Hollywood Celebrity Scandals Death of Thomas Harper Ince Part 2

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


The Mysterious Death of Thomas Harper Ince-1924

In the aftermath of Ince's death, a series of strange events hinted at foul play on Hearst's yacht-perhaps involving Hearst himself. Hearst had the entire Oneida crew sworn to secrecy. Then he slipped away to New York, leaving Davis behind with a cryptic note saying that he thought it was best to go east since the situation in California was "so unsatisfactory." The Hollywood rumor mill was quick to notice his conspicuous absence at Ince's funeral. It wasn't the first time someone had died during a Hearst affair, and Hearst had an aversion to funerals. But why the oath of secrecy? Why did the guests refuse to talk?

Rumors began. Ince, it was hinted, had been shot by Hearst. Apparently Kono, Charlie Chaplin's secretary, who had been aboard the Oneida with Chaplin for the party, told the Japanese staff at Chaplin's home that he had seen a bullet hole in Ince's head as he was carried off the yacht. Very soon this story spread through the network of Japanese domestics in the Hollywood area, who in turn told their employers.

Speculation had it that it was Chaplin who was the actual intended victim of the alleged shooting. Hearst was unreasonably jealous of Chaplin's attention to Marion Davies, a seductive, flamboyant young woman, and he had invited Chaplin only to keep tabs on his behavior with her. This infuriated Miss Davies, who insisted that her feelings for Chaplin, a known ladies' man, were purely platonic. She and Charlie had been standing in the dimly lighted lower galley with Ince, the story said, when Hearst sighted them from above. Hearst flew into a jealous rage, ran for his diamond-studded revolver, and fired. Miss Davies screamed, in her notorious stammer, "M-m-m-murder!" as Ince slumped to the deck.

Both Ince and Chaplin had their backs to Hearst, and it has been deduced that Hearst was unable to distinguish between the two men, who looked somewhat alike. Marion Davies denies that there was ever a gun on board, but John Tebbel, Hearst's biographer, claims that Hearst was an expert marksman and that "it amused him to surprise guests on the Oneida by knocking down a sea gull with a quick hip shot."

The passage of more than 50 years hasn't brought to light the full story. Few of the friends and relatives questioned in subsequent biographies and newspaper reports agree as to cause of death. One notices in these accounts a manipulation of facts which gives the incident its disconcerting twists. It seems unlikely that so many people could remain silent for such a long time if a murder did in fact occur. Or were these Hollywood personalities simply covering up their own scandalous private lives, replete with extravagant parties, smuggled liquor, and sexual indiscretion?

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