5 Super Dark Old Timey Celebrity Scandals
The media never ceases to remind us how screwed up our heroes' lives can be these days. At the same time, we've been led to believe that celebrities had their shit together back in the "good old days," whenever those were supposed to have been. After all, they couldn't curse or get naked or refer to bodily functions, how controversial could they logically be?
Well, it just so happens that the golden age of Hollywood was also the golden age of making people go, "Holy shit, they did what now?" Case in point ...
A Famous German Actor Was A Legit Nazi
Hardy Kruger might not be a household name today, but as an actor, he's had the privilege of working alongside the likes of John Wayne, Sean Connery, Orson Welles, and Stanley Kubrick, to name a few. That's in addition to his brief stint with the Hitler Youth in his native Germany, of course. Yes, that Hitler Youth. The one that you never include on a resume, no matter how bad you need to beef it up.
Drafted at age 10, Kruger was chosen by his teachers to have no choice but enroll in the Adolf Hitler School in Bavaria, much to the delight of his mom and dad, who loved them some Fuhrer. By 15, he'd made his acting debut in the Nazi propaganda film Junge Adler. It would be the first of many acting gigs, though his brush with Nazism wasn't quite done with him yet. Shortly before Hitler fulfilled his only real admirable deed in life by ending his own, he'd assembled the SS Division Nibelungen to fight against the Americans, sticking Kruger with a different kind of role than he was probably hoping for at that point in time.
Now 16, Kruger found himself firing at enemy soldiers from a distance, but when it came time to shoot them up close, he didn't exactly stick to the script and refused. His "directors" in this case were not impressed with his improvisation and promptly sentenced him to death. Kruger escaped by some miracle and made it all the way to Hollywood, where he continues to act to this day. Despite his past, he was embraced in the film world, putting his Nazi life behind him, and eventually getting prominent roles in movies like A Bridge Too Far ... as a Nazi general -- which is a step up in more than one weird and uncomfortable way.
One Of The Earliest Movie Stars Might've Been A Murderer
Max Linder was perhaps the first major movie comedian and a pioneering filmmaker that your great-grandparents would've been familiar with if they'd happened to have been French or at all interested in the roughly two French people making movies in 1905. You may recognize his name from the subtitles in Inglourious Basterds, when the Fredrick Zoller character makes the asinine suggestion that Linder was better than Charlie Chaplin.
Regardless of whether or not that argument ever held any weight, he was a prolific filmmaker with over 500 combined actor/director/writer credits to his name and an inspiration to Chaplin and many other dead people you've never heard of. He also could very well have murdered his wife, in case that factors into your opinion of him at all.
Two things are for sure: he absolutely murdered himself, and she died in the exact same manner after being found next to him -- so the possibilities aren't very endless here. While it's been said that the couple had made a suicide pact, it was almost certainly Linder who talked her into it and got her to act on it on more than one occasion. They'd "accidentally" overdosed on sleeping powder the year before their deaths, or so the official explanation went. Then, in 1925, they wound up drugged up in bed with their wrists slit, hers reportedly slit by Linder just prior to taking his own life. We know, we know: it sounds like this clumsy pair were awfully accident-prone; they even accidentally left suicide notes behind this time.
Unfortunately, this is one of those situations that will remain hard to understand. However, it's safe to assume that Linder's documented history of jealousy and depression played a role in things -- well, safer than trying to psychoanalyze a couple of 100-year-old corpses, anyway. There does, however, seem to be more evidence pointing toward murder-suicide than ... suicide-suicide (twoicide?). News reports from the time mention that Linder's wife wrote her mother a letter saying, "He will kill me," and the couple's daughter claimed years later that her dad shared his plan to kill her mother with a friend (who was clearly experienced in keeping that shit to himself). Oh, and if you're not rushing out to join his fan club just yet, there's one final little addendum worth noting: Linder's wife may have also been underage when they got married, so it would appear that he influenced Chaplin in more ways than one.
William S. Burroughs Credited Killing His Wife With Launching His Career
Not too many people knew of William S. Burroughs before his first book, Junkie, was released in 1953. Or at least not too many people outside of Mexico, where he'd gotten his name in print, a few years earlier, for just about the worst possible unrelated reasons one could ever get their name in print. Like, for example, you know those times when you get a little too shitfaced at a party and blow your wife's brains out?
Needless to say, this party didn't go as planned for anyone in attendance. Assuming no one in attendance was planning not to prevent one of the dumbest killings imaginable from occurring. Burroughs initially admitted to police that in trying to drunkenly shoot a glass off his wife Joan's head a la William Tell (which is a thing William Tell didn't even actually do since he didn't exist), he'd ... missed ... completely. A chat with his lawyer resulted in him then telling them that he'd dropped the gun by accident and somehow managed to lodge the bullet directly into her forehead.
Don't worry; it gets crazier. While awaiting trial, the lawyer shot and killed someone himself and ran off to Brazil; apparently, the young victim inadvertently did some damage to the lawyer's car (a crime punishable by death, if ever there were one). Burroughs wasted no time getting right the fuck out of Mexico behind him and ultimately received a two-year sentence after some bribery. He later said it was the reason he became a writer. He went on to have a long, successful career, and, according to The New York Times, his hobbies later in life included painting, photography, and "collecting and discharging firearms." You know what they say ... "old habits die hard" ... like your wife ... when you shoot her in the fucking head and then don't swear off guns for the rest of your goddamn life -- that's how that phrase goes, right?
A Stuntman's Fatal Accident Was Incorporated Into A Movie
Daredevil/short-lived actor Ormer Locklear became well-known in the early 1900s for his death-defying airplane stunts, right up to the moment that he stopped being able to defy death.
While in the Army, Locklear got his first glimpse at what was known as a "barnstorming" show -- where stunt pilots performed tricks for horrified onlookers -- and irrespective of the sheer batshit nature of the concept, thought it was something worth participating in. One of his specialties was "The Dance of Death," a stunt that involved him switching planes with another pilot ... while they were in the middle of the fucking sky. Hollywood quickly caught wind of his "flying circus" and signed him to a movie deal 50 years before Monty Python made us wonder what the hell those words were supposed to even mean.
Locklear nearly completed two films before a tragic plane crash took his life in 1920 -- to the surprise of precisely no one that knew him in any way, shape, or form. That tragic plane crash, by the way, was captured on film because what led up to it was intended to be a stunt for a now-lost movie called The Skywayman. And as if it weren't bad enough that a huge crowd was watching the failed stunt in real-time, the people at Fox chose to release the movie complete with the death scene and promoted it in ways that make TMZ look downright respectful. Bizarrely enough, a movie that was publicized like so only served to launch its director's career:
The discontinuation of planes suitable for stunts, and some much-needed regulations ate into the profitability of barnstorming after a while, and Locklear's claim to fame soon became a thing of the past. It's insane to think that this was seriously an acceptable profession to have in the last hundred years, though. I mean, here's an Ormer Locklear quote about his job: "I don't do these things because I want to run the risk of being killed. I do it to demonstrate what can be done." We suppose we should be thankful he confirmed for us that crashing to your death while not trying to could 100% be done. And that including the footage of said death in a movie definitely won't prevent a bunch of sick motherfuckers from paying to see it.
Groucho Marx Started Out With A Guy Who Dismembered His Girlfriend
At the age of 14, Groucho Marx started on his path to comedy superstardom in Vaudeville as part of a group called The Leroy Trio. Eugene Leroy was the namesake, known for his convincing performances in drag. And don't even get us started on his disappearing act; the guy was so good at that shit that no one who set out to find him ever did. Groucho thought he had it rough when he was abandoned on the road by Leroy early in his career, and years later it would come to light that he wasn't the only one looking for a runaway crossdresser back then:
As Robert S. Bader uncovered in his book, Four of the Three Musketeers: The Marx Brothers on Stage, Groucho's ex-partner went on to become a wanted man when his girlfriend's chopped up body was found in a trunk at Grand Central Station. It was evidently addressed to the man she'd been cheating on him with. On the bright side, they no longer had to wonder what he'd do if he found out. One of the songs he used to perform with Groucho, FYI? "What's the Matter with the Mail?"
Warrants were issued, arrests were made, but police never apprehended the real Eugene Leroy. Maybe he stayed in drag for the rest of his life, maybe he invested in a pair of Groucho glasses and people were stupid enough to not question it. Whatever the case may be, it's lucky for Groucho that he never got a chance to confront his old acquaintance. Then again, his legacy has sadly been reduced to a pair of novelty glasses with his disembodied nose, and facial hair slapped onto them, so it looks like he was heading in the same direction either way.
Over 200 comic strips by Tony Alpsen are awaiting you at Yingandyan.com; if you don't find something at least mildly amusing over there, he guarantees that you will have then wasted your time.
Top image: Paramount Pictures