Whodunit raids hospital

The October 14 1947 edition of the Toronto Daily Star contains this brief article that reads like something from a spy thriller:

So what we have here is a man disguising himself as a doctor, extracting the love of his life – who happens to have only one arm – from a Swedish sanitorium, and flying her to Norway in a private plane. The movie script practically writes itself.

I did a bit of searching, and went down a variety of interesting rabbit holes. First off: I could find no evidence that Torsten Akrell (also written as Thorsten Akrell) wrote detective stories. He appears to have been a lieutenant and a special agent of the Swedish Defense Staff during the Second World War, part of a team responsible for smuggling secret agents into Poland and Hungary. He also took on missions for the Allies in wartime Berlin. Given this history, smuggling a woman out of a sanitorium would have been a relatively stress-free exercise.

Louise Forsell, not Torsten Akrell, was the writer of detective stories; she was known as Loulou. There is a Wikipedia page for her in Swedish that provides more details on what happened:

  • Apparently, Ms. Forsell had been saddled with a narcotics habit as a result of being treated for injuries suffered in a plane crash.
  • After being admitted to a Swedish sanitorium, she complained about her treatment there and was then banned from receiving visitors or making phone calls.
  • This is the point at which Lt. Akrell stepped into the picture.

The whole affair became something of a controversy in Sweden at the time, as Ms. Forsell was still married to her first husband, a merchant named Nils Kaage. Not surprisingly, this marriage didn’t make it through the year.

Despite his heroics, Ms. Forsell and Lt. Akrell never did get married. She married a singer named Anders Börje in 1951, divorced him two years later, and then passed away in 1954 at the age of 31. I couldn’t find out what the cause of her death was. She wrote five novels, one of which was co-written by her brother and one of which was published posthumously.

A more complete history of this event can be found on this page about crime in Stockholm (translate it into English and then scroll to the section titled “The Knight and the Virgin 1947”). This page states that Lt. Akrell became a United Nations soldier (presumably peacekeeping); if this is him, he passed away in 1980. A photo of the two of them is available on Wikimedia Commons.

Last but not least: a Swedish movie called The Spy was released in 2019, with an actor named Rolf Lassgård playing the part of Thorsten Akrell. I have no idea what it is about.


Lock your door on birthdays

The October 6 1931 edition of the Toronto Daily Star has been a fertile source of material! Here’s the last post from that edition – an ad for Lux Toilet Soap.

I find Lux ads fascinating because of their specificity: this ad claims that 605 out of 613 Hollywood actresses use it. (As opposed to this ad from 1930, which claimed 511 out of 521.) But the headline for the ad claims that “nine out of ten lovely Screen Stars” know the secret of Lux, which is a far smaller ratio than 605/613.

The stars mentioned in this ad:

  • The film career of Hugh Trevor (1903-1933) was over by the time this ad came out, as it did not survive the transition to talking pictures. Sadly, he didn’t survive much longer, either, as he passed away from complications from an appendectomy.
  • Betty Compson (1897-1974) had worked regularly in the movies since 1915, and had been nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress in 1928. Her career was past its peak when she appeared in this Lux ad, though she did continue appearing in films until 1948.
  • Bebe Daniels (1901-1971) has appeared in this blog before. She appeared in Hollywood movies from 1910 to 1935; she and her husband, Ben Lyon, then moved to London. Their entire family – Ms. Daniels, Mr. Lyon, and their two children – appeared in a British radio and television series, Life With The Lyons, that lasted from 1951 to 1961.
  • Sue Carol (1906-1982) appeared in a number of movies between 1927 and 1931 with occasional roles after that. She eventually opened her own talent agency; among its clients was actor Alan Ladd, whom she married.


If you’re a good speller

Here’s a blurb from the October 6 1931 edition of the Toronto Daily Star that was both an advertisement and a spelling contest.

If you don’t want to read the fine print: every day, the Daily Star was planning on misspelling some words in the Articles Wanted and Articles For Sale sections of their classified want ads. (This seems a little unfortunate for the unlucky people who wanted or were selling ads – they would be made to seem less than completely literate. I guess this was not my problem to worry about.) Clever readers who spotted the mistakes and sent in their corrections would win passes to see Personal Maid at the Imperial.

Out of curiosity, I went looking in that day’s ads for misspellings. I found two – I probably missed some, as most of the ads were for furniture, and I don’t know the correct spellings of some of the more unusual furniture names. One misspelling was obvious:

The second one that I spotted was more obscure:

The correct spelling is “anastigmatic lens”. I’m sure that I missed others.

Nancy Carroll (1903-1965) was at the peak of her career at the time she appeared in this ad. She was under contract to Paramount Pictures, and apparently began to object to the movies she was being cast in; this caused the studio to drop her, and her career went into a decline. She appeared on television a few times in the 1950s, and was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1960.


Baby from Germany

Here’s a photo from the October 6 1931 edition of the Toronto Daily Star of a couple of young actors with their baby.

Nils Asther (1897-1981) was a Swedish actor who was known as the male Greta Garbo. He appeared in movies opposite her in the 1920s, and the two actors often socialized. Asther was gay, but had to remain in the closet, as gay relationships were not legalized in Sweden until 1944. His marriage to Vivian Duncan was basically a marriage of convenience, and did not last long; the two quarrelled and became tabloid fodder, and they divorced in 1932.

Vivian Duncan (1897-1986) was one of the Duncan Sisters, a vaudeville duo that began performing together in 1911. Vivian and Rosetta Duncan created an act known as Topsy and Eva, with Rosetta playing the part of Topsy in blackface. Some footage of the Duncan Sisters is available on YouTube, including them performing “Baby Sister Blues” in 1923.


The secret is out

Here’s a photo from the October 6 1931 edition of the Toronto Daily Star of a woman who had just won an American golf championship.

Helen Hicks (1911-1974) had just won the U.S. women’s amateur championship, beating Glenna Collett Vare in the final. (Ms. Vare has appeared in this blog here. Enid Wilson, the golfer who gave her the lucky charm, has also appeared in this blog.) Two years later, she reached the final again, but lost. She also won the Canadian women’s amateur championship in 1929.

In 1934, she became one of the first women golfers to turn professional, and, in 1950, she was one of the 13 women who founded the LPGA.

The Boston Public Library’s Flickr page has some photos of her.


Back to the bourgeoisie

The photo page from the October 6 1931 edition of the Toronto Daily Star continues to be a source of blog entries! Here’s a photo from that day’s edition of a retired United States Marine general.

Smedley Butler (1881-1940) had received more decorations than any other Marine at the time of this photograph. He was one of 19 men who had been awarded the Medal of Honor twice, and was one of only three men to ever have received the Marine Corps Brevet Medal.

His retirement had just started a few days before this photograph was taken, and was hastened when he revealed that Italian dictator Benito Mussolini had allegedly struck and killed a child in a hit-and-run accident. When the Italian government protested, Butler was placed under arrest and was set to be court-martialed; eventually, he was just reprimanded.

In 1933, Butler claimed that a group of American businessmen were plotting to overthrow President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and establish a fascist dictatorship. Hearings revealed that, while some members of the Business Plot, as it became known, were serious about the coup, it hadn’t gotten much past the discussion or idle chatter stage.

By this time, Butler had become disillusioned with what he referred to as the profit motive behind warfare. In a socialist magazine called Common Sense, Butler wrote:

I spent 33 years and four months in active military service and during that period I spent most of my time as a high class muscle man for Big Business, for Wall Street and the bankers. In short, I was a racketeer; a gangster for capitalism.

He then wrote a book titled War Is A Racket. Butler later retired to Pennsylvania and passed away from what was apparently gastro-intestinal cancer.


Is now play-writing

Here’s another photo from the October 6 1931 edition of the Toronto Daily Star. This photo is of actress and playwright Mary Hay.

Mary Hay (1901-1957) was a stage actress who appeared in a number of Broadway productions in the 1920s. In 1931, she co-wrote and starred in Greater Love, which unfortunately was not successful: it closed in March of that year after only eight performances. This was her last Broadway performance.

After she and Richard Barthelmess divorced, Ms. Hay married Vivian Bath, a British rubber merchant who lived in Singapore. If, as this photograph claims, she was going home to stay with her mother, it seems to indicate that her second marriage was already not going well; at any rate, the couple divorced in 1934.

After marrying and divorcing again, Ms. Hay developed heart trouble in the 1950s, and passed away in 1957 at the comparatively young age of 55.


Shoved into an ice sarcophagus

Here’s a photo from the October 6 1931 edition of the Toronto Daily Star of a magician who was locked into a block of ice and survived.

Searches for Harry Moro turned up newsreel footage of his feat, but nothing else. This appears to have been the high point of his career and possibly his life.


May hand official invitation

Here’s a photo from the October 6 1931 edition of the Toronto Daily Star of a young woman who was apparently about to hand President Herbert Hoover an official invitation to the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics.

A search for Felicia Spillard turned up some odds and ends:

  • Her Find a Grave entry, which indicated that she was born in Mexico City in 1907 and passed away in California in 1979.
  • The University of California register for 1927, which includes her name.
  • An article from the Los Angeles Herald in 1919, which states that Ms. Spillard, who was 12 at the time, surprised a jewel thief at the family home. Fortunately, she was unharmed.


Picked for a screen test

Here’s a photo from the October 6 1931 edition of the Toronto Daily Star of a young woman who was working as a waitress and was possibly about to have a film career.

Searches for Adele Bailey mostly turned up references to a sex worker of the same name who went missing in 1978 and whose body was found 17 years later. The only other reference to this Adele Bailey that I could find appeared in a New York Daily News gossip column later that year; in this clipping, Ms. Bailey was 18, not 19, and it was hinted that she was involved with Mr. Cantor.

Eddie Cantor (1892-1964) was a performer who starred in the Ziegfeld Follies from 1917 to 1927. He was later famous for his radio shows that described life with his wife Ida and their five daughters. Among other things, he invented the phrase “March of Dimes” for the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis charity and co-wrote the theme song for the Warner Brothers “Merrie Melodies” cartoons. Occasional alleged dalliances with former waitresses notwithstanding, he and his wife remained married from 1914 until her death in 1962. He was posthumously inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame in 1995.