Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Paul Kelly -- Slide, Kelly, Slide (Part 1)

Hollywood, as witnessed by its treatment of Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle and others who have fallen from grace, is not usually the most forgiving of places.  Yet, even Tinseltown can occasionally be moved by a tragic love story.  Paul Michael Kelly (born August 9, 1899, in Brooklyn, New York) first appeared onstage in 1907 at the age of eight in A Grand Army Man and continued to perform in stock companies for many years.  Signed by the New York-based Vitagraph studio, Kelly appeared in juvenile roles in several silent shorts, before logging his first adult lead in the 1919 feature Anne of Green Gables directed by future murder victim William Desmond Taylor.  Kelly's other feature films of the period include Uncle Sam of Freedom Ridge (1920) and The Great Adventure (1921).  In 1917, Kelly met the Scottish-born actress Dorothy Mackaye while both were appearing in legitimate stage roles in New York City.  The friendship remained strong even after Mackaye married song-and-dance man Ray Raymond, then her castmate in the Big Apple production of Blue Eyes in 1921.  Ironically, prior to leaving the New York stage to try his hand in Hollywood, Kelly appeared in a stage production that strangely presaged the impending tragedy.  In August 1925, the actor portrayed "Charlie Watts" in The Sea Woman.  The character, a combination rum runner and lady killer, conspires with a woman to deceive another man.  In early 1926, Kelly arrived in Hollywood to appear in the feature film, The New Klondike.  The athletic actor next appeared in the 1927 baseball film Slide, Kelly, Slide, though not in the title role.  That "Kelly" was actor William Haines whose career would abruptly end in 1936 amid a homosexual scandal.  Another cast member, Karl Dane, would commit suicide on April 14, 1934.  For Paul Kelly, his role as a baseball player in the film would later serve only to underscore in the public mind his physical superiority over the man he would be tried for killing.
Dorothy Mackaye

 Raymond and wife Dorothy Mackaye were based in Los Angeles when Kelly arrived to break into motion pictures.  Raymond, often on the road in various musical productions, never had to worry that his wife was neglected.  Kelly and Mackaye were seemingly inseparable and were often seen at gin parties and taking long car rides together.  Weeks before the tragedy, Raymond drunkenly ordered Kelly out of his house and told his wife to end her relationship with the actor.  Mackaye insisted that nothing unseemly was happening between them and flatly refused to end the friendship.  When the song-and-dance man left on tour with the musical Castles in the Air, Mackaye and Kelly continued seeing one another.

On Saturday, April 16, 1927, an exhausted Ray Raymond arrived at his home at 2261 Cheremoya Drive in Hollywood following an all night train trip from San Francisco where several hours earlier he had concluded the final performance in Castles in the Air.  The 33-year-old performer immediately resumed arguing with Mackaye about her 26-year-old "friend" and she left the house on the pretext of shopping for Easter supplies.  Mackaye drove across town with a friend to Paul Kelly's apartment where she downed at least two gin fizzes.  Mackaye informed her ardent admirer that Raymond had baldly accused them of having an affair.  Paul Kelly, enraged and most likely inebriated, angrily phoned Raymond at 7:00 P.M. and told him he was coming over to discuss the matter.  Charlotte Ethel Lee, the Raymond's black maid and the only witness (besides the couple's 4 1/2-year-old daughter, Valerie) to the incident told police in her statement:

Ray Raymond
"I knew he was talking to Paul Kelly, and I heard Mr. Raymond say, "All right, come on over."  He told me Paul was coming.  Five minutes later Paul knocked at the door.  Paul spoke up right away, "I understand you have been saying things about me."  He was very angry.  Mr. Raymond told him to sit down with him on the davenport.  Mr. Raymond then said something to Paul and he struck Mr. Raymond on the jaw.  "Where is Mrs. Raymond?"  Mr. Paul asked.  "I don't know," Paul replied.  "Yes, you do," said Mr. Raymond.  Then Paul struck him again.  Mr. Raymond remonstrated.  He said:  "I haven't eaten.  I'm a wreck and I can't fight.  I'm thirty pounds underweight and have been drinking."  "That's your alibi," Paul cried.  Paul hit Mr. Raymond three or four times and knocked him down.  I went to the kitchen.  I begged Paul not to hit Mr. Raymond again.  Then Mr. Raymond called him.  "I'll beat you," Paul said.  He then hit him three or four times.  This was in the dining-room.  Mr. Raymond got up and Kelly grabbed him and put one hand behind his neck and beat him with the other, and then threw him on the couch.  He fell to the floor.  "I'm a man and can't take a blow, but I'll fight you," Mr. Raymond said.  Kelly keep knocking him down as he got to his feet.  His face was cut and bleeding.  Finally, with one crushing blow Paul knocked Raymond out."

Kelly left the scene, returned to his apartment, and related the events of the violent confrontation to Mackaye.  Raymond was at home nursing his blackened eye and other injuries when Perry Askom, a friend and fellow-cast member of Castles in the Air, accompanied by his wife dropped in on him moments after the beating.  Askom later related to police that Raymond told him, "Kelly came over and beat (me) up and that (I) never had a chance."  Charlotte Ethel Lee would concur in her police statement noting that the 5'6",  140 pound Raymond was little more than a "punching bag" for the younger, more athletic 6'0, 190 pound Kelly.  The Askoms left shortly after Mackaye returned home.  The next morning at 6:00 A.M., Raymond was found by housekeeper Lee lying flat on his back on the bedroom floor near the side of the bed unconscious, breathing unnaturally, and "frothing at the mouth."  Dr. Walter Sullivan was called, examined the song-and-dance man, and ordered him rushed to the Queen of Angels Hospital.  According to published reports, Mackaye continued to visit Kelly in his apartment up to the moment her husband died without regaining consciousness at 5:20 A.M. on April 19, 1927 -- two days after the altercation with the actor.  Dr. Sullivan, paid $500 by Mackaye for his two day treatment of Raymond, was poised to sign a death certificate stating the man had died of "natural causes" when the coroner, demanding an autopsy, hurriedly reclaimed the body from the mortuary.  The autopsy confirmed that Raymond had sustained a bad beating at the hands of the younger man.  Raymond suffered two fractured ribs, cuts on his forehead, a damaged left eye, bruises on his chest, shoulder, arms, and shins, and a serious head injury resulting in a hemorrhage covering the right portion of the brain.  The cause of death was officially listed as hypostatic pneumonia following an extensive subdural hemorrhage on the right side of the brain.  Dr. Sullivan's supposed ignorance of the fact that Raymond had been in a fight prior to his death opened the medical man up to allegations that the exorbitant $500 fee he received from Mackaye made him a co-conspirator in trying to cover up the facts of his patient's death.

No comments:

Post a Comment