Read The Ice Cream Blonde: The Whirlwind Life and Mysterious Death of Screwball Comedienne Thelma Todd by Michelle Morgan Online


A beloved film comedienne who worked alongside the Marx Brothers, Laurel and Hardy, and dozens of others, Thelma Todd was a rare Golden Age star who successfully crossed over from silent films to talkies. This authoritative new biography traces Todd’s life from a vivacious little girl who tried to assuage her parents’ grief over her brother’s death, to an aspiring teacherA beloved film comedienne who worked alongside the Marx Brothers, Laurel and Hardy, and dozens of others, Thelma Todd was a rare Golden Age star who successfully crossed over from silent films to talkies. This authoritative new biography traces Todd’s life from a vivacious little girl who tried to assuage her parents’ grief over her brother’s death, to an aspiring teacher turned reluctant beauty queen, to an outspoken movie starlet and restaurateur. Increasingly disenchanted with Hollywood, in 1934 Todd opened Thelma Todd’s Sidewalk Café, a hot spot that attracted fans, tourists, and celebrities. Despite success in film and business, privately the beautiful actress was having a difficult year–receiving disturbing threats from a stranger known as the Ace and having her home ransacked–when she was found dead in a garage near her café. An inquest concluded that her death, at age just twenty-nine, was accidental, but in a thorough new investigation that draws on interviews, photographs, documents, and extortion notes–much of these not previously available to the public–Michelle Morgan offers a compelling new theory, suggesting the sequence of events on the night of her death and arguing what many people have long suspected: that Thelma was murdered. But by whom? The suspects include Thelma’s movie-director lover, her would-be-gangster ex-husband, and the thugs who were pressuring her to install gaming tables in her popular café–including a new, never-before-named mobster. This fresh examination on the eightieth anniversary of the star's death is sure to interest any fan of Thelma Todd, of Hollywood's Golden Age, or of gripping real-life murder mysteries....

Title : The Ice Cream Blonde: The Whirlwind Life and Mysterious Death of Screwball Comedienne Thelma Todd
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9781613730386
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 288 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

The Ice Cream Blonde: The Whirlwind Life and Mysterious Death of Screwball Comedienne Thelma Todd Reviews

  • Anna (Curiosity comes before Kay)
    2019-05-08 18:32

    This was basically a biography of Thelma Todd, that leads up to the murder (or was it?) mystery that was her death. Dying at the young age of 29, she didn't get to become the great dramatic actress she envisioned being and isn't remembered by most people today. I had never even heard of her at all, until I started digging a little deeper into film history. Michelle Morgan does a pretty good job, with what I'm assuming is very little information. Thelma Todd didn't lead a life full of scandal, like some stars did (and still do). She was from an upper middle-class East Coast family, and had a very moralistic view of life from what I gather. Originally, she wanted to be a schoolteacher and went to college for it. She was even a student teacher for a short time, before she quit to join an actor's school at Paramount. I feel like I learned a lot of her early life and not enough of her death though. And William J. Mann has proven with his book Tinseltown: Murder, Morphine, and Madness at the Dawn of Hollywood that an investigation can still be mounted (somewhat) into an unsolved death from almost 100 years ago. There could have been more documentation presented, newspaper articles from that time period, eyewitness statements, etc. It just didn't feel as invested as it could have been. Other than that, an interesting read dealing with an actress who used to do comedies with Laurel & Hardy and the Marx Brothers, but is little known these days.

  • JoAnne McMaster (Any Good Book)
    2019-05-11 17:30

    Many people (at least those interested in old Hollywood) have heard the stories and untimely deaths of actresses Marilyn Monroe and Jean Harlow. But not as many have heard of another beautiful blonde actress, Thelma Todd, who also died young and tragically at the age of twenty-nine. Fortunately, I, being a great fan of classic movies, have known about her and seen her films. She was beautiful, smart, nobody's fool, and had a very definite view of what she wanted out of life.Thelma began life in Lawrence, Massachusetts with parents who loved each other, and a brother who also tragically never made it into adulthood. She was either dismissed from jobs or never hired because of her being 'too beautiful'. She trained to become a schoolteacher, but was convinced to enter a beauty contest; and one thing led to another which resulted in her becoming Miss Massachusetts. This, in turn, eventually led to becoming a stock player and moving to Hollywood.She was soon paired with the actress ZaSu Pitts (later Patsy Kelly) and the two made a series of comedy shorts for the Hal Roach studios, which even today are quite funny, showing off a true talent for comedy. Eventually she had minor supporting roles in films with Laurel and Hardy and the Marx Brothers, all of which stand the test of time (I encourage you to find these gems and watch them - a great example is Monkey Business with the Marx Brothers). But Thelma wanted more; she wanted to become a serious actress, but was only rarely given the chance. If you find any of these films (she has a great turn in the original Maltese Falcon [aka Dangerous Female] as the widow of Miles Archer) you won't be disappointed. She could stand with the best of them, and even among these greats, you can't help but notice her.While her professional life was somewhat stable, her personal life was less so. After the untimely death of both her brother and her father, she became everything to her mother. When she moved to Hollywood, her mother moved with her. There were times when it became too much for her, and though she loved her mother Alice, deeply, she felt the need to escape occasionally. Thelma in her life suffered a tragic love affair (although she should have known it probably wouldn't end well), and a short marriage to Pat DiCicco that may or may not at one time been happy. She was known to have been loved by anyone who knew her or worked with her, due to the fact that she genuinely cared, and it showed. Unfortunately, her life was also marred by problems: she began receiving threatening notes from someone named Ace, who demanded money and told her if she didn't pay up, she would be kidnapped. Her apartment was ransacked, and several expensive items were taken. But when her disillusion with Hollywood grew, partly because of the fact that she felt she was getting older and would never be given the chance to achieve true stardom, her ex-lover Roland West offered her a way out: open Thelma Todd's Sidewalk Cafe; together they created a place where everyone stopped and dined, and Thelma had an apartment above the cafe where she was able to stay when the days were long and she was tired. But a curiosity of it was the fact that the garage where she kept her car was much farther up the hill on which the cafe was nested: in fact, a long 271 steps to the top. It was a habit that Thelma's personal maid Mae Whitehead would park her own car there in the morning, then bring Thelma's down every day for her use. It was there that when arriving one morning Mae found Thelma's body slumped over in the car, sitting in the driver's seat.How she got there and why is a true curiosity to this day. The chauffeur she hired for the night out had dropped her at the Cafe, and assumed she had gone to her apartment above. Her shoes were not scuffed from the long walk (being fairly new); her hair was not mussed from the high winds. She was still wearing the clothes she had worn a day and a half ago, the last time she was seen, among other things.There have been many theories about how and why she died - the most common being that she was murdered by Lucky Luciano (or one of his cohorts). None of the theories have ever been proven, but it was determined that she died by carbon monoxide poisoning, a sad end to a remarkable woman. Why she was in the car instead of going up to her apartment has never quite been determined - and theories about that abound as well.In the end, with the death of Miss Todd, the cinema lost a gifted comedienne, and who knows but a gifted dramatic actress also who was never given the chance to broaden her repertoire. I found the book highly informative, adding to what I already knew; well written and with much research, giving us an insight into the true Thelma Todd, from her beginnings in Massachusetts to her demise in California. Highly recommended. I received a free copy in exchange for an honest review but this in no way influenced my decision.

  • Rebecca
    2019-05-04 19:46

    She was pulled from obscurity and plopped into 1920s Hollywood. Sounds like a fairy tale, doesn't it? In some ways it was. Thelma was one of those rare individuals who had all the components for greatness. She was beautiful, smart, ambitious and hard working. Often, people have one, or maybe two of these traits, but, to have them all in one package is rare. Thelma's flaw, if you can call it that, was her choice of men. Seems to be a cliché now. Starlets / movie stars picking the bad boys. This books is mainly a biography with the last few chapters concentrating on her death at her beloved Thelma Todd's Café. It remains an unsolved mystery. Most believe she was murdered. I think that's the most plausible conclusion.Her mother, Alice, and Thelma were very close. Thelma had witnessed her brothers death, and many year later the death of her father. She would not have committed suicide and left her mother alone. So who killed her? Was it the person who sent her threatening letters? I don't think so. I think that just muddied the waters. I think it was her one flaw which got her killed. She became involved, again, with Roland West. Fronted the money for the Roadside Café. I think that was a good investment and could have given her a feathered cushion to rest on in her golden years. But, Roland, was never as upfront and honest as Thelma. He got mixed up with the mob and wanted to put illegal gaming in the upper floors of Thelma's establishment. I think Thelma being the pragmatic, small-town girl she was, decided to settle the matter herself. Probably set up a meeting and didn't realize until it was too late what unsavory characters she was dealing with. Well, that's my theory. What's yours?

  • Beth Ann
    2019-05-17 21:49

    While Thelma Todd's mysterious death often overshadows her life, Michelle Morgan spends the majority of The Ice Cream Blonde discussing the actress's life and career trajectory. Morgan's style is non-sensationalistic, and it makes her book an engaging, quick read. Her words allow the personalities she describes to be experienced, especially in the book's concluding and haunting quote from the actress.

  • Tara
    2019-04-24 22:37

    Thelma Todd was a superb comedienne, appearing opposite movie greats like Laurel and Hardy, the Marx Brothers and Buster Keaton. Under contract to Hal Roach, she made numerous comedy shorts, paired with the likes of ZaSu Pitts and Patsy Kelly. She also starred in pre-code dramas such as Call Her Savage (with Clara Bow), and the original Maltese Falcon. Unfortunately, Todd is mostly remembered today for her untimely death, aged just 29. As a highly intelligent, and well-liked woman, who trained as a schoolteacher and later managed a successful Los Angeles cafe, she does not fit the stereotype of a Hollywood victim. However, her early life was dogged by tragedy, and she was also unlucky in love (to say the least.) In the last year of her life, Thelma was the victim of sinister threats. There is a distinctly Noirish feel to this book, and author Michelle Morgan combines a cool-headed, investigative approach to Todd's shadowy life with a warm sympathy towards the actress. Morgan also dispels some myths that have been propagated over the years, presenting new, compelling evidence about Todd's mysterious death while allowing the reader to draw their own conclusions. Published just before Halloween, 'The Ice Cream Blonde' is the perfect read for wintry nights ahead. Even the most sceptical reader cannot help but feel that the talented, likable Thelma Todd was born under a bad sign. Most troubling of all, perhaps, is how willing everyone involved in the case of her death seemed to simply let the matter drop - whether through grief, or fear, we may never know.

  • Kathi Jackson
    2019-05-18 14:40

    Again, another Hollywood bio. I'd heard of this actress but knew nothing about her. I really enjoyed learning about her.

  • Lois R. Gross
    2019-04-24 21:36

    I'm a sucker for old time movie stars and biographies about their lives. A funny thing happened while I was reading this one. I had just reached the part where Michelle Morgan talked about one of several films that Thelma Todd made with the Marx Brothers what what appeared on TMC that I was turned to but the very movie I was reading about. It was if the book came visually alive for me and I recognized what the author was describing: Todd's undeniable blonde beauty, her ability to hold her own against comic greats, but the obvious underuse of her considerable talents. The Lawrence, Mass. once had plans to be a school teacher, but small town New England was too small to hold her. On the tail of winning the Miss Massachusetts contest, she headed to Hollywood where she became a recognized, but never stellar comedienne, mostly in short films produced by Hal Roach. Her co-stars were usually Charley Chase, Zasu Pitts, and Patsy Kelly, unknown actors to modern audiences but recognized actors in the 1930s. Notably, no one ever had a mean word to say about Thelma Todd. She was held in high esteem by everyone who worked with her. But she had a bad habit of aligning herself with undesirable men. The one she married, Pat DeCecco, had mob ties which may, or may not, have been connected to her death by carbon dioxide poisoning. She also had a long history of receiving threatening letters while her stalker was never actually identified or brought to justice. At the time of her death, she was hedging her career success by owning a restaurant with a lover. It is supposed that the desire to install illegal gambling in the club may have been motive for a mob hit. All in all, reading about old Hollywood and a woman who sort of succeeded is always intriguing. However, once Thelma dies, there are a few two many threads to follow and the book bogs down in the investigation. Nonetheless, getting to know the actress in these pages will give a bit of excitement to your next viewing of "Horse Feather" because it will feel like you personally know a member of the cast.

  • Raquel
    2019-05-22 22:51

    Excellent book that humanizes an otherwise tragic figure. Thelma Todd had a good head on her shoulders, a realistic view on Hollywood and lacked the huge egos of other stars. She really wanted to make it big as a dramatic actress but comedy ended up being her strong suit. Michelle Morgan does a great job parsing out the details of Thelma Todd's life and mysterious death. I love that the book doesn't solely focus on Todd's murder. Lots of great detail about Todd's life in Lawrence, Massachusetts which I particularly enjoyed. My full review here:

  • Pocosnoopy
    2019-05-10 19:37

    Interesting recap of the life and death of Thelma Todd. Recommended if you like true crime stories. Fairly straightforward chronological account, with the possible theories concerning her death laid out in the final chapter. There is an element of what might have been had she survived. She was only 29 when she died.

  • Paul
    2019-04-29 20:51

    Thelma Todd was a comic character actress in the 1920s and 1930s who acted in Laurel and Hardy movies, a Marx Brothers movie (Horsefeathers), and a number of Hal Roach shorts. This book purports to be the definitive work on her life and mysterious death in 1933? (I just broke my NOOK, so I can't look it up). The book is well-sourced with an index in the back. The only problem is that the sources are Hollywood fan magazines or such others as Photoplay, or else newspaper accounts, often from the Boston Globe, but from several others as well. Given the poor fact-checking of Hollywood magazines and even the suspect fact-checking of 1930s newspapers, a reader can't be certain that everything posited as a fact was, in fact, a fact. Some of the sources are movie columnists in newspapers, and there seems to be a lot of gossip and innuendo that the author has to deal with. There are many instances of "we may infer" and "Thelma was unlikely to...", which hurts the credibility and scholarship of the book.I think there were two actual books that the author quoted, but the bulk of the research was the newspaper and magazine articles and the record of the inquest after her death, which is the most reliable source in the book. In her defense, not too many biographers were likely to want to write a book about a minor Hollywood star, so she had to use what sources were available.Thelma clearly comes across as a genuine person who abhorred Hollywood snobbery and superficiality. She was well-liked by "the little people" in the LA area and her home of Lawrence?, Mass. She was very intelligent, having been a schoolteacher before she went to Hollywood; and from the movies I have seen her in, she was a giggly and fun character.The biggest question that the author tries to answer is how she was found dead of CO poisoning in her car in her garage at the age of 29. It is likely that she didn't willingly go to her car and that her refusal to condone gambling in her restaurant probably made her a target of the Mob, which had been pushing to install gambling there.In the year prior to her death, she had received several anonymous death threats in the mail, and it was clear that she felt her life was in danger. Her married lover, Joe West, who lived above the garage, changed his story so many times that he obviously wasn't telling the truth. The author speculates that his life was also in danger from the mob and he had knowledge of Thelma's death.Morgan reaches a pretty convincing conclusion to what happened to Thelma Todd, given the quality of the research she had to go through.The book is breezily written, with phrases such as "an outfit" for an organization and "to the tune of" to describe amounts of money. It is a pretty easy read.

  • Kerry
    2019-05-21 19:30

    If you like dry biographies posing as murder mysteries written in the language of the last century, this book is for you.As many works written well after the death of the subject and those who knew said subject, this book relies heavily on documents related to Todd's death rather than more tantalizing personal interviews. But even more pedantic is the recounting of reviews of Todd's films, which may be superficially relevant but not interesting, particularly when many of her parts were minor roles or when the reviews barely mentioned her--which happened a lot. Why not just create a filmography for the reader and get on with it? The language of this book is grating and patronizing. Todd, even though her film career didn't begin until her 20s, is referred to as a "girl" or a "lady" throughout the book--and that's excluding the quotations about her, which may be excused due to the age in which they were made. Female figures, including one contemporary female expert, are referred to by their first name, while men are referred to by their last. Given both the drab rendering of the writing and the outdated way of referring to women, you must continually remind yourself this book was written in 2015.Finally, the "murder mystery" angle of this book is awkwardly executed. While certainly the circumstances Todd's death seem to point to foul play, the writing about it could not be blander--but not for lack of trying. For example, one line reads, seemingly to inject some suspense into the text, "there are only three ways that she could have died: accidental death, suicide, and murder." Unclear what host of other possibilities exist. Certainly medical condition. But, really, what else?So if you like Old Hollywood and learning about the figures from this torrid, criminal time in United States history, this book is a quick read to add to your list. But don't expect to be entertained by it.

  • Andrea Pryke
    2019-05-21 15:54

    In 1935 movie actress Thelma Todd dies at the age of 29 in mysterious circumstances.In this volume Michelle Morgan (best known for Marilyn Monroe: Private and Undisclosed) investigates not only the mysterious and conspiracies surrounding Todd's death, but takes us through her entire life, from her childhood in Lawrence, Massachusetts, to her death in a grim garage above the Pacific Coast on a windy December morning.Although Michelle doesn't dwell and expand on the scandals that plagued Thelma's short life, she does deal with them in a responsible and articulate manner as they are part of Thelma's story.Far more interesting and important are the problems and issues facing Thelma in the months leading up to her death, this again is dealt with in a clear yet in depth manner without letting Morgan's own theories overwhelm the facts, the is a very important section in the book as it could essentially be the key to understanding Todd's death.Over the years I have read many biographies and have found that a less capable writer's work can be difficult to read as the biographers thoughts tend to jump around making the narrative clumsy and the text then judders along.This is not the case with Michelle Morgan, each sentence is carefully constructed and flows beautifully into the next, making this a narrative that is seamless and fascinating at the same time.Morgan brings to the fore the tragedy of Thelma Todd's early death, a talented, beautiful, warm and intelligent woman who was making long term plans for her future. At 29 she had years of potentially great acting performances ahead of her.This is a must have book for anyone interested in Thelma Todd and her career, or in the Golden Age of Hollywood itself.I gave this 5 out of 5*Look out for Michelle Morgan's newest book - Carole Lombard 20th Century Star - out in October 2016!

  • Tom Schulte
    2019-05-03 19:50

    This is an interesting, quick read of the early Hollywood's star's life and mysterious death. I don't think the author dug up anything new and if the death was not purely accidental, a misadventure of warming up the car in confinement as the author documents was common then, then suspicion falls naturally on Todd's lover, rough character, and business partner, Roland West. He is quoted in a contemporary newspaper account of having locked her out that night punitively. Intriguingly, the book gives detail on more damage to her body than is in the official coroner's inquest. If she was beaten and then placed fainted in the car, that is one thing. It appears proven that alive in the car, she died of carbon monoxide poisoning. I am surprised more is not explored of her chauffeur, Ernest O. Peters, beyond his own reports of her odd behavior and fear of "gangsters" which mere adds weight to the most dramatic and unproven of theories: gangland murder. The book has plenty of pictures including images of extortion letters.

  • Karen
    2019-05-15 21:46

    This is a wonderful biography - well-researched by Michelle Morgan and written from a caring perspective, showing Thelma Todd in a very respectful way. I learnt so much about the actress and now want to watch all her films! She is a fascinating woman who achieved so much in her short life. Her mysterious death is dealt with really well here, with several chapters given over to the details and again, it is handled with respect, it never comes across as voyeuristic or crossing the line. The theories about how Thelma died are examined well and I found this section particularly compelling. But Thelma was much more than just her controversial final days and Michelle Morgan does a great job of showing us Thelma from all points of her life and career. I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it. Even if you don't know who Thelma Todd is, I'd recommend reading it as she had a fascinating life (and death) and her story is one that deserves to be well-known. 9.5 out of 10

  • Jim and Pollee Gough
    2019-04-27 17:54

    We really enjoyed this book. We lived close to the cafe building many years ago...the book is and easy read and clears up many misconceptions about the lovely and caring Thelma Todd. The book makes a nice gift for those interested in the time period and the film industry ....Jim and POLLEEAnd are familiar with several stories concerning Thelma Todds death. The book is an easy read and clears up many of the misconceptions concerning the case. A great gift for anyone interested in the film industry or a great mystery. Jim and Pollee

  • John
    2019-04-25 20:44

    Michelle Morgan has written a thoughtful, well researched biography on comedienne Thelma Todd. There are no wild theories on her she died. Ms. Morgan lays out the evidence that leads to three possibilities, but does not interject or draw her own conclusions. The link below will lead you to my recent interview with the author.

  • Kimberly
    2019-05-21 21:55

    Was given a copy for an early Christmas day - enjoyed it , was very impressed by the depth of Morgan's research. The sadness is that Thelma Todd's work is virtually unknown - the shorts she did with Charley Chase, Zazu Pitts and Pasty Kelley are not seen with any frequency. I highly recommend this book for anyone wanting to learn more of the early days of Hollywood.

  • Saskia
    2019-05-03 20:34

    I quickly skimmed some of this book. Whilst it raises some relevant questions by pointing out some things that have been left out of other accounts of Thelma's death, with no footnotes and questionable source material, this book does not offer any ground-breaking explanation. Another not particularly well-executed entrant into the mythology of Thelma Todd. We won't ever have concrete answers.

  • Patricia Wright
    2019-04-25 16:53

    I loved this book. I have watched old movies for over 35 years and love reading about their lives. This book looks at her private life and the life the public saw too. She was a star before Marilyn Monroe was but never got the credit she was due. Shame that she died so young but at least we have her movies.

  • Judy
    2019-05-15 20:32

    This is an okay book. I enjoyed the background of Thelma Todd and reading about her earlier life. I hadn't realized that she was from Lawrence, MA. There really is nothing new in it as far as her death. Lots of speculation but no real evidence that points to how she died.

  • David L.
    2019-05-05 21:45

    Though actress Thelma Todd didn't have a long life, the one she did have was interesting and Michelle Morgan does a superb job at recounting it. The book was very engaging and though I was aware of Thelma's impending early death, it was still shocking when it arrived.

  • Tracy Robertson
    2019-04-25 20:33

    We are left with a general idea of what most likely happened to this young, promising actress with so much promise. Sad.

  • Michele
    2019-04-28 15:39

    Quite interesting read as I didn't know anything about this actress. I found it a little slow to get going but once into it enjoyed it.

  • Carrie
    2019-04-25 19:55

    Entertaining, made me want to find out more about old Hollywood and Thelma Todd. Not very in-depth though.

  • Beatrice
    2019-05-07 20:50

    Interesting book about Thelma Todd's life. She worked so hard for her career and was such a kind person. Her death was heartbreaking.

  • Michelle
    2019-05-07 14:57

    The subject is very interesting but it's poorly written.