Film Noir Friday, On Saturday! — Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye [1950]

Welcome!  The lobby of the Deranged L.A. Crimes theater is open — a day late.We had to scrape gum off of the floor and throw away old popcorn boxes and soda cups. But the theater is open now, so find a seat and get comfortable. Tonight’s offering is KISS TOMORROW GOODBYE from 1950 starring James Cagney and Barbara Payton.

Turner Classic Movies says:

From the trial of the survivors, we flash back to amoral crook Ralph Cotter’s violent prison break, assisted by Holiday Carleton, sister of another prisoner…who doesn’t make it. Soon Ralph manipulates the grieving Holiday into his arms, and two crooked cops follow her into his pocket. Ralph’s total lack of scruple brings him great success in a series of robberies. But his easy conquest of gullible heiress Margaret Dobson proves more dangerous to him than any crime.

From Wikipedia:

James Cagney, directed by Gordon Douglas and based on the novel by Horace McCoy. The film was banned in Ohio as “a sordid, sadistic presentation of brutality and an extreme presentation of crime with explicit steps in commission.”

Sounds perfect to me! Enjoy the film!

Film Noir Friday: Behind Green Lights [1946]


Welcome!  The lobby of the Deranged L.A. Crimes theater is open. Grab a bucket of popcorn, some Milk Duds and a Coke and find a seat. Tonight’s feature is BEHIND GREEN LIGHTS starring Carole Landis, William Gargan, and Richard Crane

Turner Classic Movies says:

One night at 10:30 in a typical, cosmopolitan city, Janet Bradley goes to the apartment of Walter Bard, a private investigator who specializes in blackmail. Bard holds letters that would be damaging to someone close to Janet, and when he laughs at her admission that she could not raise enough money to get them back, she steals his gun and takes the evidence by force. As she leaves, she throws the revolver into Bard’s car. Up the street, meanwhile, cynical reporter Ames introduces cub reporter Johnny Williams to the policemen at the station house. Ames tells Johnny that Lt. Sam Carson is a good, fair officer, then introduces him to the other reporters. While the men talk, they see Bard’s car roll up in front of the station house, and his dead body is found inside. Ames smells a big story, as Bard was also involved in politics, and wonders if his murder was an attempt to discredit the current, corrupt city administration.

Enjoy the film!

Parole, Inc. [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 offering is a “B” film from 1948 starring Michael O’Shea, Turhan Bey, and Evelyn Ankers.

Turner Classic Movies says:

As federal agent Richard Hendricks lies badly hurt in a hospital, he dictates a full report for the bureau chief on his last assignment: Richard is hired by the governor, attorney general Whitmore and police commissioner Hughes to go undercover as parole violator Richard Murdock in order to expose a corrupt parole board.

Enjoy the film!

The Girl is Deranged!

deranged girl3

Because little boys are made of snips and snails and puppy dog tails they get into mischief.  And if you put a group of five year old boys together the end result can be mayhem.

Fifteen year old Elizabeth Lowe was walking through Echo Park near the lake on an October day in 1920 when she was set upon by several small boys who pelted her with stones. 

deranged girlElizabeth quickly decided that she was not going to be a passive target for a gang of diminutive thugs.  She grabbed her nearest tormentor, five year old Danny Lewis, and hurled him into the lake. Danny was rescued when his cries were heard by some men who were nearby enjoying the park.

Elizabeth later told police that she hadn’t intended to drown Danny she just wanted him, and the other boys, to stop throwing stones and leave her alone. Of course the cops quizzed Danny, who, in the manner of tiny terrors confronted with a misdeed, probably had his fingers crossed behind his back when he said that he’d never throw stones at a girl.deranged girl2

Police decided to hold Elizabeth in Juvenile Hall, which was just fine with Danny — he told the cops that the girl was deranged.

Film Noir Friday: Meet Boston Blackie [1941]

Meet_Boston_Blackie_FilmPoster (1)

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. I confess, I’m a sucker for crime dramas, so tonight’s feature is MEET BOSTON BLACKIE starring Chester Morris and Rochelle Hudson.

 Leonard Maltin says:

D: Robert Florey. Chester Morris, Rochelle Hudson, Richard Lane, Charles Wagenheim, Constance Worth. First in the Boston Blackie series is a slick and fast-paced mystery-comedy, introducing Morris as the whimsical ex-thief tracking down spies hiding out at Coney Island. Franz Planer’s stylish cinematography enhances this solid programmer.

The Corpse in the Canyon, Conclusion

Barney Mapes confesses.  [Photo courtesy of USC Digital Archive]

Barney Mapes confesses. [Photo courtesy of USC Digital Archive]

Less than two days after his interrogation began Barney Lee Mapes, 40 year old cement finisher, broke down and confessed to Sheriff’s and Valley police detectives that he’d bludgeoned his estranged wife Viola, 35, to death with a carpenter’s claw hammer.

mapes_hammerFollowing his statement, Barney took cops on a step by step tour of the route from the scene of the slaying on Sherman Way near Sepulveda Blvd., to the desolate spot where he had dumped Viola’s body, then finally to his home where he produced the murder weapon and other bloodstained evidence from where he’d hidden it in his garage.

According to Sgts. Al Ortiz and C.S. Stewart the confession they had wrung from Mapes over the hours of grilling went like this:

Barney and Viola drove to a market in Panorama City then parked at Van Nuys and Victory Blvds. He handed over $400 in cash for her interest in the car they had bought together, and then she borrowed the vehicle to obtain legal papers to seal the deal.

Barney's car. [Photo courtesy of USC Digital Archive]

Barney’s car. [Photo courtesy of USC Digital Archive]

When Viola returned about 20 minutes later, she told Barney that she didn’t have the papers and she did not intend to return the money. Then, according to Barney, she pulled a gun on him and said “This is it”.

Barney knocked the gun to the floor of the car and began beating his wife in the face with his fists. The car door on Viola’s side opened and she fell to the pavement. Barney said she was moaning. She said: “I hate you, I love my children, I want to take them with me and let you go your way.”

Maybe a switch flipped in Barney — he continued to beat his wife. When he realized Viola was badly hurt and he took a claw hammer from the back seat and bashed her over the head twice. He told the cops that after hitting her with the hammer he knew that she was dead.

Mapes put Viola’s body into the back of the car and drove aimlessly for a while, stopping a couple of times to phone his eleven year old daughter, Lilly.

When a truck-trailer pulled up next to him at a traffic light he dropped Viola’s gun into the trailer. He then drove west on Ventura Blvd. and turned south on Topanga Canyon Blvd. He drove past the summit, stopped the car, pulled his wife’s body to the edge of the road and “gave it a shove”.

Mapes demonstrated his actions at the body dump site to the cops, and when he showed them how he had rolled Viola’s body over the side he said: “Now, I guess you’re satisfied.”

The cops weren’t satisfied yet, they needed every detail of Barney’s movements on the night of the murder.

After he’d dumped Viola’s body, Mapes said he drove home and hid the hammer in the wall of his garage. He put coveralls over his bloodstained jeans and went into the house to talk to his daughter, Lilly, and make a cup of coffee.

He said that he finished his coffee and then went back out to the garage to clean up the car. He cut out a piece of the bloody floor mat and scraped the bare metal with a screwdriver. Just to be sure there wasn’t any blood remaining he poured paint thinner on the car floor and ignited it. He hid every piece of incriminating evidence he could find with the hammer in the wall of the garage.

The county grand jury indicted Barney Lee Mapes for the hammer murder of his estranged wife, Viola. At his arraignment, Barney pleaded not guilty and not guilty by reason of insanity. Dep. Dist. Atty. Simon L. Rose indicated that the state would ask for the death penalty.

Viola Mapes

Viola Mapes [Photo courtesy of USC Digital Archive]

While Barney made his way through the criminal justice system, Viola’s battered body remained unclaimed. Her father, W.F. Magard of Ekley, Oklahoma, told the county authorities that he was unable to claim the body; and Barney refused to claim it.

As Barney had revealed the events of the murder night to investigators he had also started to relate some of the abuses he said he had suffered at the hands of his wife for the last five years of their marriage. He finished with: “she drove me to it.” How many guys have uttered those words before Barney?  But as it turned out, there may have been substance to Barney’s claim that Viola drove him to murder after all.

Lilly Mapes, 11, told an eyebrow raiser of a story that took place a few days before Viola disappeared. According to Lilly, her mother gave her a small revolver and told her to always keep it in her purse! Who gives an eleven year old a revolver? And what was Viola’s reason?  She supposedly told Lilly:

“If your Daddy tries to take you away (from the apartment Viola shared with her boyfriend, Charles French) you use the gun.”

Lilly was an obedient kid, she said she carried the gun to school in her purse for two days before she returned it to her mother. She gave the gun back to Viola and said:

“I can’t shoot Daddy — I love him too much.”

Lilly also testified that Viola had stated that she intended to kill Barney; and once told the little girl that:

“if she got rid of my father she would have us kids and the house, too.”

Viola seemed to have made regular threats against Barney’s life in front of all of their children, not just Lilly, because Barney Jr., 14, testified that when his mother moved out of the family home (at Barney’s insistence) she said to her husband:

“Some day I’ll get even with you and kill you.”

Barney was beginning to seem less like a cold-blooded killer and more like an abused spouse. And it wasn’t only his kids who were coming to his defense — friends and neighbors testified that Barney was an even tempered guy who was only interested in taking care of his family. Viola, on the other hand, was characterized as a woman with a violent temper who had many times expressed a wish to kill Barney.

Viola's remains. [Photo courtesy of USC Digital Archive]

Viola’s remains. [Photo courtesy of USC Digital Archive]

Even a local waitress, Mary Grechowsky, had nothing but nice things to say about Barney. She told of serving Viola and Barney a few months prior to the murder and recalled that Mapes had two soft drinks while Viola drank two highballs. Barney wanted Viola to leave with him and go home to the kids, but she wouldn’t budge. After Barney left the cafe, Mary asked why the couple had argued. Viola told her:

“Barney just went and bought a Chevy but Frenchie (Charles French, Viola’s boyfriend) wanted him to buy a Ford.”

Huh? What’s it to the boyfriend what kind of a car the soon-to-be-ex buys?

Viola continued:

“If Barney follows us this time, it will be his last time.” And

she opened her purse and showed the waitress a revolver.

The waitress thought Viola was kidding.

When it was Barney’s turn to take the stand he spoke about his hardscrabble childhood in Oklahoma — he’d had to leave school in the third grade to help support 12 brothers and sisters.

When his attorney asked Barney if his marriage to Viola had been a happy one all he could say was:

“Well, I was happy.”

From Barney’s testimony it appeared that his wife wasn’t happy at all. In fact it sounded like she was restless and unfaithful. Barney said that Viola got a war plant job during the conflict and many times she wasn’t working when she was supposed to be on the job.

When she was at home she would sometimes be violent and abusive. Barney testified that:

“One time she told me, ‘I’ll get you out of the way if I have to cut your heart out.”

“She got a long-bladed butcher knife and came after me. I have some scars on my right hand where I took the knife away from her.”

Mapes told of another incident when Viola pulled a knife on him:

“…I was standing on a ladder painting the ceiling, she threw a butcher knife and stuck me in the right leg.”

Barney pulled up his trouser leg and showed the courtroom the scar.

Mapes’ testimony about Viola’s abuse must have been difficult for the jurors to process — in 1951 they would not have been prepared for battered husband syndrome. In fact even in the 21st century the syndrome is controversial, some people consider it to be a myth. It’s impossible for me to believe that only men are capable of physical or mental cruelty.

Ultimately the jury believed Barney had acted in self-defense when he killed his estranged wife, Viola, on the night of June 4, 1951.

Barney acquitted. [Photo courtesy of USC Digital Archive]

Barney acquitted. [Photo courtesy of USC Digital Archive]

Upon hearing the verdict, Barney collapsed sobbing, body shaking, into the arms of his attorney, Robert Ford.

When they heard their father acquitted, the three Mapes’ children hugged each other and rose from their seats crying out in relief. A newspaper photo shows Barney, Barney Jr., Lilly, and Willie reunited.

I hope that they went on to be happy.

The Corpse in the Canyon

Topanga Canyon [Photo courtesy USC Digital Archive]

Topanga Canyon [Photo courtesy USC Digital Archive]

On a beautiful mid-June day in 1951, Mr. and Mrs. Ray Goozey of Northridge were out for a drive in Topanga Canyon when they decided to pull over about half a mile west of the summit to enjoy the spectacular view.

Mr. & Mrs. Goozey [Photo courtesy of USC Digital Archive]

Mr. & Mrs. Goozey [Photo courtesy of USC Digital Archive]

The couple was taking in the scenery when they spotted something in the heavy underbrush about a dozen feet from the roadway. Upon investigation, the Goozeys realized that they had discovered a badly decomposed human body. The body was doubled over, as if it had been thrown down the embankment. The shaken couple rushed back down the canyon and phoned police.

Deputy Coroner Logan Lawson and his assistant, Lee Malins, used ropes to retrieve the body from the hillside. They assumed the corpse was that of a woman because it was dressed in a bolero skirt and blouse. The remains were conveyed to the morgue for examination and identification.

Viola's remains. [Photo courtesy of USC Digital Archives]

Viola’s remains. [Photo courtesy of USC Digital Archives]

The corpse was so badly decomposed that it had to be “especially treated with chemicals” before it could be thoroughly examined. Within a matter of hours the woman was identified as Viola Vivon Mapes. The thirty-five year old woman had been reported missing a couple of weeks earlier by her live-in boyfriend, Charles French.

Barney Mapes with Det. Ortiz and D.A. Roll [Photo courtesy of USC Digital Archive]

Barney Mapes with Det. Ortiz and D.A. Roll [Photo courtesy of USC Digital Archive]

Viola’s estranged husband, Barney Lee Mapes, a 40-year old carpetner and cement finisher, was taken to the Valley police station for questioning immediately following the ID of the Topanga Canyon corpse as that of his wife.

viola identAs the chief autopsy surgeon, Dr. Frederick D. Newbarr, was attempting to determine Viola’s cause of death — Barney was being interrogated by the cops.

Barney’s story was that he’d last seen Viola on the evening of June 4th when she came to the house he shared with their two sons (their daughter lived with Viola and her boyfriend). Viola had turned up to collect $400 that she felt was her interest in an automobile she and Barney had purchased together. 

According to Barney, at 9 p.m. he and Viola left his place to go to a market. While they were alone in the car he said he gave her the money she’d requested.  Then, he said, she asked to borrow the car for a few minutes to see someone named Jim to get a notarized receipt for the money, and to have her share of the family home deeded to the children.

Barney said he waited around for about 20 minutes before deciding that Viola wasn’t going to return — he then started to walk home. En route he said he found the car parked at a curb with the keys in the ignition. He didn’t see Viola, so he drove the car home and arrived shortly before midnight. 

Mapes' car. [Photo courtesy of USC Digital Archive]

Mapes’ car. [Photo courtesy of USC Digital Archive]

The cops weren’t entirely satisfied with Barney’s explanation, which seemed to have more than a few inconsistencies and unlikely occurences.  They asked him about a missing portion of the floor mat between the front and back seats of the car.  Barney had an answer; it just wasn’t very good.  He said that he’d noticed smoke in the car and found the floor mat smoldering.  He said it had caught fire as the result of a short in a heater located under the front seat.  The cops seized remnants of the burned floor mat and they also took a wire brush that had been used to scrape the floor beneath the mat. The mat and the brush bore evidence of blood.

Barney explained the blood by saying that he’d been out hunting a year earlier and had brought home a deer; however, his older son said that as far as he knew his dad had never bagged a deer.

Viola was a drill press operator, and one of her co-workers, Amy Goss, told Det. Sgts. Al Ortiz and C.J. Stewart of the Valley Division that Viola had been spitting blood at work on the day before she vanished and said that Barney had beaten her.  She told Amy that she was afraid of Barney.  Viola also shared her plans for the $400 she was going to collect from Barney: new furniture for the place she shared with French, and tonsillectomoies for herself and her daughter, Lilly.

When questioned the Mapes’ kids said they hadn’t been worried about the sudden disappearance of their mother, delcaring she frequently “went away for a few days, sometimes a week.”

Barney Jr., William, Lilly and Trigger.  [Photo courtesy of USC Digital Archive]

Barney Jr., William, Lilly and Trigger. [Photo courtesy of USC Digital Archive]

So far the cops had only established that Barney’s whereabouts on the night of his wife’s disappearance were suspect, and that Viola hadn’t exactly been mother of the year.

Things changed as soon as Barney failed a lie detector test — he was booked on suspicion of murder. He was steadfast in his denial:  “I didn’t do it”, he asserted. But circumstantial evidence against Barney was beginning to pile up and detectives found a pair of blood stained white carpenter’s overalls hanging in Mapes’ garage, and a cloth glove saturated with blood was in a pocket of the overalls.

When asked if he’d murdered Viola, Barney said that he’d leave it up to the courts to decide. He did have a few things to say about Viola.

“She hadn’t been a devoted wife.” he said, and “She neglected the kids.  I hadn’t gotten along with her and I think she was playing around.”

Playing around?  Barney must have known that Viola and their young daughter were living with Charles French.  I’d say that cohabitating with another man would be blatant evidence of playing around, wouldn’t you?

mapes confesses

On the day after what would have been the couple’s 17th wedding anniversay, and only 39 hours after the murder investigation had begun, Barney Lee Mapes confessed to Viola’s murder.

 NEXT TIME: Barney’s trial and some surprising revelations.