Starr Faithfull in New York

Although Starr Faithfull lived for only 25 years, she inspired several authors to write about her. Born January 26, 1906 in Evanston, IL, Starr died in June 1931 after a Long Island boat party.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Starr & BUtterfield 8: Book vs Film

By John O'Hara [1905-1970]
UK: Prion £5.99

Fiction based on a real life event. In June 1931 a young woman's body was washed up at Long Beach. Her name was Starr Faithfull; it was revealed that she was in her mid-twenties and a female of easy virtue. An open verdict was returned.
John O'Hara based Gloria Wandrous on Starr Faithfull [1906-1931], a beauty who starts the book by waking up in a man's apartment and leaving dressed in his wife's fur coat. Actually the coat is one of the last things in the book as it links her with Eddie, Emily, and Liggett. Her affair with a married man and the avoidance of scandal, the suggestion of child abuse by the mayor, all are carefully skirted around and yet made pretty obvious. There isn't too much action beyond the characters stewing in their juices, and this is what makes the novel so immediate. The deep characterisations and motivations, together with flashbacks give 'BUtterfield 8' a strong dynamic sense of purpose.
A famous screen version featuring Laurence Harvey, Eddie Fisher, and Elizabeth Taylor was released in 1960 and won Taylor an Academy Award. Though the film now seems dated in its attempt to address issues that were considered racy, the book has fared much better in this respect.
John O'Hara (1905-1970) came to prominence with 'Appointment in Samarra' in 1934 and is also remembered for 'Pal Joey' in 1940. . . .
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Starr Faithfull: O'Hara's Gloria Wandrous

ON THIS SUNDAY morning in May, this girl who later was to be the cause of a sensation in New York, awoke much too early for her night before. . . .

Thus begins the roman a clef written by John O'Hara: BUtterfield 8.
When stylish New Yorkers followed the misadventures of "Gloria Wandrous" they would have recognized the late party girl Starr Faithfull, whose death at age 25 was sensationalized in American and British tabloids during the summer of 1931.
- excerpt from N.Y. Times article -
. . . John O'Hara was the son of a surgeon and though he infuriated his father when he refused to go into medicine, it is clear that the surgeon's method (the aggressive, exhaustive taking apart of the human body in search of disease) became his chief fictional method.
"BUtterfield 8," published in 1935, was based on the true story of a New York party girl whose body was found on a Long Island beach in 1931 and whose case became notorious. (Gloria Vanderbilt drew on the same story for her novel, "The Memory Book of Starr Faithfull.")
"BUtterfield 8" is messier than "Appointment in Samarra," but it hews to the same basic structure. We trail along after Gloria Wandrous as she goes on benders and shopping expeditions, and from snappy wisecracks to bone-deep misery. We learn about her past, we try not to think about her future, we can't help loving her dead-end grand gestures. When we first meet her she is waking up in the apartment of Weston Liggett, a businessman old enough to be her father. He has torn her dress the night before and left her $60 and a note of explanation. So she reads the note, puts the money in her crystal-covered evening bag and walks out of the apartment wearing his wife's mink coat and his daughter's black felt hat.
O'Hara wrote quickly and wantonly. ("Does the word 'rewrite' mean anything to you?" you find yourself snapping whenever he overwrites a perfectly good scene or throws a slapdash change of pace or scenery your way.) But he is full of passion and honest spleen, driven to show why we live and act the way we do. And how he understands class structure, American-style! The comedy of it and the meanness, the social climbing and the downward plunges, the tricky business of balancing your ethnic debits against your physical or financial assets.
Weston Liggett is from Pittsburgh, but his wife, Emily, is from Boston, which makes him "precisely the sort of person who, if he hadn't married Emily, would be just the perfect person for Emily to snub. All her life she seemed to be saving up for one snub, which would have to be delivered to an upper-class American, since no foreigner and no lower-class American could possibly understand what she had that she felt entitled her to deliver a snub."
"Harry Reilly was telling a dirty story in an Irish brogue. . . . His clothes were good, but he had been born in a tiny coal-mining village or 'patch,' as these villages are called; and Reilly himself was the first to say: 'You can take the boy out of the patch, but you can't take the patch out of the boy.'
"He understands the business of keeping a marriage in one piece too. He says of men like Liggett, "In 1930 you would see them on the roads of Long Island and Westchester, in cap and windbreaker and sport shoes, taking walks on Sunday with their wives, trying to get to know their wives, because they wanted to believe that a wife was the one thing they could count on."
And he says of women like Nancy Farley, who hate certain little habits their husbands have: "As for coming right out and telling Paul she objected to his pinching the back of her neck -- that was out of the question. From conversations with her friends, and from her own observations, Nancy knew that in every marriage (which after all boils down to two human beings living together), the wife has to keep her mouth shut about at least one small thing her husband does that disgusts her."
O'Hara was touchy and bellicose about his literary standing, but he got it right when he said, "I saw and felt and heard the world around me and within my limitations and within my prejudices I wrote down what I saw and felt and heard."
These books deserve to be back in print: it's amazing how much he got right. . . .
Published: January 18, 1995, Wednesday
- excerpt from New York Times article -
BUtterfield 8
Author: John O'Hara
ISBN: 084881441X
Publisher: Amereon Ltd 1992-12-01 Format: Hardcover
Random House: Rpt edition (Sept 27, 1994) Paperback: 228 pages
* * Editorial Review * *
"BUtterfield 8 is O'Hara's only roman a clef. On June 8, 1931, a twenty-five-year-old woman with the astonishing name of Starr Faithfull washed up on Long Beach, Long Island. Her death created a sensation that was never resolved: accident, suicide, or murder? It came out that she had hung out in speakeasies, dried out at Bellevue, been in therapy, lived a while on St. Luke's Place a couple of doors from Mayor Jimmy Walker, and been sexually abused as a girl by Andrew J. Peters, the former mayor of Boston. O'Hara re-created her in Gloria Wandrous, who wakes in despair on page one, sentence one of the novel." -- from the Introduction

BUtterfield 8 is John O'Hara's novel of beauty and damnation in the New York of the speakeasy generation of the early 1930s. It was a bestseller on publication in 1935, when Forum magazine described it as a "hard-boiled, sadistic and venemously biting novel."
* * Editorial Review * *
"Like Henry James, John O'Hara could create a world where class and social strictures are all-important but not openly discussed." -- The Village Voice
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Sunday, August 28, 2005

Starr Faithfull Mesmerized the Brits

British thriller-scribe Sydney Horler [1888-1954] gave his perspective on Starr Faithfull ["a beautiful wanton"], reprinted in a 1987 anthology published by Xanadu in the UK.
* * UNSOLVED! Classic True Murder Cases * *
Jacket blurb: A collection of some of the greatest unsolved cases in the long and bloody history of murder, as explored by some of the finest writers who have ever delved into these murky depths. Features amongst others: Colin Wilson (Jack the Ripper), Sayers (Wallace), Elizabeth Jenkins (Bravo), Sydney Horler (Starr Faithfull, Beautiful Wanton), Le Queux (Bela Kiss), Pearson (Lizzie Borden), Symons (Sir Harry Oakes) and many more.
Selected & Edited by Richard Glyn Jones
UNSOLVED! Classic True Murder Cases [1st pub. Xanadu 1987] h/b
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Starr Inspired "The Love Thieves"

THE LOVE THIEVES by Peter Packer
[NY: Signet, 1963]
An explosive courtroom novel based on the life and death of Starr Faithfull - the golden girl who was pursued by scandal.
The Love Thieves by Peter Packer
[NY: Holt, Rinehart & Winston Publishers, 1962]
Flap copy on the hardcover edition:
Starr Faithfull, that was the romantic name of a girl whose body was washed ashore on a Long Island beach one summer day in 1931.... Some people will remember Starr from the lurid headlines of that time - - headlines which told of her mysterious death and of the sensational libel trial that followed. Others will recall her, disguised under the name of "Gloria Wandrous" - - the soiled heroine of Butterfield 8. Now the enigmatic, tragic story of the golden girl gone wrong has been transformed into a spellbinding novel by Peter Packer, a novel that will be as avidly dsicussed as the shocking episode on which it is based.

Was Starr Faithfull [called "Virginia Fuller" in this book] an amoral tramp who broke the hearts of her mother and stepfather? Or was she the innocent victim of parents who ruthlessly robbed her of innocence, dignity, and love? Peter Packer, haunted for many years by these questions, has steeped himself in every aspect of Starr's fateful life. The result is this stunning novel which focuses on a libel suit brought by Virginia's parents against a New York newspaper after her death. Through the breathless courtroom drama of questioning and cross-questioning, lies and pretenses are relentlessly stripped away until the astonishing facts of Virginia's life are slowly revealed. Taunt with suspense and powerfully written, The Love Thieves breathes new life into one fo the most intriguing episodes in the annals of American crime.
If you prefer Peter Packer's prattle in a paperback:
a 1st edition is on sale at Friesen's Books Online
1735 Fish Hatchery Road
Grants Pass, Oregon 97527-7543
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Starr Faithfull.

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Thursday, August 25, 2005

Starr Faithfull between the Sheets

Bryn Mawr's library contains this volume:
The aspirin age, 1919-1941.
Edited and selected by Isabel Leighton
[NY: Simon & Schuster, 1949]
Contents include an essay on Starr Faithfull by Morris Markey, etc.:
--1919: The forgotten men of Versailles, by Harry Hansen.
--1920: The noble experiment of Izzie and Moe, by Herbert Asbury.
--1921: Aimee Semple McPherson; "Sunlight in my soul," by Carey McWilliams.
--1923: The timely death of President Harding, by S. H. Adams.
--1923: Konklave in Kokomo, by Robert Coughlan.
--1924: Calvin Coolidge, a study in inertia, by Irving Stone.
--1926: My fights with Jack Dempsey, by Gene Tunney.
--1927: The last days of Sacco and Vanzetti, by Phil Stong.
--1927: The Lindbergh legends by John Lardner.
--1929: The crash, and what it meant, by Thurman Arnold.
--1930: The radio priest and his flock, by Wallace Stegner.
--1931: The mysterious death of Starr Faithfull, by Morris Markey.
--1933: et cetera
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Starr Faithfull [Brooklyn Standard Union]

* Newspaper article printed on 9 June 1931 *
- 1931 DEATH NOTICES . JULY Brooklyn Standard Union -
DEATH AT LONG BEACH, Laid by Police to Drowning
Inspector Harold R. KING, chief of Nassau County detectives, said today that he was satisfied that the death of Miss Starr FAITHFULL, of 12 Saint Luke's Place, Manhattan, was caused by drowning.
. . . . . Miss FAITHFULL's body was found on the beach at Long Beach, L.I. yesterday. Inspector KING said he expected to confer with Miss FAITHFULL's stepfather, Stanley FAITHFULL, some time today in an attempt to ascertain more fully what friendships and associations the young woman had.
. . . . . So far, he said, all he had learned was that Miss FAITHFULL had been graduated from a private school in Lowell, Mass, a few years ago, that she had resided at home with her mother and stepfather since that time, she had no employment and no special hobby. She had no income except what she received from her parents, Inspector KING said.
. . . . . Miss FAITHFULL disappeared mysteriously Friday after leaving her Greenwich Villiage home, at 12 St. Lukes Place, three doors from the home of Mayor James J.WALKER, Friday morning. At that time she told her step-father that she was going shopping.
. . . . . FAITHFULL told authorities that his foster daughter had never been to that part of Long Island and had no reason known to him for going there. The $3 which he said she had when she left home was found in a pocket of her coat.
* article printed 11 June 1931 * Brooklyn Standard Union.

. . . . . District Attorney Elvin N. EDWARDS, investigating the murder of 25-year-old Starr FAITHFULL, whose body washed ashore at Long Beach Monday, late to-day ordered that cremation of the dead girl's remains to be postponed.
The District Attorney gave no reason for his order, but indicated that a further examination of the body will be made on the basis of new evidence uncovered to-day.
The body had been removed from Rockville Centre to a crematory just outside Jamaica, and the girl's relatives had assembled for a brief funeral service when the order was issued.
Conflicting stories were heard at the office of District Attorney EDWARDS to-day concerning the nature of the information contained in the thirty-eight pages of diary left by the murder victim. While Mr. EDWARDS was closeted with Elizabeth FAITHFULL, sister of Starr, two detectives who claimed to have seen the diary were questioned concerning its contents.
One said that the book, which was mysteriously recovered ''somewhere in Manhattan'' after the girl's stepfather, Stanley E. Faithfull had repeatedly asserted he destroyed it, revealed that Starr's life had been a happy one. The other detective said there were several entries indicating depression.
Mr. EDWARDS, before going into conference with Elizabeth FAITHFULL, told newspapermen that he would ''have nothing to give out until late this afternoon, if then''.
* article printed 13 June 1931 * Brooklyn Standard Union.


The body of Starr FAITHFULL was cremated at Fresh Pond Crematory in Middle Villiage, Queens, at 4 o'clock this afternoon,on receipt of a written order from District Attorney EDWARDS.
No one was permitted to witness the cremation. It was said the ashes would be turned over to William MACKEN, undertaker, of Rockville Centre, who would give them to the FAITHFULL family.
The fantastic story of Starr FAITHFULL, 25-year-old Greenwich Villiage girl whose days on earth were as mysterious and weird as the circumstances of her death, was slowly pieced together for the benefit of a Nassau County Grand Jury at Mineola today.
While witness detailed their stories to the jurors, a new angle to the case came to light when a taxicab driver, who said he took Miss FAITHFULL from the heart of Manhattan to Flushing last Thursday afternoon, was questioned by assistants of District Attorney Elvin N. EDWARDS.
The girl was intoxicated when she entered the cab, the chauffeur said, and she bought two bottles of whisky during the journey. She drank some of this liquor and gave him some, he said. She wanted to go to a certain house in Flushing, he said, but couldn't find it, so he let her out at a drug store. The store was at Thirty-third avenue and 163rd street.
District Attorney EDWARDS proceeded with his Grand Jury session with some fifteen witnesses and with the silk-bound diary which STARR kept over a period of three or four years.
It was indicated that indictments will be returned against two unidentified men, to be called ''John Doe'' and ''Richard Roe.'' The District Attorney proceeded on the theory he has held since he started the investigation that two men murdered STARR be-
cause they feared her. These men, he believed, killed the attractive girl because she knew something that threatened their security.
Among the witnesses who testified brfore the jurors were Frank W. WYMAN, of Boston, father of the dead girl; Mr and Mrs. Stanley E. FAITHFULL, her stepfather and mother, and Elizabeth Tucker FAITHFULL, 19 year old sister.
The taxicab driver, Si BOCKMAN of the Bronx, and Traffic Patrolman BELLOCHI, who helped the girl into the cab in front of the Chanin Building on Forty-second street last Thursday, were also to testify.
BELLOCHI and employes of the Chanin Building told authorities that the girl, smartly dressed but obviously under the influence of liquor, entered the lobby of the building in company with an older woman - a woman known as a ''character'' to them. The woman asked someone take care of the girl and said she was sick. Employes of the building called Patrolman BELLOCHI, who suggested calling an ambulance. The girl objected vociferously to this and then BELLOCHI put her in the cab. BELLOCHI and building employes have identified STARR'S body as that of the girl they saw. They said, however, that she wore different clothes Thursday than she had on ** missing a few last lines here ** . . . director of the Cunard lines, was one of the grand jury witnesses.
He told reporters that he had known STARR ''only in a business way''in spite of the fact that the girl used his name as an excuse when she was away from home late at night.
Entries from STARR's diary [tending to show that she was extremely fickle in her love affairs and had considered suicide on occasions] were read for the jurors.
Dr. Otto SCHULZ, who performed the autopsy on Miss FAITHFULL'S body, was the first witness and repeated his story in substance to reporters. He said that his examination of the body led him to believe that STARR had been drowned in shallow water, and that she had been roughly handled. It is his assumption that two men held her head under water until she was dead. Sand was found in the windpipe and in the trachea, he said. She had been dead about forty-eight hours when the body was found on the beach, and there was no trace of alchol or drugs in her system.
- - printed in the newspapers during June 1931 - -
- - 1931 DEATH NOTICES .. JULY Brooklyn Standard Union - -
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Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Starr Faithfull: A Body of Archives

On this Sunday morning in May, this girl who later was to be the cause of a sensation in New York, awoke much too early for her night before. One minute she was asleep, the next she was completely awake and dumped into despair. . . BUtterfield 8 by John O'Hara

Robert Blees Productions. (5 linear feet). MsC 124. [Finding Aid]

Robert Blees (1918- ). Born Lathrop, Montana, educated Dartmouth College. American film and tv script-writer/ producer. From 1940, scenarist for Warner Bros. Formerly a Board member of the Screen Writers Guild, Executive Board member of Screen Producers Guild and Board of Directors member of the Producers-Writers Pension Plan.

BUtterfield 8: archival material from the 1960 film version

The collection consists of 16 boxes, (12 of written materials, three containing still photographs of motion pictures and one box of non-commercial sound recordings from soundtracks) as well as an oversized drawer. Most of the written material such as scripts, treatments, and fiction are by Blees. These include the screenplay for the remake of Magnificent Obsession and a number of scripts for the TV series Combat!, which Blees produced. There are also a number of scripts by other authors, including . . . .
Miscellaneous materials include budget information, memos, correspondence, etc. The still photographs section contains stills from a large number of outstanding Hollywood films, mostly of the thirties and forties. The non-commercial sound recordings feature music from the television series Bus Stop and Combat! and musical arrangements from the motion picture Snows of Kilimanjaro.
Included in the oversized drawer are miscellaneous artist renderings and photostats on the murder of Starr Faithfull, recreated by John O'Hara in his novel Butterfield 8 and played by Elizabeth Taylor in the 1960 film version.
BUtterfield 8: archives from the 1960 film version stored here: Motion Picture and Television Related Collections Held by the University of Iowa Libraries Special Collections
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Starr Faithfull Inspires a British Playwright

Playwright: William Palmer
Dramatic Rights: Charles Walker
CAPE (2 Mar 1995)

SUMMARY: The body of a young woman is found apparently raped and then murdered. She is identified as Starr Faithfull, a girl from a good family, but that picture soon changes. She was promiscuous, mentally unstable and had been abused as a child by her guardian, a prominent politician. [ISBN: 0 224 03997 0]
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Starr Faithfull as a Poet's Muse

Starr Faithfull makes poets like Christopher T. George muse.

The Waste Land by Orson Welles

Hollywood is the cruelest place, breeding
anorexia in the brightest starlets, mixing
money and desire, stirring
dull talent with sharp aspirations.
Citizen Kane kept me sober, covering
Hearst's yellow journalism in black and white.
(Critics wondered if the film portrayed Hearst’s ego
or mine.) My Ambersons were not merely magnificent,
they were sublime! To the merry sound of a zither,
on Vienna's giant ferris wheel, I said,
"In Italy for 30 years under the Borgias,
they had warfare, terror, murder and bloodshed,
but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci
and the Renaissance. In Switzerland they had brotherly love—
they had 500 years of democracy and peace,
and what did they produce?
The cuckoo clock."
I was on top back then as Harry Lime,
the world at my feet.
I loved funfairs, the crazy house
in The Lady From Shanghai,
the bisected bodies, the torsos
torn in pieces, the hall of mirrors. I loved magic,
I sawed a woman in half in a circus tent
on Cahuenga Boulevard. People said
I was like a jigsaw puzzle with a piece missing.
As Othello, I almost throttled Desdemona for real.
When I left Hollywood in a hurry,
I forgot my fake noses
— I had them airmailed.
How I hated my small upturned nose.
"Wotzit anent Orson Welles?"
Behind the cloak of his genius,
the hypnotic charm of his smile,
he nurtures a hidden madness
which, fanned by the flames of desire,
drives him to live his greatest sin.”
You gave me the sled years ago;
I called it "Rosebud."
When I came back late from the studio,
you were drunk from highballs; you'd been seeing someone else
— I smelled his aftershave in the bedroom;
knowing your infidelity, I was neither forgiving nor human,
you looked into the heart of evil,
my fists, the silence.
I said, "All women are dumb,
some dumber than others."
O Lady from Shanghai, you who were once my wife —
I sawed you in half in the circus tent on Cahuenga Boulevard
until Harry Cohn, head of Columbia Studios, put a stop to it
—those studio execs always tried to put a stop to my best pranks,
so I used volunteers, Johnny Carson, Marlene Dietrich.
Marlene and I recreated the trick in Follow the Boys.
I called my evil side, "Crazy Welles...Imperial Welles."
Unreal City
under the brown fog of an LA dawn,
a crowd flowed down Sunset, so many,
I had not thought the movies had undone so many.
There I saw one I knew and stopped him, crying, "Cotton!
You who were with me in Kane, in The Third Man!
The Magnificent Ambersons! Have we aged so soon?
Are our careers over so soon? Are we forgotten so soon?"
The chair I sat in, the burnished throne in Xanadu,
the gigantic shadows cast by a silver candelabra,
the table laid in profusion of sweetmeats.
Eat my darling! Eat! This sustenance is not poisoned
though paid for by ill-gotten gains.
The rise of Kane, barbarous king
in the democratic province
chasing the lucre that all the world pursues.
"She was one of those black-haired girls,
skin as white as Carrara marble.
I had to rape her offstage.
I came on unbuttoned, disheveled,
Having had my way with her."
O O O O that Eliotian Rag—
Under the Bam
Under the Boo
Under the Bamboo Tree
"So what if he dresses in drag,
as long as he do it
when I’m not around?
So intelligent, so outré, so innovative!"
"I disliked him at first sight.
He wore a toupée, so obvious,
flat and yellow, not fitting close.
There is something phony
about a man who won't accept baldness gracefully."
And here in Xanadu we shall play a game of chess,
waiting for the knock upon the door to boom down the long hall.
The studio execs never call never call never call.
Unreal City
under the brown fog of an LA noon
Mr. Goldwyn, the Hollywood mogul,
unshaven, with a pocket full of celluloid,
with a wink and cufflinks of human teeth,
asks me in demotic Yiddish
to luncheon at the studio
followed by a month at Cannes.
The Hudson sweats oil and tar
the barges drift
with the turning tide
a Commie sails
wide to leeward,
swings on the heavy spar.
The barges wash
drifting logs
down past Ellis Island
past Lady Liberty's torch.
Way late! Way late!
Way late! I weigh so!
Elizabeth and Orson
parked by the roadside
in Topanga Canyon
a Mercury coupe
scarlet and gold
wire wheels
"Moonlight Serenade"
on the radio
I sawed a woman in half
on Cahuenga Boulevard.
Way late! way late!
Way late! I weigh so!
"Her feet were at Long Beach, and her heart
under her feet. After the event
I wept. I promised 'a new start.'
Here in Hollywood,
I can connect
nothing with nothing.
Starr Faithfull
Elizabeth Short
The Black Dahlia
The broken fingernails of dirty hands.
Ooh la la
To Babylon then I came
to Xanadu to Xanadu
a sled is burning
burning burning burning.
O Lord, thou pluckest me away from life
Starr Faithfull, a long day's dead,
forgot the cry of gulls, the foghorns of the ocean liners.
A current under sea
washed her pale skin in whispers. As she rose and fell,
she passed the stages of her age and youth,
the nights in Long Island speakeasies, Manhattan hotels,
O you who turn the steering wheel and drive west
to Hollywood, consider Starr, who was once as pert as you. . . .
- - - excerpt - - -
Published By: The Melic Review
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Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Starr Faithfull: Headlines 6-12-1931

1931-06-12 THE NORWICH SUN
Tabloid dated June 12, 1931 [Norwich, NY]
Two column front page headline reads "Mystery Shrouds Death" (in reference to the death of Starr Faithfull). Also getting front page coverage: "Lindbergh May Fly Over Atlantic" * * "Will Move to Free Gangster on Bail" * * "Praise for Hoover Continued by Hyde"* * and more. This is the outer leaf of The Norwich Sun.
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Starr Faithfull.

Starr Faithfull: Some Unknown Person

Some Unknown Person
author: Sandra Scoppettone
[NY: Putnam, 1977; ISBN: 0399119280; hardcover, 374 pages]
Ellen Hart Interviews SANDRA SCOPPETTONE:
- - excerpt from a longer article - -
EH: Of all your books, do you have a favorite? Which one and why?
SS: Some Unknown Person. That was published in 1977. It's also based on a true case. The victim was named Starr Faithfull. I did a lot of research because the book takes place between 1901 and 1930. This case was never solved and I solve it fictionally. Half the book is based on my father's family, the other half is the Faithfull story. I've never written an autobiographical novel and this was a way to write about my parents and their families without writing about me, although I make a cameo appearance. I'd written some of my Young Adult novels already but this was my first for adults. . . .
- - excerpt from a longer article - -

Starr Faithfull was seduced at an early age by a forty-five year old man, and their relationship lasted nine years. By her twentieth year, Starr is an alcoholic, addicted to pills and ether, and is sexually compulsive. On a summer day in 1931 she is found dead on a Long Island beach. The papers are full of sensational speculation: some claims suicide, others murder, but her death is still unsolved. Here is the riveting, chilling story of Starr Faithfull's erotic life and mysterious death, according to crime novelist Sandra Scoppettone.
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1931: Une magnifique jeune femme du nom de Starr Faithfull est retrouvée morte sur une plage près de New York. Noyade? Assassinat? Suicide? La police n'arrive pas à résoudre l'affaire... Inspiré d'un fait divers marquant des Années Folles, ce récit poignant, entre enquête et chronique familiale, devient, sous la plume de l'auteure, un roman noir magistral. L'un des 15 polars qu'elle avait d'abord publiés sous le pseudonyme de "Jack Early", donc pas lesbien. [Blurb is from the French edition.]
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Why the Media's Been Faithful to Starr Faithfull

The Press: Five Starr Faithfull
June 29, 1931 - Time Magazine

Jun. 29, 1931
If the bruised body of a pretty girl with veronal in the liver were washed ashore on the sands of Long Beach, N. Y.; if she were found to be of respectable but somewhat eccentric family; if her diary revealed her as a neurotic and alluded to childhood misadventures with an unnamed, elderly and prominent man; if the girl's name were Sadie Schmitz and she lived, say, on West 17th Street, New York; if such a case occurred in cool weather with an abundance of other news breaking concurrently — then how would the newspapers treat it? Probable answer: as a good local five-day sex mystery, to be slipped off the front pages of conservative papers if no solution was forthcoming.

But if the dead girl's name were Starr Faithfull; if she had had an eventful sex life on two continents; if her address were No. 12 St. Luke's Place, three doors from Mayor James J. Walker; if her sister, Tucker Faithfull, were a secretive girl whose full lips and slim legs photographed well; and if the story broke during a heat wave and a scarcity of big news — then, as happened last fortnight, the august New York Times might consider it fit to print front-page for nearly two weeks. Cyrus H. K. Curtis' polite New York Evening Post might feature on its front page a three-column drawing of the girl's family and dog in their home. The Chicago Tribune might feel called upon to print an 8-column banner: SCAN SLAIN GIRL'S LOVE DIARY. The Atlanta Constitution, San Francisco Examiner, Milwaukee Sentinel, Cincinnati Enquirer, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, New Orleans Times-Picayune, Indianapolis News might go for the story, as go for it they did. So did the newspapers of Boston, so energetically that Andrew J. Peters, one-time Boston Mayor, whose wife was a distant cousin of Starr Faithfull's mother, found occasion to issue a formal denial that he had ever been improperly involved with the girl.

The potentialities of the strange story as hot-weather reading were in nowise chilled by Nassau County's publicity-wise District Attorney Elvin Newton Edwards, who had just finished the noisy business of sending hare-brained Francis ("Two-Gun") Crowley to the electric chair (TIME, June 15). Soon after Starr Faithfull's body was found, the district attorney announced she had been killed by two men [one prominent in politics], her body taken out in a boat and thrown overboard. Next day he declared that the girl was knocked unconscious aboard a boat, then thrown into the water. By then the prominent politician had been "practically eliminated." Ultimately Prosecutor Edwards was weighing suicide against the murder theory.

But the paucity of essential facts was more than made up for to the Press by Starr Faithfull's background and home life. The family, occupying one floor of a brownstone house, consisted of Starr, her sister, her mother and stepfather, Stanley Faithfull, a not prosperous chemist and salesman for a pneumatic mattress concern. Lean, gimlet-eyed, red-whiskered, bewildered, he talked & talked to the thronging newshawks who came away with many conflicting stories and white lies. For some reason his daughter was made an "heiress" by the first sensational stories, a description soon dropped by all but the tabloids. But other newspapers kept the family endowed with an air of gentility, apparently as an excuse to give the story special attention.

Officials of the United Press, impressed by the national demand for the story, set out to get all they could of it. Believing that reporters on the case were using the wrong strategy, they simply asked for, and with the help of the parents obtained, a diary. They won private Faithfull's interview confidence, persuaded him that a full explanation of Starr's makeup would mitigate the impression of promiscuity which had gone forth. The result, an "exclusive" for the U. P., was the full details of how the girl had been induced to unnatural sexual antics at the age of eleven by the elderly man, a trusted friend of the family; how he had repeatedly over a period of years taken her on automobile trips, stopping at hotels, with knowledge and consent of the parents who never dreamed that his interest was other than fatherly: how Starr, who was emotionally unbalanced as a result, finally made known the facts to her parents; how they obtained a $20,000 settlement from the despoiler to pay for treatment of Starr by psychiatrists and neurologists. For all their effort, they said, Starr never fully recovered normality. With their full knowledge [if not their consent] she had run around with (and after) all kinds of men in all kinds of places "looking for happiness." In return for the story, Faithfull insisted only on a letter which would prove that no payment was being made for it to him or his family.

The New York World-Telegram and other United Press subscribers embellished Father Faithfull's sad story with facsimiles of erotic pages from Starr's memory book, letters, telegrams. Star writers were put on the lurid story to treat it as an epic of injured innocence, a cause celebre of the decade. Fresh interest, fresh front-page stories (again including the Times) were supplied by the arrival from England of a Cunard Line doctor who revealed that Heroine Faithfull had come to see him on shipboard just before she disappeared from home, that he had sent her away because she was drunk, that she had written him she was going to commit suicide. The doctor's picture now made display material as the epic passed into its third week. Observers marveled at what the great U. S. Press could do with the conjunction of a perfect front-page name, a sexy death mystery and a spell of hot weather.
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Press: Faithfull Sequel [1935]

Most newsreaders remember Starr Faithfull [1906-1931], if they bother to remember her at all, as a pretty young girl whose bruised body, with veronal in the liver, was washed ashore at Long Beach, N. Y. one day in June four years ago (TIME, June 29, 1931). Partly because of her incredible name, partly because of her spectacular sex life, the Press quickly picked up all that was left of Starr Faithfull and gave it to the nation as a hot weather sensation. With the mystery of the girl's death still unsolved, the story eventually collapsed. But newspaper publishers had not heard the last of Starr Faithfull. Her...
[printed in Time Magazine on Monday, March 11, 1935]
- - Time Magazine excerpt - -
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Monday, August 22, 2005

Taylor Treadwell as Starr Faithfull

On August 17, 2005, Taylor Treadwell took the role of STARR FAITHFULL in "Courting Mae West" [a play by LindaAnn Loschiavo based on true events during the 1920s in Manhattan]. Several producers took notice of this gifted actress immediately.
- - 17 August 2005 photograph - -
Taylor Treadwell as STARR FAITHFULL posing with Marta Reiman as MAE WEST

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Come Up and See Mae online

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Memory Book of Starr Faithfull

The Memory Book of Starr Faithfull
Author: Gloria Vanderbilt

Book summary: It is June 1931 when the battered body of a beautiful young woman washes up on the shores of New York. Police are stunned soon after when they discover her "Memory Book," a diary containing passages of eroticism and the initials of Andrew J. Peters, the former mayor of Boston. This recreation of the diary which offers a glimpse into the illicit relationship between a child and the prominent man who was like a father to her.
Editorial Reviews
From Publishers Weekly
Starr Faithful was a reticent, studious and beautiful young woman whose death in 1931 at age 25 gave rise to rumors of sexual misconduct. Vanderbilt (Never Say Good-bye) makes a misguided attempt to recreate the mysterious Starr's diary, which she called her "Memory Book," and which disappeared shortly after her death. Beginning when she is 11, Starr writes to "Mem," chronicling her maturation as affected by the erotic obsession of her cousin Andrew J. Peters, Boston's Social Register mayor 34 years Starr's senior. His avuncular interest in her education veils years of damaging sexual exploitation before Starr's social-climbing mother learns the truth. Starr's breakdown and subsequent delusional relationship with a ship's surgeon bring the guilty party to light. The flavors and excesses of post-WWI society are captured dead on here-with appearances by personalities (Aimee Semple McPherson, Carl Jung), places (the Cotton Club) and even ships (the Carpathia, the Franconia)- but these historical details cannot compensate for the novel's mundane portrayals and ultimately static tone. Moreover, Vanderbilt's period accuracy includes the cloying lingo perhaps favored by flappers but apt to prove nauseating to the modern reader (the ether that Starr's cousin uses to sedate her is termed "creamy dreamy"). As a psychological profile, this is intriguing guesswork-though a trivial and disappointing read. Literary Guild selection.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal
Vanderbilt bases her second novel on the scandal surrounding the death of a beautiful young socialite in 1931.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist
Based on a true story, Gloria Vanderbilt's latest novel attempts to unravel the mysterious life and death of Starr Faithfull. In June 1931, Starr's battered body washed up on a New York beach. Soon after her death, the diary that she called her "Memory Book" was discovered by police. Passages in the diary revealed that Starr had been sexually abused since the age of 11 by her uncle, the mayor of Boston at the time. Despite the lurid details in the diary, charges were never brought against him, and as public interest dwindled, the diary and accompanying scandal quietly disappeared. Using newspaper reports of the death and the few excerpts from the diary that were leaked to the press, Vanderbilt has persuasively re-created the life of an introspective child and the tormented woman she later became. The novel works both as an absorbing portrait of the sumptuous lifestyle of the privileged classes in the 1920s and 1930s and as the sad chronicle of an anguished life that slowly spiraled into madness. Kathleen Hughes

From Kirkus Reviews
This ludicrous recreation of an early 20th century diary by poor-little-rich-girl Vanderbilt (Never Say Goodbye, 1989, etc.) proves definitively that being famous is in no way equivalent to being talented. Despite her fatuous name, Starr Faithfull was an actual person whose mysterious death in 1931 led the police to discover her diary, which revealed that her cousin Andrew J. Peters, who had served as mayor of Boston, had sexually abused her beginning when she was 11 and he was 45. After the investigation, the journal disappeared. Vanderbilt begins in 1917 on Faithfull's 11th birthday, and the sugary tone that poisons all the entries is immediately apparent. Faithfull soon begins pretentiously calling her journal a ''Memory Book'' and addressing it directly as ''Mem.'' Daily incidents are reported fastidiously, punctuated with plenty of phrases like ''Oh Mem, I can't wait!'' and other fey touches meant to lend little-girl innocence. Faithfull comes across as a simpering brat (''Lucy Edwina and I are the most important girls in school now that Cousin A. is mayor of Boston''), and her repetitiously similar upper-crust tales of Christmas and dancing school all run together. Even the abuse by Peters (whom Faithfull nicknames ''Fou'' because those are his initials in a secret code that she created) is meaningless fluff from this spoiled child's point of view. He plies her with a bottled substance (presumably ether) that Faithfull refers to as ''creamy dreamy'' because of the sensations it causes, and engages her in games of ''make the corn grow.'' Occasionally Vanderbilt appears to recall that this is meant to be a historical novel, so she has Faithfull pen a line like ''A very terrible thing has happened in Russia, Mem. The Bolsheviks executed Czar Nicholas II and all his family.'' In 1924 Faithfull moves from Boston to New York City, where she starts hanging out with a bad crowd, then becomes obsessed with a man. Hers is a sad, perhaps even interesting story that deserved better treatment. Painfully shallow. (Literary Guild selection)
-- Copyright ©1994, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
- [New York: Knopf; Distributor: Random House, 1994] -
309 pages; ISBN: 0394587758: . Gloria Vanderbilt. Subjects: Girls--Fiction.
* Format: Hardcover
* Publisher: New York: Knopf: Distributed By Random House, 1994

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Come Up and See Mae online

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Starr as a "Body of Evidence"

A Body of Evidence on Long Island
When a fashionably attired corpse washed ashore, the DA and the press knew what to do
- By Steve Wick, Newsday Staff Writer

She was a lovely corpse.
Her nails were painted a bright red, her silk dress an expensive design she might have worn to a society party in New York City. And although her hair had been tossed around in the surf, you could still see the outlines of a fashionable cut.
The body was lying in a pile of seaweed on a deserted stretch of sand in Long Beach when five Nassau County detectives arrived. It was the morning of June 8, 1931. That day's edition of the Nassau Daily Review said:
Police today were seeking to identify the body of a young woman, about 24 years old, expensively dressed and apparently of a wealthy family, who was washed ashore at the foot of Minnesota Avenue, West Long Beach, early this morning . . . She had dark brown hair, apparently hennaed, well manicured nails, finished in a bright red polish, and perfect teeth.
By noon, Nassau County Police Insp. Harold King believed the dead woman was Elizabeth Wardwell, the daughter of an upstate bank president, who had been reported missing. But by the following morning, King also was trying to determine if the dead woman was Catherine Hill, 26, of Provincetown, Mass.
It would be another two days before a name was finally attached to the corpse: Starr Faithfull, the well-to-do daughter of a Manhattan society couple.
STARR FAITHFULL fit perfectly into a splashy headline, over stories filled with talk of murder and cover-up, political intrigue, wild partying on cruise ships, Manhattan society affairs and mysterious diary entries.
``This was one of those cases that grabbed people's attention,'' retired Nassau County chief of detectives Ed Curran said recently. ``When I came on in 1946, the old-timers were still talking about it.''

Today, the only way to reconstruct the events that followed the discovery of Faithfull's body is to read newspaper accounts. The principals in the case -- from King to the then-Nassau District Attorney Elvin Edwards, who said from the get-go that Faithfull had been murdered and boasted two days after the body's discovery that an arrest was imminent -- are all dead. Edwards' voluminous records on the case have never been found.
Yet the case of Starr Faithfull, her life and death as told across the pages of New York's newspapers, is still intriguing today. In some ways, it was 20th Century Long Island's first big crime story. Or was it a crime story?
Within a day of Faithfull's body washing up on the beach, District Attorney Edwards had seized the story by the throat and was squeezing hard for all it was worth. A story on June 9 in the Nassau Daily Review -- with a headline that read MALE COMPANION OBJECT OF HUNT -- said Edwards had determined that the victim ``had been subjected to physical violence before her body was thrown into the ocean.''
His statement that the death was the result of ``foul play'' was based on bruises on her body, the story said. Police sources were quoted as saying Faithfull --``an aspiring writer'' who apparently never wrote anything -- had been kidnaped from her home in Manhattan and brought to Long Beach, where she was killed and her body tossed into the surf. This story also noted -- in a way that suggested it meant something to the case -- that Faithfull's next door neighbor in New York was the mayor, James J. Walker.
By June 10, two days after Faithfull's body washed up on the beach, the headlines screamed:
The first paragraph of the story read: ``Seeking two men he has labelled `the murderers of Starr Faithfull,' whose body was found at Long Beach early Monday morning, District Attorney Elvin Edwards was in Boston today.''
Asked if Faithfull might have committed suicide, Edwards was quoted as saying, ``Do you think I would be working like this if it were a suicide?'' The story went on to say that Edwards ``told reporters he was looking for two men who were with Faithfull Friday morning, when she was last seen. He expects an early arrest. He said he knew the names of the men and that one played an important role in New York political circles.''

Underworld Haunts. . .
What did Edwards mean by ``political circles''? Was he referring to the mayor, Jimmy Walker? ``Sources'' told the newspaper that Edwards and his investigators had grilled crewmen on a cruise ship docked in New York Harbor because of reports that a drunken Faithfull had been taken off the boat a few days before her death. ``As attendants were placing her in a small boat, she screamed: `Kill me. Throw me overboard.'''
Edwards had a new theory, too, according to the account. ``Edwards' theory is that Miss Faithfull was murdered in New York and carried to Long Beach by taxicab. He believes her assailants placed her in a row boat during the night and carried the body out to sea . . . Edwards has secret information to support his belief.''
On June 12, the Nassau paper trumpeted: STARR FAITHFULL DIARY MAY REVEAL BLACKMAIL --SLAYERS HIRED TO END CAREER. The story said investigators had learned that Faithfull had frequented ``underworld haunts'' and ``revelled in the company of known killers and desperate criminals. The investigation also revealed her wide knowledge of men whose shady character and nefarious deeds would make them unwelcome in her plutocratic drawing room.''
Edwards would ask for indictments that morning, the paper said. A source -- presumably Edwards himself -- told the paper that Faithfull's diary centered on ``men, men, men --all sorts of men in all walks of life.'' And the source said she met her killers at a party aboard a cruise ship, the Franconia.

What Did It Mean...?
But newspapers of the next day, June 13, downplayed virtually every point made in the papers of the day before. The grand jury probe was a ``disappointment,'' the Nassau paper said. Three days later, on June 16, Edwards told reporters he had been ``deliberately and generally misquoted'' by the newspapers.
On June 15, Edwards told reporters he was searching for a Chicago gang leader named ``Blue,'' and his blond girlfriend, who he said had partied in New York with Faithfull the night before she disappeared. Ten days later, on June 25, Edwards' investigators questioned New York publisher Bennett Cerf, who said he had been at the party and had seen Faithfull.
But all this was talk, and by June 26, three weeks after the death, a small story in the Nassau paper said the case would soon be closed. The next day, Faithfull's father was quoted in the newspapers as saying Edwards was afraid to make arrests because ``big'' people were involved.

And that was that. Case closed.
This was written by: Steve Wick, Newsday Staff Writer
- - Copyright © 2005, Newsday, Inc. - -
Newsday's article was printed with a photo of Starr Faithfull
[from Nassau County Museum Collection, Long Island Studies Institute]

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Come Up and See Mae online

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Starr Faithfull: Inside the Books

Jonathan Goodman was given unlimited access to police records as he researched his theory about Starr Faithfull's untimely death.
Reviewer: Donna J. Spindel

The Passing of Starr Faithfull
Author: Jonathan Goodman
(Kent, Ohio: Kent State University Press, 1996. 311 pages)
Unimpressed, critic Donna Spindel observed that this is a peculiar book to describe. According to Spindel, the author has been called a "crime historian," and has written many books in the "true crime genre." Jonathan Goodman presents the story of Starr Faithfull, a young Manhattan woman whose body was found on 8 June 1931, when it washed up on the Long Island shore. The mystery of her death, which has never been solved, apparently captured the interest of the media, both in the United States and Britain, for a number of months. Goodman tries to dissect the case from every angle, using all the documentary evidence that is available to him, which is considerable, and offers his own conclusion as to how Starr Faithfull died.
The problem with this approach, from a scholarly perspective, is that it lacks context. There is little effort here to place Faithfull's story in time and place, to relate her death, if such a relationship even exists, to America during the Depression, or to the social class of which she seemed to be a part.
As Goodman shows, Faithfull's background itself is something of a mystery. She was the stepdaughter of Stanley Faithfull, a man whose source of income was uncertain, but apparently it was sufficient for the family to five relatively well. As a young girl she spent a good deal of time with her mother's cousin by marriage, Andrew Peters, the one-time mayor of Boston. Although never proved, Peters may have sexually abused the child. The record does show that he made financial payments to the Faithfulls. Starr was educated at schools for the rich, her expenses paid by wealthy relatives. As a young woman, she seemed depressed and unsure about her future; she may have been a drug user, and certainly she drank too much. Despite the fact that her parents stayed one step ahead of their creditors, she made repeated trips to Britain and was known there among the "well to do"; this accounts for the interest of the British press in her death. Yet, there is a major problem with the story. Goodman fails to show why we should take such a keen interest in her death.
Perhaps this tragic mystery will appeal to avid readers of crime stories.
Goodman certainly offers every possible piece of available evidence, sometimes quoted verbatim at length, including the autopsy report. But the writing is very uneven, awkward, and, in places, a bit embarrassing. He employs a number of old-fashioned phrases, such as "man and wife," "gossipy" mother, and "she bore him a child." None of this, in itself, is a fatal flaw, but the reader should be aware that this book has shortcomings. Nonetheless, if one is interested in knowing, in the finest detail, the story surrounding the death of Starr Faithfull, which purportedly was the basis for John O'Hara's Butterfield 8, this would surely be the book to read.
This book review was written by: Donna J. Spindel
This review was published in Historian [Spring 1998]
- - COPYRIGHT 1998 Phi Alpha Theta, History Honor Society, Inc. - -

Starr Faithfull.