Wikipedia: Murder and Myth – Part 8

Wikipedia -- Wallace Beery

In case you just tuned in, I am using the Wikipedia entry on Wallace Beery – alleging that he was involved in the death of Ted Healy – as a way to explore Wikipedia’s fundamental problems with accuracy and delve into Hollywood myths.  This is a slow, paragraph by paragraph analysis and, yes, it’s tedious. I hope the research drudges in the audience will find it interesting.

In Part 1, we found that Wikipedia had eight entries linking Beery to Healy’s death. Two of them were nearly identical and the rest contradicted one another – sometimes drastically. So much for Wikipedia being as accurate and reliable as an encyclopedia.

In Part 2, we began looking at the book that was cited in all the entries that listed a source: E.J. Fleming’s “The Fixers,” a book that failed to get a review from a single reputable news outlet. We also found that a main informant, Col. Barney Oldfield, most likely had no firsthand knowledge of the incident

In Part 3, we dissected a paragraph of “The Fixers” and found numerous problems.

In Part 4, we looked at a portion of another paragraph in “The Fixers” and found problems with the chronology in its version of Ted Healy’s death.

In Part 5, we contrasted the 2004 account in “The Fixers” with Albert Broccoli’s version of the incident, published in 1937, citing the Los Angeles Examiner. This is an account ignored by “The Fixers” – but not Jeff and Tom Forresters’ 2002 “The Three Stooges” – in  which  Ted Healy struck Broccoli, who didn’t fight back.

In Part 6, we examined this statement: “even more strange, the article indicated Healy died of ‘natural causes,’ the result of his alcoholism,” finding that there was nothing strange at all. The Times reported exactly the same thing.

In Part 7, we found that in contrast to the claim that “severe head injuries seen by his wife were ignored in the autopsy,” Healy’s wife, Betty, wasn’t immediately told of Healy’s death, never saw his body and did not even attend his funeral because she was in the hospital after giving birth to their son.

Today we will look at this paragraph:

The Fixers, Page 177
“The Fixers” says that “Beery and his family left on a hastily arranged month-long trip to Europe. They left for New York the next day.”

How much do you want to bet this didn’t happen?

First of all, the chronology in “The Fixers” is so mangled that it’s impossible to tell exactly when “the next day” is supposed to be.

But Beery didn’t leave “the next day.” Or even the next week.

He couldn’t. He was filming “Madelon” (released as “Port of Seven Seas,”) as reported in The Times, Dec. 19, 1937.

Wallace Beery, Dec. 19, 1937,

He was also on a live radio show, Dec. 30, 1937:

Dec. 30, 1937, Wallace Beery
He was also scheduled to see a play on Jan. 4, 1938:

Wallace Beery, Jan. 4, 1938

Mrs. Beery (remember, “Beery and his entire family” left for New York) attends a luncheon, The Times, Jan. 7, 1938

image
Jan. 10, 1938, Mrs Beery is still in Los Angeles:

Jan. 10, 1938, Mrs. Beery

Jan. 11, 1938, The Times:

Jan. 11, 1938, Wallace Beery

And here we find it. Finally:

Wallace Beery, Jan. 24, 1938

Reported in The Times, Jan. 24, 1938, more a month after Healy’s death. Note that the family plans to leave “about March 1.”

The Fixers, Page 178
Which means “The Fixers” (Page 178) has Beery returning from Europe before he actually left.

Wallace Beery didn’t leave “the next day” or the next week or even the next month.

This is more than sloppy research. “The Fixers” is the worst sort of sleaze-peddling. The book is nothing but malicious lies and distortions that are easily disproved – if anyone takes the time to do so.

To be continued next week.

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About lmharnisch

I work at the Los Angeles Times
This entry was posted in 1937, Books and Authors, Film, Hollywood, Nightclubs and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Wikipedia: Murder and Myth – Part 8

  1. Great series of articles, Larry! I love a good debunking. This installment is particularly astonishing. I’m not an expert, but it occurs to me that true crime books, like the investigations that inspire them, owe their effectiveness to empirical accuracy. I can’t fathom how Mr. Fleming got so many things wrong given the abundance of available information, however it seems the only thing thorough about “The Fixers” is how thoroughly unresearched it was. How many other “true crime” narratives have been similarly confounded by suspect journalism or outright humbuggery?

    The truth matters. In the late 80s, a well-educated but somewhat religious friend of mine was given a copy of an unattributed letter claiming the president of Proctor and Gamble had appeared on the Phil Donohue show confessing to be a Satanist, and that the company was funneling its profits into the Church of Satan. Evidence of the diabolism could be found in the appearance of a tiny moon and stars on labels of Proctor and Gamble products. “There aren’t enough Christians in the country to make a difference,” the satanic CEO allegedly gloated. The letter culminated with an injunction for Christians to boycott the company and to spread the word. The letter was a bald-faced hoax, but was good enough to fool the women who dutifully copied and passed it along. And it also fooled my surprisingly gullible friend, who should have known better. For years, she refused to buy P&G products, no matter how I appealed to her intellect. With the advent of the Internet–and of websites devoted to the debunking of popular myths–I was able to bring her into the light of truth. So to speak. (I’ve often wondered how much that little hoax has cost the Proctor and Gamble company over the years.)

    The downside of the Internet, of course, is that it allows for the almost instantaneous dispersal of intellectual excrement. With the click of a “publish” button, harmless nonsense–or worse, harmful propaganda–is parroted and propagated across thousands of links with the speed of a Southern California brushfire. In his book, ‘Cypherpunks,’ Julian Assange makes the remarkable argument that while the Internet may be the greatest invention of the modern age, it is also “a threat to human civilization.” Those are exact quotes, and it’s not hyperbole. He means it.

    I don’t know that I agree with Assange, but it’s reassuring to know there are a few contemporary Diogeneses out there, like Larry Harnisch, tirelessly fighting the humbuggery.

  2. Earl Boebert says:

    “Research drudges?” Hey, I resemble that remark!

  3. Pingback: Playground to the Stars » What Really Happened the Night Ted Healy Was Beaten at Cafe Trocadero?

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