Friday, April 26, 2013

The Shroud Of Mystery Behind Thomas Ince's Death- Part One

Thomas Ince
Not too many people know who Thomas Ince is, or was. Tragically his death overshadowed his legacy of being a true pioneer in the silent film industry. The few who are familiar with his story are usually at odds deciding on whether or not  his death was from "natural causes" or worse, if he was murdered. This story is one that is complex and filled with twists and turns at every corner. But for the truth seekers such as myself, it only added more fuel to the fire. The more I dug,the more I uncovered clues in regards to what really happened that night on the Oneida. After reading this story, I hope that you will put two and two together to see the story unravel right before your eyes. In the end, you will draw your own conclusions to this mystery and hopefully you will leave this page, satisfied with your opinions.

Birthday Invite Aboard W.R.'s Yacht!

Thomas Ince's name went down in history not for being a mogul the film industry, not for being the "Father of the Western" but rather for the fatal demise  that has been shrouded in mystery ever since he stepped foot on William Randolph Hearst's yacht, the Oneida, the weekend of November 15th, 1924. In fact, when the yacht left bound for San Diego from San Pedro that very day, Ince himself missed the initial departure and had to take a train to San Diego that following day, Sunday morning (the 16th) in order to board the yacht and enjoy the last day of the weekend with Hearst and his other companions on board.

Davies greeting Ince aboard the Oneida
"W.R." had invited Ince to share in the festivities of the weekend, even going so far as to plan a celebratory birthday dinner in honor of Ince on Sunday evening. Little is known about who actually was on board that evening. The guest list has changed a bit off an on over the years, but always the common denominators of the story remain:  William Randolph Hearst, Charlie Chaplin, Marion Davies, Louella Parsons, Thomas Ince, Margaret Livingston and of course Dr. Goodman always seem to be among those listed in every story.

According to the "official" records and reports, it states that the evening of Sunday, November 16th, that Thomas Ince grew ill from a bout of indigestion and had to be removed from the yacht in the night. According to Dr. Daniel Carson Goodman (a licensed though non-practicing physician) who was employed by Hearst as film production head, he claimed that he escorted Ince to San Diego where they boarded the train. By the time they hit Del Mar, Ince's condition had worsened so they got off the train and went to a hotel. Goodman contacted Ince's wife, Nell and told her to join them at the hotel where they called a doctor.  He eventually was moved to his Benedict Canyon home, (1051 Benedict Canyon Rd.) known as "Dias Dorados" where he eventually passed away on his wife's birthday, November 19th (which was a Wednesday, not a Tuesday as many claim). It is quite possible he died towards the early morning hours of November 19th, having had taken a turn for the worst Tuesday evening.  The idea that Thomas Ince fell ill to indigestion and later died from heart failure has always been scrutinized over the years. In fact, there are just too many conflicting reports in regards to that scenario, that it raises suspicion even more.

Other Theories:

Secret Affair & A Case Of Mistaken Identity

Swanson, Chaplin & Davies
The most popular of rumors was that Hearst invited Charlie Chaplin as one of his guests that weekend to observe Chaplin with Hearst's mistress, actress Marion Davies. The rival newspapers of Hearst's empire had published accounts just a week prior to the trip, stating that Davies and Chaplin were seen together in an inappropriate manner. Perhaps Hearst, wanting to see for himself, had invited Chaplin to find out if the rumors were true. He had to know if his beloved mistress Marion was being unfaithful or not.

As the rumor goes, Chaplin and Davies had been seen by Hearst below deck conversing, eventually Chaplin left his hat and retreated back to his stateroom for the night. In a jealous rage, Hearst went back to his stateroom and retrieved his diamond studded revolver (that he was most famously known for shooting down seagulls with) and went back to where Davies and Chaplin had been seated.

Somewhere during W.R.'s stroll to retrieve his gun, Ince had got up and found Davies alone. What they were talking about is unknown to this day, but the outcome proved to be fatal. Some rumors state Ince picked up Chaplin's hat and put it on as a joke to Davies as they sat there chatting. Mistaken for Chaplin, Hearst shot Ince in the back of the head. Feeling so overcome by guilt for shooting the wrong person, Hearst swore everyone on the yacht to secrecy (probably "buying them off") and covered the whole story over.

Another theory in regards to the whole Chaplin-Davies-Hearst love triangle was that there was a fight and that Hearst flat out shot at Chaplin and missed, while the bullet some say exited out of a porthole and struck Ince in the forehead while he was strolling on deck. Another says Ince was trying to break up the fight between Chaplin and Hearst while the gun went off, striking him in the head. No matter which theory you choose out of this category, Hearst remains the shooter in these scenarios.

The Incidence of Rape and Self Defense

Another quite messy scenario is that of an unknown character, Abigail Kinsolving. Miss Kinsolving happened to be Miss Davies Secretary, and from most stories she is not among those listed as being aboard the Oneida that night. However, apparently through the Hollywood gossip circuit, the story claims that Abigail was raped by Ince aboard Hearst's yacht and that she shot him in self defense or even quite possibly stabbed him in the head. Another report states that she only admitted to being raped by Ince, but never mentioned anything about how he died, or even if the death was related to her rape.

Margaret Livingston, Ince's mistress
Stories go on to state that Abigail became pregnant from that incident and gave birth to a daughter, Louise just months later. As you know, a pregnancy takes an entire nine months. So for her to give birth just a "few months" later sounds fishy to me. Also, the reports claim that Ince raped her on Saturday night, the 15th of November.

That is impossible, Ince didn't even board the Oneida until Sunday morning (the 16th) in San Diego because he had been busy at the premiere of  "The Mirage" and an ongoing production deal he was negotiating with Hearst's International Film Corporation. So if Abigail claimed to have been raped by Ince on the 15th aboard the Oneida, then that was a lie.

Now, if she wanted to claim that Ince was the father of her baby, whom I am now assuming that she was already "expecting" long before stepping foot on the Oneida that evening, perhaps she was enraged with jealousy when she saw that Hearst had invited Ince's mistress, Margaret Livingston. Was Abigail also one of Ince's mistresses? Given the circumstances, and her "delicate condition" I could imagine that she was beyond livid at that point.

As we all know the saying:

Heav'n has no rage like love to hatred turn'd
Nor Hell a fury, like a woman scorn'd.- 
(act III of William Congreve's The Mourning Bride, 1697)

There are so many possibilities to the scenarios behind the Abigail Kinsolving theory. If she was in fact having a sexual relationship with Ince prior to this yacht trip, she could have confided in him that she was pregnant with his child and he could have said it wasn't his, or that he wouldn't leave his wife for her. Perhaps she was just a "fling" to Ince, although it might have meant much more to her. Again, there really is no way to know if Ince was secretly seeing Abigail or not, but had she really been pregnant with his child and became so enraged at the sight of Ince with Livingston, or upset that Ince refused to acknowledge her pregnancy, perhaps she lost it that night and she shot him herself.

It would be very easy for her to claim rape to Hearst, given the fact he was quite the conservative and would have swept that whole thing under the rug for an innocent victim, and even more so for a woman. Also, think about this, Marion Davies was everything to Hearst. Abigail was Davies Secretary, she spent a lot of time with Davies, so she probably spent a lot of time with Hearst. He would have been well aware that a scandal of that magnitude would have ruined Davies' career and brought a never ending rainstorm of unflattering publicity to Hearst as well if it made the papers. 

Hearst would do anything for Davies, he created Cosmopolitan Pictures just for her, so that she could star in all the films. If he would do that for her, he would cover over anything if it meant protecting her image.
I also find it interesting that Abigail died shortly after giving birth to Louise. Her body was found among the wreckage of an auto accident near "La Cuesta Encantada"-- Hearst's Ranch in San Simeon. Allegedly, Hearst's bodyguards discovered her body, where they also found a suicide note.

Many speculated that the note was written by two different people, given the two distinct sets of handwriting on the note. Upon looking into this further, I have read that some people with "variable personalities" have been known to write with two distinct sets of handwriting. Some go from cursive to print, which is actually quite normal. While others can change styles completely which could mean something a little more complex. Could this have been a clue that Abigail had a split personality? Could she have been mentally ill? Did she really kill herself? Or was her death another unsolved mystery forever lurking in the shadows of W.R. Hearst? Unfortunately, we have no idea what the note said or what it looked like, as I am sure it was destroyed long ago. So there is no way to determine whether both sets of writing were from Abigail, or someone else. As the story goes, after Abigail died, Marion Davies quickly took Louise and placed her in an orphanage that Davies financially supported, making sure Louise would be taken care of.

Patricia Van Cleve (Hearst's daughter)
More proof of Hearst's capability to cover over or conceal secrets was one he held on to the grave. For many years Marion Davies claimed that the young blonde that would occasionally visit the Ranch in San Simeon was her "niece." However, as the years went on and secrets were whispered, this girl claimed to be the "love child" of Davies and Hearst. It is unknown when she was born, sometime between 1920-1923 but according to the Lake family, Marion gave the child to her sister Rose to raise after the loss of her own baby, while Hearst saw to it that she was financially cared for. On her death bed, Patricia Van Cleve Lake claimed that Marion Davies confided to her when she was 11 years old, and was told to keep her mouth shut about it. Even on her wedding day, six years after Davies had told her, Hearst  himself took her aside and told her that he was her real father and embraced her.

Patricia claimed that she had to pretend as if she didn't know, in order to make sure Hearst thought the secret had never been spoken prior to that day. Even after he admitted it to her, she knew that the charade was not over, in her entire life neither one of her biological parents could ever publicly acknowledge that she was their daughter, even if she knew they were her parents. Upon her deathbed, Patricia made sure that the world knew the real truth, she wanted to leave this world with the secret revealed. It makes you wonder, that if Hearst could hide a love child, what else could he hide?

Several historians have claimed to have dis-proven this theory by divorce records of  Rose and George, showing the constant animosity and fighting for custody of Patricia but there really is no way to know for sure who the girls parents were without DNA testing. Adoptive parents fight over their children all the time, plus the fact they had lost a child in death once, they may have been holding on to Patricia with all their might, regardless of whether she was biologically theirs or not. Whether it was George Van Cleeve and Rosemary Douras who parented her or Marion Davies and Hearst, the mystery will always remain.

No Autopsy

According to the papers, Wednesday morning's edition of the Los Angeles Times revealed a headline,
"MOVIE PRODUCER SHOT ON HEARST'S YACHT!"- but by the afternoon edition, that headline had been pulled, with any other information in regards to Ince's injuries.  One of Hearst's own papers published a headline reading "SPECIAL CAR RUSHES STRICKEN MAN HOME FROM RANCH."

Timeline of Events
In fact, at first Hearst wanted the public to think that Ince was actually at his Ranch in San Simeon, and that he was rushed home when he fell ill. When the rumors got out that people knew he had boarded the Oneida that Sunday morning, the papers had to backpedal there story and change it quickly. Then the story claimed that Ince fell ill due to ulcers and indigestion and later caused him a heart attack.

When Ince died at his home in Benedict Canyon, his personal Physician Dr. Glasgow signed the death certificate stating the cause of death was "heart failure." Ince was shot or became "ill" on Sunday evening (16th) and departed from the yacht early Monday the 17th. He died on the 19th and his funeral took place just two days later on Friday the 21st.  Upon those present were Marion Davies, Charlie Chaplin, Ince's brothers Ralph and John, accompanied by Elinor Ince and her three sons William, Thomas and Richard. Several other celebrities and family friends attended while services were done in the Chapel at the Hollywood Cemetery. Hearst himself was not present, which calls to mind that if Ince really had become ill on board of Hearst's yacht, why not pay Ince the respect of attending his funeral...that is, if it really wasn't any fault of W.R.'s in the first place. Right?

Ince's remains were cremated immediately after the ceremony, but records state that it was an open casket ceremony at the funeral. It is interesting to note that according to the book, "Thomas Ince- Hollywood's Independent Pioneer" written by Brian Taves, he states that the Chief of Homicide in Los Angeles dispatched two officers (J.B. Fox and William Bright) to Strother and Dayton's Mortuary in Hollywood, where Ince's body was being prepared for his funeral. According to the book, both officers along with the studio manager Reeve Houck witnessed as he states "Dr. Day" (whose name in actuality was Dr. Dayton not Day) turned the body of Thomas Ince over to reveal nothing. No mark, no wounds, nothing to indicate death occurred from anything besides natural causes. Could it be?  It is always likely that cops were paid off but it does make you stop and wonder, is it possible that Ince did die from natural causes after all? But then again, we are talking about Hollywood here, and Hollywood is very capable of  making people forget what they saw. Hollywood is also very good at using makeup, so it is possible that they cosmetically altered Ince's body or head to make the wound not visible.

What About The Witnesses?

Although many records state that Thomas Ince died Tuesday night, it was actually the early morning hours of Wednesday, as the records state he died on November 19th, which was in fact, a Wednesday. What is interesting about the witness accounts is that most on board of the Oneida either had no accounts or seemed to come down with a sudden bout of forgetfulness.

Marion Davies claimed that Nell Ince called her from the studio on Monday, letting her know Thomas had died. Well history shows this is impossible, being that Ince didn't die till the early hours of Wednesday.  Charlie Chaplin stated that he was never on board of the Oneida that weekend and that he, Hearst and Davies came to see Ince at his home a week after he became "ill". He also went on to state that Ince didn't die until two weeks after. Funny, because Chaplin was present at Ince's funeral that same week, so he knew very well that Ince died days, not weeks later.

Louella Parsons (who we will discuss in great detail in Part 2), claimed that she wasn't even in California at the time, and that she was all the way in New York when Ince became ill and died. Interestingly enough, Vera Burnett, a stand-in for Marion Davies at the studio, recalled seeing Louella with Marion at the studio the day of their planned weekend trip aboard Hearst's yacht, proving that Louella was in fact on the Oneida at the time.

Another witness that many have ignored over the years is the account of Chaplin's driver, Toraichi Kono, who claimed he actually saw Ince being transported by ambulance off the yacht. Kono confided the strange account to his wife that it appeared as if Ince's head was "bleeding from a bullet wound." Among the domestic workers in Hollywood and Beverly Hills, this rumor spread quickly. In a matter of days there were several calls to Los Angeles authorities as well as the authorities in San Diego, asking for them to investigate Ince's death, if not for murder, then for the illegal alcohol consumption which could have also led to his illness.  Because the public had doubts about the truth to Ince's death and many believed Hearst used his influence and control to cover it up, within three weeks San Diego District Attorney Chester C. Kempley was forced to look into the matter.

The odd part about the whole thing is that Kempley only questioned one person, Dr. Goodman, the man who accompanied Ince from the yacht, to the hotel and then onto Ince's Benedict Canyon home. The D.A. never questioned the guests who were on board the Oneida, nor did he even dare question Hearst. That to me, also sounds a little fishy. Of course the D.A. concluded that the matter was closed, being that Ince's death did not appear to be anything other than natural causes.

"I am satisfied that the death of Thomas H. Ince was caused by heart failure as a result of an attack of there is every reason to believe that the death of Ince was due to natural causes, there is no reason why an investigation should be made."- Chester C. Kempley, San Diego District Attorney.

As usual, the story was covered over and smoothed out by the Hearst papers, but there was far more to the story than just this. We are just scratching the surface.

J'aime Rubio- Dreaming Casually Publications/Hollywoodland Forever 
Copyright- 2013

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