Wednesday, November 13, 2013

George Augustus Kelly -- Dancing into the Dark

Palais de Danse - Hammersmith
Kelly, a native of Omaha, Nebraska, joined the U.S. Army at the outbreak of World War I, but transferred to the British Air Force where distinguished service in the sky over France gained him a captain's commission.  Described as possessing a "magnetic personality," the handsome 30-year-old ex-flyer was acting as the manager of the Palais de Danse in Hammersmith when he met the attractive divorcee and dancer Sophia Erica Taylor, 29, there in 1920.  Known as "Babs" to her friends, Taylor was a chorus girl at the Gaiety Theatre and Hippodrome and was notorious for making the rounds of London nightclubs to dance.  The pair became lovers and dance partners, appearing in private exhibition dances in London though working principally in the suburbs.  Their extravagant lifestyle coupled with Kelly's gambling and addictions to alcohol and drugs soon cooled the relationship.  A pattern of violence developed.  Taylor, looking for a new benefactor, flirted with men while Kelly, drunk and insanely jealous, beat her.  Weeks prior to the impending tragedy (during which time the ex-soldier would often disappear for days) the dancer confided to a friend:  "I am very unhappy and Kelly is so strange.  He has hit me many times, and threatened me.  I do not know what to do."  Taylor became intimate with Captain Allan Leslie, formerly in the Golden Highlanders, and the two arranged to live together in Brighton.

Shortly after receiving a notice cancelling his appointment as manager for a circuit of suburban movie houses, Kelly entered Taylor's London flat at 8 St. James Street, Piccadilly, W., on December 17, 1920.  In the presence of her maid, he attempted to strangle his former lover to death on her bed.  The maid broke his grip, but Kelly fired a fatal shot into the fleeing Taylor before shooting himself in the head.  Among items found on Kelly's body were a quantity of cocaine and notes to Babs in which he wrote:  "Wish we could have fallen in love with each other as we have gotten along splendidly."

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