Friday, January 17, 2020

Outtakes: Robert Tasker and Ernest Booth

I’ve been reading CrimeReads since it launched, so I was happy to make my debut there yesterday with a piece that recounts the amazing true story behind Script for Scandal, the third Lillian Frost and Edith Head mystery I co-wrote with Rosemarie under our pen name Renee Patrick. Robert Tasker and Ernest Booth were two ex-cons who became screenwriters during Hollywood’s Golden Age. A fictionalized counterpart drives the plot of Script for Scandal, but we couldn’t concoct anything as remarkable as their own lives. Head over to CrimeReads and see for yourself. In the meantime, here are a few additional photographs I turned up in my research.

1932’s Hell’s Highway, co-written by Tasker, was partially filmed in an actual prison. John Cromwell directed these scenes uncredited. (Los Angeles Times, July 26, 1932)

From the February 24, 1940 San Francisco Examiner, Booth and his wife Valverda at home in Santa Cruz marking the end of Booth’s parole and what should be the start of a successful writing career with no restrictions. It wasn’t to be.

Valverda stands by her husband as he faces a murder charge. (Los Angeles Times, September 14, 1941)

Dr. George Stricker revived by smelling salts after his late wife Florence Stricker’s safe deposit box is opened. Dr. Stricker, along with Booth, was considered a suspect in his wife’s murder. (Los Angeles Times, September 18, 1941)

The most Ellroy-esque shot of them all, with headline to match. Captain Vernon Rasmussen of the LAPD searches, ultimately in vain, for the murder weapon. (Los Angeles Times, September 21, 1941)