#903 Was Thelma Todd Murdered?


Thelma Todd was the daughter of a pair of immigrants: John Todd of Ireland and Alice Edwards of Canada. They met in Boston where John was working in the rug trade. It was a whirlwind courtship and they married on June 20, 1900 in Lawrence, Massachusetts, about 30 miles away in a Congregationalist ceremony.

On July 27, 1903 their first son, William was born, and then three years later, on July 29. 1906 was their daughter, Thelma, a popular name of the time. Marc Jones has no time listed though the back of the book supposes a 9:13 PM time.

Bloody childhood

Here Thelma has an interesting yod from Uranus in the 7th to Saturn in the 9th that ends around her Sun at 9 Leo. The Point Focus is about her South Node at 9 Leo — glass blowers distorting reality — in the 8th House. Thelma is a Locomotive Temperament Type with a Grand trine in Water highlighting how she tends to be easily swayed by her companions. The sextile midpoint to the Saturn – Water is Uranus making that her focal determinator that works because of her invention of female slapstick comedy — formerly just a male provenience.
The top chart is our rectification. The bottom is found in the Sabian Symbols but not noted in the noted. It gives her a stellium in the 5th and 4th houses. While a case could be made for the 5th, creative aspirations, the 4th is a stretch. Here though the ascendant is 28 Pisces — a fertile garden under a full moon.

Ice Cream, He Screamed

When Thelma was about 4 years old, her mother took her and brother William to Randolph, Vermont, where she had a family. Unfortunately, during the stay, one of the Randolph cousins brought William to the local creamery where he worked to show off the machinery. William fascinated by the work, escaped on the last day of the trip to go back to the creamery & get closer to peer at the works. Alas Willie got too close,  and his clothes became entangled in the machine and was mangled with severe head and neck injuries. It took some time for him to die, a full month, but it must have been gruesome, with no penicillin to stem the infection or advanced surgery to save the boy; he died a month later.

Thelma

John Todd became a town alderman, Thelma grew up and got some acting skills in high school drama, and upon graduation went to the Lawrence Normal school (now University of Massachusetts at Lawrence) for a degree in teaching. Still, the acting bug had taken hold of her and in 1925 she applied for Jesse Lasky’s Famous Players-Lasky acting school; there was no fit, and she returned home and her coursework.

Miss Massachusetts

Unperturbed by that response, Thelma decided that she would run for the Miss Massachusetts contest which she won amid great applause.. From there she was a shoe model for the Haverhill (Mass) Shoe Manufacturers’ and then with the urging of another friend, the two girls ran away to Long Island, New York and Lasky’s group for another try out at his school. This time worked out better: she had more grace and poise and she was a Paramount trainee. Alot of her allure was her mass of golden curls, ever-ready smile and willingness to learn. Three years later she got a contract with Paramount studios itself and she was off and running.

The road to success is never that even and straight, and for Thelma, it was marred by constant weight battles, she had to stay within a small range around 122 pounds. Plus movies themselves were changing with Al Jolson and the Talkies; Thelma found herself the Queen of Slapstick, or Screwball Comedy, and set the tone for future actresses as the Ice Cream Blonde in the genre but it also pigeon-holed Thelma.

Marriage and Pat DiCicco

Thelma and Pat on their wedding day on Long Island

Like many a young modern woman, she played the field, with a new beau every week; the gossip mags loved her — she was photogenic and equally good-looking men on her arm weekly helped drive circulation. Then she met and fell for Pat (Pasquale) De Cicco a mysterious polo player from Queens, New York. They married in July 1932 but rumours that it was a “shotgun affair” never really quieted. A few months later she was in the hospital from a botched abortion. Then there was the automobile crash 6 months after their marriage, & Thelma broke 3 ribs. Being just 26 she rebounded well, and was back in pictures but her quickie marriage was showing a lot of strain from her frenetic movie schedule and by 1934 it was over and Pat was playing the field, and not just in Polo.

5:28 is the approximate time of death according to the LAPD coroner. Notice Mars is right on the 8th house cusp conjunct the South Node in Aquarius — 08 Aquarius Mars (beautifully gowned wax figures ) that show her reliance throughout her life on chance. Both are in Aquarius, the ruler with modern gases. The South Node here highlights her bad luck with men, Pat DeCicco was thought by many to be a gangster; Gloria Vanderbilt married him nonetheless.
Her stellium in the 1st house shows how much Thelma was willful and undisciplined in obtaining her goals — if she wanted it she worked hard to get it. She was rather obsessive about succeeding in her chosen career at all costs — see the trine to the Moon in Scorpio. Unfortunately this self-centeredness led to poor relationships because she cared more for her career than her personal / married life. Eventually the square to the Midheaven at 06 Aries – ideals crystallized in too true colours — showed her the ugly side of Hollywood — drugs, sex and gangsters that because of her lack of inner or relationship support led to unhappiness.
The South transiting conjunction shows her Saturn return, she was 29, and the stresses that caused her because she does not seem to have enough inner strength to face them or outer support to help her along. (the 4th quadrant is rather empty except for the plastic film fans.) Her PoF at death is 21 Leo, SS, chickens intoxicated,. showing her bondage to unnecessary external things.
Zasu Pitts, Thelma’s best friend and co-star on many of their 1930’s slapstick comedies.

Single again, Thelma had little time for men, her career was booming, she had travelled to England and worked for Stanley Lupino (Ida’s father) in a very successful film and now was only the Hollywood magazines for her film promotion. Then just as suddenly on the morning of Dec. 16, 1935, Todd’s maid found her employer’s body in the garage, slumped over the wheel of her Lincoln convertible. The coroner ruled her death a suicide from carbon monoxide poisoning. But Thelma’s best friend, and fellow comedienne ZaSu Pitts, cried “murder, ” and LAPD ran a full investigation.

Between the alcohol and the many amphetamines to lose weight, Thelma was not the first — that ignominious status goes to beautiful Barbara LaMarr (next to Thelma below on the right)– nor would be the last, that the fast life style of Hollywood would spit out from stress, overwork & loneliness.

Like Marilyn Monroe 30 years later, who had a similar career path, controversy surrounds her demise as fans have a hard time with the suicide,based on the glamoured portraits they got each week of both actresses, that were at odds at their mental instability, drug addiction and wild lifestyles and their gangster connections. In both cases, suicide is, unfortunately, the most likely cause of death.

Footnotes:

  • All symbols were from Marc Jones Sabian Symbols Book, 1953 ed. from the Sabian Publishing Society.
  • Morgan, Michelle, Ice Cream Blonde: The Whirlwind Life and Mysterious Death of Screwball Comedienne Thelma Todd, Chicago: Chicago Review Press, 2016. {I read the Kindle edition}

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