Thelma who, you ask?
Ok, we admit that today’s subject is nowhere near as well known as our most recent Monday Quiz luminaries (Jean Harlow, William Powell, Carol Lombard and the big man himself, Clark Gable).
Thelma Todd is nonetheless worth knowing about if only for the way in which she shuffled off this mortal coil exactly 80 years ago. Her dead body was found slumped over the steering wheel of a her car parked in a closed garage with the motor running.
Was it a lethal accident? Was it murder? An intriguing, highly recommended new book — The Ice Cream Blond: The Whirlwind Life and Mysterious Death Of Screwball Comedienne Thelma Todd by Michelle Morgan (Chicago Review Press) — is a fascinating review of Todd’s career (she made nearly 120 short and features) and the circumstances surrounding her untimely end (she was just 29).
Morgan posits a number of interesting theories about Todd’s death without diminishing her coverage of the actress-comedienne’s substantial career. Todd wasn’t a top of the line star but she came close. She successfully made the transition from silent films to talkies, and emerged as a top-billed personality with legions of fans in the early 1930’s.
So consider today’s Quiz as an educational challenge. Most of all, let’s have some fun. Here we go:
1) Question: Thelma Todd was best known as: a) a solid supporting actress; b) a vamp with a weight problem; c) an unusual combination of beauty, brains and good nature; or d) a talented comedienne who could hold her own with the best of her time.
2) Question: Although she was crowned 1925’s “Miss Massachusetts” (Todd came from Lawrence, Mass.) before reaching Hollywood, she seriously pursued which of the following professions before finally choosing acting: a) department store manager; b) lawyer; c) medical doctor; or d) school teacher.
3) Question: Who was Todd’s most famous onscreen partner? a) Charlie Chaplin; b) Mary Pickford; c) Laurel and Hardy; or d) the Marx Brothers.
4) Question: Which of the following producers was most responsible for jumpstarting Todd’s Hollywood career? a) Adolph Zukor; b) Hal Roach; c) Cecil B. DeMille; or d) Jesse Lasky.
5) Question: In addition to her onscreen skills, Todd was an ambitious businesswoman. Which one of the following areas did she most apply her money-making skills? a) clothing manufacturer; b) restauranteur; c) banking; or d) real estate speculation.
6) Question: Which one of the following was Todd’s most successful female screen partner? a) ZaSu Pitts; b) Joan Crawford; c) Nancy Kelly; or d) Jean Harlow.
7) Question: Which of the following was Todd’s one and only husband? a) Roland West; b) Pat DiCicco; c) Bugsy Seigel; c) Hal Roach; or d) Lyle Talbot.
8) Question: What was officially listed as the cause of Todd’s death? a) suicide; b) carbon monoxide poisoning; c) suffocation; d) undetermined.
9) Question: Todd acted in but was later cut from which one of these titles? a) Hell’s Angels; b) Her Private Life; c) Bachelor Girl; or d) The Big Timer.
10) Question: Todd made her best movie (can you name it?) not in Hollywood but in England. a) True; or b) False.