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Classic Hollywoods Mysteries, and Tragedies

Updated on April 10, 2014

Paul Bern & Jean Harlow


Harlow; The Blond Bombshell


Jean and Her Husband, Paul Bern


Suicide or Murder?

When producer Paul Bern, husband of blonde bombshell Jean Harlow was found dead in a pool of blood at his lavish Los Angeles home everyone assumed he had taken his own life.

All the facts, including a note to Jean, pointed to a suicide. But 35 years later, doubt surfaced. Based on rumors and the note that Bern left behind, Bern's own studio released a sordid story that the producer had killed himself because he was impotent and had done Jean a "terrible wrong" by marrying her.

Not everyone was satisfied with this story and an ominous cloud of suspicion hung over the case almost immediately, with fingers being pointed at a number of suspects, including Jean herself.

The Mysterious Death of Paul Bern

Paul Bern was born in Germany on December 3, 1889. Bern's family moved to New York while he was still a child and by his teen years he became a stage actor and studied at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. It was not long before Bern realized that he was uncomfortable and insecure as an actor but due to the fact that he loved the business so much he began delving into other professions related to the one he loved so much. During these ubcertain times Bern took up with a lady named Dorothy Millette. They were romantically involved and Bern supported her, but they were not legally married. Paul Bern found himself well fitted to be a stage manager and although his career was taking off by all accounts, Bern suddenly decided to move to Hollywood in the mid 1920s to find his place among the great men who built America, Louis B. Mayer, Sam Goldwyn and the blossoming medium that promised so much. He left Dorothy behind.

Not wasting any time, Bern found work in Hollywood as a film editor and after serving his apprenticeship in that line, he landed major projects as a director and as a scene writer for Paramount and United Artists. It wasn't long before Paul Bern was a force in Hollywood, one who commanded respect. He was a guy show girls vied for the affections of, and handsome leading men tried to get to know. Bern was becoming so well know, so fast that he attracted the attention of Irving Thalberg and became his production assistant. Paul even met Jean Harlow, the blond bombshell, in 1930 at the premiere of Hell's Angels, the movie that launched her career to super stardom. Soon Bern was dating Jean Harlow and helping the blond love goddess with her career aspirations. Bern thought Harlow was a more than just a sex symbol, he saw her as a great talent and wanted to help her achieve a variety of roles that would solidify her image and career in Hollywood.

They eventually married on July 2, 1932. On September 5, 1932 Paul's body was found with a gun shot wound to the head. At the scene was a note that read "this is the only way to make good of the frightful wrong that I have done you and wipe out my humiliation." The note was written to Jean as it began with "my dearewst dear, and ended with love wishes and a P.S. that read; "last night was only a comedy." This note was presented to the authorities and was verified to be the writing of Paul Bern. Jean never spoke publicly of the death and said tof the suicide note that she knew absolutely nothing of what he was talking about.

In the 1960s the investigation was reopened when some of Bern's friends spoke openly about the other woman. This lead writer Ben Hecht to write an article that suggested Bern was murdered by a woman. And that not enough of an investigation was done by police. Dorothy Millette was then discovered to have traveled to Hollywood in 1932 and her body was found in the Sacramento river just two days ofter the death of Paul Bern.

In the 1990s Samuel Marx, a friend of Irving Thalberg and Paul Bern, wrote a book stating again that Dorothy was the murderer and that he heard the facts himself when he saw Thalberg tampering with the body before police arrived at the scene of the crime.

Jean Harlow


Johnny Stompanato with Lana Turner


The Death of Johnny Stompanato

Lana Turner was one of the top sex symbols of the 1940s. She romanced and married often, and by the 1950s she was living in the heart of Beverly Hills with her teenaged daughter Cheryl by her first husband Stephen Crane. She was regularly making movies, attending every who's who society ball and the toast of tinsel town. In 1957 she was uncharacteristically single and playing the field when she met Johnny Stompanato, a handsome drifter with high ambitions to become a respected celebrity. Lana romanced him and tried to move on, but Jealous Johnny wold not hear of it. He demanded that Lana marry him and make a respectable man out of him, but Lana kept trying to gently blow him off and continue dating other men but somehow Johnny would not allow it. He showed up unannounced at her Beverly Hills home and wherever there was a photographer he was mugging and introducing himself as Lana Turner's fiancé. Johnny had visions of Hollywood stories being printed on a regular basis of the glamorous Lana Turner and her husband, Johnny Stompanato on all the front covers while Lana saw Johnny as just a small piece of amusement to fill the time.

Lana tried to shake Johnny for good when she took her daughter Cheryl on a trip unannounced. To her surprise there was Johnny at the airport with a team of photographers snapping photos of the reunited lovers when Lana and her daughter returned. Cheryl overheard Johnny threatening Lana that he would either kill her or destroy her face if she did not comply with him on numerous occasions, and did her best to make her appearance in the middle of their arguments. Then came the ultimate slight to Johnny's ego.

Lana was up for an Oscar and was to attend Oscar night and Johnny thought that this would be his night to shine in front of photographers and all the other celebrities, but she did not invite him but escaped to the Oscar ceremony with her mother and Cheryl. When they returned Johnny was either hiding in the home or had broken in a few hours later because after a nice peaceful conversation of girl talk Lana was in her room where Cheryl distinctly heard Johnny threaten her mother's life with an anger that she had never heard in his voice before. She heard struggling and slaps until she jumped out of bed and grabbed a knife from the kitchen and ran to rescue her mother. Shouting from outside the door she simply asked what was going on, only to hear profanity and struggling from Johnny. When the bedroom door opened Cheryl stabbed Johnny quickly and soon Johnny Stompanato would be a familiar name and face around the country.

He died from the stab wound and over the years there has been much speculation that Lana had killed Johnny and that Cheryl was covering up for her. Most of the nonsense was put to rest when Cheryl Crane wrote her book of the account titled, Detour.

Stopanato Arrives Unannounced to Greet Lana and Cheryl

Reporter, Lana, Johnny and Cheryl Crane
Reporter, Lana, Johnny and Cheryl Crane | Source


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    • GlendaGoodWitch profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago from California

      Thank you jenslibra. I love the classic blonds too.

      Thank you Old Albion. I never tire of the classic movie stars and their stories.

    • old albion profile image

      Graham Lee 

      6 years ago from Lancashire. England.

      Hi Glenda. A great hub. Being older I remember these stories. You have made them fresh and interesting. Well done.


      voted up and following.


    • jenslibra profile image

      Jennifer Vasquez 

      6 years ago from Long Beach, CA

      I am a big fan of both Jean Harlow and Lana Turner, but did not know these stories. Very interesting hub!


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