Thelma Todd


Actor
Thelma Todd

About

Also Known As
Alison Lloyd, Alison Loyd
Birth Place
Lawrence, Massachusetts, USA
Born
July 29, 1905
Died
December 16, 1935
Cause of Death
Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Biography

A vivacious and sexy blonde who displayed sharp comic timing, Thelma Todd became an expert foil for comedians like the Marx Brothers, Laurel and Hardy, and ZaSu Pitts, only to wind up dead under suspicious circumstances and have her name forever tied with scandal. Todd entered Hollywood during the silent era, when she appeared in a number of films like "Fascinating Youth" (1926) and "The...

Photos & Videos

This Is the Night - Lobby Cards
This Is the Night - Publicity Stills
This Is the Night - Scene Stills

Family & Companions

Pat di Cicco
Husband
Agent. Eloped in 1932, divorced 1934; he later married Gloria Vanderbilt.

Biography

A vivacious and sexy blonde who displayed sharp comic timing, Thelma Todd became an expert foil for comedians like the Marx Brothers, Laurel and Hardy, and ZaSu Pitts, only to wind up dead under suspicious circumstances and have her name forever tied with scandal. Todd entered Hollywood during the silent era, when she appeared in a number of films like "Fascinating Youth" (1926) and "The Noose" (1928), but made an effortless transition to sound pictures with Marx Brothers comedies like "Monkey Business" (1931) and "Horse Feathers" (1932). She attempted to change her image with dramatic roles, acting under the name of Alison Lloyd in "Corsair" (1931) while appearing as Todd in the original version of "The Maltese Falcon" (1931). After some critical backlash from her change of pace, Todd returned to comedies with several shorts that starred ZaSu Pitts and later Patsy Kelly, and starred opposite Buster Keaton and Jimmy Durante in "Speak Easily" (1932). She had more prominent turns in "The Devil's Brother" (1933), "Hips, Hips, Hooray!" (1934) and "Two for Tonight" (1935). In December 1935, however, Todd's body was discovered in her car, which was parked in a garage, after having died of carbon monoxide poisoning. Though officially ruled a suicide, Todd's death was marred by suspicion of foul play and remained one of Hollywood's most elusive unsolved mysteries.

Born on July 29, 1905 in Lawrence, MA, Todd was raised by her father, Jim, and her mother, Bertha. A gifted student, she later began teaching grade school and intended that to be her life's pursuit until she began working part time as a fashion model. That led to Todd entering beauty pageants and eventually winning the title of Miss Massachusetts in 1925. It was during her reign that she was spotted by a Hollywood talent scout and began attending Paramount Picture's acting school in New York City. She entered the filmmaking business during the silent era with supporting roles in "Fascinating Youth" (1926) and "The Noose" (1928), and went on to make scores of films under the auspices of Hal Roach Studios with top comedy acts like Harry Langdon, and Laurel and Hardy. Todd also appeared in a number of two-reel comedies with ZaSu Pitts and later Patsy Kelly, which was seen as Roach's attempt to create a female Laurel and Hardy slapstick team. With the advent of talkies, Todd was given a wider array of opportunities and she was quick to display her comedic gifts. Meanwhile, she became involved with director Roland West and starred under the name of Alison Lloyd in his crime thriller "Corsair" (1931).

Branching out beyond comedy, Todd played the lover of Sam Spade (Ricardo Cortez) in the original version of "The Maltese Falcon" (1931), which director John Huston famously remade with Humphrey Bogart a decade later. But Todd was at her best in comedies like "Monkey Business" (1931) and "Horse Feathers" (1932), both of which starred the Marx Brothers. She next appeared with Buster Keaton and Jimmy Durante in the slapstick "Speak Easily" (1932), widely considered to be Keaton's best sound picture, and starred opposite Cary Grant in his film debut with the romantic comedy "This is the Night" (1932). The following year, Todd appeared in a number of comedies like "You Made Me Love You" (1933), the Laurel and Hardy vehicle "The Devil's Brother" (1933) and the musical comedy "Sitting Pretty" (1933), while also trying her hand at drama with William Wyler's "Counsellor at Law" (1933), starring John Barrymore. In 1934, the socially proficient Todd opened a successful restaurant in the Pacific Palisades, Thelma Todd's Sidewalk Café, while continuing to churn out comedies "Palooka" (1934), "Hips, Hips, Hooray!" (1934) and "Two for Tonight" (1935), with Bing Crosby and Joan Bennett.

On Dec. 16. 1935, after filming all the scenes for what became her final film, "The Bohemian Girl" (1936), Todd was found dead inside her car, which was parked inside her garage just up the road from her restaurant, which was near the home of lover Roland West's ex-wife, Jewel Carmen. The cause of death was carbon monoxide poisoning, which the Los Angeles Police Department first deemed an accident - they thought she was trying to heat up the car or keep herself warm. But a grand jury later discovered that Todd had been found with spots of blood on her mouth and in her car, which led to suspicions of foul play. It was further reported that Todd had a public spat with ex-husband, Pat DiCicco, who was described as an "agent," but was really mobster Lucky Luciano's right-hand man in Hollywood. Adding further fuel to the fire, Todd suffered a bitter divorce with DiCicco, with reports of physical abuse, while she was also the victim of an extortion attempt. In the end, the grand jury determined that Todd committed suicide, based on witness statements that she was subject to depression, and was in trouble with the IRS while on the verge of bankruptcy. Despite the official ruling, the Todd scandal remained a topic of debate and gossip. Meanwhile, the directors of "The Bohemian Girl" reshot her scenes with another actress and reduced her onscreen appearance to just one musical number. At the time of her death, Todd was 30 years old.

Filmography

 

Cast (Feature Film)

The Bohemian Girl (1936)
Gypsy queen's daughter
Two for Tonight (1935)
Lilly Bianca
After the Dance (1935)
Mabel Kane
Palooka (1934)
Trixie
Bottoms Up (1934)
Judith Marlowe
The Poor Rich (1934)
Gwendolyn Featherstone
Lightning Strikes Twice (1934)
Judy [Nelson]
Take the Stand (1934)
Sally Oxford
Cockeyed Cavaliers (1934)
Lady Genevieve
Hips, Hips, Hooray! (1934)
Miss Frisby
Counsellor at Law (1933)
Lillian La Rue
Sitting Pretty (1933)
Gloria Duval
The Devil's Brother (1933)
Lady Pamela
Cheating Blondes (1933)
Anne Merrick/Elaine Manners
Mary Stevens, M.D. (1933)
Lois [Rising]
Son of a Sailor (1933)
The Baronness
Air Hostess (1933)
Mrs. [Sylvia] Carleton
Horse Feathers (1932)
Connie Bailey
Klondike (1932)
Klondike
Call Her Savage (1932)
Sunny De Lane
The Big Timer (1932)
Kay Mitchell
Speak Easily (1932)
Eleanor Espere
This Is the Night (1932)
Claire [Mathewson]
Deception (1932)
Lola Del Mont
The Hot Heiress (1931)
Lola
Broadminded (1931)
Gertie Gardner
Monkey Business (1931)
Lucille
Command Performance (1931)
Lydia
No Limit (1931)
Betty Royce
The Maltese Falcon (1931)
Iva Archer
Swanee River (1931)
Caroline
Aloha (1931)
Winifred Bradford
Corsair (1931)
Alison Corning
Pip From Pittsburg (1931)
Her Man (1930)
Nelly
Follow Thru (1930)
Ruth Van Horn
Her Private Life (1929)
Mrs. Leslie
Seven Footprints to Satan (1929)
Eve
Careers (1929)
Hortense
Naughty Baby (1929)
Bonnie Le Vonne
Trial Marriage (1929)
Grace
The Bachelor Girl (1929)
Gladys
The House of Horror (1929)
Thelma
The Shield of Honor (1928)
Rose Fisher
The Noose (1928)
Phyllis
Heart to Heart (1928)
Ruby Boyd
The Haunted House (1928)
The nurse
The Crash (1928)
Daisy McQueen
Vamping Venus (1928)
Madame Vanezlos, the dancer/Venus
Nevada (1927)
Hettie Ide
The Gay Defender (1927)
Ruth Ainsworth
Rubber Heels (1927)
Princess Aline
Fascinating Youth (1926)
Lorraine Lane

Cast (Short)

An All American Toothache (1936)
The Tin Man (1935)
The Misses Stooge (1935)
Twin Triplets (1935)
Sing Sister Sing (1935)
Treasure Blues (1935)
Hot Money (1935)
Slightly Static (1935)
Top Flat (1935)
One-Horse Farmers (1934)
I'll Be Suing You (1934)
Babes in the Goods (1934)
Bum Voyage (1934)
Soup and Fish (1934)
Three Chumps Ahead (1934)
Done in Oil (1934)
Opened by Mistake (1934)
Maid in Hollywood (1934)
Beauty and the Bus (1933)
Air Fright (1933)
Asleep in the Feet (1933)
The Bargain of the Century (1933)
Maids a la Mode (1933)
Backs to Nature (1933)
One Track MInds (1933)
Red Noses (1932)
Show Business (1932)
The Soilers (1932)
Alum and Eve (1932)
The Old Bull (1932)
Sneak Easily (1932)
Strictly Unreliable (1932)
Sealskins (1932)
The Nickel Nurser (1932)
Catch as Catch Can (1931)
Let's Do Things (1931)
Chickens Come Home- (1931)
Love Fever (1931)
On the Loose (1931)
Rough Seas (1931)
War Mamas (1931)
The Pajama Party (1931)
The Real McCoy (1930)
Fighting Parson, The (1930)
Whispering Whoopee (1930)
Looser Than Loose (1930)
The Shrimp (1930)
The King (1930)
The Head Guy (1930)
Dollar Dizzy (1930)
High C's (1930)
Hotter Than Hot (1929)
Sky Boy (1929)
Snappy Sneezer (1929)

Life Events

1926

Film debut in Paramount's acting school production, "Fascinating Youth"

1931

Appeared under pseudonym Alison Lloyd in film "Corsair"

1936

Last films for Roach, "An All-American Toothache" and "The Bohemian Girl"

Photo Collections

This Is the Night - Lobby Cards
Here are several lobby cards from Paramount's This Is the Night (1932), starring Lily Damita, Roland Young, Cary Grant, Charles Ruggles, and Thelma Todd. Lobby Cards were 11" x 14" posters that came in sets of 8. As the name implies, they were most often displayed in movie theater lobbies, to advertise current or coming attractions.
This Is the Night - Publicity Stills
Here are a few publicity stills from Paramount's This is the Night (1932), starring Lily Damita, Roland Young, Charlie Ruggles, Cary Grant, and Thelma Todd. Publicity stills were specially-posed photos, usually taken off the set, for purposes of publicity or reference for promotional artwork.
This Is the Night - Scene Stills
Here are a few scene stills from Paramount's This is the Night (1932), starring Lily Damita, Roland Young, Charlie Ruggles, Cary Grant, and Thelma Todd.

Videos

Movie Clip

Horse Feathers (1932) - Everyone Says I Love You A singular moment in Marx Brothers movies, Groucho as Professor Wagstaff serenading Connie (Thelma Todd), who's trying to steal the football signals, in a canoe, with screen and song writers Bert Kalmar and Harry Ruby's Everyone Says I Love You, in Horse Feathers, 1932.
Hips, Hips, Hooray! (1934) - Keep Romance Alive Some parody and invention in the opening from director Mark Sandrich (and writers Bert Kalmar, Harry Ruby and Edward Kaufman), plus RKO ingenues, but mostly a quick route to singing star Ruth Etting, with a tune also by Kalmar and Ruby, opening the Bert Wheeler-Robert Woolsey comedy team vehicle Hips, Hips, Hooray!, 1934.
Hips, Hips, Hooray! (1934) - Meet That Man And Merge Shady lipstick salesmen Dr. Dudley and Andy (the RKO comedy team, Bert Wheeler and Robert Woolsey) have hijacked an office hoping they, with ally Daisy (Dorothy Lee), can trick her better-financed boss (Thelma Todd as Miss Frisby) into a merger, in Hips, Hips, Hooray!, 1934.
Bohemian Girl, The (1936) - Heart Of A Gypsy Not credited, because she was deceased in a notorious, and never proven, suicide, by the release date, usually-blonde Thelma Todd’s complete and final appearance, as a gypsy singer, early in the Laurel And Hardy vehicle The Bohemian Girl, 1936.
Maltese Falcon, The (1931) - Trouble With Your Women Spade (Ricardo Cortez) has new client Ruth (Bebe Daniels) stashed in his pad when his paramour and new widow of his partner Iva Archer (Thelma Todd) arrives in a huff, in Warner Bros.' 1931 version of Dashiell Hammett's The Maltese Falcon.
Pip From Pittsburg, The (1931) - Would You Read It To Me? Miss (Thelma) Todd, has realized that her blind date Charley (Chase) assumed she would be as unappealing as the last girl from Pittsubrg [sic] (Kay Deslys, who turns up later), so he ate garlic, among several measures to make himself disgusting, now at the party, desperate to compensate, in the Hal Roach short The Pip From Pittsburg, 1931.
Devil's Brother, The (1933) - Too Rich My Lady The title character (Dennis King) romancing the pulchritudinous Lady Pamela (Thelma Todd), her husband Lord Rochberg (James Finlayson) aside, in the Laurel & Hardy period comedy The Devil's Brother, 1933.

Trailer

Companions

Pat di Cicco
Husband
Agent. Eloped in 1932, divorced 1934; he later married Gloria Vanderbilt.

Bibliography