Was foul-play behind her sudden vanishing?
The young and the beautiful. With picture-perfect smiles and 20 denier stockings.
They all came to the tinsel city for one thing.
The lucky ones found it. Became the stars of Hollywood’s glittering silver screen.
Jean Spangler found it, too.
Not because she was lucky. But because she disappeared.
Into thin air.
She’d come to Hollywood two years before, in 1947.
And it must have seemed to Jean Spangler that the big-time was just within her reach.
So far, she’d had small parts in films like Miracle of the Bells with Frank Sinatra, When My Baby Smiles At Me with Betty Grable, and Young Man With a Horn with Kirk Douglas.
To the outside world, and to Hollywood casting agents, she seemed an innocent. Unaware of her own allure.
But at 27, Jean Spangler was already divorced, already a mum, and already had a string of lovers.
And why shouldn’t she?
Except, now her daughter was 4. And Jean was locked in a bitter battle for custody of the little girl with her ex.
The first two years after they’d split, Jean’s ex-husband, Dexter Benner, had custody of the child.
He claimed that Jean ‘preferred parties to priorities’, and that the baby was best off with him.
But Jean had wanted her back and, eventually, a judge ruled in her favour – a little girl’s place was with her mum.
On the afternoon of 7 October 1949, Jean left her daughter with her sister-in-law Frances and set off for a meeting with Dexter. They needed to sort out child support payments.
Jean told Frances she wouldn’t be back until very late. She was going straight from the meeting to a late-night shoot for a new film.
‘Wish me luck,’ she’d laughed crossing her fingers before heading off to the meeting.
And with that, Jean Spangler disappeared without a trace.
When she hadn’t come home two days later, Frances raised the alarm with the police.
Investigators quickly learned there’d been no meeting set up that day with Dexter. And there’d been no late-night shoot scheduled at the film studio.
Why had Jean lied about where she was going?
One of her co-stars, an actor called Robert Cummings, told police Jean had been dating. He didn’t know who Jean’s new boyfriend was, but she’d seemed smitten.
An appeal for information was put out. And at last, Jean Spangler’s face was on the cover of all the country’s papers.
Fame, at last. But at what cost?
And then, a discovery. Jean’s purse.
It was found in a quiet corner of LA’s Griffith Park. The handle was torn, which police said was evidence of a struggle.
But nothing was missing from the purse. Jean Spangler hadn’t been mugged.
Inside it, police found a note. It was half-written, in Jean’s handwriting.
Kirk, can’t wait any longer, it said. Going to see Dr. Scott. It will work out best this way,
It ended with a comma. What else had Jean Spangler been planning to write?
No-one knew who Kirk was. And no-one knew Dr. Scott.
And then, the police received a phone call. It was from the actor, Kirk Douglas – who’d starred with Jean in a film.
He said he’d barely known Jean.
Before long, police cleared him of any involvement. But his call had raised questions…like why he’d made it in the first place.
Some investigators began putting two and two together. They reasoned Jean must have been pregnant. And as another baby might jeopardize her Hollywood career, she’d sought out an abortion.
At the time in the USA, having an abortion was against the law.
But any woman in trouble could always find a doctor to perform one illegally. For the right price.
Is that what Jean had been hinting at in the note?
If so, Dr Scott was probably a false name…and there’d be no chance of finding him.
But if something had gone wrong during an illegal abortion, what had happened to Jean’s body?
One line of investigation seemed promising. Jean’s ex-boyfriends.
She’d been seen around LA with a man called David Ogul. His nickname was Little Davey.
He was a known gangster. And just two days before Jean’s disappearance, David Ogul had also disappeared.
Was it merely coincidence?
After that day in October 1949, no-one ever heard from Jean Spangler again.
To her friends, her family, and her fans, she became just a memory…a distant smile from the silver screen.
In the years afterwards, several witnesses came forwards saying they’d seen Jean alive.
In California, Phoenix, Arizona, and New Mexico.
None of them confirmed.
To this day, Jean Spangler is listed as a missing person. The LA Police Department has not closed her case.
In her absence, Dexter Benner was given custody of their little girl again, and they moved away, leaving behind the bright lights, the disappointments, and the heartache of tinsel town.
And leaving behind Jean Spangler. The woman who’d come to Hollywood to find fame on the silver screen…but only found it as one of the city’s darkest mysteries.