Film Noir Friday–Saturday Night: Lady of Burlesque (1943)

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 LADY OF BURLESQUE (aka THE G-STRING MURDERS) directed by William A. Wellman and starring Barbara Stanwyck and Michael O’Shea. While not a classic noir film, it is a murder mystery and, I think, it pairs nicely with the post on Betty Rowland.

Gypsy Rose Lee (Photo courtesy New York Public Library)

LADY OF BURLESQUE is based on the novel The G-String Murders written by strip tease queen Gypsy Rose Lee. There have been claims that Craig ghosted the book, but I believe Ms. Lee did it on her own.

If you’re not familiar with Craig Rice, she wrote mystery novels and short stories, and is sometimes described as “the Dorothy Parker of detective fiction.” She was the first mystery writer to appear on the cover of Time Magazine, on January 28, 1946.

Before we roll the feature, let’s enjoy one of Gypsy Rose Lee’s dance routines–followed by a clip from a Tex Avery cartoon starring the lecherous wolf character.

TCM says:

S. B. Foss, owner of the Old Opera House on Broadway in New York City, promotes his new recruit, burlesque dancer Dixie Daisy, hoping that she will draw a large audience. Dixie’s performance draws cheers from the crowds and from comedian Biff Brannigan, who ardently admires Dixie even though she hates comics because of past experiences with them. When someone cuts the wire to the light backstage that signals the presence of the police, the performers are surprised by a raid, and pandemonium ensues. As Dixie flees through a coal chute, someone grabs her from behind and tries to strangle her, but her assailant escapes when a stagehand comes along.

Film Noir Friday: Big Town After Dark [1947]

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 BIG TOWN AFTER DARK, starring Philip Reed and Hilary Brooke.

Enjoy the film!

 TCM says:

When Lorelei Kilbourne (Hillary Brooke) leaves her job as the police reporter for the Illustrated Press, Managing Editor Steve Wilson (Philip Reed) employs the publisher’s niece, Susan Peabody (Ann Gillis), to replace her. Susan becomes involved with gangsters in plotting a $50,000 swindle against her…

The Cartoon Bandits

Not everyone celebrates the 4th of July with fireworks and a BBQ.

On Friday, July 4, 1941, two men armed with a sawed-off shotgun entered the California Kitchen cafe at 410 Glendale Boulevard and held staff and patrons at gunpoint while they stole $67.50 from the register and $35 from their victims. As soon as they left, twenty-year-old Carson Citron, a talented cartoonist who sketched visitors to the 1939 New York World’s Fair, called for a pencil, grabbed a paper bag, and drew realistic likenesses of the robbers.

Jerry Towslee, manager of the Kitchen, and all the patrons, attested to the accuracy of Citron’s art work. The police immediately reproduced the sketches for circulation.

Over the next week, the Cartoon Bandits continued their spree of robberies, car thefts and kidnappings stretching from LA to Oakland and back to LA. They carjacked Paul Ashbrook and his date, Katherine Dietz, in Oakland. They drove the couple 80 miles east to Stockton, where they tied them up and left them in a cemetery. Ashbrook told police one of their captors said, “We’ve got to scram out of here now, but we’re going back and get that cartoonist!”

Police had victims of the bandits compare Citron’s sketches to mug shots and they identified the suspects as Edward Walker, a twenty-six-year-old robber paroled from Folsom Prison, and twenty-two-year-old Carl Westover, a San Quentin alum.

Early on the morning of July 10th, the gunmen abandoned a car in a lot at 450 S. Spring Street. They kept the lot attendant, Fred Hunt, at bay while they transferred a suitcase to another vehicle, which they drove off in.

For the next few hours, the bandit pair added new names to their roster of victims. Alvin Marshall lost $40 in a liquor store on Whittier. They took $8 from Ray Eckenroth at a gas station on W. Washington Blvd. Then they pulled into a gas station at 3251 Eagle Rock Blvd., bought gas and soft drinks, then pulled guns on the attendant, O. R. Bates and relieved him of $40. Evidently proud of their newfound fame, they boasted, “We’re the cartoon bandits. You can tell those—Los Angeles policemen we’re back in town and going to be plenty of grease in their hair.”

The bandits headed south.

Later in the day, as San Diego patrolmen Earl Myrick and Thomas Hays cruised in their radio car, they recognized a stolen sedan. They followed the car for four blocks, then drew up alongside it with their revolvers drawn. Westover had a.38 caliber revolver in the pocket of his pants. All the way from Los Angeles to San Diego, he held a sawed-off shotgun in his lap. He said, “But we decided to go to the Grant Hotel garage, so I broke the shotgun down and put it in a handbag in the back of the car.” Then he sneered, “If I could have got my gun, I’d have blown you cops all over the place.”

On July 11th, Detective Lieutenants Claude Thaxter and H. C. Henry drove down to San Diego to take the bandits into custody. Westover, the younger of the two and a former San Diego schoolboy, admitted to Municipal Judge Philip Smith how he and Walker robbed a liquor store.

The bandits also confessed they’d staked out Citron’s home and planned to beat but not shoot him, but there were police cars out front and they changed their minds. That is when they left for San Diego.

Westover claimed responsibility for a $3000 supermarket robbery, but it was quickly determined he was still in prison at the time of the crime. Called to the stand and asked about committing perjury, Westover mused, “Well, I committed so many stick-ups I can’t remember them all, and won’t be able to serve out all my time anyhow!”

In October, the Cartoon Bandits pleaded guilty to one count each of robbery in Judge A. A. Scott’s courtroom. Each of them received a sentence of five years to live in Folsom.

In 1957, Carl Westover, serving his life sentence as an honor worker in the San Quentin prison dairy, escaped. Oceanside policeman Ray Wilkerson captured him as he attempted to break into a car. Westover attacked Wilkerson with a screwdriver and ice pick, fracturing his skull, but two other officers arrived in time to subdue him. A career criminal, it appears Westover may have died in prison in 1998 at age 79.

As for Walker, he, like Westover, began his criminal career as a juvenile. The 1950 Federal Census shows him incarcerated in Folsom. I don’t know what happened to him after that. If anyone has information on Walker, please share.

Black Dahlia–Conclusion

NOTE: The Long Beach Independent-January 15, 1949. I believe the detectives in the photo are Harry Hansen and Finis Brown.

Two years passed with police no closer to a solution for Elizabeth Short’s murder. The 1949 Los Angeles Grand Jury intended to hold LAPD’s feet to the fire for failing to solve the Dahlia case and several other unsolved homicides and disappearances of women during the 1940s.

On September 6, 1949, the jury’s foreman, Harry Lawson, told reporters that the administrative committee scheduled a meeting for September 8.

Lawson said:

“There is every possibility that we will summon before the jury officers involved in the investigation of these murders. We find it odd that there are on the books of the Los Angeles Police Deportment many unsolved crimes of this type. Because of the nature of these murder and sex crimes, women and children are constantly placed in jeopardy and are not safe from attack. Something is radically wrong with the present system for apprehending the guilty. The alarming increase in the number of unsolved murders and other major crimes reflects ineffectiveness in law enforcement agencies and the courts, and that should not be tolerated.”

In his statement, Lawson places the blame for the unsolved homicides squarely on the shoulders of law enforcement and the courts. What Lawson failed to understand was that crime was changing. No longer could police assume a woman’s killer was her husband or boyfriend. Stranger homicides were nothing new, but neither were they common.

The population of post-war Los Angeles skewed young and, because of a variety of factors, like the acute housing shortage, they were transient. A potent and deadly mix of opportunity and a large victim pool made it easy for the criminally inclined to do their worst. Women had a false sense of security about men in uniform. Behavior considered risky by today’s standards was acceptable during the 1940s.

From the outbreak of the war, the government encouraged women to support men in uniform. Newspapers and women’s magazines devoted countless column inches to ways in which they could aid fighting men. Women formed “Add-A-Plate” clubs. The mission of the clubs was to invite a soldier home for a meal. Women also routinely picked up soldiers and sailors hitchhiking because it was their patriotic duty.

On April 2, 1943, the Pasadena Post wrote about a “ride waiting zone” which gave military men a place to stand and be visible to passing motorists who would then give them a ride. Most of the men were decent and law-abiding, but some returned home severely damaged by their war experiences. How many of those men were capable of murder?

Pfc. George Morrow, left, and Pvt. Dennis Ward could not wait until painters had completely finished the first service men’s waiting zone before they tried it out.

LAPD detectives spared nothing in their investigation of Short’s slaying. They took over 2700 reports. There were over 300 named suspects. They arrested fifty suspects who they subsequently cleared and released. Nineteen false confessors wasted law enforcement’s time and resources.

In 1949, the DA’s office issued a report on the investigation into Short’s murder. In part, the report stated:

“[she] knew at least fifty men at the time of her death and at least 25 men had been seen with her within the 60-day period preceding her death. She was not a prostitute. She has been confused with a Los Angeles prostitute by the same name… She was known as a teaser of men. She would ride with them, chisel a place to sleep, clothes or money, but she would then refuse to have sexual intercourse by telling them she was a virgin, or that she was engaged or married. There were three known men who had sexual intercourse with her and, according to them, she got no pleasure out of this act. According to the autopsy surgeon, her sex organs showed female trouble. She had disliked queer women very much, as well as prostitutes. She was never known to be a narcotic addict.”

Distracted by the continuing saga of local gangster Mickey Cohen, the jury turned their attention away from the carnage. In the end, they passed the baton to the 1950 grand jury–which also found itself sidetracked.

Mickey Cohen and his bullet proof car.

What happened to the women who disappeared? It is unlikely that we will ever know. It is also unlikely we will identify the killer(s). People will always speculate about the cases, and every few years a book about the Black Dahlia slaying will emerge claiming to have solved the decades long cold case. None of the books I’ve read so far is credible.

I do not accept theories which rely on elaborate conspiracies perpetrated by everyone, from a newspaper mogul to a local gangster to an allegedly evil genius doctor. My disbelief is based in part on the fact that most people are incapable of keeping a secret. Benjamin Franklin said, “Three (people) can keep a secret if two of them are dead.” Eventually, someone talks.

Elizabeth Short’s killer probably kept his depraved secret but, even if he didn’t, anyone who knew the truth is long dead.

NOTE: This concludes my series of Black Dahlia posts for now. I hope you will stay with me through 2023 as I unearth more of L.A.’s most deranged crimes.

Film Noir Friday on Saturday: The Glass Key [1935]

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

Tonight’s feature is THE GLASS KEY [1935]], starring George Raft, Edward Arnold, and Claire Dodd.

Dashiell Hammett, author of THE GLASS KEY, and THE THIN MAN

Based on the 1931 novel of the same name by Dashiell Hammett, THE GLASS KEY was remade in 1942, and starred Veronica Lake and Alan Ladd.

TCM says:

Crime boss Paul Madvig, who has been running the city for ten years, decides to reform and joins the campaign to re-elect Senator John T. Henry, whose daughter, Janet, Paul hopes to marry. When bibulous gang member Walter Ivans kills a man in a car accident, Paul refuses to help clear him. Paul then threatens gangster Shad O’Rory, who runs a gambling house called the Four-Leaf Clover, that he is going to close down his club and clean up the town. 

The Black Dahlia Hoax

Six weeks into the Black Dahlia investigation and detectives had little to show for their efforts. Then, suddenly, it looked like they finally caught a break.

On February 26, 1947, a motorist, Clarence F. Gutchem, discovered a young woman on Willow Street in Long Beach. Lying on an embankment, it appeared she rolled there after being tossed from a car. She was partially nude and bound with strips of her underwear. Gutchem notified police.

They transported the girl to Seaside Hospital where doctors found bruises, scratches and a cigarette burn on her left wrist, but no signs of rape. She identified herself as Jacqueline Mae Stang, a seventeen-year-old student at Polytechnic High School in Long Beach. Detective Inspector C.J. Novotny arrived to take Jacqueline’s statement.

She described her attacker as a swarthy, middle-aged man; but she couldn’t recall much else. Doctors released her into her parents’ care.

Jacqueline Stang’s high school photo

The day following the attack, juvenile officer Margie Cale paid Jacqueline a visit. Jacqueline told the same story she gave Detective Novotny, but she added more details. She stated she was walking home from school at 6 pm when she noticed a man following her. Spooked, she ran, but the man caught up with her, grabbed her arm and pulled her into an alley. The man put a chloroformed leather glove over her mouth. She struggled, but lost consciousness. She came to and realized she was almost naked. Her attacker scratched her and blew cigarette smoke into her mouth. Jacqueline said, “he laughed fiendishly.” She was frightened she would die until a stray dog appeared and started barking. Startled, the man ran to his car and sped off.

Police question Jacqueline Stang

Jacqueline’s account of her attack was harrowing. However, Margie’s experience with kids taught her to read between the lines, and she knew when they were lying. The pieces didn’t fit, and she didn’t believe a word of Jacqueline’s story.

Realizing Margie saw through her, Jacqueline confessed. She said, “I tied myself, I scratched myself and I burned myself.” Margie went to her boss, juvenile superintendent Joseph M. Kennick. Together, they went to Jacqueline’s parents.

What prompted Jacqueline to make up such a horrendous story and harm herself? The attractive teenager refused to answer. Detective Captain L. Q. Martin questioned some of Jacqueline’s school friends. The friends told Detective Martin Jacqueline seemed obsessed with details of the murder. They said Jacqueline asked them, “I wonder if I’d be expelled from school if I should be attacked?”

Newspaper coverage hinted that Jacqueline’s reason for the hoax may have had something to do with a football player. Was she trying to get his attention? Jacqueline remained tight-lipped.

Jacqueline’s confession came as a tremendous disappointment to police, who hoped they finally had a link to the Black Dahlia killer. Kennick said they would take her to Juvenile Court and hold her on a charge of giving police false information.

No further reports of Jacqueline’s misadventure appeared in the newspapers, so it is likely the juvenile court felt her self-inflicted wounds were enough punishment.

Film Noir Friday: Johnny Apollo [1940]

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

Tonight’s feature is JOHNNY APOLLO [1940], starring Tyrone Power, Dorothy Lamour, Edward Arnold, and Lloyd Nolan.

TCM says:

After his father, a multimillion-dollar stockbroker, is indicted for embezzlement and sentenced to prison, Bob Cain Jr., feels betrayed and condemns the old man. He then quits college and begins to search for a job. Because of his father’s notoriety, however, Bob is denied job after job and is still unemployed one year later. When Mickey Dwyer, a notorious gangster who was sentenced on the same day as his father, is paroled from prison, Bob decides to visit Dwyer’s lawyer, Judge Emmett T. Brennan, to see if he can win a parole for his father. While waiting for the attorney, Bob meets “Lucky” Dubarry, Dwyer’s girl friend. After Brennan informs Bob that only money can win a parole, Bob assumes the name of Johnny Apollo and joins Dwyer’s gang in order to raise enough money to get his father out of jail. 

What could possibly go wrong?

Enjoy the movie!

Did a Woman Kill the Black Dahlia?

Elizabeth Short aka The Black Dahlia [Photo courtesy LAPL]

In the days following the discovery of Elizabeth Short’s body, crumpled up confessions given by every sad drunk and deranged publicity seeker littered the local landscape. Most of the confessors were men. But even though none of the women who confessed were guilty, the cops thought maybe a woman had committed the murder. After all, L.A. has its share of female killers.

Louise Peete in court. [Photo: UCLA Digital Archive.]

The Herald ran side-by-side photos of three homicidal women arrested in L.A. Louise Peete (one of only four women ever executed by the State of California) was a serial killer. Police arrested her for murder in the 1920s. Found guilty, she served eighteen years in San Quentin. A few years after her release, she committed another murder for which she paid with her life.

Trunk containing remains of Winnie Ruth Judd’s victims.
Winnie Ruth Judd

Winnie Ruth Judd committed two murders in Arizona. Police arrested her in L.A. when a trunk containing the dismembered remains of Hedvig Samuelson and Anne Le Roi leaked bodily fluids in the baggage claim section of a local train station.

In 1922, Clara Phillips (aka “Tiger Girl”) murdered Alberta Meadows, the woman she suspected was a rival for her husband’s affections. She struck Meadows repeatedly with a hammer, and then, in a fit of adrenalin fueled rage, she rolled a 50 lb. boulder onto the torso of the corpse.

Clara Phillips

The possibility of a woman murdering Short wasn’t far-fetched. The Herald featured a series of columns written by psychologist Alice La Vere. La Vere previously profiled Short’s killer as a young man without a criminal record, but she was open to the killer being a woman. In fact, she abruptly shifted gears from identifying a young man as the slayer to enthusiastically embracing the notion of “… a sinister Lucrezia Borgia — a butcher woman whose crime dwarfs any in the modern crime annals.”

Body of Alberta Meadows — victim of Clara Phillips’ wrath. [Photo courtesy of UCLA]

La Vere was an expert for hire, and if the Herald editors had asked her to write a profile of the killer as a mutant Martian alien, she’d likely have done it. Still, she made a few insightful comments in her column. “Murderers leave behind them a trail of fingerprints, bits of skin and hair. The slayer of ‘The Black Dahlia’ left the most telltale clue of all–-the murder pattern of a degenerate, vicious feminine mind.”

Even more interesting was La Vere’s exhortation to police to look for an older woman. She said, “Police investigators should look for a woman older than ‘The Black Dahlia.’ This woman who either inspired the crime or actually committed the ghastly, unspeakable outrage need not be a woman of great strength. Extreme emotion or high mental tension in men and women give great, superhuman strength.”

One thing I find interesting about La Vere’s profile of a female perpetrator is that she said the woman would be older than Short. In recent years, an older woman became an integral part of a theory about the murder.

It is a theory put forward by Larry Harnisch. Harnisch, formerly of the Los Angeles Times, wrote an article for the paper on the fiftieth anniversary of Short’s death. In the years since, he has done a lot more digging into the case and has unearthed an important connection between the body dump site near 39th and Norton, and two medical doctors. One doctor, Walter Alonzo Bayley, lived in a house just one block south of the place where Betty Bersinger found Elizabeth Short’s body. At the time of the murder, Bayley was estranged from his wife; however, she still occupied the home. Bayley left his wife for his mistress, Alexandra Partyka, also a medical doctor. Partyka emigrated to the U.S. and wasn’t licensed to practice medicine, but she assisted Bayley in his practice.

Following Bayley’s death in January 1948, Partyka and Dr. Bayley’s wife, Ruth, fought over control of his estate. Mrs. Bayley claimed Partyka was blackmailing the late doctor with secrets about his medical practice. Secrets damning enough to ruin him.

There is also a link between Bayley’s family and Short’s. In 1945, Dr. Bayley’s adopted daughter, Barbara Lindgren, was a witness to the marriage of Beth’s sister Virginia Short to Adrian West at a church in Inglewood, California, near Los Angeles.

Larry discussed Dr. Bayley in James Ellroy’s “Feast of Death”. [Note: Be forewarned that there are photos of Elizabeth Short in the morgue.]

A woman could have murdered Elizabeth Short. Could the woman be Alexandra Partyka? The chances are that we’ll never know–or at least not until Larry Harnisch finishes his book on the case. 

The Lipstick Murder

Born in a small New Mexico town in 1902, Jeanne Axford came of age during the Roaring ‘20s. Perfect timing for the free-spirited girl. She married at 17 to David Wrather and they had a son, David, Jr.

JEANNE AXFORD (L) WITH HER COUSIN CLARA (Photo found on Ancestry.com)

In 1922, after training in New Mexico, Jeanne worked as a nurse in Amarillo, Texas. Marriage didn’t suit her. She and David divorced in 1924; she won custody of their son.

In 1925, Jeanne married again. That marriage, too, failed. There are rumors that Jeanne acted in film, but I could not find her listed in the Internet Movie Database—even under an alias—so she may have appeared in uncredited roles. Whether she appeared in movies or not, Jeanne had an interesting Hollywood connection. She worked as a private nurse for Marion Benda Wilson, Rudolph Valentino’s last date, possibly his last love. Known as the “Woman in Black,” for many years, Marion put flowers on Valentino’s grave.

MARION BENDA WILSON aka THE WOMAN IN BLACK

Sometime between 1925 and 1931, Jeanne learned to fly and earned the moniker, “Flying Nurse.” She worked for a large oil company in South America, flying from one oil field to another, caring for workers. She became a member of the Women’s Air Reserve, and the 99 Club, an organization of women aviators.

Either an optimist, or a glutton for punishment, Jeanne married for a third time in Dallas, Texas on October 8, 1931, two days after her 29th birthday, to Curtis Bower. It took the couple five weeks to realize their mistake. The dissolution of her marriage earned Jeanne another nickname, “air-mail divorcee.” The divorce papers, prepared by her attorney, Allan Lund, went via air to Juarez, Mexico for filing. A new law in Mexico provided for a final decree by proxy. Neither Jeanne nor Curtis needed to appear in court.

On July 5, 1932, Jeanne’s mother, Oma Randolph, went to police to file a missing person report. Jeanne left home the morning of June 27 to drive to the Mexican border where she planned to board a private plane for Mexico City.

The week following the missing person report, Jeanne cabled her mother from Mexico City. “I can’t understand the worry I have caused in the United States by flying to Mexico. I am flying back for the Olympics. I assure everyone that I am okeh.”

Jeanne kept a low profile for the next several years. She married in 1944 for the fourth and final time to a former Marine, Frank French.

It isn’t clear when Jeanne began to abuse alcohol, but by the mid-1940s, she fought demons she could not control.

On February 10, 1947, less than a month after housewife Betty Bersinger found Elizabeth Short’s bisected body in a Leimert Park vacant lot, Hugh C. Shelby, a bulldozer operator, found the badly beaten, nude body of a woman in a field near the Santa Monica Airport. The Herald immediately put out an extra edition with the headline: “Werewolf Strikes Again! Kills L.A. Woman, Writes B.D. on Body.”

Within a couple of hours, police identified the victim of the “Werewolf Killer” as forty-five-year-old Jeanne French.

Detectives at the scene of Jeanne’s murder

Someone savagely beat Jeanne. She suffered blows to her head, probably administered by a metal blunt instrument—likely a socket wrench. As bad as they were, the blows to her head were not fatal. Jeanne died from hemorrhage and shock due to fractured ribs and multiple injuries caused by her killer stomping on her. There were heel prints on her chest. It took a long time for Jeanne to die. The coroner said that she slowly bled to death.

Mercifully, Jeanne was unconscious after the first blows to her head so she never saw her killer take the deep red lipstick from her purse, and she didn’t feel the pressure of his improvised pen as he wrote on her torso: “Fuck You, B.D.” and “Tex.” Police looked for a connection between Jeanne’s murder and Elizabeth Short’s death; but they found nothing.

Fuck you. B.D.

Jeanne was last seen seated at the first stool nearest the entrance of the Pan American Bar on West Washington Place. The bartender told police Jeanne sat next to a smallish man with a dark complexion sat on the stool next to her. The bartender assumed they were a couple because he saw them leave together at closing time.

On the night before she died, Jeanne visited Frank at his apartment and they’d quarreled. Frank said Jeanne, who was drunk, started the fight, then hit him with her purse and left.

Jeanne’s twenty-five-year-old son, David, came in for questioning. As he left the police station, he saw his step-father for the first time since he’d learned of his mother’s death. David confronted Frank and said: “Well, I’ve told them the truth. If you’re guilty, there’s a God in heaven who will take care of you.” Frank didn’t hesitate. He looked at David and said: “I swear to God, I didn’t kill her.”

Police booked Frank for murder, then they cleared him. His landlady told police she could verify Frank was in his apartment at the time of the murder. His shoe prints failed to match those found at the scene of the crime.

Cops had few leads. They found French’s cut-down 1929 Ford roadster in the parking lot of a drive-in restaurant, The Piccadilly at Washington Place and Sepulveda Blvd. Witnesses said that the car was there at 3:15 on the morning of the murder, and a night watchman saw a man leave it there. The police never accounted for Jeanne’s whereabouts between 3:15 a.m. and the time of her death, which the coroner estimated to be around 6 a.m.

Police rousted scores of sex degenerates, but they eliminated each as a suspect. Officers also checked out local Chinese restaurants after the autopsy revealed that Jeanne ate a Chinese meal shortly before her death.

Jeanne’s slaying became known as the “Red Lipstick Murder” case. Like the Black Dahlia case, it went cold.

Three years later, following a Grand Jury investigation into the many unsolved murders of women in L.A., the District Attorney assigned investigators from his office to look into the case.

Frank Jemison and Walter Morgan worked on Jeanne’s murder for eight months, but they never closed it. They came up with one hot suspect, a painter who worked for the French’s four months prior to the murder. He said he dated Jeanne several times. The cops discovered the painter burned several pairs of his shoes—he wore the same size as the ones that left marks on Jeanne’s body. He seemed a likely suspect until he didn’t. Police cleared him despite his odd behavior.

There were so many unsolved murders of women in the 1940s that in 1949, the Grand Jury launched an investigation into the failure of the police to solve the cases.

Like the murder of Elizabeth Short, there have been no leads in Jeanne French’s case in decades. Two more women on the list of unsolved homicides of women during the 1940s.

Film Noir Friday: Street of Chance (1942)

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

Tonight’s feature is STREET OF CHANCE, starring Burgess Meredith, Claire Trevor, Louise Platt, and Sheldon Leonard. The screenplay is based on a Cornell Woolrich novel, The Black Curtain. There are dozens of movies based on Woolrich novels and stories. Among them, one of my favorites, REAR WINDOW, directed by Alfred Hitchcock. If you’ve never read Woolrich, I suggest you try him. I read an article in which they described him as “the twentieth-century crime fiction’s most eloquent chronicler of death and despair.” It is an accurate description. He also wrote under the pseudonyms William Irish and George Hopley.

TCM says:

One afternoon, Frank Thompson is knocked unconscious by wreckage falling from a building on Tillary Street in New York City. When he revives, Frank is seriously disoriented although unharmed. Frank soon discovers that his apartment has been rented out for a year and his wife Virginia has been living on her own elsewhere. Frank confronts Virginia, who is shocked to see the husband who disappeared without explanation a year earlier. Virginia is thrilled to reunite with Frank, who has no memory of the past year, and he returns to his regular life. Soon, however, he is haunted by the appearance of Joe Marucci, a threatening looking police detective who follows Frank everywhere, and eventually breaks down the door to the apartment to arrest him

Enjoy the movie.