statue of Libby

Libby Holman (1904-1971) was the youngest woman to graduate from the University of Cincinnati and a well known torch singer. Sadly, murder, millionaires, death, and suicide were morbid recurring themes in Libby’s life.

image found here

At nineteen, she moved to New York with dreams of Broadway. Her big break came in 1925 in the musical revue, The Garrick Gaieties. Her nearsightedness provided an unexpectedly alluring stage persona, while her palate, an eighth of an inch askew, helped produce her strangely throaty sustained laments and a grunting style she liked to call her “vomit.” Entrenched in New York’s bohemian, dance-and-bathtub-gin culture, Holman swore, drank, and made regular late-night excursions to Harlem’s Cotton Club and Inferno.

image found here

Her unusual basso contralto, Betty Boop lips, and untraditional beauty created what critic Brooks Atkinson labeled a “dark purple menace.”  During this period, she was introduced to Louisa Carpenter, a millionaire member of the du Pont family. By October 1930, Carpenter and Holman had become inseparable lovers. Her bisexuality became the talk of Broadway and she scandalized some by also dating much younger men, such as fellow actor Montgomery Clift.

image found here

Zachary Smith Reynolds, heir to the Reynolds tobacco fortune, began, literally, to follow Holman’s career. An aviator, he flew from city to city courting her attentions until the two were married by a justice of the peace in Michigan. The famously ill-fated marriage ended tragically at the Reynolds estate, “Reynolda,” in North Carolina. On July 5, 1932, Reynolds was shot in his bedroom; he died the next morning in the hospital and the coroner declared the death a suicide. Even after being presented with accusations of tampered evidence, two antisemitic grand juries approved murder charges against Holman, and against Ab Walker, Reynolds’ best friend with whom it was suspected she had been having an affair.

image found here

Louisa Carpenter paid her $25,000 bail, and eventually the case was dropped through the influence of the Reynolds family who wanted no publicity. When Holman gave birth in January 1933, it brought a new heir to the Reynolds tobacco fortune and became one of the biggest news stories of the year.

Louisa Carpenter found here

Holman married her second husband, film and stage actor Ralph Holmes, in March 1939. He was twelve years her junior. She had previously dated his older brother, Phillips, who was killed in a collision of two military planes in August 1942. When Ralph returned home in August 1945, the marriage quickly soured and they separated. In November that year, Ralph Holmes was found in his Manhattan apartment, dead of a barbiturate overdose at age 29.

Phillips Holmes found here

Holman adopted two sons, Timmy (born October 1945), and Tony (born May 1947). Her natural son Christopher died in August 1950 after falling while mountain climbing. Holman had given him permission to go mountain climbing with a friend in California, not knowing that the boys were ill-prepared for the adventure. Both died and those close to Holman claim she never forgave herself.

In June 1971, Holman was found unconscious in the front seat of her Rolls Royce by her household staff. She was taken to the hospital where she died hours later. Few of her friends believed the coroner’s report that she had committed suicide. How did the slight, aging Holman open and close a heavy, manually-operated garage door?

Another mysterious death closed the life of  the woman known as “The Statue of Libby”

construction of the statue of liberty found here

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38 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Not sure I could listen to her singing for long but interesting to discover this song is much older than I thought it was…

    • I like the way you think Nick. I’m ashamed to say it never occurred to me to look her up on youtube

      • Cool find! i’d have never guessed that song to be that old either…

      • Nick has lots of cool finds on his blog. It was because of him I watched The Umbrellas of Cherbourg and The Killing (Forbrydelsen). My biggest complaint about Nick is that he doesn’t blog often enough

      • She has a few songs on Youtube I had this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j9YTrBmU2Ag&feature=related on an old 78rpm!

  2. No problem with dating Montgomery Clift as he batted for the other team. After his death, his penis created some merriment in Hollywood circles, being described as small, shrivelled and uncircumcised. The original Faustian pact: good-looking but small willy.

    I’m ugly…..so what went wrong with my pact?

    • I like an uncircumcised penis.

      • I like an uncircumcised penis too – but not before lunch.

      • Really? That’s my favourite time. Though I do eat a very late lunch.

  3. “Dark Purple Menace” … that’s it, I’m changing my internet alias for good. It sounds like something out of Star Wars.

    • Oh please do. I think it suits your personality 😉

      • Uh, wait a sec. Those are internet aliases? I like the name Melbo. And Nursie – tell me your name isn’t Myra!? I’m dying here…

      • nursemyra is an anagram of my real name. You just have to omit 4 letters 😉

        Though some people spell it incorrectly and only omit 3

      • Your real name is Yearn!!?!

  4. Nice to know that the judicial system back in the day was so full of integrity and honesty.

    • Same as it ever was…..

  5. Tragic death of all the men in her life. Too much drama for a lifetime.

    • Some people have all the luck

  6. Isn’t this like the second story with a Cincinnati basis that you told in the last month. Be careful or you will turn into the Loon.

    • Now you’ve got me confused bearman. What other story have I told about Cincinnati?

      • Maybe I am confused. Or maybe you need to do more. haha

  7. “Dang it, Joe… did you see what happened to that left arm? I just saw it a few minutes ago…”
    I’m sure this would sound much better in French. 🙂

    • Just for fun I ran it through a translator then back again…..

      “Joe of dang did you see what arrived at this left arm? I just saw it there are some minutes”

      • Hahaha –
        How you say… hilarious?! 😛

  8. I was surprised to read that she usurped the penis of Montgomery Clift. MC was well known for being a gravy dripper and had lifted many shirts fae Hollywood to Holyhead. Libby however, was a wee hottie and would probably have raised more than a smile on any man with those lips.

    • Haha… gravy dripper. I must ask my son if he’s ever been called that.

  9. I’ve always wanted to name my house. I thought that would be cool. I finally have a name. Garrick Gaieties. Does it need a “the” in front?

    • The house I’ve lived in for the past two years has a nameplate on the front. For the life of me I can never remember what it says. Remind me to check again on the way to work this morning will you?

  10. Wow! Death was her constant companion…

    • She must have been in unimaginable pain for much of her life

      • Yeah, what a shame, I like the sound of her a lot.

  11. The leggy millionairess Louisa Carpenter looks very sharp in her hat and trench-coat. Very stylish and sexy.

  12. It’s not fair — my nearsightedness has so far failed to provide me with an unexpectedly alluring stage persona.

    • Perhaps you’re lacking in “vomit”

  13. I’m with Laura (above) on this one.

  14. She’s to die for.

  15. Since my real last name is Holman I once got all excited to see if I was related to Libby. Sadly for me, she was born Elizabeth Holzman.


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