Film Noir Friday–Saturday Matinee

train-to-alcatraz-movie-poster-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 TRAIN TO ALCATRAZ [1948] directed by Philip Ford and starring Donald Barry, Janet Martin and William Phipps.

Enjoy the movie!

TCM says:

A train en route to Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary carries a prison car filled with men planning and hoping for escape, while police do all they can to contain them. When the train stops at Varneyville, future Alcatraz inmate Tommy Calligan is loaded onto the prison car, where he is introduced to fellow prisoners including Doug Forbes and Bart Kanin, a personal enemy of Tommy’s. After Tommy acquaints himself with the men in the car, he relates to Forbes the story of how he came to loathe Kanin.

Shame on You

Donnell Cooley was born in Oklahoma on December 17, 1910 to Emma and John Cooley. The family was dirt poor and by 1920 they had moved to Oregon in pursuit of a better life.  John worked in a saw mill so the family still lived from hand-to-mouth. They were fortunate in one way, John had inherited his family’s musical abilities and was a decent fiddle player.  He passed  along his passion and talent to his son, in fact by the time he was 8-years-old Donnell was performing professionally with his father at local square dances.

Spade Cooley

Spade Cooley

Following in the footsteps of many musicians before him, Donnell moved to Los Angeles in 1930. He worked as an actor–he was Roy Rogers’ stand-in; and toured as a singer with the Riders of the Purple Sage. He also picked up the nickname Spade, thanks to his prowess as a poker player. He may not have known it them but, lucky in poker, unlucky in love.

In 1942 Spade took over as the leader of Jimmy Wakely’s group, the house band at the Venice Pier Ballroom. The band was large and often had multiple singers, one of whom was Tex Williams. The band was extremely popular and pulled in huge crowds every weekend. When Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys moved West, Cooley found himself with some serious competition. He’d had a disagreement with the Ballroom’s promoter, Burt “Foreman” Phillips, and was fired. Prior to his departure from the Ballroom, Cooley demanded a ‘Battle of the Bands’ to be held over two weekends. Never known to be shy or retiring Spade announced,  in advance of the battle, that he was the winner. Then he coined the term the ‘King of Western Swing.’ It would be used ever after to describe both Cooley and the musical style.bob wills

He was still married to his first wife, Anne when, in 1942, he met Ella Mae Evans. Bobby Bennett, Spade’s band manager, declared that “She had no voice,” but Cooley was smitten with the petite blonde, who was 13 years his junior, and hired her anyway. The pair married in November 1945, just a couple of months following his divorce from Anne.

Over the next couple of years Spade became even a bigger star. He’d had a hit with “Shame on You” in 1945 and six more chart toppers followed in succession.

Ella Mae’s singing career ended when she became pregnant. She gave birth to their first child, Melody, in 1946.

Spade & Ella Mae

Spade & Ella Mae

Wearing a cowboy hat instead of a crown, Spade took the appellation of King seriously and he ruled Ella Mae with a iron first. Not long after the marriage, and shortly before Melody’s birth, Ella Mae found her husband with another woman in their home. She packed her bags and told him he could find her at her sister’s. Spade told her that if she ever left him he would find her and kill her. Ella Mae believed him and stayed.

Spade had always had a bad temper. He’d run through musicians and singers by the dozen and those he didn’t fire often left of their own accord because they couldn’t deal with the boss. Spade was a heavy drinker; but drunk or sober he was capable of throwing a world class tantrum. Could he kill?

NEXT TIME: Spade’s career peaks and his marriage hits bottom.

Film Noir Friday: Dark City [1950]

DARK CITY 1950

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 DARK CITY [1950] directed by Hal Wallis and starring Charlton Heston and Lizabeth Scott.

Enjoy the movie!

TCM says:

Danny Haley’s bookie operation is shut down, so he and his pals need money; when Danny meets Arthur Winant, a sucker from out of town, he decoys him into a series of poker games where eventually Winant loses $5000 that isn’t his…then hangs himself. But it seems Winant had a shadowy, protective elder brother who believes in personal revenge. And each of the card players in turn feels a faceless doom inexorably closing in. Dark streets and sexy torch-singer Fran lend ambience.

Spree Killer, Conclusion

In 1984 Dean Phillip Carter was sentenced to 59 years in prison for the rape of a Ventura County woman. His defense, that the sex was consensual, failed to convince the jury.The victim testified that she was awakened, shortly after midnight on March 29, 1984, by the sound of someone entering her apartment through her kitchen window. By the time she sat up in bed a masked man holding a butcher knife was standing in the doorway of her bedroom. Even with a bandana tied around his face she recognized him as Dean Carter, an acquaintance of her roommate.

carter convictedFor over five hours Carter forced the woman at knife-point to orally copulate him three times and then he vaginally raped her once. Twice he choked her into unconsciousness. Once because she tried to escape, and the second time because she attempted to scream for help. When he took her car keys she feared that he would take her somewhere and kill her. She testified: “I took hold of his face and I talked to him. I told him to try to remember what he was doing and who he was and who I was and that he didn’t have to do this. . .I was trying to reason with him.” She also tried to keep him off-balance. After the final sexual assault she hugged him, told him he was “beautiful”, and then casually got up and began to dress for work.She gave him directions to the bus station and, unbelievably, he left.

Because Carter was held accountable for murders and rapes in multiple jurisdictions there were numerous legal delays, much to the anger and frustration of the families of the victims. It took several  years to get him into a courtroom to face charges for the murders of Jillette Mills, Susan Knoll, and Bonnie Guthrie.

In January 1990 a panel of seven women and five men deliberated for 3 1/2 days before they recommended execution at San Quentin for Carter for the slayings of the three L.A. County women. Family members of the victims applauded the penalty and nearly all of them expressed a desire to witness his execution. Carter was removed from the courtroom in leg irons. He didn’t make eye contact with anyone. Deputy D.A. Marsh Goldstein said: “He (Carter) never said that he was sorry. He never said anything. He’s one of the most evil people I’ve ever seen–an absolutely awful, non-human being. If you believe society has the right to impose the death penalty. . . then this is the case where it should be applied.”carter_DA

A year after he was sentenced to die for three murders Carter was on trial for the rape and murder of Janette Cullins. Janette’s body had been found in a closet in her Pacific Beach apartment on April 14, 1984. San Diego County Deputy D.A. Robert Eichler spent three hours in his opening statement describing in great detail to the jury Carter’s “…path of destruction that went through the state of California” during a three week period in 1984. The evidence against Carter was overwhelming.

Carter was convicted in May 1991 for the first-degree murder with special circumstances (which meant another death penalty) of Janette Cullins. Cullin’s mother, Helen, said: “I think he should be strangled. That’s the way he killed my daughter.”

Dean_Phillip_Carter_mugFollowing Carter’s sentencing the woman he had raped in Ventura County wrote a first person account of her attack for the L.A. Times–it was gut wrenching. She had survived the attack, but for the next seven years she was called to testify against Carter.  Each time she had to re-live the events of that night.

What set Carter off on a three week long rampage? His attorneys pointed to his lousy childhood and his failed marriage. They attempted to characterize him as the loving father of twin boys. The truth was that he was an absent dad and a miserable husband.

It has been 25 years since Dean Phillip Carter was sentenced in the Cullins case. The families of the murder victims who wanted to watch him die in San Quentin’s gas chamber still have not had justice. In fact several of the family members have passed away over the years.

In 1995, Carter began writing an internet column, “Deadman Talking”. I’ve read a few of the entries and, frankly, he sickens me. He claims in some of his posts that he does not to want to discuss his case, although he manages to plead his innocence either implicitly or explicitly as frequently as possible. He continues to deny committing the crimes that brought him to “The Row”.

The Los Angeles Times covered the presence of inmates on the internet in 2000:

In 1996 it was news when mainstream media discovered that Dean Philip Carter, on California’s death row for killing four women, was posting the column “Dead Man Talkin’ ” with the help of a San Francisco disc jockey.

Today, Carter’s column is available in six languages–“Un homme mort vous parle” is the French version–and is one of scores of death row journals. The father of one of Carter’s victims has his own site, “Justice Against Crime Talking,” that includes a link to Carter’s site–a photograph of a burro.

Because he has refused to admit his guilt he is compelled to adopt the mantle of a grievously wronged innocent. It fits him poorly. He is capable of sorrow, but only for himself, and self-pity informs most of his writing. As far as I am concerned he is an evil man who has outlived anything that may have approximated real justice for the murders and rapes he committed over 30 years ago.

When will he be executed? Don’t hold your breath. He’s more likely to perish from old age.

Film Noir Friday: Club Paradise [1945]

Club_Paradise

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 CLUB PARADISE (aka Sensation Hunters).  The film stars Constance Worth, Robert Lowery, Doris Merrick.

TCM says:

Unable to bear another night of endless bickering among her family members, factory worker Julie Rogers storms out of her parents’ house and takes her friend Helen to the Black Cat nightclub, which is owned by Julie’s trumpet-playing sweetheart, Ray Lawson. There, Julie meets Danny Burke, a handsome but mysterious idler and, bored with Ray, immediately falls in love with him. Julie goes home later that night and is further repulsed by the behavior of her brother Fred, who is drunk and belligerent. Returning to the Black Cat, Julie once again finds Danny and accompanies him to the infamous Paradise Club. Julie’s father disapproves of Danny and tries to convince her to date Ray, until the day Ray and Julie are arrested in a gambling house raid.

 

Spree Killer, Part 2

Arizona Patrolman, Robert Dapser, pulled over a 1980 Datsun ZX when he saw the car, apparently driven by Mr. Toad, weaving along Interstate 40. The car’s driver was a man in his late 20s, Dean Phillip Carter. Dapser arrested him for driving under the influence and held him when a check on the Datsun’s registration revealed it was missing and possibly connected to a homicide in Southern California.

1980 Datsun ZX

1980 Datsun ZX

Detectives from Los Angeles and Culver City wanted to talk to Carter about the death of Jillette Mills, in whose car he was driving when he was arrested in Arizona. And they also wanted to question him about the slayings of Susan Knoll (Mills’ roommate), Bonnie Guthrie (a friend of Knolls’), and Janette Cullins. Carter was extradited to California and returned to Ventura County where there was an outstanding warrant on a sexual assault case. Cops in Oakland, CA thought Carter fit the description of the man seen with Tok Kim whose body was found in her apartment on April 13, 1984, and they were anxious to grill him about that crime.

headline3As if Carter wasn’t already in enough trouble, Seattle’s Green River Task Force was interested in him. The task force was attempting to solve the slayings of 25 young women that had started two years earlier.  Seattle detectives were able to clear Carter of any involvement in the serial killings in their city.

He may have been off the hook for the Seattle slayings, but he was suspect number one in the California murders when property belonging to all five of the dead women was found in his possession.  Police were still seeking a blue 1977 Honda Accord that belonged to one of his alleged rape victims. In mid-May 1984 he was charged with the murders of Susan Knoll, Bonnie Guthrie, and Janette Cullins.

L.A. County District Attorney Robert H. Philibosian held a press conference at which he stated that he intended to seek the death penalty for Carter who was still being held in Ventura County. Philibosian said, “We have now indications he committed at least five murders during a rampage that began in March and continued through part of last month.”headline1

Al Albergate, a spokesman for the D.A., dialed back Philibosian’s initial statement saying that the D.A. hadn’t meant to imply that Carter’s guilt was a foregone conclusion. Albergate said, “The remark was based on the fact that we have charged him with killing three people.”

headline2With Carter the prime suspect in the murders reporters and detectives started digging into his background.  He hailed from Nome, Alaska where he spent a troubled childhood. He never knew his birthfather but was was adopted by his stepfather (deceased at the time of the slayings) who was Nome’s Chief of Police. Police. If his stepfather tried to be a good influence on the boy, he failed.  When he was 12 Carter was declared to be a delinquent child and sent to a youth camp, from which he attempted to escape at least three times. He was ultimately placed in a foster home. As an adult he spent time in an Oregon prison for grand theft auto and possession of cocaine, and in Alaska for burglary.

Kicked loose from prison in 1980, Carter was employed by a non-profit where he became a television production assistant and cameraman.  He didn’t just learn job skills at the non-profit video center–it was there he met and subsequently married the receptionist.  The couple had twin boys, but the marriage didn’t last. His ex retained custody of the twins and that seems to have made Carter angry.  Did he harbor a grudge against his ex-wife that was deep enough to set him off on a killing spree?

NEXT TIME:  Carter’s story plays out.

Film Noir Friday: Railroaded [1947]

railroaded_ver2

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 RAILROADED  directed by Anthony Mann who also directed such film noir greats as: Raw Deal, T-Men, Border Incident, and Side Street. The film stars John Ireland, Sheila Ryan, Hugh Beaumont, Jane Randolph. Enjoy the film!

TCM says:

As New York beautician Clara Calhoun, whose shop is a front for a bookmaking operation, closes up for the night, she gives a silent signal to two masked gunmen lurking outside. The gunmen then burst into the shop and start to rob Clara and her unsuspecting assistant, Marie Westin, of their betting money. When a policeman happens by and interrupts the robbery, one of the robbers, Duke Martin, shoots him in cold blood. Before dying, the officer shoots and wounds the other robber, “Cowie” Kowalski. After fleeing in a laundry truck, Duke leaves Cowie at a doctor’s house, reminding him of their plan to implicate Steve Ryan in the crime. Later, when Clara and Marie are questioned by detectives Mickey Ferguson and Jim Chubb, Marie describes both robbers as black-haired, while Clara insists that the “shooter” had sandy hair. Clara’s version is believed, and soon the sandy-haired Steve Ryan, who routinely drives the laundry truck and whose Navy scarf was found at the shop, is brought in for questioning.

Spree Killer, Part 1

For 18 days, from late March to mid-April 1984, a series of rapes and murders spanned California from Oakland to San Diego. The police soon realized that the sexual assaults and slayings were likely the work of one man. All they had to do was find him.

***

On March 25, 1984 a woman was raped at knife point in her San Diego apartment. Two days later another young woman was raped at knife point in Ventura County. Her assailant strangled her until she lost consciousness. She was lucky to be alive.

On April 1, 1984 in Lafayette, California, about 30 miles east of Oakland, Tok Kim met a man named Phil in a local bar. They spent the next several days together and were seen by a few of her neighbors. On April 13th, Tok’s decomposed body was discovered. The cause of death could not be determined, but strangulation wasn’t ruled out. Her car and some of her personal items were missing.

jillette mills

Jillette Mills

Kim’s car was located hundreds of miles away in Culver City parked in front of an apartment building where roommates Susan Knoll and Jillette Mills were found dead. Each of the women had been sexually assaulted, strangled, and then their bodies were stacked in a bedroom closet.

Jillette’s Datson 280 ZX with the vanity plate PHANTM Z, as well as personal items belonging to both women were missing.

The body of Bonnie Guthrie was discovered on the bedroom floor of her Culver City apartment on April 12th. She had been sexually assaulted and died of asphyxia caused by strangulation. Personal items were missing from her residence.

janette cullen

Janette Cullins

Janette Cullins was found in the closet of her San Diego apartment she, like the other dead women, had been strangled. Wood chips were found near the front door, which suggested that the killer had broken in.

***

It was 10:50 p.m. on April 17th when Arizona Highway Patrolman Robert Dapser received a call on his CB radio from a truck driver. The trucker said that “an erratic vehicle had been driving in his location, passed by him twice and nearly cut him off.” The erratic driver, possibly drunk, was behind the wheel of a Datsun 280 ZX with a California vanity plate. The trucker thought it was “PHANTOM 2″.

Officer Dapser flipped on his emergency lights. He caught up with the Datsun and watched it swerve across the center line of the highway. The sports car finally pulled over and the driver, the lone occupant of the vehicle, produced his ID but couldn’t find the vehicle registration. He told Dapser, “I can’t find it, she must not have it in here.” The driver’s failure to produce the registration wasn’t a big deal, but Officer Dapser caught a whiff of marijuana and saw a roach in the center console. There was an empty beer bottle, and several full ones, on the floor on the passenger’s side of the car.

Dapser called dispatch and said that the license plate was not “PHANTOM 2′ as originally reported but “PHANTM Z”. A few minutes later he was informed that the car had been reported stolen. Dapser Mirandized the driver and took him into custody to await detectives from California.

susan knoll

Susan Knoll

 Detectives from Culver City and West Los Angeles arrived in Arizona and inventoried the contents of the Datsun. They found a suitcase containing a few household items identified as belonging to Tok Kim; a supermarket check cashing card belonging to Susan Knoll; workout gear and photo equipment belonging to Jillette Mills; Janette Cullins’ bank card; and three hand knit sweaters identified as Bonnie Guthrie’s.

The detectives were anxious to speak to the driver of Jillette’s Datsun.  Was he a killer and a rapist? Or was he just an unlucky car thief?

NEXT TIME: The killer is identified.

Film Noir Friday: The Naked Kiss [1964]

NakedKiss_WB

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 NAKED KISS  directed by Sam Fuller who also directed such gems as: Pick-Up on South Street, The Crimson Kimono, and Underworld U.S.A.  The film stars Constance Towers, Anthony Eisley, and Michael Dante.  You’ll never forget the opening scene! Enjoy the film!

TCM says:

Kelly, a prostitute, leaves town after a fight with her procurer and takes the money he owes her. She comes to the small town of Grantville, where her first customer is Griff, the police chief, who advises her to avoid arrest by going to work for Candy’s bordello across the state line. Instead, Kelly remains in town and takes a job as nurse’s aid at a hospital, where she soon establishes a close rapport with the children in her ward. Griff discovers that she is still in town, and although he does not believe that she desires to reform, he reluctantly agrees to give her a chance.

 

A Mother’s Murder

On Mother’s Day most moms receive a card, flowers, candy or even breakfast in bed–but here in Los Angeles not all moms are so lucky.

***

There was a lot to celebrate in May 1945; the war in Europe ended with the surrender of Nazi Germany on May 7th. The mothers sons and daughters in the military would have the best Mother’s Day they’d had since before the war. Tributes to mothers were planned in churches and theaters all over Los Angeles. Dozens of Fox theaters offered free admission to mothers over 60. On one of the stages special guest celebrities included Bing Crosby, Abbott & Costello, Paulette Goddard, Rochester, and the Andrews Sisters.

Teenager Barbara Adams had something special planned for her mother, Maude, but it didn’t have anything to do with flowers or a trip to the theater.

On May 11, the Friday before Mother’s Day, Barbara went out shopping–she bought two canaries at a pet shop and a large knife at a downtown department store. Once she arrived home she tested the sharpness of the knife by decapitating the canaries in the kitchen sink, then she burned their bodies in an incinerator. She then prepared dinner for her mother who was expected to arrive late following her shift at General Hospital. An argument between mother an daughter broke out after dinner and ended when Maude smacked Barbara across the face.adams pic_1

About 2 a.m. on Saturday morning Barbara, wielding the knife she’d bought the day before, crept into her mother’s room, placed a pillow over her head to stifle her screams and then stabbed her over 20 times. Barbara washed the murder weapon in the kitchen sink, then changed out of her bloodstained nightgown and went to bed on the living room sofa. Before going to sleep she pulled out the family Bible and read for a while.

Barbara slept for over 12 hours. When she awakened on Mother’s Day, May 13, she dressed, cleaned up the apartment and then went to the first floor apartment of her landlady, Mrs. Anthony Dunn, and confessed to the murder. Dunn phoned the police. Officer C.O. Peterson was first at the scene. He said that Barbara told him that she had been contemplating the murder for a long time–she said, “We just couldn’t get along. I’d planned to take my own life but didn’t have the guts to do it. Now it’s up to you to take over.” Other than their disagreements, common enough between a 17-year-old girl and her mother, Barbara offered no motive for the slaying.

adams pic_2Detective Thad Brown, of LAPD’s Homicide Detail, accompanied by Juvenile Officer L.M. Simmons, questioned Barbara. She told them about the knife, the canaries and gave them an account of the murder. She was taken to the hospital room at Juvenile Hall where she was admitted under an alias. She spent the day reading magazines. She had two roommates, but she didn’t say a word about why she was there.adams pic 9

Barbara attended Sunday school and listened to Mother’s Day tributes. Afterwards, apparently unmoved, she watched her fellow inmates make tiny boutonnieres to present to their mothers during visiting hours.

LAPD detectives and juvenile authorities questioned anyone who knew Barbara and Maude. Friends and neighbors described Barbara, a student at L.A.City College, as studious and quiet. According to some, Maude worked long hours to provide her with a decent education. Others described Barbara as morose because she wasn’t allowed to go out with school friends. Instead of hanging out with her buddies she was required to spend evenings at home with her mom, studying.

It was up the the juvenile court to determined if Barbara was mentally competent to stand trial, and if she was they wold also need to decide if she would be handled as an adult or a juvenile.

***

An interesting window on Barbara’s childhood opened when Albert and Lena Rogers, who lived in the 2000 block of Outpost Drive, turned up to speak on the young killer’s behalf.

Lena told investigators that “Mrs. Adams was unusually intelligent, and a fine woman–the best maid I ever saw. She was with us four years. I knew she had a daughter in nursery school, and finally suggested the child (Barbara) be brought to live with us and to be a companion to our own Betty. They were just about the same age.”

adams 9 picThe Rogers went above and beyond. They arranged to have Barbara enrolled in Beverly Hills grade school with their daughter. The two girls later attended the Carthay Center Elementary School together.

Lena continued: “We soon noticed, however, that Mrs. Adams wielded a heavy hand over he small daughter. The child was whipped down and had no self-expression. Mrs. Adams was a sadist; she seemed to delight in punishing the child.”

Betty Rogers spoke for Barbara too. “I would awaken at night and hear Barbara crying in her bed. Then I would hear her mother to tell her to ‘shut up’ and not make any more noise.”

According to the Rogers’, Maude also pinched Barbara’s arm in the tender spot above the elbow anytime the girl made her mad. Finally, because Maude’s attitude and mental condition became so strange, the Rogers’ terminated her employment. They quietly slipped some cash into Barbara’s pocket and told her to remember she “always had friends” and to call them if she was ever in trouble. They didn’t see her again until her story appeared in the newspapers.adams pic_7

Mr. and Mrs. Anthony Dunne were at odds with the Rogers’ characterization of Barbara as a victim.  Testifying at the Coroner’s inquest, Mrs. Dunne called Barbara a “conceited little snob” with a suicide complex (Barbara had cut her wrists the month prior to the murder) that made her “cold as ice”. Mrs. Dunne also testified that Maude was a “devoted mother” who lived for her daughter’s welfare: “She even gave Barbara singing and dancing lessons, even though the girl couldn’t sing. They were always going to shows, the best shows in town.” What about the fighting described by Barbara? Mrs. Dunne denied ever hearing the two women argue.adams pic_6

Mrs. Dunne testified how Barbara came to her and told her about the slaying: “I think you ought to know my mother is dead. I killed her–stabbed her.” Mrs. Dunne called out for her husband and then asked Barbara if she was sure her mother was dead. “Oh, she’s dead, all right. She is quite dead.”

Barbara never explained her mother’s murder other than to say that she had her reasons or the stabbing.

In September 1945, five Camarillo State Hospital psychiatrists declared that Barbara was “medically and legally insane.” Deputy Public Defender William B. Neeley said that he had read the medical reports and Barbara had been given “shock treatments” while at Camarillo and “responded with much improvement.”

The outcome of Barbara’s case wasn’t reported in the Los Angeles Times; however, it seems likely that Superior Judge Georgia Bullock concurred with the psychiatric reports and sent Barbara to the state mental hospital.

Barbara was never tried for her mother’s murder and she slipped quietly into obscurity.