Thelma Todd

Thelma Todd (July 29, 1905 - December 16, 1935) was a American film actress.

Thelma Todd

Todd was born in Lawrence, Massachusetts and as a child was a bright student who achieved good academic results. She intended to become a school teacher but in her late teens began entering beauty pageants winning the title of "Miss Massachusetts" in 1925. While representing her home state in the "Miss America" pageant later that year she was spotted by a Hollywood talent scout and began her career in film.

During the silent era, she appeared in numerous supporting roles that made full use of her beauty but gave her little chance to act. With the advent of the talkies, Todd was given opportunity to expand her roles by the producer Hal Roach who contracted her to appear with such comedic stars of the day as Harry Langdon, Laurel & Hardy and The Marx Brothers and she appeared as the lead actress in a series of comedy films with actresses Zasu Pitts and Patsy Kelly. She became highly regarded as a capable film comedienne and also appeared successfully in such dramas as the original 1931 film version of The Maltese Falcon. During her career she appeared in more than 130 films and was publicised as "The Ice Cream Blonde" and "Hot Toddy".

In the early 30's she commenced a successful commercial venture when she opened a cafe at Pacific Palisades called "Thelma Todd's Sidewalk Cafe" which attracted a diverse clientele of Hollywood celebrities as well as gangsters and criminals.

On the morning of December 16, 1935, she was found dead in her car inside her garage and her death was determined to have been caused by carbon monoxide poisoning. Police investigating her death determined that Todd had a wide circle of friends and associates and a busy social life. She had spent the last night of her life at a party hosted by entertainer Stanley Lupino and his daughter, the actress Ida Lupino. She had been involved in an argument with her then boyfriend Roland West, but her friends stated that she was in good spirits and were aware of nothing unusual in her life that could suggest a reason for committing suicide.

Police were offered other alternatives throughout their investigations. One theory suggested that the gangster Lucky Luciano had tried unsuccessfully to coerce Todd into allowing gambling on her premises, and when she declared that would happen "over my dead body" had replied that he could arrange that. When Todd's body was found she had blood on her face and her nose was broken. This was the only sign of violence and there was no evidence of any struggle taking place. The investigation was unable to establish any evidence to support this theory.

A second theory widely supported by Todd's friends was that Roland West had grown frustrated by Todd's flightiness and to keep her from leaving her premises to attend another party had locked her in the garage. Her resulting death according to this theory was accidental, however a key, which would have allowed her to escape was found in Todd's handbag.

A third theory was that Todd had turned on the motor of the car in order to keep warm, and had fallen asleep. Roland West had closed the door to the garage without realising Todd was inside and she had died as a result.

The Los Angeles DA's department and a Grand Jury were unable to establish the true circumstances surrounding her death and the conjecture that surrounded it at the time and which has never been resolved with a definitive explanation is an early example of what would become known as a conspiracy theory with rumours and suppositions being accepted as fact, and widely divergent opinions being given credence. The fact that her body was cremated caused theorists to conjecture that this had been done to destroy evidence and to prevent a second autopsy, however by this time authorities were satisfied with her official cause of death.

Her death certificate states her cause of death as accidental carbon monoxide poisoning. Her remains were buried in "Bellevue Cemetery" in her hometown of Lawrence, Massachusetts.

Thelma Todd has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6262 Hollywood Blvd.


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Thelma Todd has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6262 Hollywood Blvd. She toured extensively on the stage throughout Europe and the United States, including opposite Vincent Price in Princess Turandot , a stage version of Giacomo Puccini’s opera. Her remains were buried in "Bellevue Cemetery" in her hometown of Lawrence, Massachusetts. In addition, she co-starred with Marlene Dietrich in Shanghai Express (1932) and with Lana Turner in Portrait in Black. Her death certificate states her cause of death as accidental carbon monoxide poisoning. She has also made films in German and French. The fact that her body was cremated caused theorists to conjecture that this had been done to destroy evidence and to prevent a second autopsy, however by this time authorities were satisfied with her official cause of death. Anna May travelled throughout Europe, and was one of the leads in the British film, Piccadilly (1929).

The Los Angeles DA's department and a Grand Jury were unable to establish the true circumstances surrounding her death and the conjecture that surrounded it at the time and which has never been resolved with a definitive explanation is an early example of what would become known as a conspiracy theory with rumours and suppositions being accepted as fact, and widely divergent opinions being given credence. Her first starring role was in The Toll of the Sea (1921). Roland West had closed the door to the garage without realising Todd was inside and she had died as a result. Despite this discrimination, she had a number of significant film roles. A third theory was that Todd had turned on the motor of the car in order to keep warm, and had fallen asleep. Even though Muni was to be wear heavy make up to look Asian, industry regulations prevented her from playing romantic roles opposite actors of different ethnicity. Her resulting death according to this theory was accidental, however a key, which would have allowed her to escape was found in Todd's handbag. When MGM was casting for the The Good Earth (1937), she was passed up for the lead female role of O-lan because Paul Muni, an actor of European descent, was to play Wang Lung, O-lan's husband.

A second theory widely supported by Todd's friends was that Roland West had grown frustrated by Todd's flightiness and to keep her from leaving her premises to attend another party had locked her in the garage. Her ethnicity prevented her from getting choice parts, especially romantic ones due to the Hays code anti-miscegenation rules. The investigation was unable to establish any evidence to support this theory. Her first role was in the silent film, The Red Lantern (1919) with Alla Nazimova, as an uncredited extra. This was the only sign of violence and there was no evidence of any struggle taking place. Born Wong Liu Tsong (黃柳霜, pinyin: Huáng Liǔshuāng) in Los Angeles, California, she began playing bit parts as a teenager. When Todd's body was found she had blood on her face and her nose was broken. Anna May Wong (January 3, 1905-February 3, 1961) was the first truly notable Chinese American Hollywood actress.

One theory suggested that the gangster Lucky Luciano had tried unsuccessfully to coerce Todd into allowing gambling on her premises, and when she declared that would happen "over my dead body" had replied that he could arrange that. Portrait In Black (1960). Police were offered other alternatives throughout their investigations. Daughter of Shanghai (1937). She had been involved in an argument with her then boyfriend Roland West, but her friends stated that she was in good spirits and were aware of nothing unusual in her life that could suggest a reason for committing suicide. Dangerous to Know (1937). She had spent the last night of her life at a party hosted by entertainer Stanley Lupino and his daughter, the actress Ida Lupino. A Study in Scarlet (1933).

Police investigating her death determined that Todd had a wide circle of friends and associates and a busy social life. Shanghai Express (1932) as Hui Fei. On the morning of December 16, 1935, she was found dead in her car inside her garage and her death was determined to have been caused by carbon monoxide poisoning. Piccadilly (1929)as Shosho. In the early 30's she commenced a successful commercial venture when she opened a cafe at Pacific Palisades called "Thelma Todd's Sidewalk Cafe" which attracted a diverse clientele of Hollywood celebrities as well as gangsters and criminals. Peter Pan (1924) as Tiger Lily. During her career she appeared in more than 130 films and was publicised as "The Ice Cream Blonde" and "Hot Toddy". The Thief of Baghdad (1924).

She became highly regarded as a capable film comedienne and also appeared successfully in such dramas as the original 1931 film version of The Maltese Falcon. The Toll of the Sea (1921) as Lotus Flower. With the advent of the talkies, Todd was given opportunity to expand her roles by the producer Hal Roach who contracted her to appear with such comedic stars of the day as Harry Langdon, Laurel & Hardy and The Marx Brothers and she appeared as the lead actress in a series of comedy films with actresses Zasu Pitts and Patsy Kelly. The Red Lantern (1919) uncredited. During the silent era, she appeared in numerous supporting roles that made full use of her beauty but gave her little chance to act. While representing her home state in the "Miss America" pageant later that year she was spotted by a Hollywood talent scout and began her career in film.

She intended to become a school teacher but in her late teens began entering beauty pageants winning the title of "Miss Massachusetts" in 1925. Todd was born in Lawrence, Massachusetts and as a child was a bright student who achieved good academic results. Thelma Todd (July 29, 1905 - December 16, 1935) was a American film actress.

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