Excerpt from Black Dahlia Avenger II
Chapter 8 – The Huston Letters
“Back again at George’s after two weeks away. … It is acutely dangerous for the children to be here. There is a growing threat of no control and physical violence…”
Excerpt from Letter No. 6 from Dorothy to John, mailed from Franklin house, 1950
The following highly personal letters were written by my mother, Dorothy Huston Hodel, to her ex-husband, film director John Huston.
The letters span nearly a decade of time, beginning in 1948 and continuing through 1957.
All are highly personal and accurately inform us in real time of the tremendous stresses, both psychological and financial, that our mother was under BEFORE and AFTER our father’s arrest for incest.
The letters shine new light into a very dark period of Dorothy’s life where we learn that she was attempting to be the sole family breadwinner, as well as a full-time mother, raising three young boys aged 6, 7, and 9.
I am going to let my mother’s own words, written in confidence to John, recreate what can only be described as her personal horrors. Her letters capture the very real fear and terror she was experiencing when her ex-husband, our father, George Hodel, was about to harm both her and us!
The first letter to John [April 1948] began a little over a year after the Black Dahlia murder and the tension builds up to and through our father’s 1949 LAPD arrest for child molestation and incest, where, according to Mother, he was becoming increasingly unhinged and dangerous. The peak of her personal terror came in the spring and summer of 1950, just after the DA Surveillance of the Franklin house and as George Hodel was preparing to leave the United States.
The source of my discovery of these letters was pure happenstance. I came across them while browsing through the John Huston Files at the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, Margaret Herrick Library in Beverly Hills, California. Within those files, I found an index labeled, “Dorothy Huston.” I requested that file and found it contained these original letters written by my mother to John.
Letter No. 1
2313 Bushrod Lane
Los Angeles 24
April 7, 1948
This letter really should begin: “Stranger, you ask me why I am so sad…” Its precipitating cause is a check I didn’t get. I wrote a radio script dealing with a romantic and lovely Russian princess, which was accepted with a perfunctory “Charming” and has remained in the producer’s archives since November. When I timidly asked for a check, he recoiled in horror. In view of the Russian Situation and his job, the script can’t be produced. No Russian, even one long dead, can be permitted on the air in a glamorous light. And so, so close is the margin on which the babes and I exist, no food, no rent paid, George hasn’t given us any alimony for months, and in view of his mental difficulties, I don’t want to be unpleasant. I’m really having a tough time, since both the boys and earning a living are a full time job. There aren’t enough hours. So many things take time: like listening to a neighbor elucidate Technocracy, so he’ll be won over and let Mike ride his pony. Something’s always cropping up! We’re very happy, and life is good; difficult, but good.
I’ve got eight radio scripts assigned, but I can’t get them out fast enough, or get paid for them fast enough to meet this emergency. Listen…
Two boys in bed with fever and virus x.
Third slightly lacerated from aforementioned pony.
Mother out of hospital after major operation, with us,
Needing medicine and nursing.
No rent paid.
No electric bill paid.
No grocery bill paid.
No bills paid.
No bank balance.
I’ll be forty two next week
STRANGER, YOU ASK ME WHY I AM SO SAD.
If you could loan me, and I mean loan, about five hundred dollars (or even five!) I could repay it within six months. This epidemic can’t last forever. I finished a script by working all night last night, rushed it by messenger to the producer today, only to discover I can’t get paid for it for at least three weeks. Gandhi could have weathered it, but not the boys! I did a washing this morning, cooked, cleaned, took three temperatures, all too high, placed a cool hand of three fevered brows in rapid succession, and ironed until eleven tonight. If this letter sounds flippant or gay, it’s only because I’m frightened. I’ve done everything I could, and it isn’t enough
If you’re able to help, please do.
Based on the return address, this letter indicates we are living in a rental several miles north of Sunset Boulevard in Beverly Glen Canyon. The home was called, “ROBBER’S ROOST.” Immediately behind the house, there were some high caves set into the mountain. According to legend, these caves were used as a hideout for Banditos at the turn of the century. Situated as they were, literally, in our own backyard, we three brothers would climb up and into them to hangout and “make our plans.”
George and Dorothy were separated in 1944 and formally divorced in 1945.
In this April 1948 letter, Mother made reference to our father’s “mental difficulties,” a full eighteen months in advance of his October 1949 arrest for incest and child molestation, which informs us that they were preexisting and ongoing.
“Mother” was Dorothy Harvey, our maternal grandmother, who in 1948 would have been in her late sixties.
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LADA Hodel-Black Dahlia Surveillance Transcripts