Aug. 23, 1957
Bad things happen when two men (Ralph Meeker and Keenan Wynn)
abduct a movie star (Jane Russell). It turns out that her upcoming
film is "The Kidnapped Bride" and everyone–including the studio and
the alleged victim–assume that the kidnapping is a publicity stunt.
Well, it must have sounded great as a 30-second pitch. Although the film was released with high hopes and a publicity campaign that included a young woman roaming Los Angeles wearing nothing but a–you guessed it–"The Fuzzy Pink NIghtgown" languishes in obscurity today–in fact it was Russell’s last movie appearance of the 1950s.
More to the point, however, is that a copy of Sylvia Tate’s novel–on
which the movie was based–was found in the Encino home of actress Marie "The
Body" McDonald after she reported that she had been
kidnapped by two men. Police Chief William H. Parker, in fact, was so
intrigued by the similarities between the novel and McDonald’s story
that he read the entire book.
For example, the movie star in "The Fuzzy Pink Nightgown" is kidnapped when she is sent to a delicatessen to get some turkey sandwiches–the same story McDonald told police, The Times said.
Parked noted that the similarities "don’t prove anything," but he wanted McDonald to explain the
discrepancies between her various versions of the kidnapping. The LAPD even wanted to give her a polygraph test, but her attorney, Jerry Giesler, said the request was insulting and advised her not to take it.
On Jan. 4, 1957, McDonald was found in Indio wearing pajamas and a housecoat and claimed that she had been kidnapped by "two swarthy men" who broke into her home at 17031 Magnolia Blvd.* Police were immediately suspicious of her story. In the first 15 hours that she was supposedly kidnapped, she placed three calls to friends and none to the police, The Times said. Some words of her alleged abduction note were clipped from newspapers found in her fireplace, the crime lab discovered.
Her ex-husband Harry Karl, better known as "Karl the Shoe Man," doubted the story and told The Times that McDonald "was not a well woman" and had behaved eccentrically. Karl also said McDonald was a "ready fighter" and insisted that anyone who tried to carry her off against her will would have "a lively struggle," The Times said.
In fact, McDonald at one point accused Karl of arranging the abduction but later admitted she made up that part of the story. After an inconclusive grand jury investigation, the matter was dropped. She died of what was apparently an accidental drug overdose Oct. 21, 1965, at the age of 42.
Read my post on McDonald from the 1947project.
Perhaps the biggest mystery of all is what became of Sylvia Tate. Aside from writing the story for the 1950 film "Woman on the Run," she seems to have vanished without a trace.
*(You’re wondering about her being sent out to get turkey sandwiches. So am I).
Bonus fact: According to The Times, shortly before she was kidnapped, McDonald was reading Meyer Levin’s "Compulsion," a fictionalized account of the Loeb-Leopold case.
Robert Kirsch’s May 24, 1956, review of Sylvia Tate’s novel: