Some of these stories are well known and others need to be searched. Some are easy to understand and others are still mysteries. Most involved a pretty lady and violence. I recommend a thorough search of each case I present here and if you are a movie maker who wants to do a real horror story, use these for meat.
I first heard of "Jeanie" Spangler while I was at a Hollywood party. I was with some old friends who were show business old timers in Hollywood. Two of the ladies at the party had been Earl Carroll girls. Earl Carroll had a theater in Hollywood which boasted "Through these portals walk the most beautiful girls in the world." To have been an Earl Carroll girl was as much a trophy of beauty as being Miss America.
One of the women at the party had been considered the most beautiful of the Earl Carroll girls. She had been the featured performer in many of the live shows. Jean Spangler was considered to be Earl Carroll's second most beautiful girl. The two now elderly ladies talked about their friend, Jean Spangler. Jean disappeared on October 7, 1949. The mystery has never been solved. The conversation at that party indicated that both ladies thought a certain famous actor of the time, Kirk Douglas, knew something about Jean's murder, if she was murdered.
It is easy to find some stories about Jean Spangler. It is easy to see there were probably three main suspects involved in her disappearance. Police found her purse with a note to "Kirk." She apparently had dated a man named Kirk who waited in the car when he picked her up. She spoke to her friends about dating Kirk Douglas. She worked on one of his movies Young Man With a Horn. That title alone would be suspicious today. Kirk contacted police about her after her disappearance before the police contacted him.
Jean also had acquaintances who were gangsters. One of Mickey Cohen's friends dated Jean. His name was Davy Ogul. He disappeared shortly after Jean did. There were reports both of them were later seen in a Texas hotel. Maybe.
Jean had told some friends she was three months pregnant before she disappeared. The note found by police indicated she would be going to a doctor while her mom was out of town. In those gays an abortion was illegal and shocking.Jean Spangler's ex husband owed her child support money. She might have seen him on the day she disappeared. Her death has never been proved.
I had the pleasure of working for a few days with Lana Turner. She was still beautiful in 1983 at age 62. She had been one of Hollywood's most beautiful leading ladies during the Golden Era. She also had a very nice personality when I worked with her on the TV show Falcon Crest.
Lana Turner's greatest fame came in 1958. She was dating another of Mickey Cohen's friends, Johnny Stompanato. Johnny was supposedly a hit man for Mickey Cohen. He had once pulled a gun on Sean Connery on a movie set where Connery was doing some romantic scenes with Lana Turner. Sean Connery took away the gangster's gun and physically removed him from the set.
On April 4, 1958 Johnny Stompanato was at Lana Turner's house. He threatened to disfigure her face. Cheryl Crane, Lana Turner's daughter was there. Cheryl stabbed Johnny in the kitchen. Minutes later Johnny Stompanato was dead at age 32. Mickey Cohen paid the funeral expenses according to some reports.
Anyone who bet against Lana Turner's success after that news event did not win. Lana kept working and the mob seemed to be very satisfied to be one short at the company picnic.
September 16 of 1932 was the date of Peg Entwhistle's death. She jumped from the "H" in the Hollywoodland sign above Hollywood. Her remains were found two days later. She had left a suicide note. She had appeared in one movie called Thirteen Women. Her ghost is often seen near the Hollywood sign.Anyone who has seen the Hollywood sign up close has a problem imagining how anyone could climb onto it.
Cooley had hit records as a band leader of a Western Swing band. He made movies with Roy Rogers who was a big box office cowboy star of the 1940s. Spade Cooley had $15 million in the bank and plans to become a real estate developer after his TV series came to an end. On April 3rd, 1961, he brutally murdered his wife while he forced his daughter to watch. After that the story takes a strange twist.
Cooley was sent to prison for life on August 22, 1961. He was released as a model prisoner for three days in 1969 prior to being paroled. He was released so he could appear at a show for a sheriff's benefit on October 23rd, 1969. He performed then went backstage and died of a heart attack after the show. The show was said to be good but no encore.
Detour is Tom Neal's best known film. It is a classic film noir type black and white film with an interesting story. It is not a murder movie, but maybe it is because two people die in the movie but nothing is intentional. The end of the movie does not show for certain what happens to Tom Neal's character. That is left for the movie viewer's imagination. It was a gamble for the movie producers to not show a long arm of the law winning as was the standard for that era.
Tom Neal was a boxer, a Harvard law graduate and a talented actor. He once beat actor Franchot Tone severely over the affections of a girl named Barbara Payton. If you want to read a tear jerker story of riches to rags, Hollywood star to street walker, read about Barbara. That fight with Franchot Tone, who was a major Hollywood movie legend, pretty much ended Tom's movie career and he eventually became a landscaper.
In 1965 Tom Neal's wife was shot in the back of the head. Tom Neal claimed he did not do it but he was sentenced to life in prison even though the DA sought the death penalty. He was found guilty of involuntary manslaughter. He was released from prison 6 years later and he died several months after that on August 7, 1972.
Somebody dies after a party in Hollywood. Who should get the blame? The fat guy. Fatty Arbuckle went through the first great movie star death by murder scandal trial. Not once but three times. He was banned from movies by the Hays Office. He was not guilty of anything, but William Randolph Hearst needed to sell newspapers and it was found that a trial involving a famous movie star sold newspapers. It was news. The third jury apologized to Fatty when they found him not guilty. The prosecutor wanted to become Governor of California. Now, there's your script.
After the exoneration which received no publicity, Fatty tried directing some movies, but his friends said he was just there on the set acting more like a zombie than a human. There's the sequel.
Superman of TV fame, George Reeves, committed suicide while he was upstairs at his home during a party, maybe. Some people point to evidence that conflicts with official reports. Actors who want better roles comprise about 100 percent of the Screen Actors Guild, myself included. Anyone who thinks the desire to get a better role is a cause for suicide is not thinking clearly. The general belief of the investigators is the Reeves was despondent over being unable to get more serious roles and he decided to kill himself with a bullet to the head. This after he has just told the people downstairs to be quiet. Add to that the fact that the "suicide" gun was fired more than once. Hmmm.