Hollywood is not all glitz, glamour, and cinema. A lot of things happen behind closed doors—so much so that what is considered the "truth" is not always as it seems. Here, we take a look at five major Hollywood mysteries.
1. ELIZABETH SHORT: TO LIVE AND DIE IN L.A.
On the morning of January 15, 1947, the body of Elizabeth Short—an aspiring young actress, who was born on July 29, 1924—was found in Los Angeles in one of the country's most famous (and ghastly) murders. Short had suffered a number of disturbing injuries: in addition to being cut in half at the waist, her face had been sliced from ear to ear, she had been completely drained of blood, and marks on her wrists indicated that she had been bound and possibly tortured before her mutilated body was dumped in a vacant lot. The press, who nicknamed Short "The Black Dahlia," had a field day, sensationalizing every detail of the brutal crime.
While police followed every lead they could to find Short's killer—interrogating her ex-boyfriends and any known male associates—they came up with no solid evidence. Then, in a brash move, Short's killer began antagonizing the police and even mailing the contents of her purse to local newspapers. Despite the killer's boldness, police could not track the culprit down, and the case remains one of Los Angeles' oldest cold cases.
2. GEORGE REEVES: MAN OF STEEL NO MORE
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In the course of his 20-year acting career, George Reeves managed to rack up more than 80 film and television credits, most notably as the titular star of Adventures of Superman from 1952 to 1958. Life took a downward turn for Reeves following the end of the series: The acting jobs were not pouring in as he thought they would, and his marriage fell apart after it was discovered that he was having an affair with Toni Mannix, wife of MGM executive Eddie Mannix. Reeves fell into financial disarray and became deeply depressed.
On the night of June 16, 1959, Reeves died of a gunshot wound to the head. Though the police determined his death to be a suicide, Reeves' mother, Helen Besselo, was adamant that no matter how depressed her son might have been, he never would have killed himself. She retained the services of a private investigator to look into the matter. "Nearly everyone in Hollywood has always been led to believe that George Reeves’ death was a suicide," said Milo Speriglio, who helped investigate Reeves' death. "Not everyone believed it then, nor do they believe it now. I am one of those who does not."
Besselo had plenty of reason to believe that there may have been some foul play, as there were some strange occurrences surrounding Reeves' death. For starters, when Reeves allegedly killed himself, his fiancée and three guests were just downstairs. Even though they heard the gunshot, the foursome waited a considerable amount of time before calling the police. Also shell casings were found in various areas of the room where Reeves died, and his body was bruised. Though the official cause of death remains a suicide, rumors have long persisted that Eddie Mannix, the husband of Reeves' former lover, was in fact responsible for his demise.
3. MARILYN MONROE: A GOVERNMENT CONSPIRACY?
To this day, the death of Marilyn Monroe remains shrouded in mystery. Her death was ruled a probable suicide after she overdosed on sleeping pills in August 5, 1962—but that was only the beginning of the story. In the more than 50 years since her passing, several theories and conspiracies have emerged regarding the Hollywood bombshell's death, among them:
- She was assassinated by mafia boss Sam Giancana for threatening to expose information about his illegal operations.
- She was killed at the behest of John and Robert Kennedy after threatening to go public about her affairs with both brothers.
- She was given a deadly dose of medication by her psychiatrist, Dr. Ralph Greenson (with whom she also had an affair).
- She was murdered by the CIA, as she was used in several government operations to seduce world leaders, including Nikita Khrushchev.
According to police reports, some items had been taken from Monroe's home upon her death, including her personal diary, which allegedly could have contained key evidence against some very powerful people. In addition, in 2012, it was discovered that neither the FBI (which had tracked the actress' movements during her life) nor the National Archives had any of the files from Monroe's case.
In his 1983 memoir, Coroner, Dr. Thomas Noguchi—the man who performed Monroe's autopsy—wrote that the true details of Monroe's death will never likely be known. "On the basis of my own involvement in the case, beginning with the autopsy, I would call Monroe's suicide 'very probable,'" he wrote. "But I also believe that until the complete FBI files are made public and the notes and interviews of the suicide panel released, controversy will continue to swirl around her death."
4. PIER PAOLO PASOLINI: PUBLIC ENEMY NUMBER ONE
The world cinema industry was in shock when noted Italian director Pier Paolo Pasolini, who courted controversy with films like Accattone and Salò, was murdered in 1975. Pasolini, who was 53 years old at the time, was brutally beaten and run over by his own vehicle. His 17-year-old-killer, Giuseppe Pelosi, admitted to killing Pasolini, and leaving his dead body near a soccer field. The admission of guilt seemed to wrap up the case pretty quickly ... until the forensic report became public. According to the forensic examination, “Pasolini was the victim of an attack carried out by more than one person.” This is when Pasolini's family started to believe there were bigger villains at play than just Pelosi.
Italy in the 1970s was a highly tense nation, and it was not uncommon for outspoken leftists like Pasolini to suddenly disappear, or end up dead. Pasolini's family believes that the director—who often spoke negatively of those in religious and political power—was assassinated in a politically charged killing. There are so many conspiracies and possibilities that in 2010, Pasolini's case was reopened.
THE WIZARD OF OZ
: A MUNCHKIN IN LOVE
Is it a bird? A prop? A Munchkin? For years, fans of The Wizard of Oz have been fascinated by a squint-or-you'll-miss-it object hanging from a tree that stands along the Yellow Brick Road. The story goes that one of the actors hired to play a Munchkin had fallen in love with one of his fellow actors, but his feelings were not reciprocated. The actor was apparently so stricken with sadness that he decided to hang himself on the film's set. If you look at the photo above, from the Tin Woodsman sequence, you'll see the shadowy figure straight ahead in the trees.
Though Snopes.com has determined the story to be "false" and pointed to several other explanations for the mysterious object—from a rented crane from the Los Angeles Zoo to a crew member who simply got caught in the shot and was never edited out—the Munchkin tale is one legend that won't die.