The Fresno Bee The Republican from Fresno, California on May 16, 1937 · Page 44
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The Fresno Bee The Republican from Fresno, California · Page 44

Fresno, California
Issue Date:
Sunday, May 16, 1937
Page 44
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O T LA ouldn't YARD » This! [Discoveries in the Baffling of Pkywwght Frank Vosper e Last Attempt to Pen a Mysty-Thriller Ended in Failure BRITAIN-BOUND BEAUTY Aluriel Oxford, "Miss England, 19S3," from Whose Champagne Party at Se* Playwright Vosper Mysteriously Vanished. His Mutilated Body Was Later Tossed Ashore by the Waves. Photo, Murray Korman, N. Y. By BushneiLDimond A great sea mystery--more impenetrable than beautiful Start Faithful's lonely death, richer- in.riddie's than, the case of the Marie Celeste^-Aas - just closed on a note of bewilderment, Suicide? Accident? Murder? These Questions were Sung here and there when Actor-Playwright Frank Vosper vanished from an Atlantic liner, bound for bis native England. When his battered, mutilated body was later cast ashore, the puzzle deep-' ened instead of finding solution. Even Scotland Yard couldn't find the answer to the question the tragedy raised. How, why and even precisely when he died, will now probably never be known. But here, for the amateur detective, are the step-by-step facts in the actual drama, as Vosper himself might have presented them in a fictitious sense; for the British writer was a profound student of sensational crimes and author of half-a-dozen melodramas in which mystification, wild passions and bloodshed ran riot. THE MYSTERY OF THE MISSING MATINEE IDOL. Act I. Fame nt Home. F RANK VOSPER, 37, son of Dr. Percy Vosper, born In London, . 1900. Makes stage debut In "Julius Caesar" 1919. 1920-25, .becomes favorite leading; man with fashionable West End audiences. Writes first play, "Murder on the Second Floor," 3929, taking leading part Second play, "People Like Us," banned by censor; produced aa "Spellbound" in New York, 1930, with Pauline Lord. 1935. Vosper's "Love from a Stranger," produced in London and scores Etnash hit. After running a year, the author takes the original cast to America. Act II. Fnllure Abroad. "Love from a Stranger'' opens on Broadway with Vosper playing {fee x-illlanous murderer. It is a failure and closes soon, but is sold to the movies. Thus enriched, Vosper goes to the West Indies for a vacation. Starts work on new play, "Behold This Poison," but falls to finish it. Goes to Hollywood and while there secure.* a hearing for friend, Peter Wille*. 23, son of the British Recorder of Coventry, R. A. Wiiles. Then books passage with Wiiles on S. S. Paris, determined to finish "Behold This Poison" »t «a. Act in. Death In the Waves. During tie voyage, Willes is seen in tb« company of Muriel Oxford, 22, of Elthsin, England. Miss Oxford, IMS London beauty prizewinner who appeared in Ziegfeld Follies and in a Broadway night club chorus,-has also been '"'In' "HOHywpod,... takijig~3iaaierfl tests.-When. these..prove negative, .she decides to return to England: 1 .""--; : Also embarking on the Paris are Ernest Hemingway, famous American novelist; his cabin mate, Sidney FraoMIn (nee Frumkin), noted matador from Brooklyn, N, Y.; the Marquis de Poltgnac, and Mile. Lucienne Tragin, F r e n c h singer. As the Paris nears Plym- 0 u t h. -- t w o h o u r s out-Muriel is hostess at a farewell party. De P o l i g n a c , Mile. Tragin, H e m i n g w a y and Wiiles are g u e s t s . The scene of the party is Miss O x f o r d ' s stateroom, 77- A. (Se« diagram.) V o s p e r is not, at first, p r e s e n t He h a s s p e n t m o s t of his time aboard, a p r a c t i c a l recluse, writing o n " B e h o l d T h i s Poison" In his cabin. H e g o e s t o bed early. About 2 A. It. W i 11 e a wakes him, Insists that he join the mer- r y m a k e r s . V o s p e r does BO, chats with his h o s t e s s about the theater, movies, and other phases of "show business." Three A. M. Guests depart, leaving Muriel, Vospcr and Willea In possession, and drinking champagne. Miss Oxford and Wiiles alone can tell the ficxt developments. Miss Oxford's story: Suddenly Vospcr says: "I feel faint." Muriel walks with him to the veranda outside; unfastens the 3QxlS-inch breast-high glass panel In the large window, giving onto the open sea, which Is kept permanently locked. She rejoins Wiiles. Minutes pass. Wiiles b e c o m e s alarmed over his friend's protracted absence. "What can have become of Frank?" he asks Muriel. Together they rush out to the veranda. It Is unoccupied! "MAN OVERBOAP.D!" HIS PAL WAS PUZZLED Young Peter Wiiles, Warm Friend of the Missing Man, Who Also Was E n t e r - .lained by .Miss Ov-, forjr the Monfmf tt--" "Vesper's Disappearance. Willes (Below) Was First to Be Alarmed by the Older Actor 1 * Absence. CORRIDOR MISS OXFORD'S 8ED ROOM WINDOW THROU6H WHICH HE VANISHED .·8 VERANDA LOUNGE Epilogue. . When? Howr Wfcy? When the Paris docks at Plymouth, various versions of the tragedy are given. Captain de la Geranderle thinks Vosper committed suicide. Hemingway, author of the popular novel about a passionate love, "Farewell to Arms," commented: "It was jealousy . . . Vosper quarreled with people several times at sea." Night Steward Charles Charbon. who was servirg Miss Oxford's guests the evening of the fatality, tells a long, complicated and remarkable story about the hostess and her guests. He recalls that when he entered 77A with drinks, Miss Oxford and Willes were lying side by side on the divan (see diagram) and Vosper was walking about distractedly. Willes' C«p«r!rM. JP87. King F ACCIDENT? MURDER? SUICIDE? Last Photo Ever Taken of Frank Vosper, Sophisticated Dramatist Who Specialized In Crime-Theme*. Did He Leap, Stumble and Plunge, or Was He Pushed Overboard from the S. S. Paris? head was being clasped to her hands by his hostess. There is a rumor among fellow- passengers Vosper threatened to commit suicide if Miss Oxford refused to marry him. An Investigation discloses four vertical scratches, possibly made by fingernails, on the hull of the Paris, near where Vosper disappeared. Friends say he had £20,000 (about $100,000, representing movie sales and returns from speculations) oa his person when he vanished overboard; foul play then becomes a possibility. At Plymouth, these factors are developed: Miss Oxford pooh-poohs any possible frustrated romance between her and the dead man. "We had met for only a few minutes," she tella the press. Her ocean diary, dug up by detectives, fall* to reveal any significant "lead" in the case, Vosper's solicitor suggests that Ills client fell overboard after drinking champagne on top of whiskey. Both Peter Willes and Vospcr'* sister, Marjorie, vehemently deny the possibility that the playwright wss murdered or killed himself. Merjorle Fays her brother was not carrying £20,000, but £400 or £500. Meanwhile, Vosper's body, minus a leg and all the teeth, is washed ashore 360 miles from where it disappeared. At the coroner's inquest at Eastbourne, the following facts are disclosed: Mures Eyndic/iie, Inc. On the fatal voyage Vosper was not--as insistently r u m o r e d -downcast, ' m o o d y 'and g i v e n to angry outburst"!, but merely preoccupied with his work. The dead man, in Ufa exceedingly short-sighted, had b r o k e n glasses while at sea and, inferentially, at the time of his death, was practi- * cally blind. It strongly suggested he mistook the window for an entrance to another part of the Parli. Willes submits a theory that, at the champagne party, Vosper felt he was being an unwanted chaperon, and decided, to quit the premises--not, however, with any suicidal iutent. Verdict of the Coroner's Jury: "We find that Frank Vesper's death is a complete mystery, and it is impossible to say from the evidence how he got into the water." Still unsettled ar«: (1) How Vosper, a fat man, could have wedged himself through so small an aperture «s the 30xl8-inch glass panel, unaided. (2) What became of the money on his person when he disappeared. (3) Why rumor so persistently linked his name with that of Miss Oxford, before and after his death (4) The reason for Captain de la Geranderle's suspicion that suicide was in the dramatist's mind. (5) The significance, It' any, of Steward Charbon's statement that Willes and Muriel were embracing: on the divan when he entered the stateroom. (6) What Ernest H e m i n g w a y meant by Vosper'a "jealousy." (7) The possible meaning of the mutilations found on the corpse when it floated ashore. The amateur detective able to answer thcso questions plami- hly could congratulate himself on miring n case morn baffling to the mithnrlllw than the Starr FaltMnll, Marie Celeste and other clasMc deep-sea rid* dies. WHEN' SHB WON BEATJTY CCP J*o Intimation of Tragedy Dimmed the Bright Eyes of Marie! Oxford W h e n Britain's Prize for Pulchritude Led fo an Engagement with the Renowned Follies. WHERE TRAGEDY STRUCK Panoramic Shot of the P a r i s , and (Inset) Detailed Stateroom Diagram of the Vessel, S h o w i n g Suite 77-A, W h e r e the.Party Was "Thrown," an4 t h e W i n d o w Through Which Vosper Disappeared. V MMMWMWMP # 1 I $ 1 i ····MMMMMH P 1 .

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