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McCoy

Golden Age Champions: The Masked Marvel Murder Mystery

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On Sunday, September 12, 1943, just after 5 PM, actor David G. G. Bacon was observed driving his wife's car erratically on Washington Boulevard in a rural part of Los Angeles.  Finally he ran the car over the curb and into a bean field.  He emerged from the car wearing only denim shorts, and bleeding from a single stab wound in his back.  Witnesses attemped to render aid, but he died saying no more than "Please help me." 

 

Weeks before, on August 18, 1943, Bacon had wrapped a serial for Republic Pictures, The Masked Marvel.  Bacon had played Bob Barton, the secret ID of the title character.  (In fact except for the final scene where The Masked Marvel's identity was reveled, The Masked Marvel was played by uncredited stuntman Tom Steele.)  The connectio to the film caused someone in the press to dub this "The Masked Marvel Murder."

 

Autopsy by Dr. Frank R. Webb reveled a single stab wound 5 1/2 to 6 inches deep and 3/4 inch wide, possibly made by a Commando-style knife, that had pierced the left lung and struck the pericardium.  Dr Webb offered the opinion that Bacon could not have lived more than 20 minutes with that wound. 

 

To this day the murder remains unsolved.

 

That's the world we know as Real Life.

 

But in the Golden Age Universe, where Mystery Man in masks and capes walked about, what if The Masked Marvel was the first Mystery Man to have died in the line of duty, albeit while in his civilian ID? 

 

Might the player characters be informed of the Masked Marvel's demise, and discretely investigate?

 

Anyone ever run anything like this?

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Clearly he was naked because he'd ditched his costume before seeking medical help and totally not because he was stabbed in some woman's bedroom.  

The shorts could have been swimming trunks.  There was sand on them but they were dry, investigators assumed he had been to the beach but not gone swimming.

 

Little blood on the outside of the car, lot on the inside, led investigators to conclude he was stabbed while in the car.  This was a British import with the steering wheel on the right, so could have been stabbed by someone sitting to his left,

 

There was a camera in the car.  when the film was developed there was a single exposure, Bacon on the beach, fully nude, smiling.  It was speculated the killer had taken the photo, but no proof it was taken the same day.

 

There was also a blue knit sweater, "at least 4 sizes too small" for Bacon, "consistent with" sweaters given to Venice High School athletes six years earlier.

 

Many people would have preferred "some woman's bedroom,"

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The Wife

 

It's a sad comment on our species that when someone is murdered, the person the police want to talk to first is their Significant Other.  Often with good reason.

 

Margaretha "Greta" Keller was born in Vienna, Austria, on February 8, 1903.  A Singer, dancer and actress with a style similar to Marlene Dietrich.  (In fact some claim that she inspired Dietrich to copy her style when the two appeared in the play Broadway in Vienna in 1928.)  She was popular on both sides of the Atlantic before WWII (and after), but seldomly left America during the war.

 

By the end of WWII Keller was a naturalized American citizen, but I have not been able to put a date on that.  I don't know if she had applied for refugee status, or applied for her citizenship before the war started, or had to register as an enemy alien after Germany declared war on the United States.  

 

But September 14, 1942 she married David Bacon, 11 years her junior.  Was this a Green Card marriage?  Maybe.

 

The day Bacon died they had planned to go swimming, but in a phone consultation her doctor advised five month pregnant Keller to take it easy instead.  That they phoned her doctor on a Sunday to check if she should take light exercise such as swimming indicates it was a high risk pregnancy, but if this was anything other than being pregnant for the first time at the age of 40 I haven't found it.  She did later miscarry.

 

After lunch she wrote some letters and took a nap, David was gone when she woke up.  He had not taken their three dogs, as he often did when going swimming, so she assumed his plans had changed.

 

The police found her at home within minutes of identifying Bacon's body.  Detectives were convinced she could not have murdered him and then returned home in the brief window of time between when he was stabbed and when they talked to her, she was never a suspect.

 

Later she did say her marriage to Bacon had been "lavender," she was Lesbian and he was Gay and an open marriage gave both of them respectability for their careers. 

Edited by McCoy

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See now the case just gets juicier. It's like a written version of one of those "true crime" case files you see on A&E or something. If only you could interject interviews of random people who claim to (or actually have) information relevant to the case. I'm liking it.

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The Millionaire Industrialist

 

David Bacon was not under contract to Republic Pictures when he made The Masked Marvel, he was on loan to the studio.  His Moving Picture career had taken off when he met Howard Hughes.  Hughes wanted Bacon to play Billy the Kid in The Outlaw, and signed him to a personal contract.  But Bacon did not test well, and Hughes finally cast Jack Buetel instead.  Hughes arranged for Bacon to get parts to get him seasoned, practiced in the nuances between acting on stage and acting before the camera. 

 

Despite The Outlaw being released in February 1943. it actually wrapped production in February 1941.  After Pearl Harbor Hughes was less interested in motion pictures and spent most of his time working on experimental aircraft and electronics.

 

I can't say where Howard Hughes was in September of 1943, but as far as I know he was never a person of interest in David Bacon's murder.

 

[speculation: Hedy Lamar, another Austrian-American actress, invented frequency hopping, which she presented to the government as an unjamable way to control torpedoes by remote control.  Can't find any indication that she and Greta Keller were friends, but is it likely that the Hollywood Austrian expat community all knew each other, would hang out on occasion?  Did Howard Hughes have anything to do with frequency hopping?  Could that be the secret the Masked Marvel lost his life protecting?]

 

[edit: I came across an item where Hedda Hopper mentioned Hedy Lamar and Greta Keller did frequently socialize.]

Edited by McCoy

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The Family

 

David's grandfather, Robert Bacon (July 5,1860 to May 29, 1919) was the Secretary of State under Teddy Roosevelt, and got the Panama Canal treaty with Columbia and Panama ratified by the Senate.  He was later Ambassador to France 1909 to 1912.  He had tickets on the Titanic, but had to delay his return to the United States because his replacement, Myron Timothy Herrick, had not arrived on time.

 

David's father, Gaspar Griswold Bacon, Sr. (March 7, 1886 – December 25, 1947) served on the Board of Overseers of Harvard University, he was the President of the Massachusetts Senate from 1929 to 1932, and the 51st Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts from 1933 to 1935.  During WWII he was serving with the rank of Lt. Col. on the staff of General Patton.

 

This was a Boston Brahmin family, and a detective might have assumed they would prefer their scion's murder remained unsolved if it looked like he may have been stabbed after making a pass at a former high school letterman. 

 

[Game use:  Lt Col Bacon could have met the PC's at a War Bond drive, and asked to speak privately with them for a few minutes.  He could then tell them that his murdered son was the Masked Marvel, and would they please investigate from that angle.]

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Sort of Family

 

Another actor in the Masked Marvel serial was Roddick "Rod" Bacon (June 6, 1914 to February 28, 1948).  Born the same year as David, but in Colorado.  I have been unable to find a connection between the Colorado Bacons and the Massachusetts Bacons.  Rod died in Los Angeles five years after David, at the age of 33.  One entry on IMDB says he was murdered, but IMDB isn't perfect. I have been unable to find out anything else about Rod's murder.  What are the odds that two actors in a serial would be murdered 5 years apart?

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School Days

 

Like his father and grandfather before him, David went to Harvard.  He joined the Hasty Pudding Club, along with his friend Robert Roosevelt, youngest son of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.  By all accounts David enjoyed the Hasty Pudding theatricals, and became adept at portraying female characters.  One of his mentors in this was Wallace Beery, already a veteran Hollywood Screen Actor.

 

David was invited to both the White House and the Roosevelt home in Hyde Park during school breaks.  The President seemed to have a high opinion of him.

 

After graduation, David tried to join the Army Air Corps as a pilot.  He underwent a few months training in Randolph, Texas, before being discharged for unspecified health problems.  in the mid 30's that could have meant just about anything, from chronic sinus infections that kept him from flying to a "social disease."  It is unlikely this was due to his sexual orientation, that would have been a psychological discharge.  (On the other hand, rules could be bent for someone who had the President on the Depression Ear equivalent of speed-dial.)

 

The next few years he tried to break into legitimate theater in New York, but summered at his family's Cape Cod home.  He joined the University Players in Fallmouth, Mass, a company which already contained Henry Fonda and James Stewart.  Both Fonda and Stewart gave David a place to stay when he first came to Hollywood. 

 

In 1939 he decided to try his luck in Hollywood.

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