Friday, October 18, 2013

Mary Lygo -- Death by Any Other Name...

Chicago Daily News/Chicago History Museum
Lygo (born Irene Goodall in Akron, Ohio) joined the Ziegfeld Follies in 1918, and later worked for producers Simeon and Morris Gest in the New York stage production of The Wanderer.  Madly in love with Chicago millionaire Gordon C. Thorne, son of one of the founders of Montgomery Ward & Company,  Lygo wanted to marry the man, but was blocked by Thorne's mother who strongly disapproved of her.  After the breakup, Lygo twice tried to take her life.  In May 1921 she slashed her wrists with a razor at the home of her plastic surgeon, and in 1922 she lay in a coma for a week after ingesting poison.  One year later, Lygo filed a $100,000 breach of promise suit against Thorne, which was quietly settled out of court for $8,000.

In January 1927, Lygo traveled to the West Coast to play a nun in the Gest production of the Miracle Play.  Hoping to break into films, she took the name "Irene Fuller" to avoid any negative connotations associated with her true stage name.  On May 31, 1927, "Fuller" was found unconscious by her roommate on the floor of their room in the Vivian Apartments at 637 North Bronson Avenue.  A half-empty bottle of veronal tablets was found at the scene along with notes signed by "Fuller" in which she disposed of her possessions, requested that her mother not be told, and warned:  "Be most careful as to the name `M.L.' as it means so much to the press."  Lygo's identity was subsequently established by a fellow actor who visited the comatose woman at the Receiving Hospital.  Conjecture raged as to the reason for the act.  Some ascribed the deed to her broken love affair with Thorne while others noted that she was despondent about not quickly breaking into films.  The 25-year-old showgirl died in the Receiving Hospital on June 2, 1927.  A steamer trunk found after her death contained several tattered theatrical dresses and five pawn tickets.

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