Dorothy Kilgallen

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Dorothy Kilgallen
Dorothy kilgallen.jpg
BornDorothy Mae Kilgallen
(1913-07-03)July 3, 1913
Chicago, Illinois
DiedNovember 8, 1965(1965-11-08) (aged 52)
Manhattan, New York
Cause of death
Apparent alcohol and drug combination overdose
Resting place
Gate of Heaven Cemetery
Hawthorne, New York
NationalityAmerican
EducationErasmus Hall High School
Alma materThe College of New Rochelle
OccupationMedia personality, author, journalist, panelist
ReligionRoman Catholic
Spouse(s)Richard Kollmar (m. 1940–65)
Children3
 
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Dorothy Kilgallen
Dorothy kilgallen.jpg
BornDorothy Mae Kilgallen
(1913-07-03)July 3, 1913
Chicago, Illinois
DiedNovember 8, 1965(1965-11-08) (aged 52)
Manhattan, New York
Cause of death
Apparent alcohol and drug combination overdose
Resting place
Gate of Heaven Cemetery
Hawthorne, New York
NationalityAmerican
EducationErasmus Hall High School
Alma materThe College of New Rochelle
OccupationMedia personality, author, journalist, panelist
ReligionRoman Catholic
Spouse(s)Richard Kollmar (m. 1940–65)
Children3

Dorothy Mae Kilgallen (July 3, 1913 – November 8, 1965) was an American journalist and television game show panelist. She started her career early as a reporter for the Hearst Corporation's New York Evening Journal after spending two semesters at The College of New Rochelle in New Rochelle, New York.[1] In 1936, she began her newspaper column, The Voice of Broadway, which eventually was syndicated to more than 146 papers.[2][3] She became a regular panelist on the television game show What's My Line? in 1950.

Kilgallen's columns featured mostly show business news and gossip, but also ventured into other topics such as politics and organized crime. She wrote front-page articles on the Sam Sheppard trial and later the John F. Kennedy assassination.

Early life and career[edit]

Kilgallen, born in Chicago, was the daughter of the Hearst newspaperman James Lawrence Kilgallen (1888–1982) and his wife, Mae Ahern.[4] The family moved from Chicago to Wyoming, Indiana, and back to Chicago before finally settling in New York City. Kilgallen's sister Eleanor, six years her junior, became a casting agent for movies and television shows. After two semesters at The College of New Rochelle,[1][unreliable source?] Dorothy Kilgallen dropped out to take a job as a reporter for the New York Evening Journal, which was owned and operated by the Hearst Corporation. She was Roman Catholic.[2]

In 1936, Kilgallen competed with two other New York newspaper reporters in a race around the world using only means of transportation available to the general public. She was the only woman to compete in the contest and she came in second.[5] She described the event in her book Girl Around The World, which is credited as the story idea for the 1937 movie Fly-Away Baby starring Glenda Farrell as a character partly inspired by Kilgallen.[3] During a stint living in Hollywood in 1936 and 1937, Kilgallen wrote a daily column primarily read in New York [6][unreliable source?] that nonetheless provoked a libel suit from Constance Bennett,[7][unreliable source?] "who in the early thirties had been the highest paid performer in motion pictures," according to a Kilgallen biography, "but who was [in 1937] experiencing a temporary decline in popular appeal."[8][unreliable source?]

Back in New York in 1938, Kilgallen began writing a daily column, the Voice of Broadway, for Hearst's New York Journal American, which the corporation created by merging the Evening Journal with the American.[5] The column, which she wrote until her death in 1965, featured mostly New York show business news and gossip, but also ventured into other topics such as politics and organized crime. The column eventually was syndicated to 146 papers via King Features Syndicate.[2][3]

In April 1940, Kilgallen married Richard Kollmar (1910–1971) who had starred in the musicals Knickerbocker Holiday and Too Many Girls.[9][10] Beginning in April 1945, Kilgallen and Kollmar co-hosted a WOR-AM radio talk show, Breakfast With Dorothy and Dick, from their 16-room apartment at 640 Park Avenue. The show followed them when they bought a Neo-Georgian brownstone at 45 East 68th Street in 1952.[11] The radio program, which like Kilgallen's newspaper column mixed entertainment with serious issues, remained on the air until 1963.[12]

The What's My Line? panel in 1952. From left: Dorothy Kilgallen, Bennett Cerf, Arlene Francis and Hal Block, with John Daly as the host.

In 1950, Kilgallen became a panelist on the American television game show What's My Line?, which was aired on the CBS television network from 1950 to 1967. She remained on the show for 15 years, until her death.[5] Fellow panelist Bennett Cerf claimed that, unlike the rest of the panel members, whose priority was getting a laugh and entertaining the audience, Kilgallen was interested mainly in guessing the correct answers. Cerf asserted that she also would extend her time on camera by asking more questions than necessary, the answers to which she knew would be affirmative.[13]

Cerf described Kilgallen as an outsider among her castmates for two reasons. The first was her conservative point of view, that of a "Hearst girl," which differed from that of the others. The second was that information Kilgallen elicited during conversations in the dressing room shared by all four panelists would subsequently appear in her newspaper column.[14] Cerf, speaking for his fellow panelists, the panel moderator, and himself in an audio-tape-recorded interview at Columbia University two years and two months after Kilgallen's death, said, "We didn't like that."[14]

Kilgallen was among the notables on the guest list of those who attended the coronation of Queen Elizabeth in 1953. Kilgallen's articles won her a Pulitzer Prize nomination during this era.[5]

In 1958, Kilgallen and her husband Kollmar, along with Albert W. Selden, co-produced a musical on Broadway entitled, The Body Beautiful.[15] Kilgallen and her fellow panelists made mention of the show on various episodes of What's My Line? during this time period. On one episode, a cast member of the ill-fated musical (a well-built young man, billed as a "chorus boy" in the episode) appeared as a contestant and stumped the panel.

Controversy[edit]

Sinatra feud[edit]

Though Kilgallen and Frank Sinatra were fairly good friends for several years and were photographed rehearsing in a radio studio for a 1948 broadcast, they had a falling out after she wrote a multi-part 1956 front-page feature story "The Frank Sinatra Story". Thereafter their relationship was publicly acrimonious.[16][17]

Sam Sheppard murder trial[edit]

Kilgallen covered the 1954 murder trial of Dr. Sam Sheppard.[5] The New York Journal American carried the banner front-page headline that she was "astounded" by the guilty verdict because of what she argued were serious flaws in the prosecution's case.[18] The doctor, whose specialty was osteopathic neurosurgery,[19] was convicted of bludgeoning his wife to death at their home in the Cleveland suburb of Bay Village.

At the time Kilgallen's sharp criticism of the verdict was controversial and a Cleveland newspaper dropped her column in response.[20][21] [22] Nine years and some months after the jury returned a guilty verdict for Dr. Sheppard, she revealed publicly, at an event that was held at the Overseas Press Club in New York, that the judge had told her toward the beginning of the trial that Dr. Sheppard was "guilty as hell".[23]

Kilgallen and the Kennedy assassination[edit]

Kilgallen was publicly skeptical of the conclusions of the Warren Commission's report into the assassination of President Kennedy and wrote a number of articles on the subject.[24] Later she obtained a copy of Jack Ruby's testimony to the Warren Commission, which was published on the front pages of the Journal American,[25] the Philadelphia Inquirer,[26] the Seattle Post Intelligencer,[27] and other newspapers. Most of that testimony did not become officially available to the public until the commission released its 26 volumes of hearings and exhibits in November 1964, around the time of the first anniversary of the assassination.[28]

After her death noted conspiracy theorist Penn Jones claimed that Kilgallen had conducted an interview with Jack Ruby inside the Dallas courthouse where he was tried for the shooting death of Lee Harvey Oswald, without ever revealing the subject of their purported conversation. However, Jones never cited any sources or corroborating evidence in support of his claims. Further Jones assertion was vehemently denied by a number of persons who would normally have had knowledge of such an interview, including then Assistant Dallas D.A. Bill Alexander who characterized Jones' claim of an interview as "bull shit." Then sheriff Bill Decker and Pulitzer Prize winning reporter Hugh Aynesworth also dismissed the claim as fiction.[29]

Death[edit]

Dorothy Kilgallen's last appearance on What's My Line? on November 7, 1965. Within five hours of the live program's end, she was dead.

On November 8, 1965, Kilgallen was found dead on the third floor of her five-story brownstone, just 12 hours after she had appeared live on What's My Line?. Her hairdresser, Marc Sinclaire, found her body when he arrived that morning to style her hair.[5] She had apparently succumbed to a fatal combination of alcohol and barbiturates, possibly concurrent with a heart attack. It is not known whether the death was a suicide or an accidental overdose, although the amount of barbiturate in her system "could well have been accidental," said medical examiner James Luke.[30] Dorothy Kilgallen was interred in a modest grave at Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Hawthorne, New York.

The footstone of Dorothy Kilgallen in Gate of Heaven Cemetery

Kilgallen and Arlene Francis appeared as Joan Crawford impostors on an episode of the daytime version of To Tell The Truth that was videotaped on November 2, 1965, and broadcast six days later while United Press International broke the news about Kilgallen's death.[31] CBS News immediately noticed the report on its UPI teleprinter machine. [32] Anchor Douglas Edwards announced it during the five-minute live newscast he regularly did promptly after the closing credits of To Tell The Truth.[32] He clarified for viewers that the preceding broadcast on which they had seen Kilgallen had been "prerecorded."[32]

Conspiracy theories about her death[edit]

Penn Jones, Jr. made the alleged Jack Ruby interview the basis of a claim that Kilgallen was murdered in order to silence her before she could release supposedly explosive information about the Kennedy assassination. However, as with the claimed interview itself, this assertion has been widely dismissed. No actual evidence of murder has ever been produced. Kilgallen was known as a heavy drinker, according to Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Hugh Aynesworth.[29] The New York City medical examiner's office suggested her death was likely a case of mixing barbiturates with a dangerous level of alcohol. The death certificate includes the words "circumstances undetermined."[33] Even Ramparts Magazine, a far left publication with a history of promoting conspiracy theories, and which gave considerable coverage to the unsourced Jones claims, felt obliged to add the disclaimer "we know of no serious person who really believes that the death of Dorothy Kilgallen was related to the Kennedy assassination."[29]

After death and legacy[edit]

At the time of her death in November 1965, Kilgallen and Richard Kollmar had been married for 25 years, and she left behind three children.

On the What's My Line? broadcast following Kilgallen's death, host John Charles Daly opened the show explaining that, after consulting with "her good husband Dick Kollmar", the show's tribute to her would be to go on as usual. Much of the text of Daly's announcement was identical to the announcement he had made at the beginning of the broadcast the night after regular panelist Fred Allen died. During their usual "goodnights", each panel member gave a short tribute to her. Bennett Cerf and Steve Allen reminded viewers that her "line" was a print reporter while Arlene Francis and Kitty Carlisle focused on the impact Kilgallen had on the television show.[34]

Despite Richard Kollmar's public silence about his late wife, her father, Jim Kilgallen, still a highly respected reporter at age 77, did speak for publication. The breaking story of her death in the Journal American, where father and daughter both worked, quoted him as saying she "apparently suffered a heart attack, her first."[35] He reminisced fondly about her career and girlish quality for the February 1966 issue of TV Radio Mirror.[36]

Kilgallen has a star in the Hollywood Walk of Fame on Hollywood Boulevard.[37]

Kilgallen was the inspiration for the character of "Daisy Kilgranite", the less-than-ethical columnist in the episode "The Little White Lie" of the popular animated sitcom The Flintstones that aired on ABC in November 1961. The comedienne Sandra Gould (who later played Gladys Kravitz on Bewitched) was the voice of Daisy.

Filmography[edit]

Bibliography[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Israel, Lee (1979). Kilgallen. Delacorte Press. pp. 12–13. ISBN 0-440-04522-3. 
  2. ^ a b c Riley, Sam G. (1995). Biographical Dictionary of American Newspaper Columnists. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 157. ISBN 0-313-29192-6. 
  3. ^ a b c Signorielli, Nancy (1996). Women in Communication: A Biographical Sourcebook. Greenwood Publishing Group. p. 245. ISBN 0-313-29164-0. 
  4. ^ Gingrich, Arnold (1936). Coronet. David A. Smart. p. 55. 
  5. ^ a b c d e f Jordan, Sara (2007). "Who Killed Dorothy Kilgallen?". Midwest Today. 
  6. ^ Israel, page 88
  7. ^ Israel, page 97
  8. ^ Israel, page 94
  9. ^ IMDB entry
  10. ^ SpartacusUK entry
  11. ^ Kilgallen, Dorothy. "The Voice of Broadway." New York Journal American. May 30, 1952.
  12. ^ Suskin, Steven (2006). Second Act Trouble: Behind the Scenes at Broadway's Big Musical Bombs. Hal Leonard. p. 243. ISBN 1-55783-631-0. 
  13. ^ Cerf, Bennett (session 16) (1968-01-23). Notable New Yorkers. Interview with Robbin Hawkins. Columbia University Libraries Oral History Research Office. New York City, New York. Retrieved 2008-04-27. 
  14. ^ a b Cerf, Bennett (session 16) (1968-01-23). Notable New Yorkers. Interview with Robbin Hawkins. Columbia University Libraries Oral History Research Office. New York City, New York. Retrieved 2008-04-27.  at p.739.
  15. ^ The Body Beautiful at the Internet Broadway Database
  16. ^ McNally, Karen (2008). When Frankie Went to Hollywood: Frank Sinatra and American Male Identity. University of Illinois Press. p. 197. ISBN 0-252-07542-0. 
  17. ^ Fong-Torres, Ben (2006). Becoming Almost Famous: My Back Pages in Music, Writing, and Life. Backbeat Books. p. 153. ISBN 0-87930-880-X. 
  18. ^ Kilgallen, Dorothy (1954-12-22). "Sheppard Guilty; Dorothy Kilgallen Astounded By Verdict". New York Journal American. p. 1. 
  19. ^ legitimate source on Sam Sheppard's career specialty -- a Cleveland historical society
  20. ^ Feagler, Dick (1998-12-09). "1st Officer At Sheppard Murder Holds To View". The Plain Dealer. pp. 2A. 
  21. ^ Dirck, Joe (1998-12-13). "Facts On Sheppard Don't Bother Some". The Plain Dealer. pp. 1B. 
  22. ^ Pollack, Jack Harrison (1972). Dr. Sam: An American Tragedy. H. Regnery Co. p. 205. 
  23. ^ "Sam Sheppard: Some 35-year-old questions". The Plain Dealer. 1989-08-08. pp. 1B. 
  24. ^ Kilgallen, Dorothy. "The Voice of Broadway: A Personal Reaction to the Warren Report." New York Journal American. September 30, 1964.Xerox from microfilm on a website devoted to Dorothy Kilgallen
  25. ^ New York Journal American August 18–20, 1964 front pages
  26. ^ Philadelphia Inquirer August 19–21, 1964 front pages
  27. ^ Seattle Post Intelligencer August 19–21, 1964 front pages
  28. ^ Rosenbaum, Ron (November 1983). "Pieces of the Puzzle" [a sidebar in an article titled] "Still On the Case". Texas Monthly pg. 156 Texas Monthly piece titled "Pieces of the Puzzle" on page 156 in November 1983 issue – one of many articles with the umbrella title "Oswald's Ghost."
  29. ^ a b c Bugliosi, Vincent (2007). Reclaiming History: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy. New York: W. W. Norton & Company. pp. 1014–1017. ISBN 0-393-04525-0. 
  30. ^ "Medical Examiner on Dorothy Kilgallen: Barbiturates and Alcohol". New York Herald Tribune. November 16, 1965. p. 25. 
  31. ^ Krebs, Alvin. Dorothy Kilgallen Dead. New York Herald Tribune November 9, 1965, front page.
  32. ^ a b c Krebs, Alvin. Dorothy Kilgallen Dead. New York Herald Tribune November 9, 1965, front page.
  33. ^ Midwest Today magazine both online and hard copy
  34. ^ What's My Line?, dated November 14, 1965.
  35. ^ "Dorothy Kilgallen Dead". New York Journal American, November 8, 1965, front page and continuation
  36. ^ Carpozi, George (February 1966). "An Ace Reporter Remembers His Daughter". TV Radio Mirror. 
  37. ^ "Hollywood Star Walk: A guide to the thousands of stars on the Hollywood Walk of Fame". latimes.com. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 19 November 2014. 

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