All The People Who Died, Died…
October 17, 2014
It’s almost Halloween and a chill wind is starting to blow (most likely a Santa Ana). Around this time of year, the ghosts of Hollywood’s past begin to grow restless, wandering the streets of Hollywood. If you’re very quiet, you can hear them murmuring about days gone by, the glory years, when life was good and they were on top of the world.
You may not know it, but a surprising number of household names died on the streets of the Hollywood Entertainment District. Here now, for your Halloween pleasure, is a short list of some of the celebs who ended their days near Hollywood Boulevard.
D.W. Griffith (January 22, 1875 – July 23, 1948): Legendary film director D.W. Griffith, best remembered for The Birth of a Nation (1915) and Intolerance (1916), was discovered unconscious in the lobby at the Knickerbocker Hotel on Ivar after suffering a cerebral hemorrhage. He died shortly thereafter. Despite the overwhelming acclaim his earlier movies received, he was never again able to achieve the same level of success, despite making nearly 500 films. A service was held for him in the building that now houses Jimmy Kimmel Live, but it’s said that very few celebs attended.
Clara Blandick (June 4, 1880 – April 15, 1962): Better known as Auntie Em in The Wizard of Oz, Clara Blandick committed suicide in her house at 1735 N. Wilcox Avenue (now the site of the Vida Apartments) after struggling for many years with encroaching blindness and severe arthritis. According to reports, she prepared for her death very carefully, dressing impeccably and displaying press clippings and photos from her long career as a stage and screen actress. Reportedly, she took an overdose of sleeping pills, wrapped a blanket around her shoulders for warmth and then tied a plastic bag over her head. Her note reputedly said, “I am now about to make the great adventure. I cannot endure this agonizing pain any longer. It is all over my body. Neither can I face the impending blindness. I pray the Lord my soul to take. Amen.”
Irene (December 8, 1900 – November 15, 1962): Watch any movie from the 1930s and 40s and chances are you’ll see the credit, “Costumes by Irene.” Born Irene Lentz, Irene got her big break designing the gowns worn by Ginger Rogers in the movie Shall We Dance (1937). She went on to design costumes for such luminaries as Claudette Colbert, Carole Lombard, Ingrid Bergman, Lana Turner, Doris Day, Barbara Stanwyck and many more. In 1962, she checked into room 1129 of the Knickerbocker Hotel under an assumed name, and jumped to her death from the bathroom window, landing on the lobby roof. Reportedly, she left a note for her friends, family, husband and other hotel guests apologizing for any “inconvenience” her death might cause.
William Frawley (February, 26, 1887—March 3, 1966):Best known as Fred Mertz on I Love Lucy, and the grandfather on My Three Sons, William Frawley was walking home after seeing the movie, Inside Daisy Clover and dropped dead of a heart attack on the corner of Hollywood & Ivar. A passing nurse dragged him to the lobby of the nearby Knickerbocker Hotel and tried to revive him, but he was gone. His star is located half a block away from where he died, on the south side of the 6300 block of Hollywood Blvd.
So if you’re out and about in Hollywood, especially near the Knickerbocker Hotel, on All Hallows Eve, be sure to send a kind thought to these poor departed souls whose lives ended so tragically. I’m sure they’ll appreciate it.
Kim Sudhalter has worked with the Hollywood Entertainment District since its early years, helping to attract investment and revitalize the area. Originally from Europe and New York, she is an architecture and history buff who has a deep and abiding love for Hollywood and its past.