The Tinseltown Murder Of Thelma Todd
This. Week on BuzzFeed unsolved, we look into the death of 20s, and 30s Hollywood starlet Thelma, Todd another, murder in her own backyard, oh that's, some gravitas there, it's, just sad, Hollywood, was just silent, films that a lot of silent slapstick, and in a lot of murder, in murder can going on behind the city was figuring, itself out you know do we want to be a rosy town we want to be a murder town trying, to figure it out let's, do it all 20s. And 30s crime you got the old 20s and 30s mustache on your face shall, we jump into the case file let's do it let's get into it in. 1906. Thelma, Ellis Todd was, born in Lawrence Massachusetts, she. Trained to become a schoolteacher while, doing some modeling on the side and in 1925. Won, the title of Miss Massachusetts. After. Her win Paramount. Pictures signed. Todd to a one-year, contract that. Set her Hollywood career in motion, over the next decade Todd, made a name for herself as a talented, comedic actress, playing, leads and films with the Marx Brothers Laurel, and Hardy and zasu. Pitts, horizon. Hollywood however was no walk in the park, one, of Todd's early contracts, involved a clause that specified. Her weight at the time of signing, 122. Pounds and that if she gained more than three or lost more than six pounds from, that mark the contract, could be terminated, Hollywood's. Concern with her weight resulted, in Todd becoming addicted, to diet pills not, good it's, bad don't do it don't just. Body. Positivity. I, got. It out there hey, you nailed it hey love your body. Every. Day wake. Up smile that's, right wink. At yourself in the mirror grow moustache of you gotta between, 1932. And 1934. Todd was married to agent, Pat de Cicco a union, which could hardly be described, as happy, when, Todd filed for divorce she cited, the reason as quote Grievous, mental and physical suffering, and. Todd also found herself fighting against typical Hollywood casting. Couch situations. Even at the threat of being blacklisted, she. Refused to entertain, producers. At parties, and was outspoken. About her experiences. Nevertheless. Todd. Was known as a fun-loving party, girl extremely, popular in the LA social circuit carrying, on multiple, love affairs with men and often. Overheard ordering her signature, drink three, fingers of rye three fingers of right that's a lonely moly, I drink three fingers Araya I'm on the roof, fiddling. Sure. This. Work context. Yeah. That's now whiskey you know I like whiskey but I'm not drinking three fingers of rye I mean I'm not drinking three fingers around I feel like you are I'm drinking ten fingers baby every time we go, out to a bar rides, like a. Pint. Glass whole of whiskey yeah. That's a hell of a signature drink, yeah. You know what that's, good bourbon she was known for elevating, the typical, dumb, blonde stereotype in, her films, often, playing independent. Women rare, in early Hollywood shorts, at the time wary. About being used in films simply for her looks, Todd once said in an interview quote, building, on beauty seems, to me the worst thing any, girl can do end quote, seems. Like a cool lady I would have liked a party with her and maybe I'm have one of her signature actually just realizing, that this sucks because this episode's about her so this cool lady is uh yeah. It's gonna end not well forgot forgot, what we were doing her got what show we were I've recalled and no one was that you know I'll say this about this lady she was obviously a beautiful woman did not want to rest on that as evidenced, by what I just said but also she was able to do things her way without getting blacklisted.
Which Is also admirable, because sometimes, especially back then and even now when, you were a woman it would be taken out on you and it didn't happen for her so that's actually pretty goddamn cool acting was not Todd's, only pursuit, in 1934. Tata, opened the successful, restaurant, Thelma Todd's sidewalk, cafe, on the Pacific, Coast Highway her, business partners in the venture were director and producer Rowland, West with whom Todd had been having an on-again off-again affair, for the past three years and silent. Film actress dual Carmen who was also role in West's wife Faye a little love triangle. And. Then they thought let's open up a restaurant. I smell. A sitcom, regardless, of what they were doing there was it was there they were free lovin business, pleasure, oh. You. Know mix them together no, I would like to see you never mix those together ever again I mean that's what they were doing that's what they could do that's what you should never do in front of me you imagine going to that restaurant be like oh I'd. Like a cheeseburger and they'd be like we'll get that to you in a sec after we finish doing it it's wiping sweat, I forgot, oh. Sorry. A little extra sauce on this. Todd. Kept an apartment, above the cafe as did, the West Carmen's, with only a single drawing room separating, the units in a detail that will come into play later Westin. Carmen also shared a house about 500. Yards from the cafe on. Saturday, December 14th. 1935. Todd, attended, a party thrown into her honor at Cafe Trocadero, a popular. Nightclub on Hollywood's, Sunset Strip. Attendees. Said Todd seemed to be having a great time at the party sipping, brandy and champagne, and at one point betting, some friends a free dinner that they wouldn't visit her restaurants the next day I love free food I don't. Taste. Very free every time yeah and, that's the best I need free, food often well never mind I don't want to get into it I love. Free food Roland. West had asked Todd to be home by 2:00 a.m. and, at 1:50, a.m. Todd. Asked, famous, beater manager, Sid Grauman to call West and inform, him she'd be leaving soon, regardless. Todd, stayed at the party until around 3:15. A.m., Todd's chauffeur, Ernest, Peters dropped, the starlet off at the roadside cafe, sometime, between 3:00 a.m. and 4:00 20, a.m., Sunday. The friends Todd had bet wouldn't show up came, to collect their free dinners though, no one had seen Todd at the restaurant, the friends nevertheless enjoyed.
A Comped meal the, next day December, 16th. Todd's Maine may Whitehead began, her morning routine which, included, getting Todd's Lincoln, Phaeton ready from Roland West's home and, bringing it down to Todd at the apartment, above the cafe when. Whitehead opened the garage she, found the body of, belitung, slumped. Over the steering wheel with, a broken, nose and two cracked ribs, Todd's, obituary. In the LA Times described, the scene in graphic, detail, coagulated. Blood mark, the screen comedians, features, and stained, her mob and silver evening gown and her expensive, mink coat when she was found her blonde locks pathetically. Awry in the front seat of her automobile, in the garage of Roland West oh yeah, yeah this, is a bummer I'm she. Seemed like I was, having fun with her in her honor maybe we could try and figure out what happened to her I mean you do a fun little screaming, little, marathon or we could try and figure out what happened to her that's what we're here to do that's, where Laura were behind the desk that's right, with more than a day unaccounted, for between, when she was last seen alive and, first seen dead it's, time to dive into theories, about what happened, to Delma Todd our. First theory is the official grand jury verdict, of her death that, Valmet, on didin, of accidental. Carbon monoxide, poisoning it, was a cold evening in the middle of December her, apartment, was near the ocean and Todd, was wearing a lightweight gown, though, she also had a mink coat it's. Assumed that upon arriving home early Sunday morning Todd, was locked out of the building her apartment, was in and went, to the garage of West's house where, she got into and turned on the car to stay warm, making, the fatal mistake of leaving the engine running, with the garage door shut I mean, we're going to get to the obvious. Yes. Which, is that generally. Carbon, monoxide, poisoning doesn't, result in broken nails you know yeah yeah you know that is a good point perhaps, you're not the, idiot I figure you. May. Be you do have a detective, brain I do a very observant, big brain big head big hair yeah all three in tandem you're the triad of detectives, my, brain is large as. Many, synapses I could already hear people typing, away and making that into a gift the County autopsy, surgeon dr., AF Wagner, fixed Todd's time of death about 5:00 a.m. Sunday, morning the New York Times quoted dr., Wagner as saying quote, autopsy, showed monoxide, poison to the extent of 70%. Of total saturation in, her blood there, may have been other contributing, causes but, that definitely, was, the major factor, end quote. It's, interesting dr. Wagner mentions how there may have been other contributing, causes as there are some notable details, that may point away from an accident, for, instance while it's possible Todd's, nose could have broken as she slumped unconscious. Onto the steering wheel it is harder to say how Todd sustained, two cracked ribs trying, to entertain the idea that she. Could have somehow, done that herself, it seems tricky, maybe. She could have fallen outside somewhere. And then was like oh no my mind injured, let. Me take a seat. In the car oh it's chilly I'll turn the car on I mean was she potentially. Inebriation, at this point yeah it seems far-fetched however, I try to figure it it doesn't work I'm not sold now by Ann Hill Todd, was also known for her interest, in cars and there was apparently a media, campaign informing. The public about carbon, monoxide poisoning it, seems highly likely Todd. Would have known the dangers of running a car in a closed garage there's. Also the question of how Todd wound up in the garage in the first place. Todd would have had to trek up the hill from her apartment to roll in West's garage, her. Shoes however, were not consistent, with having walked 500, yards on uneven ground in the damp night, additionally. When her body was found her hair was still neatly styled, for the party at the Trocadero not. As tousled, as one would expect after, walking through the reportedly, windy, evening air this.
Is What I meant about her, not maybe taking a tumble because, she, had heels on the hill that she would have to walk up to get to the garage was, substantial, yeah, no dirt on her shoes nothing. On her down that would suggest a fall her hair stairs still styled it was a windy night seems. Much more consistent, that she was, placed in the car she goes to getting, there herself yes especially in a drunken stupor I know also though you know sometimes, there you, know the hair back then very. Firm, firm. Yes. Yes. Firm. And look I've when. I've been drunk at the end of a night I've, done some funny, things to get into like my bedroom if I forgot my key but even still don't, think I would be capable of doing that while still looking intact. For the moment you make strange decision I one, night I was very cold I slept in my trunk one night I was very cold and I slept outside the front door like a little dog like a little dog it was pretty funny because I couldn't get in well we've slept places. And. I'll tell you what my hair was very tousled, West himself seemed, to think Todd's actions, were a bit suspicious. Apparently. Although Todd, had been locked out of her apartment before, she, had never walked to the garage or attempted, to sleep in her car West, testified, that Todd was fully aware she could have woken him up to gain entry, even, citing an example, of one case when Todd had broken a window to gain his attention maybe. I could. See this if you had messed up while drunk once before you don't want to do it again yeah like oh what a racket I made last time Roland. Was awful, sore about it yeah. No no window breaking this time I'll go in the garage instead cozy. Up in a car something that young Shane Maday even did yeah I did not turn on the engine I did not nor. Did you have broken ribs as far as I know no broken ribs never broken a bone big bones hard, to break no. Unless. He's bluffing, well. We don't know you know rip you oh yeah you guys better look into this. Look. Over there maybe what. About that guy I, don't. Know I've never been accused of murder before yet perhaps. No, one was more confounded, to hear Todd had died early Sunday morning than, one mrs., Martha Ford Ford, was, throwing a party at her home in Laurel Canyon and reported, to police that she received a phone call from Todd on Sunday, afternoon, saying. She was on her way with a surprise guess Ford. Even claimed Todd told her quote I went, to a party last night and I'm still in my evening clothes do, you mind, end quote. Ford, put the call around 4:00 p.m. around, 11 hours after the coroner paid the time of Todd's, for, told the New York Times quote, I've known Todd for years and I couldn't be mistaken and quote and that she was quote positive.
Beyond All question and quote that it was Todd on the phone okay. Okay, all. Right plot thickens yes thick something. That didn't occur to me is that the coroner, or the LAPD. Come on dirty. Could be dirty yeah or I've, seen LA Confidential inks. In Chinatown, she, could be lying telling, a little fib well I got more details on her show but back then people were known to throw themselves into, controversy, just for the notoriety for, that simplicity yes, for the ink, mm-hmm. As, somebody who's throwing parties in the hills maybe she wants to get her name out there a little bit more I like, that nowadays they just they're like let's steer, clear the murder stuff like, Tom Hiddleston, old date Taylor Swift for a week and they look like a couple of assholes on a beach wearing shirts, that's all they gotta do, nobody's got to murder each other to get in the papers you, know know if Tom Hiddleston did murder somebody he would be in the papers can you imagine okay, now I mean, there's a darkness, in him I don't, think he's a murderer for, the record though a police, officer, testified that no phone records showed any calls had been made from Todd's property, on Sunday, it's easy to imagine Todd, could have used a different phone still. Ford's. Insistence. On having spoken to Todd is not the only wrinkle in the timeline, Todd's, autopsy. Found peas and carrots in the starlet's stomach neither, of which had been served at the Trocadero party. The peas had just started to digest, at the time of her death which could suggest Todd, had been picked up again after being dropped off by Peters taken, to eat somewhere else and then, taken back to West garage. I cannot. Imagine. Your. Last meal being peas and carrots yeah that's, rough that's like a bunny right after, a night of partying, yeah no one's lying up eating peas and carrots, it.
Stinks, Is being blasted laughs I'm. Isn't peas and carrots stabbed with all of these factors surrounding the possibility, of Todd's, death being an accident. Nothing, is more confounding, than the contents, of her purse found, next to her in the car her bag contained, lipstick, his cigarette, case some, handkerchiefs and a coin purse which itself, contained, the. Key to the side door of her apartment building why. Is that confounding. That's a she, in the garage because, somebody fucking killed her that's. Oh. No, somebody killed they were trying to list, reasons why somebody maybe did it somebody spoiler, alert somebody murdered her yeah she has it she has a key to get into her and they. Got away with it have you ever been so drunk you didn't remember. You had your key on you I haven't no that hasn't happened to me no yeah yeah, I think she was murdered yeah. I think so too with all of these complicating. Factors, it makes, sense that the coroner's, jury verdict, read quote the, death of the deceased, appears. To have been accidental, but. We recommend, further investigation. To be made in this case by the proper, authorities end, quote, and while, we may not be be proper, authorities, further, investigation. Is exactly, what we're going to do good we'll do what they couldn't, here's, how it works though you're, a powerful man in Hollywood you're, a piece of shit you, got an axe to grind with young starlet, yeah yeah. Wiper off the map you, pay off the people who it should be doing the investigating. Swept, under the rug, so. Do you think this coroner got some heat maybe I don't know but I'm sure he got a little grease on his palm for this one you got some salad yeah got a couple leaves for a salad yeah a couple of queens in that fat pocket, is I could see that yeah well, the bones in his graveyard. Yeah. Our. Next theory is bet Dalma Todd intentionally. Killed herself in the garage of her lover in addition, to her having the key to her apartment building, with her when she died her, chauffeur, said Todd was unusually, quiet as he drove her home that night he reported, that she did not ask him to escort her to her door as she usually did one. Source also claimed Todd had received, an upsetting, message from, an anonymous person on the night of the party with. Her interest in cars Todd would likely have known running a car in her garage would result in her death this, theory, is however admittedly. Thin and her actions had not aligned with self-destructive. Behavior, around the time of her death her, restaurant, was a hot new success, she, had recently signed a new film contract, and the trunk of her car was, full of Christmas presents, for family and friends the. Host of the party at the Trocadero also, said that Todd told her she was newly involved. With a man in San Francisco, I know I listed a bunch of reasons why she would not commit suicide there I will say this though that doesn't mean anything usually you don't know what's on going on inside someone's head unless you actually talk to them which should be a lesson to everybody out there me, I don't like talking to people I care about that's my personal weight you never talked to me yeah do you care about me clearly that's. Crazy because I don't care about you Oh our third, theory is of course that, thalma Todd was murdered, it's, unlikely she was killed by a stranger, who wanted to rob her as none of the jewelry she had been wearing was missing though, there are some particular suspects. We want to bring up the, first is Roland, West her, lover in whose garage Todd's body was found West. Was said to be a jealous man and Todd, and West opened, their popular, cafe so they could spend more time together if Todd, had actually, begun dating a new man in San Francisco, West, may have been hypocritically. Upset, on his, deathbed West, actually, admitted, to being responsible, for Todd's death and accidentally.
Locking, Her in the garage. His, recounting, of the events which occurred that night however was full of inconsistencies and. Contradictions. Yeah it's, it's, an odd thing to admit there's, a bunch of inconsistencies, the ocean is down the hill you could dispose of it that way but I guess he's not thinking straight it's not disclosing the ocean better than time, tide just kicks it all back up rather than leaving her in the garage in your own garage well, clearly, that. Seemed to work I mean, Farrah nobody-nobody, got the cuffs slapped on him so it's a weird thing to admit definitely. Not worthwhile hangover, but somehow I still don't, buy I don't know what him locking, her in the garage wouldn't, necessarily, well, she's knocked her if he knocked her out and, they. Locked her in the garage yeah. It. Seems like a weird way to do it though to be quite honest another, suspect is dual Carmen, Rowland West's wife while. A jealous, wife might, sound like an obvious suspect into, her husband's, mistresses, death it, is said she did not resent, her husband's, affair. Instead. The Chicago, Tribune claimed Carmen threatened to kill Todd for squandering money at the restaurant, in which she her husband and Todd were business, partners beyond. A potential, motive however, there was no physical evidence Carmen was involved, in Todd's death so. Jul Carmen's beef with Thelma Todd wasn't over the affair necessarily, as much as it was over money from the business yeah but what's murder gonna fix you, know nothing, right, obviously my guess I could have been like a fit of rage pissed at you yeah for skimming a little off the top. Hmm. Seems, a little of circumstantial. No real evidence just a motive yeah, not, enough to it there you could make the argument that after Todd, us out of the picture Joel Carmen and, now. Roland West have full ownership of the cafe though it is called helmet odds Rhodes that cap yeah also I did that's. More work for you you, know yeah, what's. That yeah. You know what I'm not. Buying it the third suspect any, potential, murder is Todd's ex-husband. Pat de Cicco a self-described. Quote, agent, with underworld, connections. End quote Jesus, who describes himself as an agent, with underworld, connections, I do generally.
When. Have you ever slipped, that into a cache all my business card agent, with underworld connections. Shaima day agent with underworld connections, nice to meet you let's talk about this Prius I'm trying to say de. Cicco was said to have a violent, temper and his, second wife heiress Gloria Vanderbilt, described, him as a brute, with a bad temper, who would physically abuse, her when he was drunk not a surprise, that de Cicco shows up here and. Not a surprise, that he was a human. Garbage pile. Yeah. Flaming. I mean if he you. Know picked, up a young starlet, as his wife. Knowing. The system probably. Not a nice I can't think of a colder take than a guy, who puts. Hands on women not a good dude I called him a pile, of garbage I know as I'm saying it's like it's very, obvious, hot take. Take. There I don't leave those guys a good guy the, night before her debt at the Trocadero todd, ran into de Cicco many eyewitnesses. Said their interaction. Seemed heated, when. Summoned for the grand jury DiCicco, testified, that he hadn't, heard about Todd's, death, in Todd's. Will dated, from when they were still married, de Cicco was left one, dollar brutal. It's. Kind of like at, that point don't leave anything all but a sick burn is a sick burn I'm a fourth, suspect one that was especially popular, at the time is that mobster Lucky, Luciano had, put a hit out on Todd, earlier. In 1935. Todd, received a string of eight letters threatening, her life if, she didn't, pay, $10,000. Signed, by the quote Ace of Hearts end quote. Don't blackmail, people. I'm, one it's illegal and if you're gonna do it get, a better suit in heaven like Artie's, heart is. Threatening, no it's not after a suspect was arrested in August 1935. However, the letters stopped nevertheless. Todd, who was found dead four months later was, convinced, the whole ordeal, was, mob-related, many. Speculated, Luciano, had wanted to set up a high ticket casino. On the third floor of her restaurant, but, Todd refused, resulting. In her murder, this theory, supposes, that after she was dropped off at the cafe someone, with ties to Luciano, picked her up again, took, her out to eat killed, her and put, her in West garage afterwards. Which could explain the p's found in her stomach and her two cracked ribs while. It appears Luciano left Los Angeles abruptly, shortly, after Todd's death never to return it, should be noted that this entire theory, is merely, speculation, in reality. There, is no evidence that Todd, and Luciano ever actually. It lucky. He's shown up here before yes he is showing up in a couple cases yeah, the only the Bugsy Seigel case yes, oh this, guy got around I guess if you're a a mob man in early Los Angeles, yeah your fingers, are in a bunch that people finger you for a lot of different things huh, it's. A verb it, is that means what I what does it does mean what you said it means lots. Of lots of different pots. Was. That you putting fingers and pies or pots no no gone, at age 29, Thelma, Todd was in the midst of a successful, Hollywood career, and tragically, cut short while. Her death was officially ruled, an accident, there are enough, suspicious. Incongruencies. In her final hours to keep her story alive these more than 80 years later whether. Accident, suicide, or murder what, actually, happened, to the starlet, that night after leaving the Sunset, Strip remains. Unsolved. Out. Of all these theories which one do you think is the most likely I'm, gonna go with. It. I mean honestly, it seems like to, me she. Was possibly, assaulted, and then placed in the car maybe, not, very conscious car. Was turned on that, was that I too believe it was murder, and if I had to say who it was, probably. Ex-husband, but you, know I can't say that seems. Pretty cut and dry, tough to end a sad episode huh, who was an untimely end to, an otherwise very cool lady yeah and I guess we'll just leave it at that all righty see. You next week.