Looking for Mabel Normand

Madcap Mabel Normand


What can I tell you about Mabel’s friend,

Adela Rogers St. Johns?


She was born Adela Nora Rogers, May 20, 1894, in Los Angeles, California. She was the daughter of a prominent Los Angeles criminal lawyer, Earl Rogers. Her father was an important factor in Adela’s life.  Her mother was Hazel (Bessie) Bogart. Her parents were married in 1893.  Her brother was born in 1898 he was also became a writer, his named was Bogart Rogers, Bogart was a family name, her grandmother was the sister of Humphrey Bogart’s grandfather making them second cousins. 

Adela’s  great-great granddaughter is Kaylin Stewart  and Riley Thomas Stewart is Adela great-great grandson, confirmed on IMDb. Her son is the producer, Richard R. St. Johns.


Adela’s father shaped the woman she became. So perhaps I should tell you a little about him, to understand the daughter.  Earl Rogers was the son of a Buffalo New York Methodist minister who brought his family to California when Earl was a boy; Adela’s father died February 23, 1922 at the age of 53 just a few days after William Desmond Taylor was killed, a murder she covered extensively. Earl Rogers dropped dead in a Los Angeles hotel room.  A business associate found his body, it was whispered that alcohol had become a real problem in his life.  The year 1922 was a demanding year for Adela. 

Earl Rogers was just 28 when he was admitted to the California bar. A wonderful defense attorney losing only 3 murder trials of the 77 argued before the court, he became a professor of medical jurisprudence at University of Southern California Law School and Earle Stanley Gardner used Earl Rogers as the prototype for the character of Perry Mason.  Adela wrote about being her father’s ‘sidekick’ in her book about her father’s life, a real love letter to him, ‘Final Verdict’.  

As early as 1899 when Earl was just 30, he found himself famous when the William Alford shooting of Jay E. Hunter case, which Earl insisted was self-defense.  With the use of a real Perry Mason moment, showing the angle of the shot came from the floor.  Earl didn’t always like his clients when Charles Mootry shot his wife, Earl used his technique to connect to the jury and when they found his client not guilty and Mootry wanted to thank Earl for the job he did, Earl said, “Get away from me, you slimy pimp,”  “You know you’re guilty as hell!”

Another of his early cases that fascinates me is the Griffith J. Griffith, 1903 case.  Colonel Griffith J. Griffith, the man that gave Los Angeles, Griffith Park. Colonel Griffith was tried for the attempted murder of his wife; Earl was able to get the jury to understand the man believed he was in danger, thinking his wife was poisoning him.  And then there was the Clarence Darrow defense in 1912.  Adela explained in her book, in detail about the whole dynamiting of the Los Angeles Times by the McNamara brothers and the attempted jury bribery by Darrow.  Adela learned a great deal from her father. 

On the 1910 census there were as many servants in the house as family members, a chauffeur by the name of Joe Fernando, a 30 year old single man born in California; a couple Samson and Mary Alaten in their 40s from South Carolina and a 17 year old maid named Febria Ralso from Louisiana. The 1916, Index to Register of Voters, list Earl Rogers as living at 1230 Berkshire Avenue.  

May 26, 1913, The Salt Lake Tribune reported that the comedy, “The Concert” by Hermann Bahr was performed at the Utah Theater. Miss Adela Rogers, an actress, said to be the daughter of Earl Rogers, “the Los Angeles attorney who defended Clarence Darrow,” played the part of Eva Wharton. And in June 1, 1913, Adela Rogers played Kitty Trippitt in “Merely Mary Ann” at the Utah.

Just a month before the Iowa City Daily published May 1, 1913 that in Rock Island, Illinois had her wedding stopped by an old suitor. 

Adela Rogers of Los Angeles and Ralph Wyant from Chicago were about to be pronounced man and wife when Harlan Kauffman a classmate of Ralph’s grabbed the marriage license and tore it up.  Ralph and Harlan had both gone to Lake Forest University and were working together in a large manufacturing plant.  Adela is described as a woman of rare beauty and she had met Ralph, they quickly fill in love and were to being married. Harlan had met Adela on the West Coast in 1910, Adela said that he was still in love with her, and it was Harlan that introduced Adela to Ralph.  Harlan said he was representing Ralph’s parents, who wanted to marriage stopped.  The couple said they would take the first train to Chicago and be married there.  They were not married so perhaps Harlan interference kept Adela from becoming Mrs. Adela Rogers Wyant, but December 24, 1913 Adela became Mrs. Adela Rogers St. Johns when she married Ivan St. Johns.

Her life was one of privilege; she had a rich and famous father. At the age of 6, in 1900, a teacher by the name of Lillian Westermann came from Germany to live in the house to work with Adela and Bogart, Bogart was just 2 years old, so Adela would have had a tutor almost all her own.

Adela was a friend of William Randolph Hearst. From the information, I have found she seems to have started working for The San Francisco Examiner around 1913 when she was just 19. But she was also on stage in 1913. and getting married.  It wasn’t long before she developed her personal style, doing stories on crime, politics, society, and sports.

“Old Loves for New” was a screen adaptation of an original story by Adela at the Triangle Studios directed by Raymond Wells, starring Margery Wilson and Lee Hill in 1918. During the 1920s. Adela became noted for interviewing movie stars for Photoplay magazine. She also wrote short stories for Cosmopolitan, The Saturday Evening Post and other magazines and a number of screenplays mostly westerns and social commentaries.  Her husband, Ivan (Ike) St. Johns was the editor of Photoplay magazine. Elaine was born 1918 and William Ivan was born in 1920, this was a busy period. It was the ideal successful family.

In 1922, Adela had a home in Los Angeles at 912 West 20th Street.  By 1924, in an interview with Adela and Ivan St. Johns, explained a lot about the balancing wife, motherhood and career.  Adela said, “Certainly it is possible for a woman to have a career and also to be happily married.”  At this point Adela had become famous as a magazine writer.  “Marriage is a protection to any woman who negotiates a career, she continued. “It protects her from diverting emotions and makes her stronger and more capable in her efforts.” Adela was reported to be a happily married mother of 2 and devotes determined office hours to her work.  “Marriage is a partnership,” interjected Ivan St. Johns, her husband.  “Yes, that’s right”, said his wife emphatically.

“When we were married 10 years ago,” said he, “we were both working on a newspaper.  We decided to continue.  Adela was making $15 a week and my salary was $27.50.  We lived in a hotel.  Soon we found that it cost us more to have her work done than to remain at home. 

“And then I left the newspaper,” said Mrs. St. Johns, “and began to keep house.  We then not only made ends meet – but saved money on the single income.”

“But she wasn’t satisfied as a housekeeper – although she was a good one,” said the husband. “She wanted a career and began to write her way out of the drudgery of keeping house.”

“Then we struck up this arrangement,” said Mrs. St. Johns.  “Ivan would pay for the upkeep of the home just as he had been doing.” “if I was going to earn money by spending my time away from home it was my duty to pay for the home work I was escaping.  Therefore, I was assigned to pay for servants needed to do the work I formerly did.  The arrangement was a decided success.

“However,” said Mr. St. Johns, “it developed that I was able in the success of the subsequent years to take up all the expenses and Mrs. St. Johns devoted her money to purchasing real estate and some pet extravagancies she wanted.”

“I am sure more women would be happier if they had more to do American husbands make dolls of their wives and provide them not only with time but also money with which to get into mischief.  Much of the unhappiness in married life is caused because wives do not have enough to do,” said Mrs. St. Johns.

The Lima News reported in an article regarding “Inez of Hollywood”, which starred the lovely Anna Q. Nilsson written by Adela, that Adela had retired from writing for newspapers and was now working ‘behind the scenes’ as a writer for films in June 1925. 

As Ivan (Ike) St. John was the editor of Photoplay and Adela was writing for her husband and for the screen, life seemed good, they had married since 1913 but in a newspaper dated February 18, 1927 after over 13 years of marriage and 2 children, Adela separated from Ike.  Remember that interview they did in 1924 about the partnership will Adela now said that the “burden of being a mother and wife as well as a writer, was too much.  The desires for her writing career had taken on greater importance to her than her matrimonial career.  Adela was described by the United Press now as a famous novelist well known fiction and screenwriter (Note she is not thought of as a newspaper reporter).  In the divorce charges, Adela alleged cruelty, she said that Ike called her vile names and remained away from home ‘all hours of the night,’ without explaining his absence.  There were children, Elaine, 8 and William Ivan, 7.  

The Associate Press story appeared in newspapers in 1927 across the country, “Writer Gets Divorce On Nagging Charges”

LOS ANGELES, March 17. – (AP)

Adele Rogers St. Johns authoress was awarded a divorce from Ivan St. Johns here yesterday when she declared that her husband’s constant nagging interfered with her writing.

“Mr. St. Johns developed a chronic grouch.” She told the court.  “He forever found fault and nagged at me.  It got on my nerves, and I haven’t been able to do any work for months.”

Perhaps Adela should have waited as the Associate Press of October 1928 reported that Ike was named in the will of the internationally known sportswriter, C. D. Lancaster, Ike received the bulk of the Lancaster estate, which included the Lancaster Hotel in Chicago, stocks and bonds totaling over a ¼ million dollars.  She might have put up with a little nagging with that kind of money.  William Ivan St. Johns was just 46, one of the first motion picture magazine editors; he died of a heart attack November 24, 1935.  His little girl, Elaine was married to Paul Gallico, living in New York and his son, William Ivan St. Johns was also living in New York, when their died.

In this 1928, Adela Rogers St. Johns is described as Mrs. Richard Hyland, a “fiction writer,” Adela found a new love.

In the Los Angeles football games on October 31 1926 between Stanford and the University of Southern California (USC). Adela’s interest in sports was not just professional but became very personal when she saw Dick Hyland, block the extra point and the kick failed. And later in second half, a pass to Dick tied the game and when the point kick scored, Stanford won, yes, Dick won her heart.

Before Dick played football in 1926, he was part of the historic 1924 U.S. Rugby team at the Paris Olympics.  He won a GOLD METAL! Mark Jenkins, the executive director of the U.S. Rugby Football Foundation wrote a wonderful article regarding the Remembering the excitement of “the 1924 Olympics in ‘Chariots of Fire’?

That was nothing compared with what the U.S. rugby team did to the French at those games.” Jenkins descries Dick as ‘the famously immodest Richard (“Tricky Dick”) Hyland, a Stanford football halfback. When an American sportswriter compared Hyland to the great athlete Jim Thorpe, his response was, “Hell, Thorpe never had my swerve!”

Dick Hyland went on to become a sportswriter with the Los Angeles Times. And a week after Adela divorce became final in March 1928, Dick 28 years old became the second husband of Adela, who gave her age as 31 (another thing Adela and Mabel agreed about,  a woman can take a few years off her age when she filled out public papers, Adela was 6 years older than her new husband).  Dick said that they met in Hollywood on the movie lots where he was a technical adviser on a football story, which Adela prepared for the screen. 

Adela Rogers St. Johns Hyland had her third child in, Richard Frank Hyland in 1929. Dick Hyland was called ‘a newspaper promotion man’ and had an extraordinary resemblance to George Raft. On a visit to New York a fan of George Raft, asked Dick, “Will you autograph this picture, Mr. Raft?” Dick explained he wasn’t Raft but that George Raft was standing over in another corner of the room.  The fan looked over at Raft and than turned back to Dick, saying, “You can’t fool me!  If you won’t sign this you’re just an impossible old meanie and I’ll never go to one of your pictures again.”

Dick scribbled on her picture, “With the best wishes of George Raft – per Richard Hyman.”

Adela was very popular with the public which seemed to be very fond of her emotional style, Adela wrote on a number of controversial subjects, the Jack Dempsey long-count in 1927; she was particularly adapted at courtroom drama, she covered the 1935 trial of Richard Bruno Hauptmann for kidnapping and murdering of Charles Lindbergh baby, she also covered the assassination of Huey Long in 1935.  In 1936, she told the abdication of King Edward VIII as an epic love story.  She covered the Democratic National Convention of 1940 and just about all the major stories that she found of interest and in doing so became one of the best-known feature writers of the day.  

Adela’s ex-husband, Ike was very much a part of the whole Hollywood society, another man of money and power, much like her father, Adela never gave up using his name as part of her own.  By 1931, Ike St. John had become a ‘publicity man.’  The was a wild divorce between Ike’s friend, Luther Reed, a film director and Jocelyn Lee reported in the April 3, 1931 Associated Press,   This story is just too Hollywood not to explore a little as in May 1931, Ike St. Johns, “play broker and writer” signed a complaint and a warrant was issued for the arrest of Jocelyn Lee. (this is a link to more information regarding Jocelyn Lee)

Dick Hyland (July 26, 1900- July 16, 1981) and Adela marriage didn’t last, Dick alleged the Adela was an improper mother because she used improper language around their son and tried to “destroy his love for his father.” They were divorced in 1935. 

Adela tried marriage one more time in 1936.  She was one of the highest paid screenwriters in the country and this time she married not a writer nor an athletic hero but a business executive by the name of Francis T. O’Toole of United Air Lines in Harrison, New York, June 17, 1936.  She did like younger men, Francis was 31 and Adela 42 and the mother of married children. 

The 1941 article in the November Liberty magazine that Adela wrote regarding the a legal case, which dealt with the antitrust struggles in the film industry had a powerful effect on how the public felt about the exhibitors problems when the independent producers took over the Paramount case and won reforms that built a foundation of independent filmmaking in Hollywood. With her pen, she had become a power in Hollywood.

World War II was on the horizon and William Ivan St, Johns, was 24, and the son of a famous novelist, Adela Rogers St. Johns, the husband of Eileen and the father of William Ivan, jr. and Adela.  He had trained in Canada for 2 years and was sent overseas in February 1943 as a bomber pilot.  He was killed in action overseas with the Royal Canadian Air Force, September 3, 1943.  His son was 5 years old and little Adela was just 3.

After 1948, Adela spent much of her time writing books, and teaching at various universities.  ‘Final Verdict’, the biography of her father, who had died 40 years before was published in 1962.  Earl Rogers, trial style is still taught in Law Schools.

In the Final Verdict, on page 463, Adela took a hard look at her father’s drinking…

     “Well, there was no question about it, after the first Darrow trial my father started to drink up all the whiskey in California.

     A binge is those days was more spectacular and outstanding.  A man started buy drinks for the house and when he got tired of one saloon, he took the customers along the next one.  Earl Rogers’ progress from Joe Fast’s to the Vernon Country Club, the Sunset Inn at Santa Monica, the Ship Café on the Venice pier, Canary Cottage at Arcadia might lead on to Tia Juana, Catalina, and Seal Rocks, moving like a Roman emperor with chariots.  If I had all the gold pieces I’ve seen him throw, like Jupiter, to piano players, newsboys, beggars, waiters, cab-drivers, flower girls, hobos, and  sundry, I would be something no Rogers has ever been.

     Every time I caught up with him on this statewide spree, he started on the same song.  “Why didn’t that reptile McNamara go to the gallows and die for his cause?  If he’d got himself hung he’d have been a martyr, no one would have believed him guilty if he hadn’t confessed.  If the great man Darrow believed him morally innocent, why didn’t he fight for him?”


Adela and Dick Hyland’s son used the name Richard Rogers St. Johns. He planned to follow the career of his famous grandfather, Earl Rogers into the law.  His father was a Stanford University football star. Richard was a Stanford University law student on June 13, 1952 when he married Joan Long of Cheviot Hills at the Westwood’s Community Methodist Church; later he followed his mother into the film industry.

The United States Medal of Freedom was awarded to Adela in 1970.  At the age of 82, Adela again was writing for the Examiner, telling the heart-pulling story of the trial of Patty Hearst, the granddaughter of her old friend William R. Hearst.

When the documentary, “Hollywood: A Celebration of the American Silent Film” aired in 1980, Adela became the spokeswomen of the era, a woman of around 86 told the stories in her very animated style of: Valentino, Garbo, Swanson, her words became thought of as facts, after all she was there. 

Adela was used by Warren Beatty as one the ‘witnesses’ in his film “Reds” (1982).”

Adela Rogers St. Johns died at the age of 94, August 10, 1988 in Arroyo Grande California.