As a child it was Thelma Todd's dream to become a teacher; in a way, then, it's appropriate that her life and suspicious death have provided many lessons for young girls and boys looking to be seduced by the allure of Hollywood...
All told the woman known as The Ice-Cream Blonde made more than 140 movies before 1935 including numerous comedy shorts with both ZaSu Pitts and Patsy Kelly which hilarious antics and stock situations would later give rise to the sitcom. Along the way she made friends with almost everyone she met, including the Marx Brothers, Laurel and Hardy, Buster Keaton, and Jimmy Durante.
In the early 1930s, she opened a restaurant called Thelma Todd's Sidewalk Cafe in Pacific Palisades which drew a great crowd from her crowd of Hollywood friends; career going great guns, business a roaring success - Thelma Todd appeared to be on top of the world when, on this day in 1935, she was found dead in her convertible in a closed garage, evidence of a serious beating beginning to show in bruises and welts all over her body.
Many theories abound about how Todd met her tragic end; simple accident, jealous boyfriend (director Roland West), spiteful ex-husband (Pat diCicco, who later married Gloria Vanderbilt) and even the Mafia (in the person of 'Lucky' Luciano). The authorities agreed it was carbon monoxide poisoning that killed her but failed to speculate as to the cause of (or even mention) her disfigurement, after which her legion of Hollywood friends closed ranks around her memory; the truth of what really happened will probably never be known, but West was later shunned by the film colony, which points to his responsibility as much as does his deathbed confession to Chester Morris in 1952.
A 1989 book by Andy Edmonds, entitled Hot Toddy, is out of print but available through Abebooks (naturally, there's a copy in the collection of the Pop Culture Institute) which investigates the murder of Thelma Todd more competently than the LAPD ever did; in 1991 the book was made into a TV movie starring Loni Anderson, called White Hot. The mystery surrounding her death is also discussed in Kenneth Anger's deliciously salacious 1958 book Hollywood Babylon.
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