Masked Marvel Murder Mystery
By Evan J. Albright
maroon, British-made sports car weaved erratically on Washington Boulevard in
Venice, Calif. one beautiful Sunday morning in September 1943. Suddenly the
tiny car jumped a curb and rolled to a stop in a cabbage field. A man wearing
only a pair of white swimming trunks, his body stained with blood, emerged. He
took only a half dozen uncertain steps then collapsed. The attendant of a
nearby gas station saw the accident and ran to help. When he reached the car,
the fallen man looked up and said, "Please help me, please help me." That was
all he managed to get out before his head lolled to the side.
The Masked Marvel was dead.
Twenty-eight years before, he had been born 3,000 miles away in the Cape Cod
town of Barnstable. His parents named him after his father, Gaspar G. Bacon.
The Bacons were one of the most prominent Brahmin families in all of
Massachusetts. Gaspar Bacon the senior was a member of the board of Harvard
University, and would eventually be elected lieutenant governor of the state.
His father had been a close associate of J.P. Morgan, and later served as
Secretary of State under Theodore Roosevelt and Ambassador to France under
William Howard Taft.
Young Gaspar Jr. had all the privileges that Yankee wealth afforded. When he
was graduated from Harvard, he could have done anything or, if he so chose,
nothing. During his summers at the family estate in the tiny Cape Cod village
of Woods Hole, he had become enamored of the stage. When he was 16, he got his
first part with the University Players in West Falmouth. Soon he was in
productions or on the crew of plays that starred a couple of talented
up-and-comers named James Stewart and Henry Fonda.
college, he changed his name to David Bacon, and went to New York to hone his
craft. He appeared in several small productions before he was "discovered" by
Howard Hughes. The millionaire signed Bacon to a three-year contract and
brought him out to Hollywood. Hughes liked Bacons good looks and 6-foot
height, and wanted the young man to play Billy the Kid in a movie he was
producing called "The Outlaw." After a screen test, however, it became clear
that a pampered Brahmin from New England was completely inappropriate to play
the merciless William Bonnie, even though it was a small part compared to the
role given to Jane Russells immense cleavage. Bacons movie career
was temporarily put on hold.
Without acting jobs, Bacon found time to marry a Austrian cabaret singer,
Greta Keller. They moved into a mansion in Santa Monica which had nine showers
and a swimming pool on the second floor. Eventually the young man did get a few
parts. He played the good-looking college kid in "Ten Gentlemen from West
Point," "Crash Dive," and "Girls, Inc." Only a few months before his death he
received a juicy part in "Someone to Remember," in which he played yet another
college boy, but one who was a cad. Just as "Someone to Remember" hit theaters,
Bacon completed an even bigger role, one of the leads in the Republic serial,
"The Masked Marvel." While filming one of the serials big fight scenes,
every actor but Bacon was seriously injured. "Ill probably get hurt going
home in the car," he had joked.
Two weeks later, after the serial had wrapped, Bacon told his wife that he
was going out for a swim. She never saw him alive again.
The coroner determined that Bacon had been stabbed in the back with a
stiletto. The blade had pierced his lung, and he had bled to death. His body
showed no signs of a struggle, indicating that he had known the person who had
was abuzz with what they called the "Masked Marvel Murder Mystery." Bacon had
been seen driving around with another man just before the murder. Authorities
discovered that Bacon had recently rented a small house in the Hollywood Hills
"for a friend of his." The friend, a man, had disappeared, and newspapers
hinted that their relationship had been intimate.
The murderer was never caught, and the case was never solved. In a town
where scandal is a daily event, the public soon lost interest in the Masked
Bacons wife, Greta Keller, returned to Europe after the war.
She came back to the United States in the 1950s and became a popular cabaret
singer in the mold of Marlene Dietrich and Lili Palmer. She toured the world,
winning the acclaim that her dead husband had once sought. A few years before
her death, her voice appeared in the Oscar-winning movie, Cabaret, for which
she sang the song, "Married."
Want to learn more about The Masked Marvel? You'll find
a great site about the serial here. For additional details on David Bacon's murder, visit writer Tom Christopher's Web site here.
© 1998 Mystery Lane Press