Wikipedia: Murder and Myth – Part 13

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.

As we enter the third week of our examination of the “Wallace Beery beat Ted Healy to death” tale, a legitimate question might be how much longer we’re going to spend on it. Remember I cautioned at the beginning that this is a time-consuming process, which is why I don’t do it very often. But there is no other way to dissect something questionable except a paragraph at a time.

Today we are going to continue looking at Sammy Wolfe, a main informant in Jeff and Tom Forrester’s “The Three Stooges,” which has an account of the alleged incident predating “The Fixers” and which author E.J. Fleming cites in footnotes.

Wikipedia: Murder and Myth: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10 | Part 11 | Part 12

Dec. 24, 1937: Richard Hakins, left, Sam Wolfe, center, and Paul “Mousie” Garner” at Ted Healy’s funeral, as photographed by the Los Angeles Examiner.

Sammy/Sam Wolfe (born Samuel Glasser) is one of the more mysterious show business people I have encountered in a long while because so little is known about him. IMDB doesn’t list a birth or death date for him and the Daily Mirror’s genealogical resource, Dick Morris, was unable to find out anything about him. There’s no obituary in the Los Angeles Times, New York Times or Variety. Aside from what was in The Times clips, I found a few more news stories that said he was performing with Ben Blue, or making an appearance in Las Vegas. And that’s it.

Or almost. Because we find that another book has discredited him: “The Three Stooges Scrapbook” by Jeff Lenburg, Joan Howard Maurer and Greg Lenburg. As you might suspect, Joan Howard Maurer is Moe Howard’s daughter.

"Three Stooges Scrapbook," Page 70
“The Three Stooges Scrapbook,” Page 70.

"Three Stooges Scrapboo," Page 222
“The Three Stooges Scrapbook,” Page 222.

Oh dear.

Here’s the bottom line: Sammy Wolfe was a marginal Hollywood figure. He actually worked with Ted Healy. He was, according to The Times, actually at Healy’s funeral – and misidentified as one of the original stooges. He had a career of sorts in Los Angeles nightclubs but was never reviewed, did a few bit parts and that’s it.  Some of his claims have been disproved by others.

As a historian, I would never use someone like this without a lot of background checking. At most I would interview him about the Los Angeles nightclub scene in the 1950s, or Ben Blue. I certainly would not accept an account of a killing or fatal beating from him without a great deal of double-checking.

To be continued.

About lmharnisch

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

3 Responses to Wikipedia: Murder and Myth – Part 13

  1. thanks! I was wondering about the Forrester book.
    Another question I had about research sources: you mentioned that one thing to watch out for is whether the book has been reviewed. But I’ve also read lots of complaints from authors about their books being unfairly passed over for reviews, because they’re female or whatever. Most of those complaints are from fiction writers, but I’m sure it happens to serious nonfiction writers as well. If a book wasn’t reviewed, then are there other indications of its value, e.g., the reputation of the publisher? What would you look for?


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