News of Dissolutions

April 12, 1927
Los Angeles 

Ah, Spring! The time when a man’s thoughts turn to trading in his bride for a younger model, and a woman considers murder. Let’s see what’s happening in the family courts today.

Juanita Fletcher Crosland was granted a divorce from her film director hubby (Frederic) Alan Crosland (The Jazz Singer) on grounds of cruelty and intemperance–she claimed he would stay out until 4am for weeks at a time, and then scream vile, drunken epithets on his return. The couple married in 1917, and resided at 626 North Palm Drive, Beverly Hills. Frederic is keeping the Palm Drive home and a car, while Juanita walks with $500/week alimony, property in Westchester N.Y. and a promise that Frederic Junior’s college bills will be paid. (Gaze into the crystal to see where Alan Crosland is today.)

Helen Griffith has been freed of her Oran after telling Judge Summerfield that Oran’s language was so foul, the neighborhood ladies slammed their windows and pulled their children inside when he was strolling, and sometimes called the cops. 

And in Highland Park, Judson Studios patriarch William Lees Judson, 84, sought to be severed from Ruth Seffern (or Suffern) Judson, described in court as a virago who rented rooms in the family manse to liquor sellers, and who was so abusive to William’s students that he was compelled to shut his College of Fine Arts (part of the University of Southern California, founded in 1901). William, who came to California for his health in 1893, would die in October 1928 in his Highland Park Studio, which continues to be run as a family stained glass operation and art gallery today.


Moo-tion Carried

vivianthecowAccused of stealing four cows from Lancaster rancher J.L. Armstrong, Percy Sweet, Samuel Thomason, and Chalice Thomason first came to trial early in 1927.  Due to some uncertainty about the physical appearance of the stolen cows, however, the jury was unable to reach a verdict for the suspected cattle rustlers.
Deputy District Attorney Ryan then convinced Judge Stephens that he could have moved the jurors to a conviction had they gotten to see the cows for themselves.  When the defendants’ attorney, Guy Eddie, refused to accept photographs of the stolen cattle as evidence in the retrial, Ryan retorted, "Then we will produce the cow in court."
Stephens signed an order commanding one of the cows to appear as a silent witness in the grand larceny trial.  Why the cow was to be listed as a witness for the state, rather than evidence, is anyone’s guess.

And so, Vivian, one of the abducted cows, appeared with her calf in the Hall of Justice on April 11.  The bovine witness was unwilling to take a freight elevator to the courtroom, so the jurors came to her, and court reconvened in the Hall’s basement.   While on the stand, Vivian made nice with Judge Stephens by licking his ear, prompting Guy Eddie to joke, "I protest!  It is apparent that the witness is trying to reach the judge."

In the end, Ryan’s strategy seems to have been effective.  The Thomason brothers were sentenced to San Quentin for 1-10 years, while Sweet received five years probation on May 23, 1927.

No Mermaid She

venice grand canal 1905

April 10, 1927

It was motorist S.H. Henry who saw it first, bobbing in the Grand Canal with slow, horrible motions. He leaned in and saw a middle aged woman’s body, fully clothed save for her hat, bound round with rope. He ran for the cops. When they hauled her out, they found there were no ropes, but long strands of seaweed that had caught round the body as it floated through the gentle waterways.

A bruise on the brow suggested violence, but ultimately it was determined that the victim, Mrs. Margaret Kelly of Chicago, had killed herself after long despondency over ill health. Perhaps she vainly hoped the balmy winds and lovely vistas of Venice-by-the-Sea would sooth her worries. She had  $207 cash when found, more than enough for her passage first to Sharp & Nolan undertakers (beachside specialists in these messy water cases), thence to Chicago and the afterlife.

A Last Letter

April 9, 1927
Los Angeles
Three years ago there occurred one of the most gruesome crimes in Los Angeles history—the slaying of May and Nina Martin, twelve and eight.  They disappeared from their home at 2854 South Mansfield on the evening of August 23, 1924.  On February 5, 1925, their battered and strangled bodies found were found by rancher Leo Saulque while he planted oats on the Anita Baldwin estate.  “I have prayed to God that He might enable me to find my children,” said Mrs. Paul Buus, the girls’ mother.  "My prayers have been answered—now I’ll pray that the brute who lured them away and then killed them will be caught—and God will answer my prayers.”

One Scott Stone, a night watchman in the Glen Airy district where Mrs. Buus and the girls lived, was meanwhile arrested on a charge of contributing to the delinquency of a minor.  Circumstantial evidence linked him to the Martin slayings and on October 1, 1925 he was indicted for murder.  It seemed that Mrs. Buus’ prayers had been answered.

But Mrs. Buus had trouble—as did others, including the DA—with the concept that Stone would go to the gallows after having been convicted without evidence beyond reasonable doubt.  She wrote Governor Young, pleading for Stone, and asking the executive to relieve her of the misery that would follow the execution.  And so Stone, on the very morning of his hanging, March 10, 1927, had his sentence commuted to life imprisonment.  (Jack Hoxie stated that he was “mighty, mighty glad” for the decision to spare his stepson’s life.)

Today Mrs. Buus wrote a belated but nice letter to Stone, saying she was happy his sentence had been so commuted.  Where her heart went from there we do not know.

When Dry Agents Go Wet

April 7, 1927
Los Angelesdryagentsgowethed

A Coroner’s inquest commenced today in an effort to determine just what happened when two inebriates—Frank Farley and George H. Hudson—pixilatedly plowed their car head-on into the auto driven by Union Oil bigwig E. Percy Ingmire & wife near Wilmington.  Two things are certain:  Ingmire is dead, and the two sots being held for murder are Prohibition Agents, drunkenly driving a government car on government business.

Seems our Boys of the Eighteenth, Farley  and Hudson, were out carousing (with liquor in the car on the wrong side of the road and with excessive speed) in the company of three seamen from the steamer Pomona and a Mrs. Margaret “Bessie” McCallister (at whose home they’d earlier had a drinking party) when the accident occurred. ingmire Normally, drunken vehicular homicides under the auspices of Volstead-Feds get swept under the rug, but unfortunately Ingmire was former president of the San Pedro Chamber of Commerce, Past Master of the San Pedro Masonic Lodge, Past Exalted Ruler of San Pedro Elks’ Lodge, President of the San Pedro Industrial Association, ad infinitum.  As such, all and sundry jumped into the fray:  the DA appeared for the State, the Dep US Atty for the Feds, the prohibition administrators for themselves—the last of which entering into a fray with folks from the Customs Dept, who are fond of hampering prohibition enforcement in California.  (The Department of Justice and the Intelligence Section of the Treasury Department are on deck.)

Dry Agent Farley, driver of the killer flivver, is a real catch.  He had been arrested for a street holdup in 1923, was caught sneaking onto the Dutch steamer Eemdyk looking for booze (outside the official capacity of his employment, that is) and, according to Customs officials, was often insolent and acted beyond his authority.  Of course, those Wet Agents from Customs would say that.


On September 20, a US District Judge gave Farley one to ten in San Quentin.  Of course, the Federal Comptroller refused to pay Farley’s railroad fare to Q, on the grounds that Farley was a State Prisoner.  The State controller stated that Farley is a Federal prisoner and if anyone was going to pay his fare, it was the Feds.  So Farley stayed a spell in County, where he made pals with one Maj. Donald McRae, on trial for robbing government liquor warehouses.  Inside County they got liquor all the time, until Farley went up north and subsequently testified about his involvement in McRae’s phony alibis, whereafter McRae threatened his life.  And so go our drunken, fallen Feds.

A Most Impressive Fellow

April 6, 1927

CONfidential to all garage managers: be on the lookout for a swell-looking swell of about 40 sporting diamonds on his fingers, checkered suit and a loud necktie, who pulls up in a swishy wagon spilling tales of his string of racehorses in TJ, the barn he’s rented for them in town and how he’ll be bringing the ponies up presently, and in the meanwhile, his car isn’t running great, so can he hire a car and chauffeur to drive him back to LA, and meanwhile, can you cash this $135 check?

When this charmer stopped by Charles Maynard’s Pioneer Tranfer Company garage, Maynard was dazzled by his line and said yes, yes, a thousand times yes. Now he’s got a stolen car on his lot, a bad check in his register and a cranky chauffeur who, after waiting four hours for his client outside a Los Angeles hotel, drove back to Redlands to tell Maynard just what a dope he’d been. All that glitters, etc.

A Professional Man Ought Not Dally

April 5, 1927
Santa Monica

Serial burglar E.M. Peterson is presently cooling his heels in Santa Monica Jail, having carelessly cooled his tonsils in the course of knocking over the Radio Pharmacy on Washington Boulevard recently. Fingerprint man Barlow discovered an incriminating imprint on a silver sundae cup at the soda fountain, and when confronted with the stain, Peterson admitted both to stealing an icy cold confection, and to no less than fifty Westside burglaries and seventy in Los Angeles. This is once again, proof positive that between meal snacks are bad for a bad man’s health.

But enough about crime. Please join us, gentle reader, in wishing a most joyous 95th birthday to the beaming gentleman at left, Mr. Harry Cooper, my grandpa. Born in Philly in 1912, he served in Havai’i (as he pronounces it) during the early 1930s where he saved a fellow soldier from a riptide, came out to LA and drove a pickle truck, met and wooed my grandma Barbara on the tennis courts, and together they briefly ran a chicken ranch, then were for many years in the discount shoe business at the Beverly Bootery, a shop located where the El Coyote parking lot is today. Harry is a gentle fellow with a passion for tinkering in his garage workshop (ask him about his moss topiary projects or the steering wheel shelf he made so he can read National Geographics in the car while Barbara is shopping), odd scientific and natural history facts, golfing and exotic foods. Here’s wishing a perfect day to a lovely fellow!   

Noir City: Los Angeles vs New York at the American Cinematheque

The 8th Annual Festival of Film Noir is coming to the American Cinematheque at the Egyptian from April 12-May 2, and getting discount tix for the whole series is a fine reason to become a member. Each screening includes a film set in Los Angeles set against one in New York. What burg will be the winner in this battle of mood, nuance, betrayal and pain? I think you know where our bet is laid!

We’d like to especially pull your sleeve to the rare Leonard Maltin-introduced 35mm screening of He Walked By Night on April 22, based on the unbelievable-yet-true Erwin Walker case (more here)–as seen on our Halloween Horrors crime bus tour, where we share startling, little-known facts about the crime spree, graciously provided by Walker’s stepson. Sure, you can pick this public domain flick up on DVD at the 99 Cent Only Store, but you really want to see John Alton’s beautifully shot scenes of that L.A. River sewer escape bigger than life.

For more info on the Festival of Film Noir, please visit the series webpage. And do come by and say hello at the reception on opening night, April 12, when some of the 1947project gang will be in attendance to answer your questions about the upcoming Esotouric bus adventures, including the noir-heavy Raymond Chandler’s Los Angeles, and editor Denise Hamilton and contributors Jim Pascoe, Diana Wagman, Christopher Rice, Neal Pollack, Patt Morrison, Emory Holmes II, Gary Phillips, Lienna Silver and Naomi Hirahara will be on hand with copies of the brand new Los Angeles Noir anthology. This is the second of a slew of Los Angeles Noir events 1947project folks will be attending.

Medium Image

A Real Nailbiter

demerveux1Today, fencing master and underwear salesman Lt. Gerard  De Mereux was vindicated for the second time in the space of a week.  Last week, De Mereux was awarded $500 in damages in a suit against Hollywood director J. Stuart Blackton, who was accused of beating De Mereux with a horsewhip.  De Mereux had been living as a guest in Blackton’s home, giving fencing and corrective gymnastics lessons to Blackton’s daughters.

De Mereux testified that Mrs. Blackton had given him a romantic note, and that as a gentleman, "the only honorable thing for him to do was leave."  While packing his bags, Mrs. Blackton reportedly began to strike and spit at him, at which point, Blackton entered the room with a riding crop and beat De Mereux about the shoulders and chest. demerveux2

Blackton testified that the attack was prompted by De Mereux’s attack on his wife, during which he choked her and clawed at her with his fingernails, drawing blood.  But ho!  De Mereux presented to the jury his fingernails, and brought forth numerous witnesses who claimed that De Mereux had spent the past 12 years as a confirmed nailbiter who could not possibly have scratched a soul.

Following the judgment, De Mereux was taken before the Lunacy Commission on an insanity complaint offered by Albert A. Kidder, Blackton’s attorney.  After several days of observation, physicians from the Lunacy Commission declared him merely "emotionally unstable," but were unable to find evidence of the insanity complaint, which, among other things claimed that De Mereux had threatened Blackton’s daughters.