Sunday, November 14, 2010

Thelma Todd

Thelma Todd (1906 - 1935) had to be one of the most beautiful actresses in her era, and short career.  She made 119 films in about ten years,starting in 1926.  Most of them were one and two reelers.

In my group of friends, she is remembered for her six films with Laurel and Hardy.  She also made two with the Marx Brothers, Monkey Business (1931) and Horse Feathers (1932).

Thelma started out to be a teacher.  Her mother encouraged her to enter a beauty contest and in 1925 she became Miss Massachusetts, and went on to the Miss America contest.  She didn't win, but it opened up some acting opportunities.

She worked with some greats in silent films.  Ed Wynn (1886 - 1966) in his only silent film, Wallace Berry (1885 - 1949), William Powell (1892 - 1984), Gary Cooper (1901 - 1961), to name a few.  Her first ten films, or so, were silent, and she worked in several films during the transition to talkies, when they added some music, sound effects and talking sequences to otherwise silent movies.  It must have been an interesting time to be a film actress.

She also made seven films with Harry Langdon (1884 - 1944) including one in Spanish, eighteen with Zasu Pitts (1894 - 1963), and an amazing TWENTY ONE films with Patsy Kelly (1910 - 1981).  Sixty four of her films were made at the Hal Roach Studios.  She even worked with Bing Crosby in Two for Tonight in 1935.

While mostly known for comedies, she made her share of dramas as well.  Cheating Blondes (1933), Counselor at Law (1933) starring John Barrymore (1882 - 1942), After the Dance in 1935, and others.

Of course, Thelma Todd will mostly be remembered by L&H and Marx Brothers fans.  She died mysteriously of carbon monoxide poisoning in her garage.  It was ruled a suicide, but there is a murder theory that cannot be proven.  It was a tragic loss by all accounts, and one that confines Thelma to the Bit Actor category forever.

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