Monday, February 14, 2011

Thelma Todd

BRIMMING WITH STAR QUALITY: Thelma Todd (1906-1935) possessed comedic timing that was as remarkable as her beauty. (Original Hal Roach photo from the author's personal collection.)

Called her, "Hot Toddy,"
the ice cream blonde with a smile
that could melt your heart.

Zasu Pitts and Thelma Todd were Hal Roach's female answer to Laurel and Hardy. The duo worked together in 17 comedy shorts before Pitts left Roach Studios in 1933. Pitts was replaced by Patsy Kelly; and, with her new partner, Todd went on to make 21 more two-reelers before 1935.

For The Marx Brothers, Todd provided a luscious alternative to Margaret Dumont, Groucho's usual foil. Pictured with the actress in this still from "Horse Feathers" are Zeppo (left) and Harpo (right).

TWO TOWHEADS ARE BETTER THAN ONE: A playful candid of Todd and Harpo Marx. (From the author's personal collection.)

In August of 1934, the actress opened Thelma Todd's Sidewalk Cafe at 17575 Pacific Coast Highway in Pacific Palisades. It became a favorite of celebrities, tourists and much less desirable characters.

Thelma Todd was found dead in the garage above her restaurant on December 16, 1935, a victim of monoxide poisoning. She was 29 years old.

Todd's death certificate.

Thelma Alice Todd was a teacher but her participation as Miss Massachusetts in The 1925 Miss America Pageant brought her to the attention of motion picture talent scouts. With her striking beauty and vivacious personality, Todd exuded a rich sense of comedic timing that made her a natural for the likes of Buster Keaton, Charley Chase, Laurel and Hardy and The Marx Brothers. Ten years later, the rising star with 120 films under her belt was found dead, slumped over in her car inside her garage, from monoxide poisoning. The coroner ruled it an accident but rumors of fowl play still abound. She was 29, a restaurateur, divorced from shady businessman Pasquale "Pat" DiCicco, living with married director Roland West and rumored to be having an affair with mobster Charles "Lucky" Luciano. What really happened to Thelma Todd remains one of Hollywood's greatest unsolved mysteries.

With Buster Keaton in a scene from "Speak Easily."

A sexy studio portrait.

In an odd twist, the building is now occupied by Paulist Productions, a company dedicated to producing film and television projects that teach Christian values and tackle modern moral dilemmas. The structure is also reported to be haunted.

The eternally youthful, stylish and lovely Thelma Todd.

Hot Toddy: The True Story of Hollywood's Most Sensational MurderSpeak EasilyMonkey Business 


  1. Oh, this is wonderful! And right up my alley...I'm so in love with Thelma Todd right now. Her, and the Marx Brothers.

    Do you mind if I save (I won't use it for anything public) the picture of Thelma and Harpo with their heads pressed together? As mentioned, they're the current loves of my life! ;)

    I'm a poet, too, so it's nice to meet you! :)

    Just last night, I came across the photo of Thelma in her car, and almost wrote a piece about it on my blog.

    I'm thinking I'd even like to write a book, or short story about her...

    Wouldn't it be great to visit the building that once housed her sidewalk cafe?? If it is haunted, just think of the poems it could inspire. :)

  2. I have no problem with you downloading the photo for your personal collection. Many, many years ago, when they were still affordable, I acquired a number of original stills and photos from a dealer in Hollywood. Most of them are of The Marx Brothers, my obsession at the time.

    I play the harp because of Harpo. Many other harpists attribute their introduction to the instrument to him as well. In fact, most of the ones I've spoken to do.

    As for visiting the former Sidewalk Cafe building, I have driven past it many times but I've not stopped and have not been inside. Perhaps, the next time I attend The Getty Villa, I will make a point of stopping, getting out of my car and taking in the surroundings.

    I'm glad that you enjoy my blog. Please, feel free to read and comment on my other haiku poems.

    Thelma Todd was a remarkable comedienne. Her performances are a delight to watch. As far as I'm concerned, there hasn't been enough written about her.

  3. She is beautiful; gone way too soon!! Wonderful blog!! Love the picture of the Two Towheads also with Harpo Marx!!

  4. Thelma Todd is beautiful!! Wonderful blog!!
    Love the Two Towheads with Harpo Marx picture!!