Thelma Todd, who was one of Hollywood’s brightest and most iconic stars, was shockingly found dead in 1935. Although her death was ruled a suicide, many believed she was actually murdered.
For years, the surprising death of the film star loomed large as a story to be told from generation to generation.
Known as the “Ice Cream Blonde,” Todd was famous for her comedic roles alongside the Marx Brothers in “Horse Feathers” and “Monkey Business,” as well as several other successful comedy movies.
Her tragic death sparked a lot of controversies and was an eerie heralding of the fervor that later surrounded Hollywood deaths, such as Marilyn Monroe.
Sadly, no amount of fame or money could unravel the mystery behind her very strange death. Officially, her demise was deemed accidental by carbon monoxide poisoning, but murder conspiracies were never fully put to rest. There were many suspects, yet her death remained unsolved.
Keep scrolling to find out more details.
She Got Into The Entertainment Industry By Luck
Born in Massachusetts in 1906, Todd was known for her brightness and determination. After she graduated from high school in 1923, she enrolled in Lowell Normal College, which was a school for training teachers.
However, at the insistence of her mother, she entered beauty pageants and acting contests. Todd was successful on the pageant circuit, and even won the title of Miss Massachusetts.
It was around this time that she was discovered by some of Hollywood’s top scouts. They recommended that she attended the Paramount School for Junior Stars, which was run by the Paramount Movie Studio.
With the idea of being a schoolteacher totally pushed to the back seat, Todd officially began her acting career. She began with silent films and eventually moved on to the “talkies.” She was well known for her comedic chops and beauty in the industry.
At the end of Todd’s life, she had appeared in more than 100 feature movies and short films. This proved that her death was an irreparable loss for the growing film industry. Additionally, she ventured into other types of businesses. Two of them were her Malibu restaurant and her Sidewalk Cafe. The cafe was known for attracting fellow celebrities and tourists alike. This glitzy and glamorous spot would later play a key role in the puzzle that was Todd’s mystifying death.
The Death Of Thelma Todd
On December 16, 1935, Todd was found dead in her car inside the garage that belonged to Todd’s business partner and occasional lover, Roland West. She was found by her longtime maid, Whitehouse Mae, who noticed blood around her boss’ nose.
“She was slumped in the front seat of her car,” Whitehead later told detectives. “Just bent over, her head to the left.”
According to official statements, the cause of death alluded to carbon monoxide poisoning. However, circumstances surrounding the actor’s demise forced officials to dig deeper into the lives of Todd’s family, friends, and associates.
Per an article in the Los Angeles Times, investigators had plenty of reasons to raise suspicions about the cause of her passing.
“The officers turned to probable cause for death by foul means. Within the past three months, two men had been arrested in New York in connection with extortion notes and telephone calls received by Miss Todd, demanding $10,000 under penalty of death. But there were no signs of violence at the scene of her death,” the article read.
More Questions Arose
A particularly questionable presence in Todd’s space was her business partner who doubled as a lover. His name was West. West’s career as a film director had cooled considerably after his initial success in Hollywood.
While Todd’s cafe was a hit with celebrities, the restaurant, on the other hand, was not a lucrative endeavor behind closed doors.
The details which surrounded Todd and West’s relationship were quite complicated, as they lived in the same duplex above the restaurant. This further muddied the waters of the depth of their relationship.
To add to the existing complications, West’s estranged wife, Jewel Carmen also lived above the cafe. She was also a co-owner of the restaurant, along with her ex and Todd. Though Carmen didn’t outwardly object to West being close to Todd, she allegedly threatened Todd when the restaurant started to lose money.
Her Death Still Remains A Mystery
Another key piece of evidence would help suggest that Todd’s death by carbon monoxide poisoning was no suicide.
According to the Chicago Tribune, “While a grand jury ruled that Todd committed suicide, it was unable to explain her broken nose, the bruises around her throat and two cracked ribs. Apparently, the grand jury thought Todd also beat herself to death.”
Like any mystery, the death of Todd revolved around a cast of over-the-top personalities that only Hollywood could produce.
Although anyone who was personally close with the star has long passed away, there is no denying the fact that the details which surrounded Todd’s death remains a head-scratching story to this day.
The world may never know what happened to Todd, but the perpetual interest in her case ensures that the search for answers continues forever.