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.
We have been backtracking the source for the Wikipedia entries (the ones that cited a source, anyway), E.J. Fleming’s “The Fixers.” From there, we went to one of Fleming’s sources, Jeff and Tom Forrester’s “The Three Stooges.”
Among many other problems, we found that it was impossible, as claimed in “The Three Stooges,” for Ted Healy to have made phone calls to various people describing his attack by Wallace Beery et al, for the simple reason that two men who dealt with Healy that night — including the doctor who treated his cuts — said he had no idea who had hit him.
Let me repeat that: Healy had no idea who hit him.
There are many more mistakes left to be debunked in the Forresters account in “The Three Stooges,” but I’m going to leave them for another industrious soul.
Before we go, let’s look at a few more claims, because they appear in “The Fixers” and Wikipedia.
To their credit, the Forresters quote the Albert Broccoli’s account in the Los Angeles Herald-Express (although they are fans, not scholars, and call it the Herald-Examiner, which didn’t exist until 1962).
But they fail to quote his version of the incident in its entirety:
The actual Herald-Express account from Dec. 23, 1937.
In quoting the Herald-Express account, the Forresters eliminate the fact that Healy wanted to see Broccoli and that they shook hands. Why? Presumably it’s because the “Wallace Beery beat Ted Healy to death” story is too good to resist, even if it is contradicted by a first-person statement from the incident.
Finally, let’s address this:
The Forresters write “By most accounts, however, Healy was savagely beaten that night, with his three assailants wrestling him to the ground and kicking him in the head, ribs and stomach.” There are graphic details of Healy lying in a puddle of his own blood, etc.
The problem is that there isn’t a single news report about Healy’s death from the period that says anything at all about “three assailants wrestling him to the ground, and kicking him in the head, ribs and stomach.”
“By most accounts” is, in fact, “by NO account.” Not the Los Angeles Times, not the Examiner, not the Herald-Express, not the Daily News, not the Associated Press and not the United Press.
Nobody writing at the time says this. No one.
To be continued.