Hollywood Celebrity Scandals Death of Thomas Harper Ince Part 1

About the Hollywood celebrity scandal of 1924 involving the mysterious death of filmmaker Thomas Harper Ince after a night on the Hearst yacht.

HISTORIC HOLLYWOOD SCANDALS

The Mysterious Death of Thomas Harper Ince-1924

On a balmy Saturday in November, 1924, William Randolph Hearst's 280-ft. yacht, the Oneida, set sail for San Diego with some of Hollywood's most celebrated stars on board to honor the 43rd birthday of pioneer filmmaker Thomas Ince. As the Oneida eased out of San Pedro Harbor, skipper Hearst and hostess Marion Davies entertained their 15 guests with a band of jazz musicians and the best vintage champagne. Ince, however, was not on board. He was attending the premier of his latest film. The Mirage, but he managed to catch a train the following day to San Diego, where the Oneida had docked. What happened from the moment he boarded until his sudden death a few days later continues to be one of the most bizarre murder mysteries in the annals of Hollywood scandal.

Hearst was known for his wild, impromptu parties, and a three-day voyage on the Hearst yacht was a coveted affair. But Hearst was a calculating man who had more in mind than just the indulgence of his favored friends. Hearst was trying to lure Ince, whose action films were losing popularity, into his movie empire, Cosmopolitan Productions, which Hearst had built for the sole purpose of promoting the career of Marion Davies, his 27-year-old mistress. The next move for Hearst would be to take over Ince Studios in Culver City, a proposition over which he and Ince were negotiating.

The yacht party may have been too intimate for words, for there are few accounts of the gala proceedings. Marion Davies recalled that it was fun and uneventful, up to a point. Mindful of prohibition laws, she reported, "We drank water and retired early."-raising suspicious Hollywood eyebrows on both claims. Ince drank amicably to all the toasts and vomited all night. He was taken from the boat in a stretcher the following morning stricken with what was called a severe attack of indigestion. Ince had an ulcer, aggravated by a nervous condition from overwork, and he was on a strict diet that did not include alcohol.

There are two conflicting versions of what happened to Ince after he was removed from the yacht. One version has someone summoning Ince's wife (who did not attend the party), along with his family doctor and two nurses. With this entourage, Ince was escorted to Los Angeles in a private railroad car and from there rushed by ambulance to his home in Benedict Canyon, where he died. The other version of the story has Ince dead before he left the yacht.

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