The Day Madge Bellamy Shot Her Man

Madge Bellamy (Margaret Derden Philpott, 1899-1990) was born on June 30. Originally from Denver, she moved to New York as a teenager and got a job as a chorus girl in the Earl Carroll show The Love Mill (1918).  This led to a proper part in the play Dear Brutus (1918-1919) with William Gillette. While acting in Peg o’My Heart in Washington DC she was spotted by Thomas Ince and hired for the Triangle Film Corporation.

She became a major star of the 1920s. Some of her important silent pictures included Lorna Doone (1922), The Hottentot (1922), The Iron Horse (1924), Lightnin’ (1925), and The Telephone Girl (1927). Some other notable films were the semi-talkie Mother Knows Best (1928), Fugitives (1929), and what is ironically probably her best known film today, the independent horror film White Zombie (1932) with Bela Lugosi (ironic because compared with a blockbuster like The Iron Horse, it was hardly a prestige picture).

By the mid 1930s she was reduced to bit parts and walk-on parts. Crack-Up (1936) wound up being her last picture for some time.

Circa 1937 she began seeing lumber tycoon Albert Stanwood Murphy and they were in a relationship for five years. In October 1942 Murphy broke it off and married a model named June Almy a short time afterwards. In January 1943, Bellamy followed Murphy to his home in Nob Hill (San Francisco), stalked him, and on January 20, cornered him outside his club, firing three shots at him with her .32 caliber revolver. Murphy was unharmed. She later claimed she was a crack shot and only wanted to scare him. The judge gave her a light sentence. Six months later she sued Murphy for divorce, on the basis that they were in a common-law marriage. That judge wasn’t buyin’ it.

Apparently, the resulting publicity briefly helped her career, as she has a fairly decent part in the Bob Steele western Northwest Trail (1945).

After this, she “retired”, living off real estate income and a retail store, which she worked in until she sold it in the 1980s. Her memoir A Darling of the Twenties, was published in 1997.

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