Wikipedia: Murder and Myth – Part 4

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.

Today, we will look at a portion of another paragraph in “The Fixers.” (Part of a paragraph? Yes, I said this would be slow and tedious).

The Fixers, Page 176
Remember, all of this purportedly occurred on Dec. 21, 1937.
Let’s break it down:

“Words were exchanged” in the bar of the Trocadero.
Beery hits Healy in the head “in front of the other patrons.”
Healy challenges Beery to “step outside” “where he said he’d beat each man “one at a time.”
Broccoli sneaks outside and jumps Healy, holding him while the other two men (Beery and DiCicco, presumably) beat him.
They leave him unconscious in the parking lot “sprawled in a pool of blood.”
They return to the bar, “loudly toasting their victory.”
Healy is “allegedly” taken to his home in a cab.
He dies the next morning “of very apparent head injuries.” If this occurred on Dec. 21, 1937, as “The Fixers” says, Healy would have then died on the morning of Dec. 22, 1937.

But on the morning of Dec. 22, 1937, Healy’s  death was already front-page news in the Los Angeles Times.

Dec. 22, 1937, Ted Healy

In fact, according to The Times, on the night of Dec. 21, 1937, when “The Fixers” says the beating occurred, Healy’s body was already stone cold in the Los Angeles County morgue.

Now as a general rule, when a researcher finds these kinds of problems, there’s more to be found. And indeed there are.

To be continued next week.

About lmharnisch

I am retired from the Los Angeles Times
This entry was posted in 1937, Film, History, Hollywood and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Wikipedia: Murder and Myth – Part 4

  1. Earl Boebert says:

    Speaking as someone who grew up in a law enforcement family, your first step in determining what happened is always to build a time line of who was where when. (Hence the Latin meaning of “alibi.”) Get that wrong and you’re not going to get anything else right.


  2. Weird! The story gets curiouser and curiouser. According to the excerpt from “The Fixers” (above), Healy died of head injuries at his home on the morning of Dec. 22. Later in the same paragraph, it even says the police were “called to Healy’s house” that morning. Which is really odd, because according to the Los Angeles Times, Healy’s body had already been chilling at the county morgue since the previous night.

    When a well-known celebrity–in this case, Ted Healy–ends up on a slab at the L.A. County morgue, the Los Angeles Times usually doesn’t get the date wrong. If they had, the Herald Examiner or the Daily News would’ve been all over it–to say nothing of The Hollywood Reporter or Daily Variety, both of which focused on entertainment news. I don’t believe the Times would have made a mistake like that: the competition would’ve eaten them alive.

    Intriguing articles, Larry, great stuff!


  3. Claire Lockhart says:

    Great job, Larry.


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

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