Thursday, October 31, 2013

Dorothy Smoller -- Chain of Torture

Smoller, a one-time dancer in the company of Anna Pavlova, acted on Broadway in Checkerboard and What's in a Name in 1922 until a severe case of pulmonary tuberculosis exiled her to the Cragmore Sanitarium in Colorado Springs, Colorado, in 1923.  There she met fellow patient Benjamin Strong, governor of the Federal Reserve Bank in New York, who (with others) helped subsidize the cost of Smoller's protracted stay at the facility.  In 1925, Smoller left the sanitarium to live with her parents in California, but a chance to act in the Broadway play Howdy, King lured her back to New York in November 1926.  Advised by her doctor that a return to stage work posed a significant health risk, the 25-year-old actress flatly stated that she would rather die than not make the attempt to fulfill her ambition.

One week before the opening of the play, Smoller suffered a hemorrhage that effectively ended her acting career.  On December 9, 1926, she drank a three ounce bottle of shoe polish containing cyanide of potassium as a base in her room on the 28th floor of the Hotel Shelton in New York City.  She died fifteen minutes after the arrival of the hotel physician.  Smoller left three notes.  One was to Strong thanking him for his kindness and another was to a friend instructing him how to dispose of her property.  In the note to her mother, the actress referred to her illness as a "chain of torture" that "pains all the time."

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