Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Thelma Todd - 30s legend

During the silent era, she appeared in numerous supporting roles that made full use of her beauty but gave her little chance to act. With the advent of the talkies, Todd was given opportunity to expand her roles when producer Hal Roach signed her to appear with such comedy stars as Harry Langdon, Charley Chase, and Laurel & Hardy. In 1931 she was given her own series, teaming with ZaSu Pitts for slapstick comedies. This was Roach's attempt to create a female version of Laurel & Hardy. When Pitts left Roach in 1933, she was replaced by Patsy Kelly. The Todd shorts often cast her as a working girl having all sorts of problems, and trying her best to remain poised and charming despite the embarrassing antics of her sidekick.

Thelma Todd became highly regarded as a capable film comedienne, and Roach loaned her out to other studios to play opposite Wheeler & Woolsey, Buster Keaton, Joe E. Brown, and the Marx Brothers. She also appeared successfully in such dramas as the original 1931 film version of The Maltese Falcon, in which she played Miles Archer's treacherous widow. During her career she appeared in more than 130 films and was sometimes publicized as "The Ice Cream Blonde."
In the early 1930s, she opened a successful cafe at Pacific Palisades, called Thelma Todd's Sidewalk Cafe, attracting a diverse clientele of Hollywood celebrities as well as many tourists.

Professor Timoleon Post (Buster Keaton) and Eleanor Espere (Thelma Todd) get drunk at Eleanor's flat in Speak Easily (1932).

Todd continued her short-subject series through 1935, and was featured in the full-length Laurel & Hardy comedy The Bohemian Girl. This was her last film; she died before completing all of her scenes. Producer Roach salvaged the unfinished performance by deleting all of Todd's dialogue and limiting her appearance to one musical number.

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