We genealogists and family historians really like stories. The last blog post reported Ted Healy’s clipping files at New York Public Library’s Theatre Collection. included an article, from the New York Daily News, dated December 26, 1935. The headline reads: “Ted Healy in Firebug Role Lands in Jail.” and the article mentions Marion Bonnell.
A search of several digitized newspaper databases shows this story made the papers all over the U.S. People then, as now, loved to read about the crazy antics of folks in Hollywood.
The following transcribed newspaper articles flesh out the story. It's an interesting one in light of Marion Bonnell's alcoholism.
We gratefully thank the Los Angeles Times Photographic Archive, Library Special Collections, Charles E. Young Research Library, UCLA for allowing us to use this image. https://digital.library.ucla.edu/catalog/ark:/21198/zz002hnnnt
Los Angeles Evening Post-Record, Thursday 26 December 1936 page 2 Col B (newspapers.com)
TED HEALY, ‘SUFFERING FROM HEADACHE’, TO FACE ARSON CHARGE
Bald-headed Ted Healy, who makes his living being funny in front of a camera, could ‘remember doing something someone didn’t want him to do” today, but a police repot was filled out with details of a very strange “fire” story assertedly involving the comedian.
“This beef is liable to cost me a $60,000 contract, but right now I’m too sick to care about anything,” remarked the depressed comedian yesterday as he was released from his jail cell under $1000 bond pending a hearing tomorrow on a charge of suspicion if arsib,
The police report asserts that the actor called yesterday on Marion W. “Bonnie” Bonnell, 141 Mabery Road, Santa Monica canyon, and set fire to a pile of papers and clothing atop her gas stove.
In addition to his headache and all the trouble, Healy had a bandaged hand. Miss Bonnell said he cut himself when he poked his fist through a glass door when told by his hostess that he was not welcome.
However, Healy maintained that Miss Bonnell shot him through the hand to discourage Christmas spirit.
The “house warming,” Miss Bonnell told police, was carried on by Healy, who just piled expensive clothes, furniture and boxes on the stove and set fire to them.
Methodically he broke the larger pieces of furniture into kindling sized logs and piled them on the blaze, she told Capt. Paul Woolfe of the fire department.
Healy’s attorney obtained the actor’s release after eight hours in jail. The funny man is scheduled to appear for hearing at 10 o’clock tomorrow.
Los Angeles Evening Citizen News Thursday 26 December 1935 page 15 Col H (newspapers.com)
…According to police, Healy smashed through the glass front door at the home of Marian(sic.) W. “Bonnie” Bonnell, 141 Mabery Rd. Santa Monica Canyon, and set fire to a pile of papers and clothing on the stove.
At the height of the excitement, someone fired a shot, it was reported to detectives by Miss Bonnell.
Healy was found in a Beverly Hills hotel and booked on suspicion of arson.
In his cell at the Central Station he said he could not recall what had occurred but did remember that he had had a number of drinks.
Healy refused to join the other prisoners in a roast pork dinner and was released on a $1000 bail on a writ of habeas corpus obtained by Attorneys Jerry Giesler and S. Ward Sullivan from Superior Judge Francis J. Heney.…
Press Democrat, Santa Rosa, California Thursday 26 December 1935 page 1 Col C (newspapers.com)
Marion W. Bonnell, 26, in whose apartment Healy supposedly held his impromptu Yuletide celebration, insisted the comedian had “forced his way in.”
“Was I burned up?” she told police. She pointed to a stack of charred table legs and chairs to illustrate her point.
Healy laughed that off.
“I’m too old to play with matches,” he said. “She must have got cold during the night. I went to call on Bonnie, and she fired on me.”
He showed a bandaged hand as evidence, claiming the bullet went through his palm. Police said the hand was cut by glass and burned.
According to Miss Bonnell’s story, Healy attended a Christmas Eve party at her apartment. He left with other guests, and later appeared at her door, demanding to be let in.
Miss Bonnell said she was alone, and the party was over, so she refused. Healy, she claimed, crashed his fist through the glass door and walked in.
She told Captain Paul Wolfe of the fire department that Healy marched into the kitchen, heaped her expensive clothes on a stove and set fire to them.
She said she ran out and yelled for help. Healy meanwhile collected the living room furniture, reduced the larger pieces to kindling wood, and set fire to the pile, she said.
Firemen arrived but Healy had departed. He was arrested at the Beverly Wilshire hotel. Police said he appeared to be intoxicated.
Los Angeles Times, Friday Morning, 27 December 1935 Part II page 8 Col A (newspapers.com)
ALIBI READY, SAYS HEALY
Comedian Insists He’s Guiltless
Witnesses to Aid Defense at Hearing on Suspicion of Arson, He Asserts
Ted Healy, 39-year-old film and vaudeville comedian, yesterday announced thorough his attorney that he is prepared to produce witnesses to his innocence in a quarrel at a woman’s home in Santa Monica Canyon which led to his arrest on suspicions of arson.
George Johnson, chief of the complaint department, set a hearing for Healy and his witnesses for 10 a.m. tomorrow.
FREE ON BOND
Healy has been free on a $1000 bond since 2 p.m. on Christmas Day. He spent eight hours in the City Jail after Marion W. (Bonnie) Bonnell, his onetime comedy partner with his three stooges, had complained to the West Los Angeles police station that the comedian broke into her home at 141 Mayberry Road and started a fire.
CALL FROM WRITER
Meanwhile the comedian was pondering the conflicting array of stories purporting to tell of the gay Christmas Eve party that began at his apartment in a Beverly Hills hotel and continued toward Santa Monica.
West Los Angeles Police Officer Stebbins related that early Christmas morning he received a telephone call from Mordaunt Shairp, an English writer living at 78 Ocean Way. There Healy was said to have come with a companion—seeking additional Christmas cheer.
After Healy had departed, Shairp notified police of a broken window in his home, assertedly caused by one of the men.
Healy was arrested several hours later at his Beverly Hills apartment.
the comedian was little disposed late yesterday to discuss Christmas Eve affray which led to his eight-hour imprisonment in the City Jail Christmas morning.
Earlier Healy had spoken freely of his trip to Miss Bonnell’s canyon cottage where “someone” had shot and wounded him in the left hand, according to his story to police officers. The morning after the episode, the actor could throw no light on the arson charges.
WOMAN’S MOVE IGNORED
Capt. Paul Wolfe of the fire department arson squad announced that although Miss Bonnell had declined to prosecute charges, the matter could not be abandoned.
Investigation of the Santa Monica house, he said, showed unmistakable evidence that someone had started a fire of clothing and books. Miss Bonnell accused Healy of that in her call to the West Los Angeles Police Station.
Los Angeles Times, Saturday Morning, 28 December 1935 Part II page1 Col B (newspapers.com)
TED HEALY TO APPEAR AT HEARING
Fire Department Will Ask Complaint on Charges of Starting Fire
TedHealy, 39-year-old screen and vaudeville comedian, at libertu under $1000 bond after being booked on suspicion of arson following a fire in the Santa Monica Canyon home of an actress friend, today will appear at 10 a.m. in the District Attorney’s office for a hearing.
Arrested following complaint of Marion W. (Bonnie) Bonnell, his one-time vaudeville partner, that he had entered her home Christmas Eve and ignited a pile of clothing and books, Healy maintained he has witnesses to refute the charges.
Capt. Paul Wolfe of the fire department arson squad said that despite the dropping of prosecution by Miss Bonnell the department will seek a complaint.
Los Angeles Times, Sunday Morning, 29 December 1935 Part II page 2 Col D (newspapers.com)
TED HEALY EXONERATED AS TWO BACK HIS STORY
Statements of two friends absolving him of blame for an asserted attempt to start a fire in the cottage of an actress friend in Santa Monica Canyon on Christmas Eve, yesterday won exoneration for Ted Healy, 39-year-old comedian, at the District Attorney’s office.
The actor appeared at the office of George Johnson, chief of the District Attorney’s complaint department with his attorneys, Jerry Giesler and Mark Sullivan and with two friends who supported his plea of innocence.
Johnson declined to issue a complaint.
The friends were A.C. Bishop-Jones and W.V. Jamieson, who said they accompanied Healy to the residence of Miss Marion W. Bonnell Christmas Eve at the time he was reported to have attempted to set a fire in the place.
The two men declared that although Healy entered the house he remained there but a moment speaking to Miss Bonnell and made no effort to set any fire.
Miss Bonnell previously told officers that Healy came to her house earlier in the evening and that she fired two shots to frighten him away. Later, she said, he returned with his two friends and attempted to start a fire by lighting a pile of clothing and books in the kitchen.