A former picture exhibitor in New Brunswick, New Jersey, Jelin moved to New York City in the 1940s to try his hand as a theatrical producer. The career change marked the beginning of a period of bad luck and shady financial dealings that left the producer one of the most despised men in theatre. Jelin leased the Belasco Theatre, presented flop after flop, and when pressed by the owners for rent, filed numerous court actions to fight dispossession. The 40-year-old producer was finally ousted in October 1947, but had already leased the International Theatre. After two flops there, The Magic Touch and the short-lived black musical Calypso, Jelin was in serious tax trouble, owing the Internal Revenue Service some $140,000.
On January 22, 1948, four days after losing the lease on the International, Jelin was home alone in his 13 story apartment at 300 East Fifty-seventh Street when he opened four gas jets on the kitchen stove. The resulting blast instantly killed the producer and ripped out the walls adjoining two other suites in the new 18 story residential building. Jelin died owing $12,000 in back rent.