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.
In Part 8, we found that in contrast to claims that Wallace Beery and his family left for New York “the next day,” they didn’t depart until about March 1 – after “The Fixers” says they returned.
In Part 9, we found that in contrast to the claim that Albert Broccoli’s “wife, Gloria Blondell (sister of Joan) — who had never acted — was given costarring roles…” and found that Gloria Blondell had been pursuing an acting career for several years – and that Blondell and Broccoli weren’t married at the time.
As tempting as it may be to continue shooting holes in “The Fixers” — and there are many more false claims ripe for debunking — I think I have made the point that “The Fixers” is junk. This is more than sloppy research. “The Fixers” is the worst sort of sleaze-peddling. The book is nothing but malicious and calculated lies that are easily disproved — if anyone takes the time to do so.
Let’s take a quick look at one of the sources cited in “The Fixers,” Jeff and Tom Forrester’s “The Three Stooges.”
First of all we find an earlier date, Dec. 20, for the alleged incident with Beery than is cited in the impossible chronology in “The Fixers.”
Notice that in this account, Healy got into an argument with “two other patrons.”
Also notice that the Forresters quote Sammy Wolfe, who claims he witnessed the attack. In contrast to Col. Barney Oldfield, E.J. Fleming’s purported informant in “The Fixers,” who was more than likely in Nebraska when the alleged incident occurred, Sammy Wolfe was in the Trocadero that night – or at least says he was there.
This doesn’t mean Wolfe was actually in the bar that night, nor does it make him the least bit reliable. But at least the Forresters apparently talked to someone who said he was there.
To be continued.