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.
Today’s feature is THE DARK MIRROR , directed by Robert Siodmak and starring Olivia De Havilland and Lew Ayres.
Enjoy the movie!
A woman suspected of murdering her doctor boyfriend has an identical twin sister. When both twins have an alibi for the night of the murder, a psychiatrist is called in to assist a detective in solving the case. Through a series of tests, he discovers which twin actually committed the crime and in the course of his investigation he falls in love with the normal twin.
Incorporated in 1913, San Marino is a quiet, residential-only enclave catering to people with money; lots of money. It is unthinkable, not to mention in poor taste, for a resident to die of unnatural causes. But on December 31, 1949, the body of a 39-year-old socialite, and well-known party girl, Joy McLaughlin, was found in the lush bedroom of her San Marino rental home. A gunshot wound to her chest. The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department sent detectives Herman Leaf and Garner Brown to investigate.
When Brown and Leaf arrived at McLaughlin’s Spanish-style bungalow at 2002 Oakdale Street they found the attractive blonde artfully sprawled on a blood-spattered Oriental rug in her bedroom next to her lace canopied bed. If they hadn’t known better, the detectives may have thought that they were looking at a scene from a film noir. The deceased was wearing a maroon off-the-shoulder blouse, blue skirt, and black peep-toed pumps. Her jewelry comprised a simple gold bracelet and gold earrings. A .38 revolver lay near her right hand.
As the detectives scanned the frilly bedroom for clues, they noticed a framed pastel portrait of McLaughlin. The portrait appeared to be from the 1930s. In it, McLaughlin had long blonde hair, kohl-rimmed eyes, and vaguely resembled actress Mary Astor, if she was a blonde. A bullet broke the glass in the portrait. The shattered glass was another film noir touch in the real-life death scene.
What had Joy’s life been like in the years since the completion of the portrait? And why had she died? In order to better understand Joy’s death, detectives would have to examine her past.
According to some records, Joy was born in Denver as Joy McLaughlin on September 22, 1910, or 1911 in Memphis, Texas. By the 1930 census, Joy lived with her widowed mother, Daisy, and her sisters, May, Dorothy, Novella, Ysleta, and Thelma, in a home on Larrabee Street in Hollywood. Joy was 19 at the time of the census, and was in a relationship with automobile (Cadillac and LaSalle) and radio (KHJ) magnate Don Lee. The older man, twice divorced, had been seeing Joy since she was sixteen.
Joy believed she and Don would eventually marry, but he met another age-inappropriate woman, twenty-four-year-old Geraldine May Jeffers Timmons, and dropped Joy like a burning coal. Don and Geraldine dated for only a few months before being married in Agua Caliente, Mexico.
Disappointed and angry, Joy filed a breach of promise lawsuit, aka a “heart balm” suit in 1933 against her former lover in the amount of $500,000. To put it in perspective, $500,000 then is equivalent to $11 million dollars today. Certainly enough cash to soothe a broken heart. Following a brief court battle, Joy walked away with $11,500. Not what she hoped for, but not chump change—it had the same buying power as $266k has today. You could stretch that sum a long way during the Great Depression.
For the next several years, Joy traveled. She sailed through the Panama Canal, she visited Hawaii, and she spent time at the resort in Agua Caliente, Baja California, Mexico. She even found time to marry a man named Robert Stark; but the marriage ended in divorce.
During years before her death, Joy met an oil millionaire, John A. Smith. John was married but when asked about it he said: “I’m not working at it.” During their investigation of Joy’s death, Sheriff’s Department detectives discovered John had been with Joy in the hours prior to her death.
Had John killed her? Not according to his testimony at the coroner’s inquest. John described an evening of drinking (Joy’s blood alcohol registered.021 at her autopsy) and dancing. The couple, accompanied by Fern Graves, a friend of Joy’s, partied at the Jonathan Club and the Zebra Room of the Town House.
John said: “Joy wanted to dance. She called the orchestra leader over and arranged for some music. I bought the orchestra a drink. We danced and drank until the bar closed.” At 2 a.m. Joy, Fern, and John accepted the invitation of bar acquaintance named George to have a nightcap in his room at the Biltmore Hotel. The party continued until 8 a.m. It incensed Joy when John suggested they call it a night. She bolted from George’s hotel room, and John had to retrieve her.
Joy and John finally made it back to her home. Between sobs, John testified Joy became melancholy, and occasionally belligerent, when she drank. He followed her into her bedroom, where she undressed. He said that she turned to him and said, “You can get out.” John said he knew better than to cross her when she was in a mood, so he left the house. As he got to his car, he thought he heard a gunshot. “I ran back into the house. Joy was sitting on the floor…”
John fell apart on the stand, and it took him several moments to regain control and continue his testimony. “She (Joy) was sitting at the foot of the bed, sort of half sprawled and leaning against the bed. I saw the whole scene in an instant. Her hand was out, and a gun was lying not over three feet from her body. I grabbed it.”
“I said, ‘My God, what have you done?’” Joy was beyond answering. John picked up the weapon and it went off. It scared him half to death. Joy remained quiet. When John tried to lift her, he felt blood ooze through his left hand. “I listened for life. In my judgment, she was dead.”
He panicked. He left without calling a doctor because he believed Joy was dead. He then drove through a thick fog to the Wilmington home of two of Joy’s sisters, Thelma, and Ysleta. When they opened the door, they found John wringing his hands and crying.
When Joy’s sister Ysleta was called to testify at the inquest, she revealed it was she who gave Joy the weapon that killed her. Friends described Joy as a person who felt things keenly; sensitive and sympathetic to other people’s problems.
Upon hearing from all the witnesses, the coroner’s jury concluded Joy had discharged the .38 firearm into her chest, just one inch from her breast.
There appeared to be no single event which caused Joy to take her own life. Perhaps her suicide was the culmination of a life of unfulfilled dreams.
NOTES: This is another great story I owe to Mike Fratantoni–historian par excellence. It is also an encore post from 2017.
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. Today’s feature is OUTSIDE THE WALL  starring Richard Basehart and Marilyn Maxwell.
One advertising poster for this film read, “All I know about dames I heard in prison … now I can find out for myself!”
This should be interesting.
Enjoy the movie!
At the Cherry Hill Prison in Philadelphia, Larry Nelson is summoned by the warden, who informs him that he has been granted a pardon. Larry, who was sentenced to prison at age fourteen for beating a brutal reformatory guard to death, has been incarcerated for fifteen years. On his own for the first time as an adult, Larry gets drunk with a woman who tries to steal his wallet. Later, Larry gets a job washing dishes. Although the waitress is interested in Larry, he has been soured by his first experience with a woman and avoids her. One night, the restaurant is held up, and Larry stops the robbery. Disturbed by his experiences, Larry decides to seek the peace of the country.
About 2:30 a.m., on February 1, 1931, after a night of nightclubbing, twenty-four-year-old Julia Tapia and several of her girlfriends stopped at Alfonso’s Café at Temple and Figueroa for a bite to eat. Julia wanted to sober up before leaving on a quick turn-around trip north.
A friend of hers, Harvey Hicks, missed his train to Tehachapi, about one hundred miles north of Los Angeles. She had nothing better to do, so she said she would drive him there. She had no desire to make the return trip by herself. She would have asked her girlfriends to accompany her, but they were “family girls,” not the type to take a trip on the spur-of-the-moment.
Julia didn’t scoff at family girls, but she knew she wasn’t one herself. She was married, but her husband left for Mexico five months earlier, and had not returned. She was recently “vagged,” which is a vagrancy charge, usually prostitution. She spent ten days in the county jail rather than pay a $50 fine.
She scanned the café for another girl, not the family type, who might take the Tehachapi jaunt with her. She spotted Adeline Ortega. Julia and Adeline weren’t close, but they’d seen each other around, and had chatted before at Alfonso’s. Adeline had recently been “vagged,” too. Julia persuaded her to come along for the ride. They would have lots to talk about on the way home.
Adeline made only one request. She wanted her friend Manuel to join them. Julia didn’t object; what the hell, the more the merrier. Four young people in a car, a pint and a half of illegal booze, and a few hours on a dark highway–it would be a miracle if trouble didn’t find them. Miracles never happened to Julia.
The trip to Tehachapi was uneventful. They took Harvey to the home of a friend of his, and spent about thirty minutes passing a bottle of whiskey around. When it came time to leave, Manuel said he was exhausted. He stretched out on the back seat of Julia’s car and nodded off. Julia drove while Adeline kept her company. A little later, Adeline got sleepy and switched places with Manuel.
Manuel was the perfect passenger until he started pestering Julia to let him drive. She refused. The two had words, and Manuel tried to throw the car out of gear and grab the steering wheel. Julia, accustomed to dealing with men who would not take no for an answer, told Manuel to cut the crap or she would put him out on the highway. Manuel got belligerent and declared he’d leave the car willingly.
After Manuel got out, Julia drove her car, a 1930 Chevrolet, in low gear down the road. She was a softer touch than she seemed. She would give Manuel another chance to behave. But minutes after he got out of her car, she saw a light-colored car, with three guys in it, pick him up. The car caught up with Julia; Adeline still slept in the backseat. When the car pulled up alongside her, Manuel shouted he left his overcoat and hat behind and wanted to retrieve them. Julia reached over to the passenger’s side and grabbed his belongings. She threw them out of the car at him.
Manuel got angry. He jumped onto the running board of her car. He was on the driver’s side, screaming abuse at her. Then, he reached over and pulled her hair and smacked her hard on the jaw. She noticed Harvey had left his .38 revolver stuck in the seat cushion. She grabbed the gun and shot Manuel right above his heart. He fell from the running board and tumbled to the pavement.
Julia braked the car to a stop and ran over to him. He was lying in a pool of blood, wheezing. He was about two heartbeats away from death. She dragged him to the side of the road. The car that Manuel had hitched a ride on sped off into the night. Seconds later, another car with three men in it pulled up to see what was going on. In the car were Dean Markham and his buddies, Joe Frigon, and Bob Tittle. The trio were rabbit hunting in Mojave, and headed back to L.A.
Markham got out of the car, and walked over to speak with Julia. On his way over to talk to the distraught woman, he noticed a pool of dark-colored liquid, and Manuel on the pavement. He stepped wide.
Markham’s car had overheated. They left Julia and Adeline behind, and took Julia’s car to fetch help in nearby Lancaster. They arrived at a hotel and asked the clerk where to find a cop. The clerk pointed at a pool hall down the street. He suggested they would find an officer there. Sure enough, just as the clerk said, Markham and his buddies found an officer shooting pool.
Markham, et al., piled into Julia’s car, and returned to the scene. They could hear the siren wailing on the police car ahead of them as they sped down the highway.
Markham, his friends, and the officer, pulled up to the scene. Julia and Adeline stood in the road, shell-shocked. No wonder. The local undertaker beat the cop to the scene. He loaded Manuel’s body into his hearse and drove it away.
In the days following Manuel’s death, his business partner asked about $500 (equivalent to $10,500.00 in 2023 U.S. dollars) Manuel carried with him. He was supposed to have deposited it. The morgue property slip listed the dead man’s belongings. No mention of money.
They indicted Julia for Manuel’s murder on April 27, 1931. The case was called for trial in Department 27 of Superior Court; Judge Walton J. Wood presiding, Deputy District Attorney Barnes representing the People, and S .S. Hahn representing the defendant. The Deputy D.A. who prepared the case against Julia, was unavailable. Barnes requested a continuance. Judge Wood denied the motion and ordered Barnes to proceed with the trial.
At the conclusion of the state’s case, prior to being submitted to the jury, S. S. Hahn moved for an instructed verdict. The judge agreed with Hahn that all the evidence showed Julia shot Manuel in self-defense.
Julia left the court a free woman. Was she $500 richer? We’ll never know.
NOTE: This is an encore post from December 2012. This is one of the first posts I wrote for the blog. As I did then, I want to thank my crime buddy, Mike Fratantoni, curator of the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Museum. He told me this story because he knows I have a weakness for tales about bad girls, and cars with running boards.
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. Today’s feature is I WAS A SHOPLIFTER! starring Scott Brady, Mona Freeman, Anthony Curtis (yep, Tony Curtis), and Rock Hudson.
Shoplifting seems hardly to raise an eyebrow these days, but in 1950 it appears to have been a gateway crime. Today, shoplifting, tomorrow, who knows?
I’ve never seen this one before either, so I’ll be watching with you.
Enjoy the movie!
In a large California department store, detectives spot attractive young kleptomaniac Faye Burton. Jeff Andrews, another shopper, warns Faye that she is being watched, but she pretends not to understand him and continues her thefts. Shortly afterward, she is apprehended by the detectives, and moments later, Jeff is also taken into custody for shoplifting. Faye, who is a judge’s daughter, swears that she will not steal again, and is released after she signs a confession. Before she leaves, the officials warn her that she will go to prison if she is caught stealing again.
Two weeks after Sheriff’s deputies shot James Monroe Rudolph, the Green Scarf Bandit, he was on the mend in the prison ward of General Hospital. Doctors said Rudolph was weak. Evidently, he was strong enough to confess to scores of robberies, burglaries, assaults, and kidnappings. Deputy District Attorney Howard Hurd and a couple of Sheriff’s deputies, including one of my favorites from the era, Detective Sergeant Ned Lovretovich, were on hand to witness the statements made by Monroe.
Deputies placed Rudolph in custody following a call from eight-year-old Jimmy Jones. While Rudolph kidnapped his parents at gunpoint, Jimmy feigned sleep. As soon as it was safe, he called the sheriff’s department. Jimmy’s call resulted in the capture of the Green Scarf Bandit. For his courage, Sheriff Eugene Biscailuz had awarded the boy a miniature Sheriff’s badge.
The authorities were keen to get Rudolph in front of a judge, but his physical condition delayed the proceedings. Another complication was there was so much stolen loot in the Rudolph home in Placerville that it would take time for it to be sorted out, put on trucks, and placed into evidence. Cops estimated the worth of the stolen goods to be about $60,000 [$537,851.00 in current U.S. dollars].
On January 30th, James Monroe Rudolph, clad in his prison ward jammies, sufficiently healed from his multiple gunshot wounds, appeared for arraignment before Municipal Judge F. Ray Rennett.
In the complaint, sworn to by Deputy Sheriff Dave Terry, and issued by the Deputy D.A., Rudolph found himself charged with five counts of robbery, four of attempted robbery, nine of kidnapping and two of false imprisonment. Four of the robberies involved food markets from which Rudolph had stolen thousands of dollars in cash.
One robbery was especially audacious. Just a few days prior to the kidnapping of B.G. Jones and his wife, the Green Scarf Bandit used the same M.O. to rob a La Crescenta supermarket manager and his wife twice in one day!
Alfred W. Boegler and his wife Irene awakened by a soft noise at about midnight, saw a man in a green scarf mask climb through their bedroom window. Holding a pistol to the couple, the bandit politely turned his head as Irene changed from her nightgown into street clothes so she could accompany her husband and the crook to the Shopping Bag Market at 3100 Foothill Blvd in La Crescenta.
Alfred related to investigators a conversation he had with the masked intruder. “When we asked him what was to be done about our two sleeping children, he said that it was too cold to take children outdoors–and that they might get injured if there was a night watchman who started any shooting. He said if we co-operated on driving him to the store and opening the safe, we would be safely back home within 30 minutes.”
He may have been a gun wielding thug, but he wasn’t indifferent to the comfort and safety of young children. As the couple’s two daughters, Barbara (4) and Karen (18 months) slept, Boegler drove his wife and the robber to the market. Once they arrived at the store, the gunman used Irene as a hostage while Alfred went into the store with a passkey and turned off the burglar alarm. All the while, the gunman apologized, saying that his boss was “pretty tough” and he’d face dire consequences if the job didn’t go off perfectly.
After looting two safes at the market, the bandit let the Boeglers out of their car at the corner of Altura Street and Pennsylvania Avenue. They phoned the Montrose Sheriff’s station (the same station young Jimmy Jones called a few days later) and walked the short distance to their home. They collected their two kids and went to the home of Boegler’s brother, William.
When the Boeglers returned to their own home, a mere six hours after being taken from their warm bed, they were met by the green scarfed gunman who was waiting patiently for them in the kitchen.
“You double-crossed me. My boss doesn’t like that. We missed one safe.”
The man then kidnapped the Boeglers for a second time, emptied a third safe, and fled.
Rudolph may have thought of himself only as a bandit, but two of the kidnapping charges involved bodily harm, which in California, because of the Little Lindbergh Law, could send him to the gas chamber.
Following the kidnapping and murder of Charles Lindbergh, Jr. on March 1, 1932, Congress adopted the Federal Kidnapping Act (aka Lindbergh Law), a law which allowed the feds to step in once kidnappers had crossed state lines with their victim. There were several states, California among them, that implemented their own versions of the law which applied in cases of kidnapping when victims were not transported across state lines; hence Little Lindbergh. California’s Little Lindbergh statute made kidnapping with bodily harm a crime eligible for the death penalty.
In 1951, when the Green Scarf Bandit was busted, the Red-Light Bandit (Caryl Chessman) was already on California’s death row for kidnapping—convicted under the Little Lindbergh law. Knowing that another bandit was sitting on death row may have provided the motivation for Rudolph to plead guilty to three felony charges: armed robbery, kidnapping for purpose of robbery, and false imprisonment. With his plea, Rudolph evaded the death penalty. For his misdeeds, they sentenced him to a term of five years to life.
The Green Scarf Bandit had no intention of serving his full sentence. About seven months after arriving at Folsom Prison, Rudolph, and his cell mate, Claude Newton, tried to break out.
They used an age-old method to fool the guards. They stuffed their overalls with paper and placed decoys in their bunks. Newton even braided a rope out of bed sheets and put a hook on the end so they could scale the wall. As they waited for the right moment to flee, the guards found them.
Warden Robert A. Heinze had the last word on the attempted escape.
“Everything was set to go on the escape, but it didn’t work.”