As I think I've metioned before, my grandmother Nannie would never let anyone sleep with a necklace on because she had an Aunt Harriet who died in a hotel, strangled by her pearl necklace. After I got to a certain age I started to feel suspicious about this. A while ago my mom sent me a pdf of the NYT article about the case, "Woman Found Dead in Film Man's Room"; I just found it in a desktop cleanup and thought you all might be interested. Not sure when the date was, exactly, maybe the NYT archive can tell me even without my having access, or maybe a reader with a subscription can help? [Wait, I see: January 16, 1930.] But do they even have every year digitized? Anyway, here it is:
More than two hours elapsed between the discovery of the woman's body by a Negro maid at 9:40 A.M. and the time when police of the East Thirty-fifth Street station were notified. In the meantime a private physician had pronounced Mrs. Adler dead and the body had been moved, according to Detectives Patrick Mullarney [!--ed] and Joseph Hogan.
At first the detectives thought that Mrs. Adler, who lived at 155 East Seventy-second Street with her 3-year-old son and Mrs. Olive Dempsey, her housekeeper, had been strangled with the string of matched pearls she wore about her throat. After questioning Murphy and John M. Barbour, a designer of 601 Lexington Avenue, who were asleep in the apartment when the woman's body was found, they ascribed the woman's death to natural causes and reported there was "nothing suspicious" about the case. Neither Murphy nor Barbour were detained. [It was a cheery Christmas at the Mullarney and Hogan homes that year, one imagines.]
Certain circumstances about the case, however, caused Dr. Harry Weinberg, assistant Medical Examiner, after consulting with his chief, Dr. Charles G. Norris, to order the removal of the body to the morgue for an autopsy today. In some manner the string of pearls had been pressed against Mrs. Adler's throat until they left tiny indentations in the flesh. These ligature marks and a slight discoloration to the face hinted strongly enough at possible strangulation, Dr. Weinberg said, to make it wise to "avoid guesswork."
Dr. Weinberg said that he detected an odor of alcohol. It was his opinion, from his preliminary examination, that she had been drinking heavily and that death was caused by heart disease. Under the circumstances, however, he felt that a more thorough investigation was necessary.
Mrs. Adler was the former Harriet Mowry. Her family was listed in the social register. Her husband, Hamilton Adler, is head of the brokerage firm of that name at 120 Broadway. Mr. Adler, who lives at 1,112 Park Avenue left Dec. 23 for a vacation in Honolulu. He had been separated from his wife for some time, and their one son, Hamilton Jr., was living with his mother.
Murphy, a former camera man who recently directed a talking "short" for Paramount-Famous-Lasky Corporation at their studio in Astoria, L.I., told detectives that Mrs. Adler came to his apartment early yesterday morning without an invitation. When he and Barbour retired, he said, they left her sitting in the living room of the six-room apartment, awaiting a telephone call.
He met her first about three weeks ago at the Algonquin Hotel, where he lunches frequently with members of the literary group composing the "round table." He had forgotten who introduced him, he said, adding that the introduction made so little impression on him that Mrs. Adler had to remind him of at when next he saw her about ten days ago at a party given by Mr. Seldes at his apartment at 1,290 Madison Avenue....
[I'll synopsize here: according to the two guys, they become better aquainted at the party, she just shows up at his place drunk a few days later, when Barbour was there but Murphy was still out getting a snack with some other friends. Eventually Barbour lets her come up around 1:30 A.M. When Murphy gets back they both offer to see her home but she refuses, so they just go to bed leaving her still up. Allegedly. Then, in the morning, the wonderfully named Neutrice St. Louis, "Murphy's Negro maid", sees the woman sprawled out on the sofa but assumes she's sleeping. Someone comes to the door and asks for Murphy and then goes away without leaving his name, so Murphy gets up, at which point he realizes she's cold, and calls a doctor who lives in the building. The doc says she's dead and advises them to call the police...]
It was nearly noon when the police were notified. Dr. Greenblatt, of the Hospital for Ruptured and Crippled, who answered the ambulance call, said the woman had been dead several hours. Detective Mullarney said he found Mrs. Adler in an upright position on the couch. Murphy told him that he had helped place her so. When he first noticed her upon emerging from his bedroom, Murphy said, Mrs. Adler was lying on her stomach across a corner of the couch with the tips of her toes on the floor and her head hanging over the other side.
Mrs. Adler was wearing a black satin dress, black mesh stockings, and gray kid shoes. Her coat was thrown over the back of a chair and her hat rested upon a refectory table. Upon one wrist Mrs. Adler wore a jade link bracelet, and upon the other a platinum wrist watch set with diamond chips. She wore a diamond ring upon one of the fingers of her left hand.
Everything in the apartment was in perfect order. No liquor was found in any of the rooms. The only indication of any sinister circumstances was the imprint of the pearls upon her neck. The indentation was not deep, and Detective Mullarney said he believed the woman, in fainting, had caught her arm in the necklace and drawn it tightly about her throat.
Mr. Seldes, author of "The Seven Lively Arts," and a contributor to serveral magazines, was shocked at the news of Mrs. Adler's death. He and Mrs. Seldes had known her for some time, he said. He recalled that Murphy had been at his party and had paid considerable attention to Mrs. Adler, but said he would prefer not to disclose the names of oter guests.
Murphy first acheived distinction in Hollywood with his camera work in "The Ballet Mécanique." Since then he has directed several pictures, among them "Frankie and Johnny," in which Gilda Gray was featured. At the Paramount offices it was said he had directed one "short" for them but was connected no longer with the organization.
So, what do you think, guys? I'm thinking someone got away with murder, although I wouldn't put it past any woman in my family to drink herself to death at an inconvenient moment...