Her final answer simply raised more questions.
Above you see two photos of actress Carole Landis, dead on the bathroom floor of her Pacific Palisades home, where she was found today in 1948. She had been dumped by her married lover Rex Harrison the night before, and responded by killing herself with an overdose of prescription medication. She had tried suicide before but had been rescued by friends. This time she took forty Seconal tablets, which leaves little doubt as to her firm intent—one fifth the amount would have killed her. She fell into a coma early in the morning with her head resting on a jewelry box, which is the reason for its elevated position. She also left a note on her dresser for her mother:
Dearest Mommie - I'm sorry, really sorry, to put you through this but there is no way to avoid it - I love you darling you have been the most wonderful mom ever and that applies to all our family. I love each and every one of them dearly - Everything goes to you - Look in the files and there is a will which decrees everything - Good bye, my angel - Pray for me - Your baby
Hollywood suicides are part of the town's lore. Landis's is more remembered than most, not for what Landis did, but for what those around her did. Harrison had been calling her throughout the morning but her maid had told him she wasn't awake. She wasn't going to disturb her employer, so Harrison dropped by himself, entered her bedroom and found Landis non-responsive. He felt her wrist and said he felt a faint pulse, but instead of calling an ambulance rifled through her address book, hoping to call her private doctor and thus keep the disaster under wraps. While he did that, Landis died. After failing to find the number he sought, he went home, called studio head Darryl Zanuck, and set about damage control. The maid, left to deal with the situation, asked a neighbor to call police.
It wasn't unusual for press to have access to death scenes, as we've documented frequently in our Naked City posts. Landis's death photo appeared on the fronts of hundreds of newspapers by the next morning. By then questions had begun to arise. Some said Landis had written a second suicide note that Harrison destroyed. When asked at a coroner's inquest whether there was a note, he said no. Her friend Florence Wasson said there was second note, but it only asked that the cat be taken to the vet because it had a sore paw. The inquest was closed with no new findings, but years later a policeman who had been at Landis's house that day said he had seen a second note addressed to Harrison, and that the cat had seemed in perfect health.
Landis's family claimed Harrison was guilty of murder—and not just for dithering about when he thought he felt a pulse. They claim he killed her outright to keep news of his affair from damaging his career. However, his relationship with Landis was a poorly kept secretm and tabloids were making sly references to it, identifying Harrison and Landis by their initials. Also, Harrison already had a terrible reputation. People behave irrationally in high stress situations, and Harrison made bad moves at every stage, especially when one considers that there was no way he could hope to hide his involvement. But that shows merely cold-hearted concern for himself, and possibly a lack of awareness how near death Landis was. Add it all up and you have one of Hollywood's most storied suicides—one where an act meant to be a final answer left endless questions.
Kay Kendall deals the room a serious blow.
British actress Kay Kendall is not well known today, but until her early death at age thirty-two she seemed ticketed for longlasting stardom. The above shot is from the comedy Genevieve, where she spontaneously shows the fellas how to play trumpet even though she's absolutely blotto. It's a funny scene in an entertaining movie, and was her breakthrough performance. What wasn't funny was her death. Legend has it that a routine blood test revealed leukaemia, which was disclosed not to her but to husband Rex Harrison, who thought it best to keep her terminal status from her, instead telling her she was suffering from anemia. It isn't clear whether she ever knew what killed her, but one would guess she did, at the end. Today she has a major charity named after her—the Kay Kendall Leukaemia Fund.
Frank Sinatra and Rex Harrison have a little disagreement.
This July 1957 issue of Lowdown shines light in every corner of show business with stories about singer Billy Daniels, stage star Tina Louise, screen actress Kay Kendall, and call girl Nella Bogart. It also delves into international politics with stories on Hungarian leader János Kádár and King Abdulaziz, aka Ibn Saud, of Saudi Arabia. But you know we love Sinatra stories, and so what interests us most is the piece about Frank Sinatra and British actor Rex Harrison brawling. Turns out it wasn’t a brawl, so much as a scuffle. In brief, Harrison slapped Sinatra twice because he thought Frank was hitting on actress Kay Kendall, who happened to be Rex’s girlfriend. The legend goes that Kendall and Sinatra were on a balcony chatting when Harrison appeared and tried to lead her away. Kendall had been appreciating Sinatra’s shirt, and she mentioned to Harrison how much she liked it. Sinatra deadpanned, “It’s just an old shirt. Off-white. Sort of yellow.” Harrison slapped him, and Sinatra said, “It’s still yellow.” Another slap and Sinatra walked away.
Some tabloids, including Lowdown, suggested that Sinatra’s “yellow” comment was meant as a reference to Harrison’s behavior with Carole Landis back in 1948. What had Harrison done? Well, he was married to Lilli Palmer back then but was having an affair with Landis. One night Landis swallowed forty Seconal pills, and Harrison and Landis’s maid found her non-responsive the next day. Harrison thought he felt a faint pulse, but rather than call paramedics immediately, he futilely searched her phone book for the information of her personal doctor, his aim being to keep the situation private. After failing to find a number he bailed and left the maid to deal with the situation. Yellow indeed. It’s highly doubtful Sinatra had any of that in mind, and in fact, he professed respect for Harrison, both before and after the slapping, so we have to chalk the tabloid rumors up to overactive imaginations.
Still though, one can’t be surprised that Harrison was defensive. He knew he was gossiped about around town, not only because of Landis, but because he routinely ruined other women’s lives as well. He was a serial cheater. In fact, he didn’t really consider it cheating. To him, a man’s right was to have any woman he wished, marriage vows notwithstanding. Not only was he wedded to Lilli Palmer while sleeping with Carole Landis, buthe was still married to her while sleeping with Kay Kendall. We could go on, but that’s all we’ll do on Harrison today. Rest assured, though, that he’ll turn up in future tabloids. With stories emanating from a seemingly endless collection of emotionally battered wives, lovers, friends, co-stars, waiters, chauffeurs, maids, and doormen, his reappearance is inevitable.
It was a simple matter of dollars and sense.
Last time we featured Inside Story, we took a detailed look at the contents, concluded that there was good reason it was a strictly blah tabloid, and decided not to buy it again. But that doesn’t mean we can’t cull them from online, so today we have this February 1957 cover that promises to expose “the amazing James Dean hoax.” Make sure you’re sitting down when you read this. The globe-spanning conspiracy Inside Story uncovered is simply that Dean’s posthumous spike in popularity wasn’t entirely due to sincere outpourings of appreciation by fans, but also because of a deliberate, behind-the-scenes publicity campaign by Warner Bros., who had produced his last movie Giant. Warners had decided that, after dropping $5 million on production, they needed a major publicity angle to have any hope of recouping their investment in a movie whose star had been dead a year and a month. The money quote: “Unfortunately, Dean, living again only for the profits of the movie-makers, will never see a dime of that increased gross…” Well, no, because death will tend to put a crimp in one’s personal finances. At least Inside Story published a nice photo, from East of Eden, below. We have two more issues, with lots of scans, and you can see those here and here.
Prehistoric women had surprisingly sophisticated footwear.
Promo shot of American actress Carole Landis as Loana of the prehistoric Shell Tribe, from the film One Million B.C., 1940. Landis’ role is the same one Raquel Welch would make eternally famous by wearing a fur bikini in the remake twenty-seven years later. As a side note, Landis is yet another actress who committed suicide. She was twenty-nine when, despairing over a failed romance with Rex Harrison, she took an overdose of seconal.
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
1947—Prussia Ceases To Exist
The centuries-old state of Prussia, which had been a great European power under the reign of Frederick the Great during the 1800s, and a major influence on German culture, ceases to exist when it is dissolved by the post-WWII Allied Control Council comprised of the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Soviet Union.
1964—Clay Beats Liston
Heavyweight boxer Cassius Clay, aged 22, becomes champion of the world after beating Sonny Liston, aka the Dark Destroyer, in one of the biggest upsets in boxing history. It would be the beginning of a storied and controversial career for Clay, who would announce to the world shortly after the fight that he had changed his name to Muhammad Ali.
1920—The Nazi Party Is Founded
The small German Workers' Party, or DAP, which was under the direction of Adolf Hitler, changes its name to the National Socialist German Workers' Party. Though Hitler adopted the socialist label to attract working class Germans, his party in fact embraced mainly anti-socialist ideas. The group became known in English as the Nazi Party, and within the next fifteen years expanded to become the most powerful force in German politics.
1942—Battle of Los Angeles Takes Place
A object flying over wartime Los Angeles triggers a massive anti-aircraft barrage
, ultimately killing 3 civilians. Initially the target of the aerial barrage is thought to be an attacking force from Japan, but it is later suggested to be imaginary and a case of "war nerves", a lost weather balloon, a blimp, a Japanese fire balloon, or even an extraterrestrial craft. The true nature of the object or objects remains unknown to this day, but the event is known as the Battle of Los Angeles.
1945—Flag Raised on Iwo Jima
Four days after landing on the Japanese-held island of Iwo Jima, American soldiers of the 28th Regiment, 5th Marine Division take Mount Suribachi and raise an American flag. A photograph of the moment shot by Joe Rosenthal becomes one of the most famous images of WWII, and wins him the Pulitzer Prize later that year.
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