Libby Holman and her Orchestra - Why Was I Born (1929)

Posted: May 11, 2010
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Libby Holman (May 23,1904 - June 18,1971) was an American torch singer and stage actress who also achieved notoriety for her complex and unconventional personal life. She graduated from Hughes High School on June 11, 1920, at the age of 16, then entered the University of Cincinnati, graduating on June 16, 1923, with a Bachelor of Arts degree. She graduated from Hughes High School on June 11, 1920, at the age of 16, then entered the University of Cincinnati, graduating on June 16, 1923, with a Bachelor of Arts degree. Holman enjoyed a variety of intimate relationships with both men and women throughout her lifetime. Holman took an interest in one particular fan, Zachary Smith Reynolds, the heir to R. J. Reynolds's tobacco company, was smitten from the start, despite their seven-year age difference. They met in Baltimore, Maryland in April 1930 after Reynolds watched Holman's performance in a road company staging of the play The Little Show. Reynolds begged friend Dwight Deere Wiman, who was the show's producer, for an introduction to Holman. Reynolds pursued her all around the world in his plane. With the persuasion of her former lover, Louisa d'Andelot Carpenter, Holman and Reynolds, who went by his middle name, married on Sunday, November 29, 1931 in the parlor of Monroe, Michigan Justice of the Peace Fred M. Schoepfer. Their marital bliss did not last long. Reynolds wanted Holman to abandon her acting career, she consented by taking a one-year leave of absence. During this time, however, his conservative family was unable to bear Holman and her group of theater friends, who at her invitation often visited Reynolda, the family estate near Winston-Salem, North Carolina. Accusations and arguments among them were common. In 1932, during a 21st birthday party Reynolds gave at Reynolda for his friend and flying buddy Charles Gideon Hill, Jr., a first cousin to Reynolds's first wife Anne Ludlow Cannon Reynolds, Holman revealed to her husband that she was pregnant. A tense argument ensued. Moments later, a shot was heard; friends soon discovered Reynolds bleeding and unconscious with a gunshot wound to the head. The authorities initially ruled the shooting a suicide, but a coroner's inquiry led them to rule it a murder. Holman and Albert Bailey "Ab" Walker, a friend of Reynolds's and a supposed lover of Holman's, were indicted for murder. Louisa Carpenter paid Holman's $25,000 bail in Wentworth, North Carolina, appearing in such mannish clothes bystanders and reporters thought she was a man. The Reynolds family contacted the local authorities and had the charges dropped for fear of scandal. Holman gave birth to the couple's child, Christopher Smith "Topper" Reynolds, on January 10, 1933. Holman married her second husband, film and stage actor Ralph (pronounced "Rafe") Holmes, in March 1939; he was twelve years her junior. She had previously dated his older brother, Phillips Holmes. In 1940, both brothers (who were half-Canadian) joined the Royal Canadian Air Force. Phillips was killed in a collision of two military planes in August 1942. When Ralph returned home shortly after V-J Day in August 1945, the marriage quickly soured and they soon separated. On November 15, 1945, Ralph Holmes was found in his Manhattan apartment, dead of a barbiturate overdose at age 29. On June 18, 1971, Holman was found nearly dead by her household staff, in the front seat of her Rolls Royce. She was taken to the hospital where she died hours later. Holman's death was officially ruled a suicide due to acute carbon monoxide poisoning. Libby Holman and her Orchestra - Why Was I Born (1929)

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