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Which early Hollywood movie has sparked rumours of murder and mystery, involving Charlie Chaplin

01:00 Mon 22nd Apr 2002 |

A.� A new film, The Cat's Meow, revisits one of the most celebrated early Hollywood scandals - the death of movie producer Thomas Ince on his yacht Oneida, owned by William Randolph Hearst, on a pleasure cruise in November 1924.

The death, during cinema's Silent Era, sparked a furore. According to news reports at the time - many of them in Hearst's papers - 42-year-old Ince died of a heart attack. Some said it was indigestion, but the promot cremation of his body fuelled rumours he was murdered.

The story goes that Hearst's Los Angeles Times published an article under the headline "Movie Producer Shot on Hearst Yacht" in early editions, but pressure from the proprietor meant the story and headline was subsequently changed.

Q.� Where does Charlie Chaplin fit in

A.� There was a star-studded passenger list, which included the gossip columnist Louella Parsons and Hearst's mistress, Marion Davies, who was rumoured to be having an affart with another passenger, Charlie Chaplin.

In a biography of Chaplin, Tramp, Joyce Milton auggested Chaplin could have pulled the trigger. At the time Chaplin was "almost suicidal" about his marriage to 16-year-old Lita Grey and rumours circulated saying Chaplin may have accidentally killed Ince while playing with a revolver.

Historian David Nasaw has claimed the scandal was cooked up by one of Heart's magazine executives who was on the yacht and suggested that cover-up was not to hide a murder, but to stop polive investigating the illegal consumption of alcohol.

Q.� Who is in the new movie

A.� The Cat's Meow, directed by Peter Bogdanovich, stars Eddie Izzard as Chaplin, with Kirsten Dunst as Davies and Joanna Lumley as grande dame Elinor Glyn.

The new film has, however, attracted critics. Nasaw has dismissed it, saying it's not even a blend of fact and fiction. He said: "It's saying things they know to be untrue. You can't libel the dead, but you can libel history.

"We work so damn hard to teach students the difference between history and myth - and Hollywood forgets it all."

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By Katharine MacColl

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