"If you have two theories which both explain the observed facts
then you should use the simplest until more evidence comes along"
"The simplest explanation for some phenomenon is more likely to be
accurate than more complicated explanations."
"If you have two equally likely solutions to a problem,
pick the simplest."
"The explanation requiring the fewest assumptions is most
likely to be correct."
W. M. Thorburn, "The Myth of Occam's razor", Mind, 27, pp. 345-353, 1918.
How Did THOMAS INCE Die?
Thomas Ince, D.W. Griffith and Mack Sennett were the three sides of the famous Triangle Motion Picture Company formed in 1915; it was only a short but very productive partnership. It was Ince of Inceville, with his Westerns and Adventures that by 1918 built the Ince Studio in
Although he is remembered as a film pioneer sadly, it is his death, which grips the public’s interest. His death was untimely and the circumstances seem a bit sordid.
William Randolph Hearst was about as rich and famous as anyone hanging around Hollywood, when he gave a party Hollywood came, so it was that in 1924, Hearst gave a small party on his yacht, ‘Oneida’ to celebrate Ince’s 42nd birthday.
"Marion Davies greets Tom Ince when he arrives aboard the yacht with balloons for this birthday celebration."
November 15, 1924, Saturday morning Hearst set sail on his yacht from San Pedro planning to sail down the coast of California to San Diego and back again, by being at sea, there was no problem about serving liquor at the party. On broad among a number of other guests for the weekend trip were Marion Davis, the film comedian and Hearst’s mistress; Charlie Chaplin, the comedy star; Louella Parson, a Hearst New York columnist; Daniel Carson Goodman, M.D., working for Hearst as production manager of his film interests. And less I forget Elinor Glyn, the writer of ‘It’ and ‘Beyond The Rocks’ among others of the same style, she was the mistress of Lord Curzon, who gave her, her sapphires. But Ince was late and the ‘
Now the newspapers took over the story in the Wednesday morning papers was the headline: "Movie Producer Shot on Hearst Yacht!" By the evening edition, that story had vanished from the papers. Ince body was immediately cremated and after the funeral Nell Ince, his wife, now widowed sail for
William Randolph Hearst issued a story that ran in his newspaper that Ince became ill while visiting the San Simeon Ranch with Nell and the children. The ‘
The story told around
If none of those stories are colorful enough then there is the one told by, Abigail Kinsolving, Marion Davis’ secretary, it was her tale that Ince rapped her on the yacht. Abigail, a single woman had a baby a few months later and died mysteriously in a car accident near San Simeon, two of Hearst bodyguards found her body along with the usual suicide note, her baby was sent to an orphanage supported by Marion Davis. Now isn’t that an interesting story!
There are more tales, Toraichi Kono, Chaplin's secretary, told his wife that Ince was bleeding when he was taken off the yacht from a gun shot wound. That story spread everywhere and the rumors forced Chester Kemple, the District Attorney in
Goodman told the DA that, Ince was ill and he was taking Ince by train back to
The suspicion and rumors just when on and on. Years later, Chaplin said he wasn’t at the party and went to see Ince along with Davies and Hearst when he heard he was ill and that Ince died 2 weeks after their visit. The facts were that Ince was died 48 hours after being taken off the ‘
Marion Davies denied that Chaplin, Goodman, Ince or even Louella Parsons were on the November ‘
Louella Parsons after the ‘
Hearst is also said to have provided Nell Ince before she left for Europe with a trust fund and he paid off Ince's mortgage on his Chateau Elysee apartment building in Hollywood. In exchange, did Nell refused an autopsy and ordered her husband's immediate cremation?
D.W. Griffith always said, "All you have to do to make Hearst turn white as a ghost is mention Ince's name. There's plenty wrong there, but Hearst is too big."
So much like the swirl of misinformation and tales the surrounds the mystery of William Desmond Taylor's shooting the question of who or what really killed Thomas Ince have become a Hollywood tale to tell. A heart attack, ulcer, bullet take your pick.
If Marion Davies was on the yacht with Ince and if Ince was shot, it wasn’t the first time
In 2002, a feature film was directed by Peter Bogdanovich called ‘THE
The passengers all have their secret agenda, none particularly likable, self-absorbed, preoccupied, ambitious, eccentric. It was a lurid tale of deceit and deception. The usual schemes that seem to fill the movie screens, some think it runs a little long and perhaps begins a little slow, one hour and 53 minutes of drama. It obvious has an audience, here it is in 2008 and this 6 year old film is still creating discussion so it has “legs” although it wasn’t a huge moneymaker the US Box Office as of 2004 was only around 4,000,000 (you can’t make much with that, I am sure they lost money on it). One of the problems may have been the marketing since this is a foreign film about a very American story. It just didn’t have the big production company to promote it ‘The Cat’s Meow’ was produced in
Kirsten Dunst - Marion Davies
Cary Elwes - Thomas Ince
Edward Herrmann - William Randolph Hearst
Eddie Izzard - Charlie Chaplin
Joanna Lumley - Elinor Glyn
Jennifer Tilly - Louella Parsons
James Laurenson - Doctor Goodman.
John C. Vennema - Frank Barham
Some of the reviewers seem to be a little disappointed that perhaps this film was a missed opportunity. Not enough of a story a wish for more, then a “rambling melodrama of love triangles and business deals.” Director Peter Bogdanovich does seem to have successfully recreated the opulence of Hearst's lifestyle and the spirit of the Roaring Twenties right down to the bootleg moonshine and the
IMDb: The Cat’s Meow, Tom Ince, Marion Davies, Charlie Chaplin, Elinor Glyn.
Box Office Mojo: The Cat’s Meow, Domestic gross $3,209,481; Distributor Lions Gate; Release Date
Debra Pawlak, The Media Drome, The Mysterious Affair of Thomas Ince
Nasaw, Crime Library; notorious murders, celebrity, William Randolph Hearst
1924, November 17,
“Ince picture head has to take a rest at
1924, November 18, Bridgeport Telegram, The;
Hearst papers in
1924, November 19,
Ince Dies Made Movie History PIONEER MOVIE DIRECTOR DIES
HOLLYWOOD Nov. Ince the motion picture leading producers and directors died at his palatial
1924, November 19;
Ince known motion picture producer died at 30 that his home in
1924, November 20;
Ince Leading Figure in Movie Land Dies After Short Illness Nov. Tom Ince motion picture leading producer died today at his home in Hollywood death was due after a trip to San Diego last Monday the film director was apparently in the best of health and was active in motion pictures.
1924, November 21; San Antonio Light;
Ince Is Loss to Films WHEN a man of the ability and popularity of Thomas Ince is removed from any industry by the hand of death there results a void it is extremely difficult to fill Mr. Ince passed away in the strength and vigor of accomplishment when all the faculties are the keenest and success being most notably achieved. He was known either or by reputation to practically the entire nation as his career as actor and motion picture him to all
2002 April 9, Blackweldwe, Rob, Spliced, ‘Director Peter Bogdanovich discusses Kirsten Dunst as Marion Davies in ‘The Cat’s Meow’
2002 The Cat’s Meow VHS &
2002 April 25, Park Cities People, Dallas Texas, Cats Meow … “William Randolph lavish yacht turns murderous in this fact based drama Edward Hermann offers a complex portrait of the over sized press and Kirsten Dunst sparkles as his mistress Marion Davies The weak link is Eddie Izzards unconvincing stab at Charlie Chaplin who persistently woos Davies carousing and buffoonery by the forms a colorful backdrop.”
2002 May 9, Frederick News-Post, Frederick Maryland, Cats Meow… “Director Peter Bogdanovich Picture Paper returns to the big screen after a nine-year absence Fans will be delighted to learn that he directs with smoothness obtaining sharply drawn performances from a well-chosen ensemble cast Edward Herrmann plays newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst who gathers a group of notables on his yacht for a weekend of revelry Not everyone makes it off the yacht alive Herrmann Kirsten as Hearst’s mistress actress Marion Davies.”
2002 May 17, The Capital,
2002 May 31, Intelligencer, Doylestown, Pennsylvania…Hearst did or did not get away with murder on board his private yacht Oneida on Nov On that day Hollywood producer Thomas Ince possibly died or was murdered Or perhaps not In Hollywood at the time whispers about death and Hearst’s involvement were easily heard and the story told in Peter Bogdanovich’s The Cat’s Meow is the film tells us the per heard most often If Hearst did commit murder there is no question he was powerful enough to cover it up.
2002, June 8, Daily Herald,
Director Peter Bogdanovich discusses Kirsten Dunst as Marion Davies in 'The Cat's Meow' & his history with young leading ladies
By Rob Blackwelder
(Some questions in this interview have come from another journalist present for the Q&A.)
After two decades of friendship with Orson Welles and writing two books about Orson Welles, prolific actor-director and unabashed movie buff Peter Bogdanovich got a golden opportunity to tread where few but Welles have dared: He's made a movie that brings to life a persistent rumor about publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst.
Hearst was, of course, the major inspiration for the title character in Welles' "Citizen Kane," and Hearst quite famously blew his top over the release of that film in 1941. Bogdanovich's film, “The Cat’s Meow,” probably would have inspired a similar reaction. It takes place on Hearst's yacht in 1924, where several
One of the guests -- among them were novelist and socialite Elinor Glyn (Joanna Lumley in the film), gossip columnist Louella Parsons (Jennifer Tilly), struggling producer Thomas Ince (Cary Elwes) and Charlie Chaplin (Eddie Izzard) -- died under suspicious circumstances that weekend. "The Cat's Meow" is, as Glyn puts it in the film's prologue voice-over, "the whisper told most often" about what went down, including flirtations between Chaplin and Davies, witnessed and reported to Hearst by Ince, who hoped to suck up to the billionaire for an investment in his production company.
Bogdanovich knows about such career struggles. After three back-to-back hits in the early 1970s ("The Last Picture Show," "What's Up, Doc?" and "Paper Moon"), he's had 20 years with only a few hits and many misses. He also has an infamous, intimate familiarity with both young starlet lovers -- at 32, he became involved with 20-year-old Cybill Shepherd while directing her acting debut in "The Last Picture Show" in 1971 -- and with untimely showbiz deaths. He was involved with (and directing) former Playboy Playmate Dorothy Stratten when her ex-husband murdered her in 1981.
All these elements make "The Cat's Meow" especially interesting viewing for those with a knowledge of
Although tired from a short night's sleep, after a cup of coffee Bogdanovich was enthusiastic to talk about the film and all related topics on a recent trip to
Q: Kirsten Dunst is extraordinary in this film. She seems completely incapable of being false.
A: Yes, she's really terrific. I agree with you. I think she's a wonderful actress. I enjoyed working with her a lot. She's so smart and she has emotion in her fingertips. She's got it everywhere. She's not old enough to know that much (about acting) but she knows it intuitively. She knows it as an artist. She knows things that she probably doesn't know in life. But she knows them in a scene. She really has an artistic, intuitive sense of things. And the camera loves her.
Q: Did you and she do a lot of brainstorming about Marion Davies, about the character?
A: People ask me if I directed her the way I directed Cybill or Tatum (O'Neal, who made her Oscar-winning acting debut in "Paper Moon"). No, because she was a pro. Kirsten has been acting since she was 3. It was like talking to an old pro, you know? She knew what she was doing. We talked about technical things, like I said "Get your voice down for the part." This woman has been drinking and she's older (than Kirsten) so her voice is lower.
Q: You shot the film's exteriors in
A: It was because of the yacht.
Q: The yacht you wanted was there?
A: There was only one yacht. Well, there were two yachts, but one guy said forget it. This one was in
Q: Wow! Did you feel like you were back on the horse again with this film? It feels like a true Peter Bogdanovich movie.
A: Thank you! Well, I don't know. No. I didn't. I felt rather apprehensive [laughs] all during it. I followed my instincts, but it was not an easy shoot. Every scene counted. I wasn't sure, but I pretended to be. You're asking me, and the truth is, underneath it I wasn't sure. I just kept going forward. But I had good actors and we never settled for anything. We kept trying to get it better.
Q: Did it start to feel good after you started seeing rushes? Did you ever get comfortable?
A: Good question. No. [Laughs] Not until about the last week -- and I wouldn't say comfortable. But about the last week (I was better) because I did see some of the stuff cut together. I don't like rushes. I've never liked rushes. Rushes are, by necessity, in pieces. You don't see the whole scene. So to me it all seems bitty. I don't like to see it that way. I remember John Ford never looked at rushes. I asked him once why he didn't look at rushes, and he said [affecting Ford's blustery voice], "If there's a problem, I'll hear about it!"
In my career, I've never shot anything as tight as this. There was no fat and there was no coverage. There were no extra shots, there were no luxury shots. What you see -- with the exception of three set-ups -- is exactly what we shot. And those three set-ups we took out, we took the scene out. Two little scenes, about a total of a minute and 20 seconds of the whole movie. Everything else you see, that's what we shot. Some of it, like the black and white stuff, we did in a single take!
Q: The producers must have loved that.
A: Well, we only had one day to do that sequence (the title sequence, in which the characters arrive at a funeral in old limousines). We had six or seven old cars. Extras and old cars. They take time. The car would pull up, the extras were yelling, the people would get out, close the door, I'd say "Cut! We got it? Everybody happy? That's it." Walk away. If I'd said to do one more, we gotta move the cars back [makes belchy antique car noises], turn them around, get the extras set up -- it would take 20 minutes. I didn't have 20 minutes. And I did that on almost every set-up in that movie. We did 50 shots one day.
Q: Holy cow!
A: It was quite something. That was a marathon. I felt good that day -- when it was over! I'll tell you when I did feel good. When the editor had put together what's called an assembly -- which is really basically just the slates cut off, cutting where I say "cut," picking up where I say "action," and putting it together the way the script indicated -- I saw that about a week after we wrapped, and I thought, The picture works! I didn't know until then, and I was shocked.
Q: You were shocked?
A: I was shocked and moved to tears. I thought, "Holy s**t, it works!"
Q: So when you first heard this story -- from Orson Welles as I understand -- I just imagine he must have relished in dishing this dirt.
A: He just told it to me in passing actually, as an example of how different Hearst was from Charles Foster Kane. Kane is in fact a composite of three or four different historical figures, including a guy named McCormack, who built the Chicago Opera House for his girlfriend, who was a singer. That whole aspect of Kane, all that stuff is about McCormack and had nothing to do with Hearst. In fact, Orson always felt the big libel in Kane -- when people thought that Kane was Hearst and therefore thought that Susan (Kane's untalented mistress) was
Q: With the way Hearst was supposed to have flown into a rage over "Citizen Kane," I can't help but imagine what he would do over "The Cat's Meow."
A: [Grins] We had jokes (about that). When we were in
Q: Although all four come across as human and sympathetic in the film. Even when they're being manipulative. Even when they're being dishonest.
A: Well, I think you understand them. The minute you understand somebody, really, it's hard to hate them. They're human. We're all human. We all have our insecurities and our shortcomings. That's what I liked about the way the film evolved, because when we started it seemed Hearst was the (story's) villain, but when we finished the picture and I saw it, I thought he's not really a villain. It's just life. It gets in the way.
Q: On the subject of understanding the characters, I have to ask: You've had relationships with young actresses...
A: Putting it mildly...
Q: Well, I'm trying to be tactful! [Laughs] You were involved with Cybill Shepherd, and you've been close to a showbiz murder -- Dorothy Stratten. Did you incorporate these experiences in the way you told this story?
A: Well, let's put it this way: I certainly could empathize with and understand the men in the story. I hope I understood the women too. But I had a personal empathy with, for example, Chaplain in this movie. (Here) he's not the genius filmmaker, he's a movie star on the make. I've been there.
Q: ...coming off a failed picture. ("The Cat's Meow" takes place immediately after Chaplin's box office flop "A Woman of Paris.")
A: Coming off a failed picture, that's right. I've been there! Now Ince is a guy who's having a hard time. He'd a guy who's had it all and seems to be losing it. I can certainly identify with that. Hearst is a man who is obsessed with this girl, and she was everything to him. I can understand that. In fact, that makes him rather likable. It makes him more real. So, yes, I've had personal experiences with some of this.
For me, I think the death has such resonance in the picture. (Narratively) because you know there's going to be a death -- it tells you right at the beginning. You don't necessarily know who or how or why (unless you know the rumors the film is based on), but you know. But I felt it was (personally) important to show the terrible repercussions that one death can have. One death can destroy lives, alter them forever. It happened to me, our family and Dorothy's family. We were all irrevocably changed by that night.
People say, "Have you gotten over it?" Well, I've learned to live with it. You don't get over it. Human beings are not built well for shock, so we don't get over it. We just learn to live with it. That was something that was very important to me to try to convey. I think, tragically, because of Sept.11 an awful lot more people have come to understand that. Each of those families understands in their own way.