Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Harry Leonard -- Tragedy in Laughter's Wake

For three years 55-year-old film character actor Harry Leonard (reported in the news as being in Ramona, 1916) longed to marry Anneska Frolik, 24.  Shortly after dusk on August 31, 1917, Frolik's 24th birthday, Leonard arrived at her home at 1115 South El Molino Street in Los Angeles carrying two packages.  While waiting for the young woman to return, Leonard spoke amiably with her sister-in-law and mother.  Opening one of the packages to reveal a pile of unpublished screenplays tied with a red ribbon, Leonard declared that they would be valuable properties after the war.  The women's patronizing smiles elicited a strange comment from the aging actor, "Ah, you laugh.  Tragedy follows in the wake of laughter."  Leonard fell into a dejected silence for the rest of the evening until Frolik returned at 9:00 P.M.  The women left them alone to talk.  Whispers in the parlor were interrupted by three pistol shots in quick succession.  Rushing into the room, Frolik's family saw her (bleeding profusely from two shots to the chest and one in the stomach) grappling with the actor.  Leonard produced a pint bottle of steaming sulfuric acid from his coat, tossed it in Frolik's eyes, and in the general direction of the horrified pair, before taking another bottle filled with carbolic acid from his pocket and drinking it.  The actor staggered out of the house brandishing the automatic weapon.

Leonard was quickly found  and returned to Frolik's home.  Shortly before passing out from the pain, the actor indicated two type-written letters addressed to the girl's father lying near the manuscripts.  Both Anneska Frolik and her aged suitor later died.  One of the letters, addressed "Not to be opened under any circumstances while I am in existence," willed the packaged screenplays to Frolik's father.  The other, also written to the man, intimated that while the young woman once promised to marry him, she experienced a change of heart.  Leonard concluded, "I must show you I cannot live with her in this Hell and I will try my best to live with her in Heaven, if there is one.  I will take her with me through my act and I hope that you will forgive me.  I hope we all will meet over there."

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