Film Noir Friday: Quicksand [1950] & Drive A Crooked Road [1954]

QUICKSAND

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, as a tribute to Mickey Rooney who passed away earlier this week, we’re showing a double feature starring the diminutive actor. If you only recall Rooney as Andy Hardy, you’re in for a surprise. The actor actually took his turn at film noir during the 1950s.

First up is QUICKSAND [1950] starring Mickey Rooney, Jeanne Cagney, Barbara Bates and Peter Lorre.

TCM says:

At a diner, young auto mechanic Dan Brady has just finished telling his co-worker Chuck that he has broken up with his adoring girl friend, Helen Calder, when he notices the stunning blonde cashier, Vera Novak. Dan convinces Vera to go out with him that evening, but when he returns to his job at the garage, he remembers that he has no money. While making change at the register, Dan realizes that the bookkeeper will not be in to check the cash drawer for a few days and decides to borrow twenty dollars, intending to pay it back the next day when he collects the money that his friend, Buzz Larson, owes him.

And thus begins Brady’s downward spiral…

drive_a_crooked_road

Second on tonight’s bill is the 1954 film DRIVE A CROOKED ROAD starring Mickey Rooney and Dianne Foster.

TCM says:

Los Angeles auto mechanic Eddie Shannon, a devoted car buff with no family or other outside interests, frequently competes in local car races to improve his driving. The other mechanics at work tease Eddie constantly over his diminutive stature and solitary nature. One day Eddie meets Barbara Mathews, an attractive woman who invites him to the beach. Uncertainly, Eddie accepts the invitation, and at the beach Barbara introduces him to Steve Norris, a handsome businessman from the East, who is spending several weeks in a Santa Monica beach house. Eddie is surprised when Barbara shows an interest in him and shyly begins dating her. Barbara tries to learn as much about Eddie’s interests as possible, but asks him if he is content to remain a mechanic all his life. Eddie confides that his dream has always been to drive in one of the top European races. Barbara takes Eddie to a party thrown by Steve and his associate, Harold Baker, and during the evening, Steve asks Eddie his opinion about the best kind of race car. After the party, Barbara advises Eddie that Steve might be able to help him realize his dream of racing in Europe. Later that evening, Steve visits Barbara, eager to discuss plans for a bank robbery, for which they hope to use Eddie’s driving skill. Barbara pleads with Steve to call off the heist, as she feels sorry for Eddie, a lonely man who has never experienced love…

Let’s Kill All The Lawyers, Redux

plot_headline
In 1939 Arthur Emil Hansen was sentenced to from two to twenty years in San Quentin for the courtroom slayings of two attorneys, R. D. McLaughlin and J. Irving Hancock, who were besting him in a civil suit that cost him every cent he had.

Did Arthur learn anything from the crime or his punishment? Evidently not, because in January 1951 a plan he’d hatched from behind the gray walls of San Quentin to assassinate four Los Angeles judges and two attorneys was uncovered by the Sheriff’s Department.

On Hansen’s list for liquidation were: Superior Judges Charles W. Fricke, Arthur Crumm and Frank G. Swain; Municipal Judge Lewis Drucker, former District Attorney Buron Fitts and Attorney Isaac Pacht. Apparently, Hansen had discussed his plan with a few of his fellow convicts — a big mistake–nobody will rat you out quicker. He had approached an inmate scheduled to be released on parole and offered to pay him $10,000 if he would murder one of the six men on his hit list.

hansen_prisonHansen’s plan was diabolically elegant in its own way. He wanted the parolee to whack one of the people on the list, then he would “take care” of the remaining five when he was paroled. He told his confidant that he intended to leave one clear fingerprint at the scene of each murder. Then, when the five murders had been committed, the police would have all the fingerprints of one of his hands and his identity would be revealed.

Sounds a little crackpot, doesn’t it. But in the 12 years that Hansen had been in prison he’d become quite paranoid. He had little else to do but sit and stew about the real or imagined wrongs he’d suffered in the L.A. courts. He refused to accept blame for his actions and his rage continued to build to a detonation point.

Hansen gave his soon-to-be paroled friend a vitriolic letter, copies of which were to be given to various L.A. newspapers. The letter bitterly accused the judges, the Attorney General’s Office, the District Attorney and Governor Warren of conspiracy. Hansen’s letter also predicted that he would not be prosecuted for the murders because he would be revealed as an emancipator and a protector of the public.

I wonder if he thought he had super powers.

The letter advised the police that they could not save the victims on the hit list because “Their doom is sealed.”  Hansen remained unrepentant for the double murders saying: “I regret nothing I did. I had nothing to lose.”

Hansen made a huge mistake when he directed that the letters be sent just as he was coming up for parole, He was just days away from being released when his plot was discovered. For the murder plot, Hansen forfeited all of his good time and at least six more years of his freedom.

Let’s Kill All the Lawyers, Part 2

hansen smokesOn June 22, 1938, Arthur Emil Hansen emptied his pistol into attorneys J. Irving Hancock and Richard D. McLaughlin in a Hall of Records courtroom and then he attempted to flee. He had taken only a few steps before he was grabbed by Sheriff’s Deputies and held incommunicado. Under questioning by Chief Criminal Deputy Bright he explained why he had whipped out a pistol and shot his two adversaries to death in such a cold-blooded way.

Bright: Now, Mr. Hansen, tell us exactly what happened from start to finish.
Hansen: Well, there was a hearing in that courtroom on a suit I was involved in. I walked into the courtroom and sat in the last row.
Bright: What did you do then?
Hansen: I just sat thee. Suddenly I saw those two attorneys seated in the front row–or maybe in the second row. There nudging each other and smirking at me.
Bright: Did you say anything to them?
Hansen: No, but when they started to whisper, that was the end.
Bright: Did you walk up by them then?
Hansen: No, I just sat there for a couple of minutes.
Bright: Then what did you do?
Hansen: Well, I don’t know whether I stood up or not, but I drew the gun and took direct aim at Hancock’s head, and fired.
Bright: Did you shoot him in the back?
Hansen: I don’t know–I think I did.
Bright: Then what did you do?
Hansen: then I looked at McLaughlin, and he started to rise.
Bright: Did he run?
Hansen: I don’t think so–I fired and he fell to the floor.
Bright: Before you shot McLaughlin, did you reload the gun?
Hansen: No–I just shot all that was in it.
Bright:Was McLaughlin seated when you fired?
Hansen: No, he just started to get up and run when I fired.
Bright: Did you say anything to the two men?
Hansen: No, nothing.
Bright: How many times did you fire the gun?
Hansen: I don’t know–all that was in it.
Bright: When did you buy the gun?
Hansen: Abpout two months ago, in a Main Street pawnshop.
Bright: did you load it then?
Hansen: No, I didn’t load until several days ago–that was when I received some threatening phone calls.
Bright: Do you know who made the threats?
Hansen: Well, I couldn’t recognize their voices, but I think it was those men who swindled me.
Bright: Why did you buy the gun?
Hansen: It was to protect myself from those phone threats

Bright then began to question Hansen about the lawsuit that was the reason for the court case:

Bright: What was this suit about?
Hansen: Well, I used to own the Chatham Apartments on Berendo Street. I traded it for a ranch in Imperial Valley, but I never even got possession of the ranch. By trick and device they made me sign a trust deed, then they foreclosed on me–I lost the apartments, and the ranch too. If they hadn’t tried to take everything away from me things wouldn’t have
happened like they did.
Bright: When did you sew that holster in your coat?
Hansen: When I bought the gun–I was too poor to buy a holster.
Bright: Who told you to do it? did you learn it from someone else?
Hansen: No, I just thought it up out of my head.

Hansen was indicted for the double homicide and he entered a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity. When his trial began in late August Dr. Boehme, the psychiatrist who had declared Hansen “excitable” finally determined that, in his opinion, the shooter was legally sane at the time of the murders. It would be up to the jury to decide if they concurred.

hansen_agnesHansen had dreamed up the improvised sewn-in holster, but apparently he hadn’t concocted the phone threats against him. Mrs. Agnes Shaw rented a room in the same building on Bonnie Brae Avenue as Hansen and they had been friends for several years. Shaw testified that she had been threatened prior to the civil suit:

“I was exercising my dog Henry in the alley in the rear of the apartment during the litigation involving Hansen when a car jerked to a stop beside me. The driver, whom I recognized, even though he attempted to hide his face spoke rapidly. ‘When you go into court I don’t want any of your lying. If you do I’m going to have someone there who’ll fix you and fix you right.’”

There were two men in the car, the one who spoke and another man who had pulled his hat low over his face obscuring him from view.

Shaw recognized the threatening voice in a court session soon after the incident, but when she shared what she’d learned with Hansen he advised her not to disclose the warning because no one would believe her.

Had Shaw been threatened by one of the lawyers opposing Hansen? It would seem so, but there was no evidence apart from Agnes’ testimony–and with McLaughlin and Hancock dead there was simply no way to get to the truth.

Agnes wasn’t a disinterested third party–she had a stake in the outcome of Hansen’s civil case. She was a fairly recent widow living on an $18 per month relief allowance, but she had hoped to recover the $1000 her husband had loaned to Hansen to make the Imperial Valley land deal.

hansen_lawyerIn court Hansen frequently broke down as he described the events that led him to murder the two lawyers. His hands spasmodically clenched and unclenched as he recited a tale of indignities which he said climaxed when one of the attorneys he subsequently shot spat in his face.

“I pleaded with Hancock not to take everything I had. He said, ‘You know what I think of you, don’t you?’ and then he spit on this cheek right here.”

Hansen pointed a finger to the side of his face down which the tears were streaming and said:

“He (Hancock) said ‘the county will give you a bowl of soup if you need it.”

It was shortly after that exchange that Hansen pulled out his concealed pistol and fired at Hancock and McLaughlin until it clicked impotently–all rounds spent.

I’m inclined to believe Hansen’s story about his unpleasant hallway exchange with the attorneys. I also believe Agnes’ testimony about the threat in the alley. It seems to me that the big city attorneys had facilitated the ruination of the South Dakota farmer; but even if that was the case Hansen had no right to murder his tormentors.

Maybe the case would have gone differently if only Hansen had shown the slightest bit of remorse, but instead of saying he was sorry he blamed the dead men for their fates and declared that he was glad they were gone.

A jury of six men and six women deliberated for one and one-half hours before finding Hansen sane at the time he shot the attorneys and he was found guilty of the double homicide.  Judge Arthur Crum was sentenced to serve from two to twenty years in San Quentin.

NEXT TIME: Let’s Kill All the Lawyers, Redux

Film Noir Friday: Jigsaw [1949]

Jigsaw

 

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 JIGSAW [1949] starring Franchot Tone and Jean Wallace.

Enjoy the film!

TCM says:

After New York City printer Max Borg is murdered, District Attorney Walker, who is assigned to the case, learns that Borg, who had recently been exposed as the printer of propaganda posters for a race hate group called “The Crusaders,” was apparently silenced by them. When an article about the group appears in a local newspaper, Walker’s deputy, Howard Malloy, visits the author, Charles Riggs, who is also his sister Caroline’s fiancé. Later, Charlie is followed home by a mysterious figure, who knocks him unconscious and pushes him out of his high-rise window.

Uh, oh…the plot thickens!

Let’s Kill All the Lawyers

Dick the butcher: “The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.”

 –Henry The Sixth,  William Shakespeare

Like many residents of Los Angeles, Arthur Emil Hansen was a transplant. He had been a successful farmer in South Dakota before moving to the city in 1932. Perhaps he’d grown tired of farming and longed for a change; whatever the reason he had traded his 200 acre farm for the Chatham Apartments on Berendo Street. He assumed a $15,000 (equivalent to $256,000 in 2014 U.S. dollars) mortgage against the building. Subsequently, he traded his equity for an equity in another apartment house and assumed a $150,000 (equivalent to approximately $2.5M in current U.S. dollars) liability against it.

lawyers slain

If not a real estate mogul, Hansen was fast becoming quite the wheeler and dealer. Following his success with the apartment building he then invested in an 800 acre parcel of land in the Imperial Valley. Unfortunately the deal didn’t go smoothly, and by June 1938 the thirty-eight year old former farmer, and land baron wanna-be, had been tied up in a civil suit for over five years. For his part Hansen claimed that he’d never even taken possession of the ranch and that after signing the trust deed he was foreclosed upon. Arthur had lost both the apartment building AND the ranch for a total of about $39,000 (equivalent to $665,892.00 in 2014 U.S. dollars)–hardly a pittance at any time, and a veritable fortune at the tail end of the Great Depression. He was convinced that he had been swindled.

In the first round of litigation Hansen was awarded $7000, but the case didn’t end there and more legal wrangling ensued. After all was said and done he was on the hook for taxes and water assessments for the ranch and Mr. John Hancock (no, I didn’t make it up) was seeking to collect the $5000 judgement he’d won against Hansen in 1935.

On June 22, 1938, Hansen entered the courtroom of Referee in Bankruptcy on the eighth floor of the Hall of Records where he was about to lose every dime he had left–the real estate deals had gone south and paying an attorney over a period of five years is an extremely expensive proposition. Financially, Hansen was on crutches and they were about to be kicked out from underneath him. As soon as he crossed the threshold, he caught sight of the two attorney’s who were representing his opponent.

lawyer vics

The attorneys, J. Irving Hancock, who was representing his father (John must have saved a fortune in attorney’s fees)  and R. D. McLaughlin, were seated toward the front of the room with their heads together. Anyone else observing the pair would likely have thought that they were conferring on a point of law, or maybe asking after each others wives and children, but as far as Arthur was concerned the two lawyers were sneaking glances at him, whispering, smirking, and plotting his complete financial annihilation.

E.F. Crozier, clerk in Commissioner Kurtz Kauffman’s court, was working on some papers when he noticed Hansen enter the room and sit behind McLaughlin and Hancock. Then he heard shots. Crozier ducked behind the desk and then got up and ran for help.

death scene diagram

Deputy Sheriff Frederick O. Field arrived and took charge of the situation: “Don’t let anybody in or out” he said. Field saw Hansen attempt to exit the courtroom and prevented him from escaping. Then  the deputy ordered the courtroom to be kept closed until Capt. William Penprase, head of the Sheriff’s Bureau of Investigation, arrived with a squad of officers.

Hansen confessed on the spot:

“When I entered that courtroom and saw those two attorneys whispering together to harass me further I could not stand it. I wanted to kill them both–I am glad they’re dead–they can’t hurt anybody else.”

Hansen was summarily booked in the County Jail, charged by Deputy Sheriff Killion with suspicion of murder and ordered to be held incommunicado for forty-eight hours.

Shortly after being placed in his cell, Hansen was interviewed by Gustav F. Boehme, Jr., a psychiatrist. Reporters attempted to get an in-depth statement from the alienist, but all he would say was that Hansen was emotionally excitable.

Hansen was definitely volatile, but even so he’d made some interesting allegations about harassment and about having been swindled by Hancock and a few others in the real estate transactions. Was he just hysterical, or had the South Dakota farm boy been duped?

NEXT TIME: Hansen’s criminal case and aftermath.

Film Noir Friday: Obsession (aka The Hidden Room) [1949]

poster3 obsession the hidden room

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 OBSESSION (aka THE HIDDEN ROOM) [1949] starring Robert Newton and Sally Gray.

Enjoy the film!

TCM says:

London psychiatrist Clive Riordan, royally fed up with the repeated affairs of his wife Storm, plots a seemingly ‘perfect’ revenge against her latest lover, American Bill Kronin. Catching them in the act, he marches Bill off at gunpoint; and from the viewpoint of Storm and the rest of the world, Bill simply vanishes. But there’s far more to the meticulously worked out plot than Clive’s victims suspect, with the end slowly preparing in his private laboratory. Enter a mild-mannered Scotland Yard man, who seemingly has no clue beyond a missing dog…

The Cleaver Widow, Conclusion

court clerk gun cleaver

Court Clerk enters gun and cleaver into evidence.

The findings in Jerry Ferreri’s inquest resulted in the arraignment of his widow, Betty, and one of their roomers, Allan Adron, a handyman, for murder. Allan was charged with firing two bullets into Jerry’s body, after which Mrs. Ferreri allegedly struck her husband 23 times about the head with a meat cleaver.

As evidence against the two defendants mounted a new twist in the case took everyone by surprise. Vincent D’Angelo, Jerry’s second cousin, and referred to in some of the newspaper coverage as “the dapper decorator” (he was a house painter), revealed that he was actually Charles Fauci. Why the alias? Well, Fauci was wanted in New York for grand larceny. and fake registration of a motor vehicle.

adron photo

D’Angelo, nee Fauci, told the cops that Betty hadn’t given a gun to Allan as she had originally stated. It was he who had loaded the gun and hidden it in his pocket up to a few seconds before it was used by Allan to shoot Jerry.

He said that he and Val Graham, another of the Ferreri’s roomers, were leaving the house to go out for coffee when they heard Betty scream. Fauci told investigators he had the gun because Jerry had attacked Betty with a fireplace poker earlier that evening and he feared more violence. Fauci drew his gun and tried to enter the house but the doors were locked. He ran to the window of Allan’s room and shouted:

“He’s murdering Betty, Allan. Go open the door.”

Allan opened the door and then, according to Fauci, the handyman snatched the gun from him and rushed back into the house locking the door behind him. When Allan arrived at the butler’s pantry he saw Jerry grappling with Betty, so he fired.

Under interrogation Fauci broke down and confessed to having wiped his fingerprints off the weapon when he returned to the house, and then later taking a drive out to Long Beach where he dropped the gun, holster and a box of unused cartridges for the .38 caliber revolver into the ocean.

Fauci made a point of telling the cops that if someone had not “taken care” of Ferreri, the playboy would have murdered his wife the night of October 26th.

Following his statement, the D.A. decided that Fauci should join Betty and Allan at the defendant’s table.

jerry smock and unidentifiedMeanwhile, cops were asking questions about Fauci’s alias: Who is Vincent D’Angelo? Where is he? Was he alive or dead? Did he ever exist? Fauci maintained that he and the real Vincent D’Angelo had driven to L.A. from New York. Once they arrived in the city, Fauci said that D’Angelo “turned the car over to me to use.”

But that story fell apart when the car was found in a local garage after the attendant recognized Fauci’s newspaper photos and identified him as the man he knew as D’Angelo. The cops wired New York for Fauci’s complete criminal record, and they wanted all information available on Vincent D’Angelo (provided he was real) and on the car.

Police attention was briefly diverted to what turned out to be a red herring in the form of a telegram. Supposedly Ferreri had been the recipient of a cryptic Western Union wire that bore the message: “The roses will bloom in December.” Huh? According to New York detectives, Ferreri had once collected $100 for dropping a dime on a member of the infamous Murder, Inc. hit squad. It was an interesting, but utterly worthless, piece of information given the fact that Ferreri’s wife and handyman were found in the butler’s pantry with the dead man, a smoking gun and a bloody meat cleaver. Ferreri’s murder was definitely not a mafia rub out.

betty faintsBut just because the mob didn’t get to Jerry first didn’t mean they wouldn’t have been thrilled to hear that he was dead; in fact someone (a mob enforcer?) may have planted a bomb in his car in an attempt to send him a message about an unpaid gambling debt.. About six weeks prior to his murder, late on the evening of August 31, 1948, Jerry reported that his car, a 1946 maroon Lincoln, had been stolen from in front of his house. Just a few hours later a muffled explosion was heard and the gutted car was found parked in front of 325 South Arden Blvd, a block from Jerry’s home. The Lincoln’s paint was blistered, its interior was ruined by flames and the rear section of the roof had started to cave in.

The dead man seemed to have had a life complicated by an uncontrollable rage, multiple girlfriends, a wife he no longer loved, and a gambling problem; but when the law pared it down to the essentials it was still all about the three defendants in the case–jointly charged with murder.betty funeral

Betty was released from jail by court order to attend Jerry’s funeral, and the gray Sheriff’s car in which she rode stood apart from the black autos that formed the funeral cortege. The procession wound from the mortuary on the Sunset Strip to Holy Cross Cemetery. Betty sobbed as she stood by the freshly dug grave.

Betty’s father and brother arrived from the east coast to support her during the trial. Jerry’s family had also traveled from the east, but not to stand by Betty’s side–they were attempting to take possession of the Lucerne Blvd home and, incidentally, gain custody of her young son, Vincent.

By the end of November at least the cops had answers to some of their questions regarding Vincent D’Angelo. He was was a real person, not a figment of Fauci’s imagination, and he was discovered at his Brooklyn home.  He had reported that his car had been stolen, not loaned. Oh, and he was Fauci’s cousin! Blood isn’t always thicker than water and D’Angelo had a lot to tell the police about his shady relative.

He said that “no one in the family wants Fauci around.” The family? That may not have been quite as sinister as it sounded. It is possible that D’Angelo was referring only to his immediate family and not a larger criminal enterprise.

Betty was escorted by Deputy Marjorie Kellogg to her preliminary hearing, and as she entered the courtroom two of Jerry’s “friends”, Lorretta Burge and Floy Smock, glared daggers (or should that be cleavers) at her. Wow, you’d think that the two extremely attractive women would have had more pride than that.

Later in the day Betty was accosted by Loretta as she was escorted to the ladies’ room. Loretta muttered a derogatory statement to which Betty took umbrage; she was led away before the encounter came to blows.

girlfriends glare

Then poor Val Graham learned that he was to be the prosecution’s star witness, even though it was obvious that his heart was with the defendants. They didn’t hold it against him though, Betty planted a kiss on his cheek as she left the courtroom.

Betty entered a plea of not guilty by reason of insanity, and her co-defendants followed suit. Trial was set for February 1, 1949.

Handyman Allan Adron stunned the trial watchers by withdrawing his plea of not guilty and entering a plea of guilty. He would be tried separately. Upon Allan’s change in plea Betty’s attorney immediately sought to have the man declared insane and incompetent to testify; however, Judge Fricke denied the motion.

In large part, Betty’s fate would hinge on whether her use of the cleaver was altogether in self-defense or whether she used it in a felonious assault on Jerry after he had fallen to the ground from the bullet wounds he had sustained.

In order to make her case for self-defense Betty was compelled to testify to the abuse she had suffered for years at Jerry’s hands. She frequently wept as she recounted the physical and mental torment she had endured. Jerry beat her often and he humiliated her by allowing her to discover him in bed with other women. Betty said she would occasionally find dainty undergarments, not her own, in their shared bedroom and Jerry would just laugh at her. Many times Jerry told Betty that if she really cared for him she would prostitute herself.

betty testifies

A few days into her trial Betty became so upset under cross-examination that she fainted and had to be taken out to the hallway of the courthouse to be revived. It was reliving some of Jerry’s abuses that had caused her so much distress. Back on the stand she testified not only to her own experiences with her husband, but to some of the horrendous stories she’d heard from friends about Jerry’s sadism.

She told the jury of five women and seven men:

“They said he used to string up dogs in the cellar and beat their brains out with a baseball bat. Then he would put them in a burlap bag and put them out at the front of his house.”

There was a neighbor that had a goat. He cut the heart out of the goat and took it home to his mother to she how she would act.”

Jerry’s behavior as an adult, and particularly toward Betty, worsened–she described the nightmare of their life together:

“He was out most of the night and slept all day. Sometimes he would lock me in a closet and tell me to stay there. He would gag me. He would threaten to kill me and the baby even before the baby was born. He wished the baby would be dead all the time.” He would bring a girl up and I would hear them. He would tell me not to make a sound or he would beat my face. Then he would come back and expect me to feed him. To cook for him.”

Jerry beat his wife even on the morning before she went to the hospital to give birth to their son, Vincent:

“I put on a coat and went down to a cab. I told the cab driver to take me to a hospital, I was going to have a baby. He told me to get in. He said he’d take me but ‘don’t have the baby in the cab’.”

mil spurns betty picLaura Ferreri, Jerry’s mother, testified for the prosecution and it was obvious that she was attempting to repair her son’s tarnished image. She spoke of Betty in the bitterest of terms, saying that her daughter-in-law had once said that if she couldn’t have Jerry, nobody could.

Frankly, I wonder why ANYONE would have wanted Jerry.

On March 19, 1949 the jury acquitted Betty and her co-defendant Vincent Charles Fauci. Fauci had other charges pending both in L.A. and back east–but at least he’d beaten the murder rap. Betty was free to go.

The verdict hadn’t been a foregone conclusion–the foreman told reporters that the jurors started out 9 to 3 for acquittal. He said that by discussing the evidence the dissenters eventually came around.

Even though her in-laws had waged a fierce battle to take her son from her, Betty regained custody of Vincent following her acquittal–but she lost the house which was sold at auction.

As for the gun wielding handyman, Allan Adron, the Los Angeles Times didn’t report his fate, but it seems likely that since his original co-defendants were acquitted he would also be set free.

As for her life after the trail, Betty must have been an optimist because less than six months following her acquittal she remarried. The couple was married in the Wee Kirk o’ the Heather Chapel, Las Vegas. Her new husband was twenty-eight year old Jean Paul Roussos, the maitre de hotel at a local nightclub.

No word on how that union turned out.

 

 

The Cleaver Widow, Part 2

Jerry Ferreri

Jerry Ferreri

When Betty Laday married Jerry Ferreri in 1943 she had big plans–she believed that she was going to transform her handsome new husband from an indolent, skirt-chasing, playboy into a successful businessman. It never happened.

Jerry browbeat, and occasionally physically beat, Betty into complying with this plan, which required him to do nothing and live on whatever his parents and his wife could provide. Betty worked hard as a carhop and she made a pretty decent living, but what Jerry really wanted her to do was turn tricks. Yes, that’s right–Jerry told his wife if she really loved him she’d prostitute herself for him. Betty did not act on his employment suggestion and stuck with the carhop gig.

It was fortunate for Jerry that his father Victor was a successful politician in New Jersey’s Italian community (make of that what you will). When Jerry and Betty found a beautiful home on South Lucerne Blvd in L.A.’s Hancock Park/Wilshire District, the elder Ferreri’s ponied up the cash to purchase the $35,000 home [$434,857.00 in current U.S. dollars]. Not surprisingly, Betty’s carhop salary and Jerry’s lack of gainful employment wouldn’t have sealed the deal, so neither of them was on the mortgage, it was Jerry’s mother who appeared on the deed.

ferreri house pic

The house was large enough for Betty, Jerry, their 5 year old son Vincent and assorted friends and relatives. Among the residents at the home were Jerry’s cousin Vincent “Charley” D’Angelo (35); Marion James “Val” Graham (24), a professional singer; Allan Aldron (51) a live-in handyman, and Mrs. Maxine Gould (28), who also roomed at the mansion.

All of the residents of the house had heard and seen Jerry verbally and physically abuse Betty, and Charley had once prevented Jerry from harming little Vincent.

On the night of October 26, 1948 Val Graham and Charley D’Angelo witnessed Jerry pick up a fire place poker and attack Betty. Jerry was red-faced and screaming that he was going to kill her.

Graham said: “He had a poker in his hand. Before we could interfere he lunged at Betty with the poker. he swung it hard enough to have killed her if it had hit squarely, but she ducked and the steel bar only knocked her hat off and grazed the top of her head.

“He swung once more–hard. And again he missed. He had started a third swipe of the poker when Charley reached him and held his arm.”

The two men managed to calm Jerry down a bit and persuaded him to leave the house. They told Betty that he probably wouldn’t return that night–but he did.

About 10 minutes after the scene in the living room, Allan Adron returned home from an errand and a few minutes after that Jerry was at the front door.

Charley and Val met Jerry at the door and told him they were going out for a cup of coffee, and they asked him if he wanted to join them but he said:

“No, I’ve got something to take care of.”

Graham and D’Angelo had just seated themselves in the car at the curb in front of the house when they heard two shots and then screams. They ran into the house and found Jerry lying mortally wounded on the floor of the pantry. Allan had shot the man and Betty had taken a meat cleaver and used it to hack Jerry twenty-three times.

The police arrived and took Betty and Allan to the station for questioning. Detectives then began to try to unravel Jerry’s complicated love life while police psychiatrist Paul de River (he was the psychiatrist in the Black Dahlia case) attempted to untangle “the complicated emotional pattern surrounding the Ferreris and to investigate the ‘other woman angle’”.

The cops had discovered that the dead man didn’t have one girlfriend, he had at least two. Motives for his murder were growing exponentially by the second.

An attractive twenty-eight year old blonde, Mrs. Loretta Salisbury Burge had been seeing Jerry for at least eight months prior to his death. The cops found Loretta through a mysterious telegram found at the Ferreri home–it was addressed to Jerry and asked for a rendezvous–it was signed “Three Deuces”. Loretta Burge lived at 222 North St. Andrews Place just a little more than one mile from Jerry’s home.

Loretta Burge

Loretta Burge

Jerry had kept the “three deuces” telegram and he’d also kept a red face powder compact that belonged to neither Betty nor Loretta. The compact was identified as the property of Miss Floy Smock, a twenty-one year old redhead and former model with whom Jerry had been seen in his car on the night of the killing.

Apparently Jerry liked to keep his women close because Floy, like Loretta, lived only blocks from his home.

When detectives asked Floy about Jerry she insisted that they had been very good friends, but that the relationship was “purely platonic”.

Because Floy had been riding around with Jerry in his car on the night of the murder investigators wanted her to provide a detailed recounting of their evening together.

Floy stated:

“On the night of the murder Jerry picked me up about 9 p.m. We drove around awhile. We drove up and down streets and I guess we passed in front of his house.”

Betty said that she had seen her husband driving up and down their street with “some woman”.

She continued:

“At about 10:20 p.m. we stopped by Jerry’s house. He ran inside. Then he came out again and drove me home. I guess it was about 10:35 p.m. then. He drove away, drove back…to that.”

“I can’t tell you any more now.”

Even though it seemed clear what had happened in the the pantry of the Ferreri home, cops know better than to take anything at face value. The coroner still had to weigh in on whether it was the gun shots or the meat cleaver that had ended Jerry’s life.

Would the widow and/or the handyman be charged with murder?

NEXT TIME: The Ferreri case continues with an inquest and a cousin by any other name.

 

Film Noir Friday: Too Late For Tears [1949]

too_late_for_tears1949

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 TOO LATE FOR TEARS [1949] starring Lizabeth Scott, Don DeFore and Dan Duryea.

It’s not a great print but it is definitely watchable–unfortunately none of the prints prior to the recent restoration are very good Bear with it though, it is a terrific film. Lizabeth Scott is a total badass; the epitome of the noir femme fatale. If you’re in L.A. and can get to the Egyptian Theater TONIGHT a restored print will be shown as part of the Film Noir Festival. If you miss this particular film don’t fret, the Film Noir Festival runs from March 21, 2014 — April 6, 2014.

For other news on Film Noir Los Angeles, check out Facebook.

TCM says:

One night on a lonely highway, a speeding car tosses a satchel of money, meant for somebody else, into Jane and Alan Palmer’s back seat. Alan wants to turn it over to the police, but Jane, with luxury within her reach, persuades him to hang onto it “for a while.” Soon, the Palmers are traced by one Danny Fuller, a sleazy character who claims the money is his. To hang onto it, Jane will need all the qualities of an ultimate femme fatale…and does she ever have them!

The Cleaver Widow, Part 1

betty ferreri

Betty Ferreri

In 1941, Elizabeth “Betty” Laday was attending college in New Jersey when she stopped by her parents’ cafe in New Brunswick on her way home. One of their best customers, Jerry Ferreri, was chatting up the cashier, Betty’s younger sister: ”Why don’t you go out with me?” he asked

Betty stepped in right away with a bit of sisterly advice, “Don’t go out with that man” she said.  Her sister turned Ferreri down.  Whether Betty’s admonition to her sibling was based on a gut feeling about Jerry’s character or on the desire to see the man herself, Betty would have been wise to have heeded her own advice.

She would later recall:

“I’d skip classes to meet him.  I had a head for math and hoped to be a chemist.  When summer came my folds packed me off to Asbury Park, hoping I’d be over it by fall.  But Jerry followed me there and we eloped to New York and were married.”

“They had a three state search out for us, but in late fall we called and told my parents we’d be home for Christmas.  All was forgiven.”

Jerry wasn’t exactly burning with ambition; in fact he was a lousy breadwinner and couldn’t hang on to a job.  Betty thought she could change him.

Jerry Ferreri

Jerry Ferreri

“Jerry’s father was in politics and once I saw a ‘big man’ and got Jerry a civilian job with the Army.  But Jerry pleaded heart trouble, got a desk job and started giving major orders.  That ended that.  And that’s what he wanted.  He wanted me to keep him.”

In 1943, Jerry was arrested at his parents’ home on charges of assault and battery after he had attacked his wife; but Betty had him cleared. Her reason was simple; she didn’t want him to be able to use his record as an excuse for not working.  Jerry was arrested seven times in New Jersey on charges ranging from grand larceny auto to assault with intent to kill, and once he was arrested in New York City for forgery. The forgery rap earned him probation.

It was about that time that Betty discovered she was pregnant, so the Ferreri’s decided to move to Los Angeles to get a fresh start. As they were about to head west they grabbed a bite to eat at the train station; the waitress who served them wrote her phone number on the back of the check she handed to Jerry.  Betty wasn’t surprised: “Women just fell for him and even gave him money.  He was what you would call a great lover.” A great lover, maybe; a faithless and abusive husband, definitely.

Their move to Los Angeles didn’t change anything in the Ferreri’s marriage. Jerry continued to be unemployed, all the while suggesting ways in which Betty might support him–most of them pretty disgusting. The least objectionable, and one of the only legal options that Jerry gave her, was to find work as a carhop.

Betty did very well as a carhop; she brought in $400 a month (equivalent to $3882 per month in 2014 U.S. dollars).  But Jerry was still not satisfied and he told his wife he wanted a Cadillac. Betty bought one for him. During the first few years of their marriage she had learned an important lesson: “…when I gave him the things he wanted, everything went well”.

Betty’s tolerance of Jerry’s behavior could not last forever: “You can’t hate anyone unless you’ve loved them.” she said

On October 26, 1948 the Ferreri home erupted in violence and bloodshed.

NEXT TIME:  A meat cleaver and three deuces.