Film Noir Friday: Lady Gangster [1942]

lady gangster

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 LADY GANGSTER, starring Faye Emerson, Julie Bishop, Frank Wilcox and Jackie Gleason. LADY GANGSTER is a remake of LADIES THEY TALK ABOUT [1933] which is one of my favorite women in prison films. Both films are based on a play by Dorothy Mackaye who was an actress, writer, and former felon. She did time in San Quentin for her part in the beating death of her husband by her boyfriend. I covered the case in THE HOLLYWOOD TRIANGLE.

Enjoy the movie!

TCM says:

Dot Burton, an aspiring actress, helps a gang of bank robbers to hold up a bank. The men escape but the police are suspicious of Dot’s actions and arrest her. District Attorney Lewis Sinton asks Dot to turn state’s evidence, but she continues to plead her innocence. Radio broadcaster Kenneth Phillips sees a newspaper article about Dot’s case and broadcasts a statement lambasting the district attorney for arresting her while the real criminals go free. Sinton responds by suggesting that Phillips help in the investigation. He willingly agrees and begins by questioning Dot. Face to face, Phillips and Dot realize they know each other from childhood and Phillips arranges to have Dot released into his custody. Although Dot intends to go straight, when she overhears the other members of the gang plan to divide up her share of the stolen money, she hides the money from them.

https://youtu.be/k8CBtyDdfbQ

 

 

 

Hollywood Love Triangle: Part 2

raymond_mackaye_kellyThe circumstances of Ray Raymond’s death may have been successfully covered up if not for local newshounds who got wind of the fight and his subsequent death. They called on the Coroner and began asking for details, but he couldn’t tell them a thing – Raymond’s death had not been reported to him!  Dorothy’s $500 payment to Dr. Sullivan had clearly been worth every cent.

Coroner Frank Nance at his desk. [LAPL photo]

Coroner Frank Nance at his desk. [LAPL photo]

Coroner Nance called the hospital where Raymond had died, and was informed that not only was Ray deceased his body had been removed by an undertaker!

Nance followed up and located Raymond’s body at a Hollywood mortuary.  He immediately claimed the body to perform an autopsy.

Not surprisingly, Coroner Nance’s findings didn’t agree with those of Dr. Sullivan — and Dr. Nance had harsh words for both Paul Kelly and Dorothy Mackaye.

He said: “Fortifying himself with four or five drinks — probably to brace up his bully courage — Kelly deliberately went into Raymond’s home for the purpose of beating him. I am also informed that Mrs. Raymond was in Kelly’s apartment when he left his home for the purpose of going to her home to beat up Raymond and it is my belief that it was due to her influence that Kelly went to Raymond’s for the sole purpose of attacking him.”

I agree with Coroner Nance.

Dorothy Mackaye collapsed three times at the grand jury inquiry into Ray’s death.  At one point she fell to the marble floor with enough force to render her unconscious for ten minutes. She must have become light-headed after finally being compelled to tell the truth about the day of the beating. Her original story had been that she’d gone out to get Easter eggs for her daughter and to go to a dressmaker. The truth was that she and one of her so-called chaperones, Helen Wilkinson, had been at Kelly’s apartment drinking and had been present when he phoned Ray.

mackaye_indictments

Mackaye summed up her day of testimony before the grand jury by saying: “It has been a terrible ordeal. Why, oh, why, do they have to do all this to me? I would be all right but my nerves are shot to pieces. I hope I won’t have to go through all this again very soon.”

Dorothy had no words of sadness or remorse for Ray’s miserable death. In true Hollywood diva fashion, it was all about her.

In Kelly’s statement to the cops he said he’d purposely called Ray to demand an apology. Seems pretty ballsy to demand that Ray retract statements about Kelly’s relationship with Dorothy — statements which were true. Kelly also told cops was that he went to Raymond’s home “to give him the threshing that was coming to him”.  Kelly wouldn’t make any other statements except to profess his love for Dorothy.

Witnesses stated that Dorothy was still at Kelly’s apartment when he returned after viciously beating Ray, and apparently the couple retired to a rear room and conferred in secret for nearly thirty minutes — obviously to get their stories straight.

It wasn’t only Kelly and Mackaye who were in deep trouble following Ray’s death.  Dr. Sullivan, the physician who had determined that Raymond had died of natural causes, was being taken to task as well. In the District Attorney’s office the day following the grand jury hearing, Dorothy Mackaye came to Dr. Sullivan’s defense. She said:

mackaye_sullivan“I have absolute faith in Dr. Sullivan’s statement that Ray’s death was due to natural causes. He [Raymond] hadn’t been well for some time and we had been afraid of a nervous breakdown.” She continued: “Mr. Kelly I have known for years. I knew him as a youngster in New York when he was first starting out. My feeling for him has always been, and is, I suppose, a sort of sisterly love.”

Mackaye admitted that she and Ray hadn’t been happy for some time and had discussed divorce, but they hadn’t gone through with it due to financial concerns. Oh, and any talk of a future marriage with Kelly had been done “in a joking manner”.

Paul Kelly was indicted for the murder of Ray Raymond, and Dorothy Mackaye was indicted for concealing facts in the case.

NEXT TIME: Hollywood Love Triangle: Part 3

Hollywood Love Triangle

dorothy_mackaye_very_early

Dorothy Mackaye — the center of the triangle.

Musical comedy star Ray Raymond met actress Dorothy Mackaye in 1921 while performing in BLUE EYES on the Broadway stage.  Raymond fell hard; he dumped his wife and married Dorothy.  The pair had a daughter, Valerie, and together they moved to Los Angeles in the late 1920s to get into films.

Paul Kelly

Paul Kelly – Killer

Dorothy Mackaye met Paul Kelly in New York in 1917 when both were appearing on stage, and they became friends. It isn’t clear if the friendship became a love affair in NY, or if the sparks didn’t fly until Paul Kelly arrived in Los Angeles in 1925.

In any case, Ray Raymond was suspicious of his wife’s friendship with Kelly, and he demanded that Dorothy stop seeing him.  She refused. She continued to insist that her relationship with Paul was platonic; but Ray wasn’t buying it. She said that whenever she met with Kelly she always had someone with her to act as a chaperone.  Raymond didn’t doubt for a moment that Dorothy’s “chaperones” would lie for her.

On April 16, 1926 Dorothy Mackaye and her one of her “chaperones” were drinking prodigious amounts of gin at Kelly’s apartment. After several cocktails and some encouragement from Dorothy, Kelly decided to have it out with Raymond. He telephoned, and then minutes later showed up on the doorstep of the Raymond home.

maid_headlinemackaye_maidEthel Lee, the Raymond’s maid, opened the door for Kelly who stormed into the house and confronted the much smaller man. Paul shouted: “I understand that you have been saying things about me.” Ray denied the accusation and attempted to defuse the situation by offering Kelly a seat, but Kelly was drunk and spoiling for a fight.

According to Ethel, Ray told Kelly: “I can’t fight. I’m fifty pounds underweight, and I’ve been drinking.” “I’ll beat you” Paul said. Then he punched Ray three or four times. Ethel told cops that Mr. Raymond got up but that Kelly grabbed him and put one hand behind his neck and beat him with the other, then threw him to the couch.

Raymond was no match for Kelly who was at least 6 ft tall and weighed about 200 lbs.  In fact the maid stated that Raymond was just a punching bag for Kelly and had put up minimal resistance.

mackaye_daughter

At left is Valerie Raymond, 4 years of age, daughter of musical comedy star who witnessed fight in home and, at right, Mrs. Raymond (Dorothy Mackaye) answering questions aked by Detective Lieutenant Condaffer.

Four year old Valerie Raymond was a witness to the savage beating and continued to cry and beg for her dad to come to her.

Dorothy, who said she’d been out running errands, arrived home at about 9 pm. But she didn’t take her badly beaten husband to a hospital, even as he continued to suffer from his injuries. By 7 am the following day Raymond was in extremely serious condition.

Finally, late in the afternoon on the day following the beating Dorothy phoned a doctor who made a house call to assess Ray’s condition. What the doctor found was a man in excruciating pain with bruises covering his body. Ray was transported to a hospital where he died of his injuries.

In what was obviously an attempt to keep the ugly event under wraps Dr. Sullivan, who had attended Ray, consulted with other physicians who determined the cause of death was “nephritic coma” — the result of an inflammation of the kidneys.  In other words, natural causes!

Dorothy Mackaye paid Dr. Sullivan $500 (approximately $6500 in current U.S. dollars) for his “services”!

Welcome to Hollywood.

NEXT TIME: The love triangle case continues.