Published by Chicago Review Press
1 November 2015
A beloved film comedienne who worked alongside the Marx Brothers, Laurel and Hardy, and dozens of others, Thelma Todd was a rare Golden Age star who successfully crossed over from silent films to talkies. This authoritative new biography traces Todd s life from a vivacious little girl who tried to assuage her parents grief over her brother s death, to an aspiring teacher turned reluctant beauty queen, to an outspoken movie starlet and restaurateur.
Increasingly disenchanted with Hollywood, in 1934 Todd opened Thelma Todd s Sidewalk Cafe, a hot spot that attracted fans, tourists, and celebrities. Despite success in film and business, privately the beautiful actress was having a difficult year receiving disturbing threats from a stranger known as the Ace and having her home ransacked when she was found dead in a garage near her cafe.An inquest concluded that her death, at age just twenty-nine, was accidental, but in a thorough new investigation that draws on interviews, photographs, documents, and extortion notes much of these not previously available to the public Michelle Morgan offers a compelling new theory, suggesting the sequence of events on the night of her death and arguing what many people have long suspected: that Thelma was murdered.
But by whom?
The suspects include Thelma s movie-director lover, her would-be-gangster ex-husband, and the thugs who were pressuring her to install gaming tables in her popular cafe including a new, never-before-named mobster. This fresh examination on the eightieth anniversary of the star’s death is sure to interest any fan of Thelma Todd, of Hollywood’s Golden Age, or of gripping real-life murder mysteries.”
In 1935 movie actress Thelma Todd dies at the age of 29 in mysterious circumstances.
In this volume Michelle Morgan (best known for Marilyn Monroe: Private and Undisclosed) investigates not only the mysterious and conspiracies surrounding Todd’s death, but takes us through her entire life, from her childhood in Lawrence, Massachusetts, to her death in a grim garage above the Pacific Coast on a windy December morning.
Although Michelle doesn’t dwell and expand on the scandals that plagued Thelma’s short life, she does deal with them in a responsible and articulate manner as they are part of Thelma’s story.
Far more interesting and important are the problems and issues facing Thelma in the months leading up to her death, this again is dealt with in a clear, yet in depth manner without letting Morgan’s own theories overwhelm the facts, this is a very important section in the book as it could essentially be the key to understanding Todd’s death.
Over the years I have read many biographies and have found that a less capable writer’s work can be difficult to read as the biographers thoughts tend to jump around making the narrative clumsy and the text then judders along like a car running out of petrol.
This is not the case with Michelle Morgan, each sentence is carefully constructed and flows beautifully into the next, making this a narrative that is seamless and fascinating at the same time.
Morgan brings to the fore the tragedy of Thelma Todd’s early death, a talented, beautiful, warm and intelligent woman who was making long term plans for her future. At 29 she had years of potentially great acting performances ahead of her.
This is a must have book for anyone interested in Thelma Todd and her career, or in the Golden Age of Hollywood itself.
I gave this 5 out of 5*
Look out for Michelle Morgan’s newest book – Carole Lombard 20th Century Star – out in October 2016!