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The Strange Death Of Thomas Ince

When newspaper magnate William R. Hearst met Marion Davies, she was a nineteen-year old chorus girl in the “Ziegfeld Follies”; Hearst was a married fifty-three year old man with five children. After they fell in love, he made it his priority to make Marion shine. Already an executive producer for many silent films, Hearst took on the responsibility of producing Marion’s films as well. Hearst used his newspaper to Marion's best advantage - publishing anything and everything she did with the highest praise. The amount of publicity reached such a ridiculous point that Marion later admitted to her career being, “. . .5 percent talent, ninety-five percent publicity.” Hearst’s possession over Davies could have possibly been the catalyst to one of the most mysterious deaths in Hollywood history.

On the night of November 19, 1924, film producer Thomas Ince was celebrating his 42nd birthday on board Hearst’s yacht. Marion Davies, Charlie Chaplin, columnist Louella Parsons, author Elinor Glyn and a few young up-and-coming actresses were among the guests. As the party grew heavy into the night and alcohol was flowing, rumor has it that Hearst had suspected Davies of having an affair with one of the men on board. It was not until he caught Davies with Chaplin in one of the rooms, that Hearst’s jealousy threw him into a violent rage. When Hearst aimed to kill Chaplin with one of his guns, Ince may have been the one caught in the crossfire and took a bullet. Thus ending Ince's life.

After Ince’s death, Hearst’s newspapers reported that Ince had left the yacht complaining of bad indigestion and later died in his wive’s arms by a heart attack upset by said indigestion. It was well-known that Ince always had poor health and frequently suffered from heart “episodes.” Everyone who attended the party that night, had a story which remained consistent throughout their lifetime. The story supported Ince’s death as a natural occurrence. Could have there been intimidation from Hearst’s power over the published word and the ability to cut down a person’s reputation with his papers if the truth got out? Or did Ince really die of a heart attack? D.W. Griffith, once stated, “All you have to do to make Hearst turn white as a ghost is mention Ince’s name. There’s plenty wrong there, but Hearst is too big to touch.”

Not even time will tell what really happened that night since most of the party members are deceased now but the mystery and rumors surrounding the night of Ince’s death still inspires film-makerstoday. In 2001, “The Cat’s Meow” had an all-star cast including Kirsten Dunst as Davies, Edward Hermann as Hearst, Eddie Izzard as Chaplin, Cary Elwes as Ince and Jennifer Tilly as Louella Parsons.

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