longfellow, a young man who never got the chance to fulfill his dreams, the following poem by an unknown author.

“Policeman’s Prayer

When I start my tour of duty God,
Wherever crime may be,
as I walk the darkened streets alone,
Let me be close to thee.

Please give me understanding with both the young and old.
Let me listen with attention until their story’s told.
Let me never make a judgment in a rash or callous way,
but let me hold my patience let each man have his say.

Lord if some dark and dreary night,
I must give my life,
Lord, with your everlasting love
protect my children and my wife.

November 1969: The Scientology Murders

On Saturday, November 22, 1969, a man living in the Pico Union district found the mutilated bodies of Doreen Gaul, 19, and James Sharp, 15 in an alley between Arapahoe Street and Magnolia Avenue, south of 11th Street.

Doreen was naked except for a string of multicolored beads—hippie beads—de rigueur for teenage girls in 1969. James wore a corduroy jacket, striped T-shirt and black Levis—the uniform of teenage boys.

Someone stabbed Doreen and James between 50 and 60 times each.  Seventeen of the stab wounds inflicted on Doreen were near her heart. She was raped. Their right eyes were cut out. The overkill recalled the brutality in the Tate/La Bianca murders in August, but police uncovered no link between Doreen and James and the other victims.

Following the autopsy, the coroner concluded that Doreen was a recent arrival in Los Angeles because her lungs were smog free. The coroner was right, Doreen came to Los Angeles from Albany, New York a few months earlier to study Scientology. James was also a recent arrival to Los Angeles. He traveled west from Crestview, a St. Louis, Missouri suburb.  He came to study Scientology, too. In fact, their study of Scientology was the only thing linking them.

DOREEN GAUL

Scientology, founded in 1950 by science fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard, was attractive to Baby Boomers, teenagers in the 1960s, who sought spiritual guidance in non-traditional religions, communes, and radical political ideologies.

In Los Angeles Scientology provided communal living arrangements in a few of the old mansions in Pico Union and near MacArthur Park. Doreen lived at 1032 S. Bonnie Brae Street and James lived less than a quarter of a mile away at 921 S. Bonnie Brae Street. On the evening of the murders Doreen left “Thetan Manor” to meet with James who was going to “audit” her.

For those of you unfamiliar with the basic tenets of Scientology, Thetan is “an immortal spiritual being; the human soul.”  An audit is conducted by a Scientology minister or minister-in training using an electropsychometer (E-Meter) to locate and confront areas of spiritual upset.  For Scientologists the E-Meter is a religious artifact used as a spiritual guide.

E-Meters are more sophisticated today than they were in 1969 when they were nothing more than a galvanometer with two tin cans attached—not unlike many quack devices marketed before and since to the gullible.

The Federal Drug Administration stepped in when L. Ron Hubbard made unsubstantiated claims about the E-Meter’s medical capabilities.  

In a Court of Appeals decision, still in effect today, every E-meter must bear a warning that states, “The E-Meter is not medically or scientifically useful for the diagnosis, treatment or prevention of any disease. It is not medically or scientifically capable of improving the health or bodily functions of anyone.”

The mainstream press characterized Scientology as a “cult” and a “mystical, quasi-scientific organization.” The organization cooperated with the Los Angeles Police Department at first, but dragged their feet when asked to provide a comprehensive membership list.  LAPD Det. Lt. Earl A. Deemer wanted to explore any possible connection between the murders of Doreen and James and a Jane Doe slaying from several months before. The marked similarities in the three murders struck Deemer as more than a coincidence. He described the crimes to reporters: “All three victims were stabbed, and their wounds appeared to be the work of a ‘fanatic’.  None of the three was slain where the bodies were found. The Jane Doe of the previous killing wore hippie-like attire which resembled that in which Miss Gaul had been seen and which is favored by many young females in the organization [Scientology].”

Deemer wanted to talk to Hubbard personally about the membership list, but the Scientology leader was adrift at sea, literally. He was on his private yacht to avoid a hefty tax bill that awaited him on land.

L. RON HUBBARD

On behalf of Scientology Rev. Natalie Fisher, resident agent of the organization quartered at 2773 W. Temple Street stated, “This organization has no facts or information regarding the circumstances of the crime, but we are doing everything in our power to assist law enforcement agencies to see that justice is done.”

The families of the young victims were devastated by their loss. James’ father was a prosperous salesman and he permitted James to leave high school to study Scientology in Los Angeles.

Doreen’s friends said that following her graduation from a parochial high school in the spring of 1968, she became a devotee of Scientology. Her switch from Roman Catholicism surprised her friends, but not her father. He described Doreen as a “. . . good kid, but an emotional kid.  She was always looking for green grass and rainbows.”

The investigation into the random slayings continued but police never located the place where Doreen and James were murdered.  Solving a crime without locating the place where it happened is challenging.  Police never solved the infamous Black Dahlia case in 1947 either.  The victim in that case, 22-year-old Elizabeth Short, was murdered in a place they never found and her dismembered body was dumped in a weedy vacant lot in Leimert Park.

Police stated that there was no clear connection between the slayings of Doreen and James and 11 unsolved murders (including the five Tate murders) committed in the county since January 1969.

The two teenagers traveled to Los Angeles seeking spiritual enlightenment, why did they end up brutalized and discarded in an alley? Were Doreen and James the victims of a serial killer?  Did a member or members of the Manson family kill them as some suspect?  Fifty years later we have no answers, and we may never get them, the case remains unsolved.

SACRAMENTO LIBRARY TO HOST TRUE CRIME MINI-CON!

I’m thrilled to be one of the speakers at the Sacramento Public Library’s True Crime Mini-Con on Saturday, November 16, 2019. So far there are over 250 people planning to attend. It is a wonderful opportunity to meet and mingle with others who love the true crime genre.

You will find information and sign-up instructions HERE.

My presentation will focus on historic Los Angeles crimes such as the 1927 kidnapping and murder of twelve-year-old Marion Parker and the infamous Black Dahlia case from 1947.

I hope to see you there!

Film Noir Friday: Somewhere in the Night [1946]

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 SOMEWHERE IN THE NIGHT [1946] starring John Hodiak, Richard Conte, Nancy Guild and Lloyd Nolan.

Synopsis:

After a World War II injury, George Taylor’s (John Hodiak) memory of his life is fuzzy, to say the least. In an effort to reverse his amnesia, he tracks down alleged murderer and thief Larry Garter, from whom he received a letter. Along the way, he meets lounge singer Christy Smith (Nancy Guild) and police inspector Donald Kendall (Lloyd Nolan). They aid him in the search for Garter and his stolen loot, but all find themselves mired in a much bigger mystery than they anticipated.

Summer of ’69: September 22, 1969

THE TATE/LA BIANCA MURDERS GO COLD

If the police had any viable leads on the Tate/La Bianca murders they weren’t sharing them with reporters.

On September 10, 1969, the Los Angeles Times ran an ad which offered a reward of $25,000 (over $170k in current USD) for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the person or persons who murdered Sharon Tate, her unborn son, and the other victims at the Cielo Drive home.

Roman Polanski and friends of the Polanski family would pay the money.  The friends included Peter Sellers, Warren Beatty and Yul Brynner. 

JOYCE HABER & THE FRIENDS OF THE POLANSKI’S

On September 22, 1969, Los Angeles Times gossip columnist Joyce Haber had a few tidbits to share about what she described as the “Tate Case Chatter.”

Joyce Haber, gossip columnist

Haber said that Roman Polanski was back in town after a trip to New York where, according to her, he was “. . . kicking it up in and from his home base, a suite at Manhattan’s Essex House on Central Park South.” 

She continued, “The kicks included trips to Oh, Calcutta!, off-Broadway’s groovy, naked revue, and to such jivy joints as Elaine’s, a haunt for the literary-cum-anything set.”

Elaine’s restaurant on the Upper East Side of New York City, near the corner of 2nd Avenue and East 88th Street, was a hangout for everyone from Norman Mailer to Mia Farrow and Woody Allen.  Elaine’s closed in 2011, following the death of the proprietress, Elaine Kaufman. In an interview, Allen said that he was “crushed” and that “despite the unrelenting bad food I went there every night for decades.”

Haber’s tone regarding Polanski’s unique manner of  grieving the loss of his family was disapproving. Understanding the intimate mechanics of how different individuals cope with loss is for someone with more knowledge on the topic that I have; but I find Polanski’s choice of venues for grieving very odd. Would most people faced with such a traumatic loss socialized in the way Polanski did?  I wonder.

GOSSIP KILLS

When reading Haber’s column,  you must consider the source. It was a gossip column – she inherited the gig from Hedda Hopper.  Haber had a reputation for snarky comments. In fact, there are people who blame her indirectly for Jean Seberg’s suicide in 1979.

Seberg ,an internationally known and admired actress, was a staunch supporter of civil rights and often gave money to the NAACP, Native American groups, and two gifts to the Black Panther Party.

JEAN SEBERG

During the late 1960s the FBI ran a Counterintelligence Program (COINTELPRO ) and targeted individuals and groups they identified as subversive.  Their tactics were abhorrent. Outright lies used to destroy people for their politics.

On May 19, 1970, Haber’s column was used to smear Jean Seberg. The actress, referred to as Miss A in the column, was Jean Seberg. Anyone familiar with Hollywood at the time would have recognized the characterization.  NEWSWEEK also printed the rumor.

The rumor was that the child Seberg carried wasn’t her husband’s, Romain Gary, but Raymond Hewitt’s (a member of the Black Panthers). 

Devastated by the rumor, Seberg went into premature labor and lost her baby daughter. At the funeral Seberg laid the baby in an open casket so that reporters could see for themselves that the infant was white.

Seberg was blacklisted and her career suffered.  So did her mental health. She was depressed for years. The  FBI continued their surveillance and harassment, which did nothing to ease her stress.

On September 8, 1979, nine days after she disappeared from her Paris apartment in the 16th arrondissement,  her body was found wrapped in a blanket in the back seat of her Renault.  Police found barbiturate’s and a note which said that she could no longer live with her nerves.

Seberg is interred in the Cimetière du Montparnasse in Paris.

MANSON FAMILY UPDATE – FALL, 1969

BARKER RANCH

Charles Manson relocated to Barker Ranch in Death Valley. Charlie and family members Atkins, Krenwinkel, and Watson must have felt invincible. They got away with murder.

Film Noir Friday: Impact

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 IMPACT [1949] starring Brian Donlevy, Ella Raines, Charles Coburn, Helen Walker, and Anna May Wong.

IMDB says:

A unfaithful wife plots with her lover to kill her husband, but the lover is accidentally killed instead. The husband stays in hiding, and lets his wife be charged with conspiracy.

Film Noir Friday: Black Angel

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 BLACK ANGEL starring Dan Duryea, June Vincent, and Peter Lorre.

IMDB says:

When Kirk Bennett is convicted of a singer’s murder, his wife tries to prove him innocent…aided by the victim’s ex-husband.