June 5, 1927
The headlines turned her story into a cliché: a young woman from the Midwest commits suicide by swallowing poison after the Hollywood star machine chews her up and spits her out. But 22-year-old Patricia Marshall’s death today was a bit more complicated than that.
For one thing, though she took part in amateur dramatics back home in Missouri and worked as a film extra since her arrival in Hollywood three years ago, Patricia aspired to a career in business. Until recently she had been a student at the Hollywood Secretarial College.
Then there were the letters in her room. In one, written about a week before she died but never sent, the young woman made a declaration she was ultimately unable to keep: “There are so many suicides in Hollywood one must wear armor and make a vow against self-extinction—in suicide by poison.” In addition to this and a note addressed to her mother (“You are to forget me. Never think of me.”), there were several missives to and from various men. When police contacted one of them, insurance man Harry Rosenberg of Washington, D.C., he called himself an “old friend” of the deceased but insisted there was never a hint of romance between them.
This assertion was refuted by Patricia Marshall’s mother, who testified at a coroner’s inquest that her daughter and Rosenberg were engaged and planned to be married soon. Imagine Mrs. Marshall’s shock when it came out that Patricia’s “fiancé” was already married and the father of several children. Nor was that all—there were those damnable letters. In one, Rosenberg cut off his $15 weekly payments to Patricia; in another, his daughter threatened to have her arrested for blackmail and extortion if Patricia continued to annoy her father for money.
Perhaps with Mrs. Marshall in mind, the coroner discreetly concluded that Patricia committed suicide after a “disappointment” in love.