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Thelma Todd
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Thelma Todd

Thelma Alice Todd[1] (July 29, 1906 December 16, 1935)[2] was an American actress and businesswoman often referred to by the nickname "The Ice Cream Blonde", also "Hot Toddy". Appearing in around 120 feature films and shorts between 1926 and 1935, she is best remembered for her comedic roles opposite ZaSu Pitts and in films such as Marx Brothers' Monkey Business and Horse Feathers and a number of Charley Chase's short comedies. She co-starred with Buster Keaton and Jimmy Durante in Speak Easily. She also had roles in several Wheeler and Woolsey and Laurel and Hardy films, the last of which (The Bohemian Girl) featured her in a part that was truncated by her suspicious death in 1935 at the age of 29. Contents 1 Early life 2 Career 3 Death 4 Legacy 5 Filmography 6 See also 7 References 8 Further reading 9 External links Early life
Todd was born in Lawrence, Massachusetts,[2] to John Shaw Todd, an upholsterer from Ireland,[3] and Alice Elizabeth Edwards, an immigrant from Canada.[4] She had an older brother, William.[5] She was a bright student who achieved good academic results. She intended to become a schoolteacher and enrolled at the Lowell Normal School (now University of Massachusetts, Lowell) after graduating from high school in 1923.[6] In her late teens, she began entering beauty pageants, winning the title of Miss Massachusetts in 1925.[6] While representing her home state, she was spotted by a Hollywood talent scout and began her career in film at Paramount.



Career Todd as Alison Corning in Corsair (1931) During the silent film era, Todd 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 when producer Hal Roach signed her to appear with such comedy stars as Harry Langdon, Charley Chase, and Laurel and Hardy. In 1931, Roach cast Todd in her own series of slapstick comedy shorts, running 17 to 27 minutes each. In an attempt to create a female version of Laurel and Hardy, Roach teamed Todd with ZaSu Pitts for 17 shorts, from "Let's do Things" (June 1931) through "One Track Minds" (May 1933). When Pitts left in 1933, she was replaced by Patsy Kelly, appearing with Todd in 21 shorts, from "Beauty and the Bus" (September 1933) through "An All American Toothache" (January 1936). These Roach shorts often cast Todd as a levelheaded working girl having all sorts of problems and trying her best to remain poised and charming despite the embarrassing antics of her ditzy sidekick. In 1931, Todd starred in Corsair, a film directed by Roland West, with whom she would later become romantically involved.[1][7] Todd became highly regarded as a capable film comedian, and Roach loaned her out to other studios to play opposite Wheeler & Woolsey, Buster Keaton, Joe E. Brown, and the Marx Brothers. She also appeared successfully in such dramas as the original 1931 film version of The Maltese Falcon starring Ricardo Cortez as Sam Spade, in which she played Miles Archer's treacherous widow. During her career she appeared in around 120 feature films and shorts. In August of 1934, Todd opened a successful cafe, Thelma Todd's Sidewalk Cafe, at 17575 Pacific Coast Highway in the Los Angeles coastal neighborhood of Pacific Palisades. It attracted a diverse clientele of Hollywood celebrities as well as many tourists.[8][9][10][11] Thelma Todd's Sidewalk Cafe,[12] 17535 Pacific Coast Highway, Pacific Palisades Todd continued her short-subject series through 1935 and was featured in the full-length Laurel and Hardy comedy The Bohemian Girl (1936 film). This was her last film; she died after completing all of her scenes, but most of them were re-shot. Producer Roach deleted all of Todd's dialogue and limited her appearance to one musical number.[13] Death Buster Keaton, Thelma Todd and Jimmy Durante in Speak Easily (1932) On the morning of Monday, December 16, 1935, Thelma Todd was found dead in her car inside the garage of Jewel Carmen, a former actress and former wife of Todd's lover and business partner, Roland West. Carmen's house was approximately a block from the topmost side of Todd's restaurant.[14][15][16] Her death was determined to have been caused by carbon monoxide poisoning. West is quoted in a contemporaneous newspaper account[17] as having locked her out, which may have caused her to seek refuge and warmth in the car. Todd had a wide circle of friends and associates as well as a busy social life. Police investigations revealed that she had spent the previous Saturday night (December 14) at the Trocadero, a popular Hollywood restaurant, at a party hosted by entertainer Stanley Lupino and his actress daughter, Ida. At the restaurant, she had a brief, but unpleasant, exchange with her ex-husband, Pat DiCicco. However, her friends stated that she was in good spirits and were aware of nothing unusual in her life that could suggest a reason for her committing suicide.[18] She was driven home from the party in the early hours of December 15 by her chauffeur, Ernest O. Peters.[17] Thelma Todd, 1930 The detectives of the LAPD concluded that Todd's death was accidental, the result of her either warming up the car to drive it or using the heater to keep herself warm. A Coroner's Inquest into Todd's death was held on December 18, 1935.[19] Autopsy surgeon A. P. Wagner testified that there were "no marks of violence anywhere upon or within the body" with only a "superficial contusion on the lower lip."[20] There are informal accounts of greater signs of injury.[21] The jury ruled that the death appeared to be accidental but recommended "further investigation to be made into the case, by proper authorities."[22] Subsequently a grand jury probe was held to determine whether Todd's death was a murder. After four weeks of testimony, the inquiry was closed with no evidence of murder being brought forward.[23] The case was closed by the Homicide Bureau, which listed the death as "accidental with possible suicide tendencies." However, investigators were unable to find any motive for suicide or a suicide note.[23] Visitation was held at Pierce Brothers Mortuary at 720 West Washington Blvd in Los Angeles. Todd's body was cremated. After her mother's death in 1969, Todd's remains were placed in her mother's casket and buried in Bellevue Cemetery in her hometown of Lawrence, Massachusetts. Legacy For her contribution to the motion picture industry, Todd has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 6262 Hollywood Blvd.[24] Filmography Film Year Title Role Notes 1926 Fascinating Youth Lorraine Lane Silent 1926 God Gave Me Twenty Cents Dance-Hall Girl Uncredited 1927 Rubber Heels Princess Anne Silent 1927 Fireman, Save My Child Uncredited / Silent 1927 Nevada Hettie Ide 1927 The Gay Defender Ruth Ainsworth 1928 The Shield of Honor Rose aka Flora Fisher 1928 The Noose Phyllis Silent 1928 Abie's Irish Rose Part-talkie 1928 Vamping Venus Madame Vanezlos the Dancer / Venus 1928 Heart to Heart Ruby Boyd 1928 The Crash Daisy McQueen 1928 The Haunted House The Nurse Silent 1928 Naughty Baby Bonnie Le Vonne 1929 Seven Footprints to Satan Eve Martin Produced as both a silent film and part-talkie 1929 Trial Marriage Grace Logan 1929 House of Horror Thelma 1929 Unaccustomed As We Are Mrs. Kennedy Short 1929 The Bachelor Girl Gladys 1929 Cherchez la Femme Hortense 1929 Her Private Life Mrs. Leslie First full length talkie 1930 Her Man Nelly 1930 Another Fine Mess Lady Plumtree Short, Uncredited 1931 No Limit Betty Royce 1931 Command Performance Lydia 1931 Chickens Come Home Mrs. Hardy Short, Uncredited 1931 Swanee River Caroline 1931 The Hot Heiress Lola 1931 Aloha Winifred Bradford 1931 The Maltese Falcon Iva Archer Alternative title: Dangerous Female 1931 Broadminded Gertie Gardner 1931 Monkey Business Lucille Briggs 1931 Corsair Alison Corning Credited as Alison Loyd 1931 On the Loose Thelma Short 1932 The Big Timer Kay Mitchell 1932 This Is the Night Claire Mathewson 1932 Horse Feathers Connie Bailey 1932 Speak Easily Eleanor Espere 1932 Klondike Klondike 1932 Deception Lola Del Mont 1932 Call Her Savage Sunny De Lane 1933 Air Hostess Sylvia C. Carleton 1933 Cheating Blondes Anne Merrick / Elaine Manners 1933 Fra Diavolo Lady Pamela Rocburg Alternative titles: Bogus Bandits The Devil's Brother 1933 Mary Stevens, M.D. Lois Cavanaugh 1933 You Made Me Love You Pamela Berne 1933 Sitting Pretty Gloria Duval 1933 Son of a Sailor The Baroness 1933 Counsellor at Law Lillian La Rue 1934 Palooka Trixie Alternative titles: Joe Palooka The Great Schnozzle 1934 Hips, Hips, Hooray! Amelia Frisby 1934 The Poor Rich Gwendolyn Fetherstone 1934 Bottoms Up Judith Marlowe 1934 Cockeyed Cavaliers Lady Genevieve 1934 Take the Stand Sally Oxford 1934 Lightning Strikes Twice Judith 'Judy' Nelson 1935 After the Dance Mabel Kane 1935 Two for Tonight Lilly 1936 The Bohemian Girl Gypsy queen's daughter (final film role)


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