28 January 2013

The Sad Story of the Death of Hobart T. Kennedy in Carbon Canyon, 1931

On 22 June 1931, the Los Angeles Times included an article titled "Musician Kills Self With Pistol," and went on the relate the terrible tale of a suicide that took place in Carbon Canyon that day.  The piece began:  "Death brought to an abrupt end today a week-end outing in Carbon Canyon near La Vida Hot Springs, when Hobart Kennedy, 29-year old musician of 72 Granada Street, Long Beach, killed himself with a .22 caliber automatic pistol with which a moment before he had been shooting at targets."

After noting that Orange County Sheriff Department deputies were not able to discern whether the shooting was an accident, the article went on to report that, "With his bride of a year, his sister Mrs. Josephine Powers, and five other persons, Kennedy was the guest of John Miles, Los Angeles attorney, at the latter's mountain cabin.  Shortly after noon the party began the target-shooting tournament.  Without explaining his departure, Kennedy suddenly separated himself from the group.  A moment later a shot was heard and Kennedy was found unconscious with a bullet wound in the temple.  He died en route to a physician's office at Brea."

After stating that his wife had no idea why her husband would want to take his life, the article concluded by noting that "Kennedy recently entered the employ of the Paramount Studios, Hollywood."

Thanks to the wonders of the Internet, it was learned that Kennedy had been a professional musician since his teens.  Born in Indianapolis in July 1902 to an automobile factory superintendent and a housewife, the youngster was living on his own at age 17 in the city and working as a theater musician, which could either be in an orchestra accompanying silent movies or with live drama.

In the late 1920s, he was reported to be playing in Salt Lake City and even was mentioned in a July 1929 issue of the Milwaukee Sentinel newspaper, which had a column titled "Men of the Hour," usually a mocking commentary on what it considered humorous foibles of men, including one titled "Milestone on the Path to Civilization."  In a snipped that followed the paper reported that "because his wife told people he 'worked the banjo racket,' Hobart T. Kennedy, an orchestra musician, became indignant and sued her for divorce."

Indeed, about nine months later, Kennedy was enumerated in the 1930 federal census as residing in the Hollywood Hills above the famed Chateau Marmont, where he roomed with a jeweler and a theater booking agent in the house of former actor and assistant director Charles Dorian (who acted in over two-dozen films and then was assistant director on two noted late 1920s films, Greta Garbo's Flesh and the Devil and The Trail of '98, both directed by Clarence Brown, and many other movies.)  With his vocation given as actor and musician in motion pictures, the 27-year old Kennedy was also noted as divorced (having married at the tender age of 18, presumably in his hometown.)

Not much more about Kennedy was located, aside from the fact that he did some recording on a radio music program on KFWB (still an operating station) in Los Angeles during 1930.  Obviously, if he had found work just before his demise with the powerful Paramount Studio, which produced a prodigious amount of films during the previous decade, his professional life appeared decent considering the Great Depression was on and worsening.

Incidentally, the mention of John Miles' mountain cabin suggests that this might have been in Sleepy Hollow or Mountain View Estates, the 1920s subdivision off Canon Lane just east, as there may not have been too many cabins, if any, on the more rugged Brea portion of Carbon Canyon.


Anonymous said...

So interesting, such a peek at the past, and a reminder that "There is nothing new under the sun." I found myself wondering ... is that "cabin" still there, and where is it located? I'm in an original place in Mountain View Estates (built 1926), but doubt that it's this place because I know that this house was in the property of the same family the entire time.

Though I rarely comment, I read nearly weekly and I LOVE the Carbon Canyon Chronicle website. Thank you so much for producing it.

prs said...

Hello anonymous, many thanks for the nice comment and glad that you visit regularly. Looking forward to sharing more interesting history soon.