Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Actor Pete Duel's Beachwood Canyon Suicide 1971

Pete Duel (February 24, 1940 – December 31, 1971) was an American actor, best known for his role in the television series Alias Smith and Jones.

Early life

Peter Ellstrom Deuel was born in Rochester, New York, and grew up in nearby Penfield. He attended St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York, where he majored in English. Still, he preferred performing in the drama department’s productions to studying for his classes during his two years there. When his father came to see him in The Rose Tattoo, he realized that his son was only wasting time and money at the university, and told him to follow a career in acting.[1] Moving to New York, Duel landed a role in a touring production of the comedy Take Her, She's Mine. In order to find work in the movies, Duel and his mother drove across the country to Hollywood in 1963 with only a tent to house them each night.[2]


In Hollywood, he found work in television, making small guest appearances in comedies like Gomer Pyle, USMC and dramas, such as ABC's Channing with Jason Evers and Combat! with Rick Jason and Vic Morrow. In 1965 he was cast in the comedy series Gidget. Duel played Gidget's brother-in-law, John Cooper, on the series and appeared in twenty-two of the thirty-two episodes. Gidget was canceled after only one season in 1966, but Duel was immediately offered the starring role of Dave Willis, a newlywed apprentice architect, in an upcoming romantic comedy called Love on a Rooftop. Although the show earned good ratings, ABC decided to not bring it back after its first season. Duel wished to move from sitcoms to more serious roles.[3] He appeared in The Psychiatrist, The Bold Ones, Ironside, and Marcus Welby, M.D.. He also made feature films during this time, beginning with the important role of Rod Taylor’s best friend and co-pilot, Mike Brewer, in The Hell with Heroes in 1968 and the next year in Generation. Following that movie, he went to Spain to film Cannon for Cordoba (1970), a western in which he played the mischievous soldier, Andy Rice. Due in part to their uncanny resemblance his younger brother, Geoffrey Deuel (who starred in the movie Chisum with John Wayne as the character Billy the Kid), is sometimes mistaken for him.

In 1970 Duel was cast as the outlaw Hannibal Heyes, alias Joshua Smith, opposite Ben Murphy, in Alias Smith and Jones, a light-hearted western about the exploits of two outlaws trying to earn an amnesty. During the hiatus between the first and second seasons, he starred in the television production of Percy MacKaye’s 1908 play, The Scarecrow.

Personal life

Duel became involved in politics during the primaries for the 1968 presidential election, campaigning for Eugene McCarthy, in opposition to the Vietnam war.[4] He attended the Democratic National Convention in Chicago, and witnessed the violence that erupted.[5]


In the early hours of December 31, 1971, Duel apparently shot himself, after drinking heavily that evening.[6] At the time, his girlfriend, Dianne Ray, was in the house but not in the same room, and did not witness what happened. In October 1970 he had been the driver in a car wreck in which another person was injured, and was facing legal problems; an astrologer had then told him that 1972 was going to be a difficult year for him. After his death, his role in Alias Smith and Jones was taken over by Roger Davis (previously, the series' narrator), but the sudden loss proved too great and fans were slow to accept the dissimilar-looking Davis. The series was cancelled in 1973.

Pete Duel's Green Glen Deathhouse

Duel is buried in the Oakwood Cemetery in Penfield, New York.[7]


1.^ Sandra K. Sagala and JoAnne M. Bagwell Alias Smith and Jones: The Story of Two Pretty Good Bad Men (Boalsburg: Bear Manor Media, 2005). 16
2.^ Sandra K. Sagala and JoAnne M. Bagwell Alias Smith and Jones: The Story of Two Pretty Good Bad Men (Boalsburg: Bear Manor Media, 2005). 17
3.^ Percy Shain (February 14, 1971). "He Prefers Duel to Deuel." Boston Globe TV Week, found at Alias Smith & Jones Collection.
4.^ "Actor Campaigning Here" (June 17, 1968). Rochester Democrat and Chronicle, found at Alias Smith & Jones Collection.
5.^ Sandra K. Sagala and JoAnne M. Bagwell Alias Smith and Jones: The Story of Two Pretty Good Bad Men (Boalsburg: Bear Manor Media, 2005). 18
6.^ Green, Paul (2007). "A Sudden Compulsion". Pete Duel: A Biography. Johnson, Pamela Deuel. McFarland. p. 156. ISBN 9780786430628. http://books.google.com/books?
7.^ Penfield Post, June 14, 2007, page 6A, "You'd Never Guess Who is Buried Here" by Amy Cavalier

Monday, December 30, 2013

Superman's Fiancee Leonore Lemmon Dies in Gotham 1989

Leonore Lemmon (May 11, 1923 - December 30, 1989) was an American socialite who was the fiancée of actor George Reeves at the time of his death.


Lemmon was the daughter of Arthur Lemmon, a successful Broadway ticket broker. In her early years, she was known as a party girl member of Cafe Society. She was well known and liked in the nightclub world and was infamous as the only woman ever tossed out of the Stork Club for fist-fighting.

In 1941 she married Jacob L. "Jakie" Webb, who was a great-great-grandson of Cornelius Vanderbilt. She left him after eight days but remained married long enough for the colorful Webb to marry someone else several years later and face bigamy charges. She later married and divorced musician Hamish Menzies.

In the late 1950s, Lemmon was the girlfriend and fiancée of Adventures of Superman star George Reeves. The couple were to be married in Mexico on June 19, 1959, honeymoon in Spain and then go to Australia for public appearances as Superman. However, Reeves died of a gunshot wound to the head three days before the scheduled wedding. Lemmon attempted, without success, to claim a share of Reeves's estate.

George Reeves' Benedict Canyon Deathhouse

She returned to New York where she lived out the remainder of her life, her last years spent, according to her family, in alcohol dementia.

In popular culture

She was portrayed by Robin Tunney in the 2006 movie Hollywoodland.


1.^ Her body was found in her New York Apartment January 4, 1990, and time of death was calculated as most likely five days earlier. Her death certificate reads December 30, 1989

2.^ New York Borough of Manhattan Death Records, 1989

Talent Agent Irving "Swifty" Lazar 1993 Westwood Village Cemetery

Irving Paul "Swifty" Lazar (March 28, 1907 – December 30, 1993) was a talent agent and deal-maker, representing both movie stars and authors.

Born as Samuel Lazar in Brooklyn, New York, he graduated from Brooklyn Law School in 1931. While practicing bankruptcy law during the early-1930s, he negotiated a business deal for a vaudeville performer and realized the income potential for acting as an agent.

He moved to Hollywood in 1936 but maintained a presence in New York until after World War II when he moved to Los Angeles permanently. After putting together three major deals for Humphrey Bogart in a single day, he was dubbed "Swifty" by Bogart. The moniker stuck but was a name he actually disliked.

In addition to Bogart, Lazar became the agent representing the top tier of celebrities, including Lauren Bacall, Truman Capote, Cher, Joan Collins, Noel Coward, Ira Gershwin, Cary Grant, Moss Hart, Ernest Hemingway, Gene Kelly, Madonna, Walter Matthau, Larry McMurtry, Vladimir Nabokov, Clifford Odets, Cole Porter, William Saroyan, Irwin Shaw, President Richard Nixon and Tennessee Williams. Lazar's power became such that he could negotiate a deal for someone who was not even his client and then collect a fee from that person's agent.

During World War II, Lazar, with Benjamin Landis, suggested to the U.S. Army Air Forces that it produce a play to encourage enlistment and to raise funds for the Army Emergency Relief Fund. The Air Forces commanding general, Henry H. Arnold, agreed and the play Winged Victory was written by Moss Hart and produced by Hart and Lazar. It was a huge success, playing on Broadway and on tour around the U.S. for over a million people. A film version was produced during the same period.

Lazar was an executive producer (with Bernie Brillstein) of John G. Avildsen's Neighbors (1981), starring John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd, and he was an associate producer on two television miniseries, The Thorn Birds (1983) and Robert Kennedy and His Times (1985). He was renowned for his annual post-Academy Award parties that started at the famous Romanoff's, then moved to the Bistro Garden and finally to Wolfgang Puck's restaurant, Spago. His was widely regarded as the most important Oscar celebration, and those who received invitations were regarded as the inner circle.

Lazar died in 1993, aged 86, from complications stemming from diabetes which eventually cut off circulation to his feet, which doctors wanted to amputate. Lazar, who was being treated at home via peritoneal dialysis, refused amputation. This refusal hastened Lazar's death.[1] The Death Certificate states "Imminent Cause: Chronic Renal Failure due to Glomerulo Sclerosis due to Hypertension. Other significant conditions contributing to death but not related to cause given in 21: lower extremities diabetes."[2]

He was interred in the Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery in Los Angeles next to his wife, Mary, who had died in January that same year from liver cancer.

Michael Korda wrote a 1993 New Yorker profile of Lazar, later incorporated into Korda's book, Another Life: A Memoir of Other People (Random House, 1999). At the time of his death, Lazar was working on his autobiography, Swifty: My Life and Good Times, which was completed by Annette Tapert and published by Simon and Schuster in 1995.

Swifty Lazar appears as a character in Peter Morgan's stage play, Frost/Nixon, first staged at the Donmar Warehouse, London on August 10, 2006 and played by actor Kerry Shale. In the play Lazar negotiates a deal with David Frost on behalf of President Richard Nixon for Frost to interview Nixon. The play is closely based on real-life events. He has also been portrayed by Toby Jones in the 2008 film version of Frost/Nixon.


1.^ Sources: Quotes from Alan Nevins, Lazar Business Associate[where?]; Cindy Cassel, Executive Assistant to Lazar up until his death.[where?]
2.^ Death Certificate, Los Angeles Department of Health Services

"Johnny Belinda" Actor Lew Ayres 1996 Westwood Village Cemetery

Lew Ayres, born Lewis Frederick Ayres III (December 28, 1908 – December 30, 1996) was an American actor, probably best known for his role as Dr. Kildare in several movies, which was apt since originally he had studied medicine at the University of Arizona.

In 1948 he was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor for Johnny Belinda, but his career was sparse after the war. Costar Jane Wyman fell in love with Ayres and left her husband Ronald Reagan for him, albeit unsuccessfully.

Ayres was married three times. He was married to actress Lola Lane from 1931 until 1933 and to actress Ginger Rogers from 1934 until 1940. His third marriage, to Diana Hall, lasted from 1964 until his death from complications while in a coma at the age of 88. They had one son, Justin, born in 1968.

Lew Ayres is buried at Westwood Village Memorial Park (next to Frank Zappa's unmarked grave).

Saturday, December 28, 2013

"Biograph SUICIDE Girl" Florence Lawrence 1938 Hollywood Forever Cemetery

Florence Lawrence (January 2, 1886 – December 28, 1938) was a Canadian inventor and silent film actress. She is often referred to as "The First Movie Star." When she was popular, she was known as "The Biograph Girl," "The Imp Girl," and "The Girl of a Thousand Faces." Lawrence appeared in more than 270 films for various motion picture companies.

Alone, discouraged, and suffering with chronic pain from myelofibrosis, a rare bone marrow disease, she was found unconscious in bed in her West Hollywood apartment on December 27, 1938 after she had attempted suicide by eating ant paste. She was rushed to a hospital but died a few hours later.

Just nine years after she had paid for an expensive memorial for her mother, Lawrence was interred in an unmarked grave not far from her mother in the Hollywood Cemetery, which is now Hollywood Forever Cemetery.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Character Actor Leo Gordon 2000 Hollywood Forever Cemetery

Leo Vincent Gordon (December 2, 1922 - December 26, 2000) was an American movie and television character actor as well as a screenplay writer. He specialized in playing brutish bad guys during more than forty years in film and television.

In contrast to his screen persona, Gordon was a quiet, thoughtful and intelligent man who generally avoided the Hollywood spotlight. He was widely regarded by his fellow actors and his directors as a well-prepared professional. In 1997, he received the "Golden Boot Award" for his many years of work in Westerns. In accepting the award, the actor simply flashed a smile for his fans and remarked "Thank God for typecasting!"

After struggling with a brief illness, Gordon died in his sleep at age 78 at his Los Angeles home from cardiac failure. He and his wife's ashes are interred at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Los Angeles.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Los Angeles Cemetery Guides - Further Reading

"King of Cool" Entertainer Dean Martin 1995 Westwood Village Cemetery

Dean Martin (June 7, 1917 – December 25, 1995) was an American singer, film actor and comedian. Martin's hit singles included "Memories Are Made of This," "That's Amore," "Everybody Loves Somebody," "Mambo Italiano," "Sway," "Volare" and smash hit "Ain't That a Kick in the Head?" Nicknamed the "King of Cool," he was one of the members of the "Rat Pack" and a major star in four areas of show business: concert stage/night clubs, recordings, motion pictures, and television.

Decline and death

On March 21, 1987, Martin's son Dean Paul (formerly Dino of the 1960s "teeny-bopper" rock group Dino, Desi and Billy) was killed when his F-4 Phantom II jet fighter crashed while flying with the California Air National Guard. A much-touted tour with Davis and Sinatra in 1988 sputtered. On one occasion, he infuriated Sinatra when he turned to him and muttered "Frank, what the hell are we doing up here?" Martin, who always responded best to a club audience, felt lost in the huge stadiums they were performing in (at Sinatra's insistence), and he was not the least bit interested in drinking until dawn after their performances. His final Vegas shows were at the Bally's Hotel in 1990. It was there he had his final reunion with Jerry Lewis on his 72nd birthday. Martin's last two TV appearances both involved tributes to his former Rat Pack members. In 1990, he joined many stars of the entertainment industry in Sammy Davis, Jr's 60th anniversary celebration, which aired only a few weeks before Davis died from throat cancer. In December 1990, he congratulated Frank Sinatra on his 75th birthday special. By 1991, Martin had unofficially retired from performing.

Martin, a life-long smoker, died of acute respiratory failure resulting from emphysema at his Beverly Hills home on Christmas morning 1995, at the age of 78. The lights of the Las Vegas Strip were dimmed in his honor. He is buried at Westwood Village Memorial Park.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Silent Screen Actress Norma Talmadge 1957 Hollywood Forever Cemetery

Norma Talmadge (May 2, 1894 – December 24, 1957) was an American actress and film producer of the silent era. A major box office draw for more than a decade, her career reached a peak in the early 1920s, when she ranked among the most popular idols of the American screen.

Her most famous film was Smilin’ Through (1922), but she also scored artistic triumphs teamed with director Frank Borzage in Secrets (1924) and The Lady (1925). Her younger sisters Constance Talmadge and Natalie Talmadge were also movie stars. Talmadge married millionaire and film producer Joseph Schenck and they successfully created their own production company. After reaching fame in the film studios on the East Coast, she moved to Hollywood in 1922.

The Talmadge Sisters in life.

A specialist in melodrama, Talmadge was one of the most elegant and glamorous film stars of the roaring twenties. By the end of the silent film period her popularity with audiences had waned. After her two talkies proved disappointing at the box office, she retired a very wealthy woman. Of all the silent stars whose reputation collapsed with the coming of sound, Norma Talmadge was the most important. She is little remembered, since her films are seldom revived today, yet in her day she was hugely popular and the epitome of stardom.

In her later years, Talmadge, who had never been comfortable with the burdens of public celebrity, became reclusive. Increasingly crippled by painful arthritis and reportedly to be dependent on painkilling drugs, she moved to the warm climate of Las Vegas, Nevada for her final years. In 1956, she was voted by her peers as one of the top five female stars of the pre-1925 era, but was too ill to travel to Rochester, New York to accept her award.

After suffering a series of strokes in 1957, Talmadge died of pneumonia on Christmas Eve of that year. At the time of her death, her estate was valued at more than USD$1,000,000. For her contribution to the motion picture industry, Norma Talmadge has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1500 Vine Street. She is entombed at Hollywood Forever Cemetery.

The Talmadge Sisters in death.

Monday, December 23, 2013

"Dragnet" Actor & Producer Jack Webb 1982 Forest Lawn Hollywood Hills

Jack Webb (April 2, 1920 – December 23, 1982), also known by the pseudonym John Randolph, was an American actor, television producer, director and screenwriter, who is most famous for his role as Sergeant Joe Friday in the radio and television series Dragnet. He was also the founder of his own production company, Mark VII Limited.

Born in Santa Monica, California, Webb grew up in the Bunker Hill section of Los Angeles. His Jewish father left home before Webb was born, and Webb never knew him. He was raised a Roman Catholic by his Irish-Indian mother. He attendened Our Lady of Loretto Elementary near Belmont High. One of the tenants in his mother's rooming house was an ex-jazzman who began Webb's lifelong interest in jazz by giving him a recording of Bix Beiderbecke's "At the Jazz Band Ball." Webb graduated from Belmont High School in Los Angeles.


Jack Webb began working on scripts for a revival of Dragnet with Kent McCord as his partner. However, he died of a heart attack in 1982 at the age of 62.

He was interred in the Forest Lawn, Hollywood Hills Cemetery in Los Angeles, and was given a funeral with full police honors. On Webb's death Chief Daryl Gates announced that badge number 714 which was used by Joe Friday in Dragnet would be retired. Mayor Tom Bradley of Los Angeles ordered all flags lowered to half-staff in Webb's honor for a day, and Webb was buried with a replica LAPD badge bearing the rank of Sergeant, and the number 714.

Webb has two Stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame: for radio at 7040 Hollywood Boulevard, and for television at 6728 Hollywood Boulevard.

Actor Billy Barty 2000 Forest Lawn Glendale

Billy Barty (October 25, 1924 – December 23, 2000) was an American film actor.


Barty, an Italian American, was born William John Bertanzetti in Millsboro, Pennsylvania. He co-starred with Mickey Rooney in the Mickey McGuire shorts, a comedy series of the 1920s and 1930s based on the "Toonervile Trolley" comics, and similar in tone to the "Our Gang"/"Little Rascals" comedies. In The Gold Diggers of 1933, a nine-year-old Barty appeared as a baby who escapes from his stroller. He also appeared as The Child in Footlight Parade (1933).

Because of his stature, much of his work consisted of bit parts and gag roles, although he was featured prominently in The Day of the Locust (1975), W.C. Fields and Me (1976), The Happy Hooker Goes to Washington (1977), Foul Play and The Lord of the Rings (both 1978), Under the Rainbow (1981), Night Patrol (1984), Legend (1985), Masters of the Universe (1987), Willow (1988), UHF (1989), Life Stinks and Radioland Murders (1994).

Beginning in 1958 he played pool hustler Babby, who was a sometime "information resource" for Pete, in 8 episodes of the Peter Gunn TV series. Barty was known for his boundless energy and enthusiasm for any productions in which he appeared. He also performed a remarkable impression of pianist Liberace. He performed with the Spike Jones musical comedy show on stage and television, including Club Oasis on NBC. Earlier, he appeared several times on NBC's The Dennis Day Show, including once as a leprechaun. Barty played the evil sidekick on the 1970s Saturday morning TV series Dr. Shrinker, and was a regular cast member of Redd Foxx's variety show The Redd Foxx Show. He was regularly seen on the Canadian comedy show Bizarre, a weekly Canadian TV sketch comedy series, airing from 1980 to 1985. The show was hosted by John Byner.

Barty also starred in a local Southern California children's show, "Billy Barty's Bigtop," in the mid-1960s, which regularly showed The Three Stooges shorts. In one program, Stooge Moe Howard visited the set as a surprise guest. The program gave many Los Angeles-area children their first opportunity to become familiar with little people, who until then had been rarely glimpsed on the screen except as two-dimensional curiosities.

Barty also starred as "Sigmund" in the popular children's television show "Sigmund and the Sea Monsters" produced by Sid and Marty Krofft in 1974-1976. In 1983, Barty supplied the voice for Figment in EPCOT Center's Journey Into Imagination dark ride. He subsequently supplied a reprisal for the second incarnation, though very brief.

Barty was a noted activist for the promotion of rights for others with dwarfism. He was disappointed with contemporary Hervé Villechaize's insistence that they were "midgets" instead of actors with dwarfism. Barty founded the Little People of America to help with his activism.

Barty was married to Shirley Bolingbroke of Malad City, Idaho, from 1962 until his death. They had two children, Lori Neilson and TV/film producer and director Braden Barty.
Barty and his family belonged to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.[1]

A tribute book on his life was published in December 2002. Within Reach: An Inspirational Journey into the Life, Legacy and Influence of Billy Barty was produced by Barty's nephew, Michael Copeland, and Michael's wife, Debra.

Barty was a beloved annual guest-star on Canada's Telemiracle telethon, one of the most successful (per capita) telethons in the world.

In 1990 Barty was sued in small claims court by two of the writers of his cancelled comedy TV series Short Ribbs, which aired for 13 weeks in Fall 1989 as a local program on KDOC-TV; producer and writer William Winckler, and writer Warren Taylor, filed separate lawsuits against Barty for money owed, and Barty lost both cases. News of Barty losing in small claims court made headlines all over the world, with lead stories such as Barty Comes Up Short in Small Claims,[citation needed] and other such puns. Barty claimed the lawsuit news was the most negative publicity he ever got, and compared it to similar bad press Zsa Zsa Gabor received for slapping a Beverly Hills police officer.[2]

In 1991 Barty was the subject of a punk rock song called "Lou's in the House" recorded by The Squids. The songs first lyric is "Billy Barty had a party and everyone was there."

Barty died of heart failure in 2000 at age 76.[3] He was entombed in Glendale's Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery.


"The name of my condition is cartilage hair hypoplasia, but you can just call me Billy."[4]
"The general public thinks all little people are in circuses or sideshows. We have doctors, nurses, just about every field covered."[4]

Owned a rollerskating rink in Fullerton, California, called "Billy Barty's Roller Fantasy". A movie started shooting there in the mid 80's but was never completed.[5]


1.^  Los Angeles Times: "SHORT TAKES : Barty to Pay; Claims Victory" 3.^ LA Times Obit 4.^ Chavez, Paul (2000-12-24). "The name of my condition is Cartilage Hair Syndrome Hypoplasia, but you can just call me Billy". ABC News. Retrieved 2010-01-26. 5.^

Copeland, Michael and Debra (2002). Within Reach: An Inspirational Journey into the Life, Legacy and Influence of Billy Barty. Xulon Press. ISBN 1-59160-391-9.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Author Nathanael West Crashes En Route to Fitzgerald Funeral 1940

Nathanael West (born Nathan von Wallenstein Weinstein, October 17, 1903 – December 22, 1940) was a US author, screenwriter and satirist.[1]

Early life

Nathanael West (born Nathan Wallenstein Weinstein) was born in New York City, the first child of German-speaking Russian Jewish parents from Lithuania who maintained an upper middle class household in a Jewish neighborhood on the Upper West Side. West displayed little ambition in academics, dropping out of high school and only gaining admission into Tufts University by forging his high school transcript. After being expelled from Tufts, West got into Brown University by appropriating the transcript of a fellow Tufts student who was also named Nathan Weinstein. Although West did little schoolwork at Brown, he read extensively. He ignored the realist fiction of his American contemporaries in favor of French surrealists and British and Irish poets of the 1890s, in particular Oscar Wilde. West's interests focused on unusual literary style as well as unusual content. He became interested in Christianity and mysticism, as experienced or expressed through literature and art. West's classmates at Brown ironically nicknamed him "Pep" after a school trip where after only a few minutes of walking he quickly ran out of breath. West himself acknowledged and made fun of his lack of physical prowess in recounting the story of a baseball match where he cost his team the game. Wells Root, a close friend of West, remembers hearing this tale half a dozen times, recalling that everyone had placed bets on the game, which came down to the final inning with the score tied and the enemy at bat with two outs. At that point the batter hit a long fly towards West:

He put his hands up to catch it and for some inexplicable reason didn’t hold them close together. The ball tore through, hit him in the forehead, and bounced into some brush. There was a roar from the crowd and [West] took one look and turned tail. To a man, the crowd had risen, gathered bats, sticks, stones, and anything they could lay hands on and were in hot pursuit. He vanished into some woods and didn’t emerge until nightfall. In telling the story he was convinced that if they had caught him they would have killed him.[2]

It is unclear whether this ever actually happened, but West later re-imagined this in his short story "Western Union Boy." Since Jewish students were not allowed to join fraternities, his main friend was his future brother-in-law S. J. Perelman, who was to become one of America's most erudite comic writers. West barely finished at Brown with a degree. He then went to Paris for three months, and it was at this point that he changed his name to Nathanael West. West's family, who had supported him thus far, ran into financial difficulties in the late 1920s. West returned home and worked sporadically in construction for his father, eventually finding a job as the night manager of the Hotel Kenmore Hall on East 23rd Street in Manhattan. One of West's real-life experiences at the hotel inspired the incident between Romola Martin and Homer Simpson that would later appear in The Day of the Locust (1939).

Career as author

Although West had been working on his writing since college, it was not until his quiet night job at the hotel that he found the time to put his novel together. It was at this time that West wrote what would eventually become Miss Lonelyhearts (1933). In 1931, however, two years before he completed Miss Lonelyhearts, West published The Dream Life of Balso Snell, a novel he had conceived of in college. By this time, West was within a group of writers working in and around New York that included William Carlos Williams and Dashiell Hammett.

In 1933, West bought a farm in eastern Pennsylvania but soon got a job as a contract scriptwriter for Columbia Pictures and moved to Hollywood. He published a third novel, A Cool Million, in 1934. None of West's three works sold well, however, so he spent the mid-1930s in financial difficulty, sporadically collaborating on screenplays. Many of the films he worked on were B-movies, such as Five Came Back (1939). It was at this time that West wrote The Day of the Locust. West took many of the settings and minor characters of his novel directly from his experience living in a hotel on Hollywood Boulevard.

Nathanael West's Hollywood Apartment Building

In November 1939, West was hired as a screenwriter by RKO Radio Pictures, where he collaborated with Boris Ingster on a film adaptation of the novel Before the Fact (1932) by Francis Iles. West and Ingster wrote the screenplay in seven weeks, with West focusing on characterization and dialogue and Ingster focusing on the narrative structure. RKO assigned the film, eventually released as Suspicion (1941), to Alfred Hitchcock; but Hitchcock already had his own, substantially different, screenplay. Hitchcock's screenplay was written by Samson Raphaelson, Joan Harrison (Hitchcock's secretary), and Alma Reville (Hitchcock's wife). West and Ingster's screenplay was abandoned, but the text can be found in the Library of America's edition of West's collected works.


On December 22, 1940, West and his wife Eileen McKenney were returning to Los Angeles from a hunting trip in Mexico to attend the funeral of his friend, F. Scott Fitzgerald, when he ran a stop sign in El Centro, California, resulting in an accident in which he and McKenney were killed. McKenney had been the inspiration for the title character in the play My Sister Eileen, and she and West had been scheduled to fly to New York City for the Broadway opening on December 26.[3] West was buried in Mount Zion Cemetery in Queens, New York, with his wife's ashes placed in his coffin.

His work

Although West was not widely known during his life, his reputation grew after his death, especially with the publication of his collected novels by New Directions in 1957. Miss Lonelyhearts is widely regarded as West's masterpiece. The Day of the Locust still stands as one of the best novels written about the early years of Hollywood. It is often compared to F. Scott Fitzgerald's unfinished novel, The Last Tycoon, written at about the same time and also set in Hollywood. If one were to draw a family tree of authors who employed "black humor" in their works of fiction, West could be seen as the offspring of Gogol and Poe, and the progenitor of Saul Bellow, Vladimir Nabokov, and Martin Amis (whose use of movingly inarticulate e-mails in Yellow Dog is a 21st-century echo of the letters to Miss Lonelyhearts). A more direct and pronounced influence has been traced from West's work to that of his near-contemporary, Flannery O'Connor.

Some of West's fiction is seen as a response to the Depression that hit America with the stock market crash in October 1929 and continued throughout the 1930s. The obscene, garish landscapes of The Day of the Locust gain added force in light of the fact that the remainder of the country was living in drab poverty at the time. Though West attended socialist rallies in New York's Union Square, his novels have no affinity to the novels of his contemporary activist writers such as John Steinbeck and John Dos Passos. West’s writing style does not allow the portrayal of positive political causes, as he admitted in a letter to Malcolm Cowley regarding The Day of the Locust: "I tried to describe a meeting of the anti-Nazi league, but it didn’t fit and I had to substitute a whorehouse and a dirty film."[4] West saw the American dream as having been betrayed, both spiritually and materially, and in his writing he presented "a sweeping rejection of political causes, religious faith, artistic redemption and romantic love."[5] This idea of the corrupt American dream endured long after his death, in the form of the term "West's disease", coined by the poet W. H. Auden to refer to poverty that exists in both a spiritual and economic sense. Jay Martin wrote an extensive biography of West in 1971; a new biography of West and McKenney by Marion Meade was published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 2010.


The Dream Life of Balso Snell (1931)
Miss Lonelyhearts (1933)
A Cool Million (1934)
The Day of the Locust (1939)


Even Stephen (1934, with S. J. Perelman)
Good Hunting (1938, with Joseph Schrank)

Short stories

"Western Union Boy"
"The Imposter"

Posthumous collections

Bercovitch, Sacvan, ed. Nathanael West, Novels and Other Writings (Library of America, 1997) ISBN 978-1-883011-28-4


Ticket to Paradise (1936)
Follow Your Heart (1936)
The President's Mystery (1936)
Rhythm in the Clouds (1937)
It Could Happen to You (1937)
Born to Be Wild (1938)
Five Came Back (1939)
I Stole a Million (1939)
Stranger on the Third Floor (1940)
The Spirit of Culver (1940)
Men Against the Sky (1940)
Let's Make Music (1940)
Before the Fact (1940) (unproduced)


1.^ Obituary Variety December 25, 1940.
2.^ quoted in Martin, Jay. Nathanael West: The Art of His Life. New York: Hayden, 1971. 55.
3.^ New York Times, December 21, 2003
4.^ West, Nathanael. Novels and Other Writings. New York: The Library of America, 1997. Page 795.
5.^ Yaffe, David. “Go West.” Partisan Review, 66 (Fall 1999). Page 670.
[edit] Further reading
Martin, Jay, Nathanael West: The Art of His Life (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1970)

"Sweet Smell of Success" Director & Teacher Alexander Mackendrick 1993 Westwood Village Cemetery

Alexander Mackendrick (September 8, 1912 - December 22, 1993) was a Scottish American director and teacher.


Alexander Mackendrick was born in Boston, Massachusetts, the only child of Francis and Martha Mackendrick, who had emigrated to the United States from Glasgow in 1911. His father was a ship builder and a civil engineer. When Mackendrick was six, his father fell victim to the influenza pandemic that swept the world just after World War I. His mother, in desperate need of work, decided to be a dress designer. In order to pursue that decision, it was necessary for Martha MacKendrick to hand her only son over to his grandfather, who took young MacKendrick back to Scotland when he was seven years old. The boy never saw or heard from his mother again.

Young Alexander Mackendrick had a very sad and lonely childhood. He attended Hillhead High School from 1919 to 1926 and then went on to spend three years at the Glasgow School of Art. In the early 1930s, MacKendrick moved to London to work as an art director for the advertising firm J. Walter Thompson. Between 1936 and 1938, Mackendrick scripted five cinema commercials. He later reflected that his work in the advertising industry was invaluable, in spite of his extreme dislike of the industry itself. In 1937 MacKendrick wrote his first film script, Midnight Menace, with his cousin and close friend, Roger MacDougall. It was later bought by Associated British.

At the start of the Second World War, Mackendrick was employed by the Minister of Information making British propaganda films. In 1942 he went to Algiers and then to Italy, working with the Psychological Warfare Division. He then shot newsreels, documentaries, made leaflets, and did radio news. In 1943, he became the director of the film unit and approved the production of the classic Rossellini film, Rome, Open City.


After the war, Mackendrick and his cousin, Roger MacDougall, set up Merlin Productions, where they produced documentaries for the Ministry of Information. Merlin Productions soon proved to be a poor investment, so in 1946 Mackendrick joined Ealing Studios where he worked for 9 years. Starting working on storyboards, he eventually worked his way up to writing and directing his own feature films. Among those films were Whisky Galore! (1949), The Man in the White Suit (1951), and The Ladykillers (1955). Mackendrick assisted Dutch film maker Bert Haanstra with the production of the popular comedy film, Fanfare (1958).

Return to the U.S.

In 1955, Mackendrick left Britain for Hollywood. The rest of his professional life was spent commuting between London and Los Angeles.

Mackendrick began directing the Hecht-Hill-Lancaster (HHL) film Sweet Smell of Success in 1957. It was a critical success about a press agent played by Tony Curtis who is wrapped up in a powerful newspaper columnist’s (Burt Lancaster) plot to end the relationship between his younger sister and a jazz musician. Mackendrick got along poorly with the producers of the film because they felt that he was too much of a perfectionist. After The Sweet Smell of Success, Mackendrick went back to England to make his second HHL film, The Devil’s Disciple in 1959, but he was fired only a month into production due to lingering tension from their first project together. Mackendrick was devastated.

After his disappointment with HHL, Mackendrick directed several television commercials in Europe for Horlicks. He also made a handful of films throughout the Sixties including Sammy Going South (1963), A High Wind in Jamaica (1965), and Don't Make Waves (1967). A project to film Ionesco's Rhinoceros, which would have starred Tony Hancock and Barbara Windsor, fell through at the last minute.

In 1969 he returned to the United States after being made Dean of the film school of the California Institute of the Arts. He gave up the position in 1978 to become a professor at the school. It is not difficult to understand why Mackendrick quit directing to become a teacher. "He found himself spending more energy on making deals than on making films."[1] When Ealing studios was sold, Mackendrick was cut loose to pursue a career as a freelance director, something he was never prepared to do:

"At Ealing ... I was tremendously spoiled with all the logistical and financial troubles lifted off my shoulders, even if I had to do the films they told me to do. The reason why I have discovered myself so much happier teaching is that when I arrived here after the collapse of the world I had known as Ealing, I found that in order to make movies in Hollywood, you have to be a great deal-maker ... I have no talent for that ... I realised I was in the wrong business and got out." [2]

Due to severe emphysema, Mackendrick was unable to go home to Europe during much of his time at the college. He stayed with the school until he died of pneumonia in 1993, aged 81. His remains are buried at Westwood Village Memorial Park Cemetery.

Some of Mackendrick's most notable students include Doug Campbell, Terence Davies, Don device, F. X. Feeney, Richard Jefferies, James Mangold, Stephen Mills, Thom Mount, Sean Daniel, Bruce Berman, Gregory Orr, Don Di Pietro, Michael Pressman, Douglas Rushkoff and Lee Sheldon, and David Brisbin, amongst others.



Whisky Galore! (1949)
The Man in the White Suit (1951)
Mandy (1952)
The Maggie (1954)
The Ladykillers (1955)
Sweet Smell of Success (1957)
Sammy Going South (1963)
A High Wind in Jamaica (1965)
Don't Make Waves (1967)


Saraband for Dead Lovers (1948)
Dance Hall (1950)


1.^ Patricia Goldstone, 1960
2.^ Alexander Mackendrick quoted in On Filmmaking, Paul Cronin (ed.), 2004

Further reading

Lethal Innocence: The Cinema of Alexander Mackendrick by Phillip Kemp
On Film-Making : An Introduction to the Craft of the Director by Alexander Mackendrick (edited by Paul Cronin).