The Death of Ted Healy — Part 14

Dec. 28, 1937, Los Angeles Herald-Express

Dec. 28, 1937: Dist. Atty. Buron Fitts has a conference with Betty Braun Healy and her attorney to answer her allegations about Ted Healy’s death. (Los Angeles Herald-Express)

In case you just tuned in, we are nearing the end of a long journey that began in April, when I stumbled across a Wikipedia entry claiming that Wallace Beery was involved in beating Ted Healy to death in the parking lot of the Cafe Trocadero in December 1937.

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 | Part 13 | Part 14 | Part 15 | Part 16 | Part 17| Part 18

In our last installment, we looked at the loud complaints by Ted Healy’s ex-wife, Betty Braun Healy, over the coroner’s conclusion that he died of natural causes.  Her complaints drew angry responses from Healy’s widow, Betty Hickman Healy, and his sister Marcia.

The Death of Ted Healy: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10 | Part 11 | Part 12 | Part 13

And her allegations also provoked a response from Dist. Atty. Buron Fitts.

Fitts said “the autopsy report says Healy died from natural causes, but if this is untrue I certainly want to know about it.” (Los Angeles Times, Dec. 26, 1937)

On the morning of Dec. 28, 1937, Betty Braun Healy and her attorney Walter A. Ham arrived at the district attorney’s office for a 9:30 a.m. appointment to discuss her questions about Healy’s death. Also present were county autopsy surgeon Dr. A.F. Wagner, Chief of Detectives Joe Taylor and Detective Lts. Joe Filkas and W.H. Baker.

“Mrs. Healy, who was a stunning figure in a mink coat, refused to make any comment before she entered Fitts’ office,” the Herald-Express said.

With the aid of charts, Dr. Wagner demonstrated to Mrs. Healy — whose inquiry demand was made over the bitter protests of the widow and Healy’s sister, Marcia, how he arrived at his conclusion that death was caused by acute toxic nephritis, induced by acute and chronic alcoholism and not by a beating.

The family physician, Dr. Wyant Lamont, stated by telephone that he was in precise accord with the autopsy surgeon. (Los Angeles Examiner, Dec. 29, 1937)

After an hour, Fitts emerged from his office, accompanied by Betty Braun Healy, to address reporters. “After the interview she said the district attorney would make any statements necessary.” Fitts said:

“as far as this office is concerned there will not be any further investigation into the matter.”

“Mrs. Healy came here with a question in her mind, a question she could only have answered at one place and that was through the results of the autopsy performed by Dr. Wagner and Dr. Wyant Lamont. After talking at length with Dr. Wagner and Dr. Lyman [Lamont], we find their conclusions were identical — Mr. Healy died of natural causes.”


“That was the only question in Mrs. Healy’s mind — the exact cause of his death. Mrs. Healy is now satisfied that her former husband died of natural causes. Mrs. Healy did exactly right in coming to me with the many rumors she had heard in connection with Mr. Healy’s death, and I believe she would have been remiss had she not done so.” (Los Angeles Herald-Express, Dec. 28, 1937)

The Los Angeles Examiner reported (Dec. 29, 1937): “she admitted that Fitts had convinced her an inquiry was unnecessary.

Dec. 25, 1937, Los Angeles Examiner

Dec. 25, 1937: Ted Healy “never learned to save money.” (Los Angeles Examiner)

Hollywood pulled together to stage a huge benefit for Healy’s widow and their son. But there was nothing for his ex-wife.

Without the alimony she was getting from Healy, and receiving nothing from his estate, Betty Braun Healy’s only recourse was to sell off some of her possessions to raise money.

Jan. 16, 1938, Ted Healy Auction
Jan. 16, 1938, Ted Healy Auction

On Jan. 16, 1938, The Times published ads for an auction of Betty Braun Healy’s belongings.

To be continued.

About lmharnisch

I am retired from the Los Angeles Times
This entry was posted in 1937, 1938, Film, Hollywood and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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