Unlocking History

Ambition undoes silent screen star, part 1

Nicely dressed woman and a photo of her much younger flank a newspaper article that says "Los Angeles New Mystery Murder; Dead Man's Wife Held."
Hazel Belford-Glab heads into the courtroom in 1936, left. She's also seen at right in 1916. A 1928 newspaper article names her as a suspect in the murder of John Glab.

By Don Chaddock, Inside CDCR editor
Office of Public and Employee Communications

Hazel Belford was a young actress trying to make her mark in silent pictures. She won beauty contests, had a few roles in minor films and slowly worked on building her career. Unfortunately, the slow-and-steady approach is not what she had in mind.

Seeking fame and fortune, Belford married rich pharmacist John Glab.

Their marriage ended with a gunshot, the husband’s body lying in the street outside his home. Mr. Glab was dead, his widow in line to inherit his fortune. That is, until she became a suspect.

Belford was born in Oklahoma in 1894. She won a beauty contest and tried to turn her win into a stage and film career.

Young Belford became a performer, starting out in vaudeville. When moving pictures became popular, she transitioned into the new format. She had some starring roles in those early films, but it would be later crimes for which she is remembered.

She came to California just as many have over the years – with stars in her eyes and dreams of hitting it big in the Golden State.

Woman in bathing suit shows how to swim.
Hazel Belford was known across the country as the girl demonstrating swimming moves in the newspapers. The pieces were written by her swim instructor, Vance Veith. Circa 1916.

Little fish in big Hollywood pond

In 1916, Belford taught swimming to other actresses when their film studio began requiring all actors learn how to swim. For an earlier starring role, she learned to swim, giving her a step up on her competition.

Woman in swimsuit bent over and touching her toes.
Hazel Belford demonstrates how to prepare for a dive, circa 1916. The newspaper articles were penned by her instructor.

“A swimming club has been organized at the Ince motion picture studio at Culver City and if present plans are carried out every person in the camp will be ordered to learn to swim. The new tank, 25 by 90 feet, has just been completed and practice will start in a short time. The club will meet one day each week and lessons will be given in swimming and diving,” reported the Los Angeles Herald, Feb. 10, 1916.

“Hazel Belford will instruct the women, while Todd Burns will have charge of the men’s classes. Miss Belford is a pupil of Vance Veith, instructor in swimming at the Los Angeles Athletic Club (LAAC). Fritz Bittke, a former member of the famous Illinois Athletic club team, will teach fancy diving.

“A number of expert swimmers are enrolled on the club’s list and it is planned lo have the members compete with teams from Los Angeles and the beaches. A water polo team is being organized among the women and will be entered in the league which is soon to be started in the south with teams representing LAAC, Venice and Bimini. Miss Belford will coach the Ince team.”

According to the newspapers, Belford was engaged to her swimming instructor.

“A romance that had its beginning five months ago when Vance Veith, swimming instructor at the Los Angeles Athletic club, gave swimming lessons to Miss Hazel Belford, a film beauty, was revealed today when the couple told friends of their engagement. Miss Belford came to Los Angeles from Chicago. She joined one of the local movie camps. A film in which Miss Belford played the leading part demanded that the heroine be an able swimmer. Mr. Veith, aided by Cupid, was her instructor. The marriage will take place soon but according to Mr. Veith a definite date has not been settled upon,” the paper reported.

She did not tie the knot with Veith.

Drama off the screen

A year later, Belford found herself in trouble with the law while also trying to get out of an Oklahoma marriage.

“Thomas H. Ince, one of the biggest producers of moving pictures, … made Hazel Belford a star, for a little time. The other day this little girl … appeared in a dingy court of a justice of the peace in Oklahoma City, charged with a squalid little brawl with a neighbor, ” reported The Daily Times of Iowa, Nov. 23, 1917. “Hazel Belford pleaded guilty to a scratching, biting, hair-pulling, knife-wielding, dust-groveling quarrel with the other woman and paid a fine of $50.”

According to the paper, “Belford’s trip from stardom to the police court was rapid, and a great part of the rapidity was contributed by a visit, en route to the divorce court. Hazel’s trouble was a 50-year-old husband — with money. She got rid of him, but he kept the money, all but $2,500. He was H.M. Vendig, a wealthy clothier of Oklahoma City, known as ‘The Great Leonard.’ He has been a financial backer for at least one musical comedy.”

Belford, at the height of her fledgling career, left the movie company to pursue litigation in the divorce suit, according to news reports. The reporter describes meeting Belford at her apartment.

“She was eager to defend herself. She said she had missed much clothing, that the women of the neighborhood were jealous of her and that she quarreled with this other woman and somehow found a penknife in her hand and cut the woman’s shoulders and neck. She (quickly changed the subject) to her (acting) experience as more interesting,” the paper reported.

“‘I can go back to Mr. Ince any time I want,’ she declared … as she hurriedly produced innumerable clippings of the days when she was the bright light of filmdom. She produced a letter to that effect, written in February. She prattled along for many minutes of her ability yet to hold her own in the inexorable calcium of movie land.”

More run-ins with the law

Man in hat and tie smiles at the camera.
W.R. McIntyre was a police officer who became romantically entangled with Hazel Belford-Glab, costing him his job. Courtesy Los Angeles Public Library.

In 1925, she was “arrested on a robbery charge … after the car in which she was riding with a male friend was waylaid by three hold-up men. She was accused of having engineered the robbery but was released before the case came to trial,” reported the Associated Press, June 19, 1928.

In January 1927, Belford-Glab was allegedly carrying on with Police Officer W.R. McIntyre.

The two attended a “drinking party in Hollywood” where Glab shot the officer.

He survived but she claimed she fired in self defense. Her story “stood up under an investigation” and she was not charged. According to sources, he became too aggressive in his unwanted advances on the pistol-packing Belford-Glab.

In June 1927, she received a black eye “when she interceded between an irate husband and his former wife, and got in the way of one of the man’s fists.” The man fled.

In 1930, police responded to her home to put down a “riot.” Belford-Glab said she was entertaining friends when uninvited guests crashed the party. They were confronted and tempers flared, finally ending “in a free-for-all fight.”

Grainy newspaper photo of man in bowtie, vest and jacket.
John Glab was shot in the heart while getting into his car in 1928. The case went unsolved for almost eight years.

New marriage ends with gunshot

The former actress met retired wealthy pharmacist John I. Glab, a married man who was separated from his wife. He filed for divorce and 30 days after receiving the final decree, he wed Belford-Glab. Their marriage lasted just five months, ending abruptly in 1928. Police were left to untangle a gunshot in the night, a body in the driveway and a young widow who claimed she heard nothing.

“I believe my husband was slain by Chicago gunmen whose enmity he incurred while he was engaged in illicit liquor traffic in that city,” she told police.

Belford-Glab said she was playing cards with 17-year-old niece Ethel Kaser when her husband was shot dead in front of their home. The 34-year-old widow claims they heard no gunshots. The victim was shot as he prepared to get in his vehicle.

Former police officer McIntyre was also held in Glab’s death.

“(Another) suspect in the slaying of John I. Glab … was arrested late today and charged with suspicion of murder. He was W. McIntyre, former Los Angeles police officer, who was dismissed … a year ago after he figured in a Hollywood shooting scene with Mrs. Hazel Glab, widow of the dead man,” reported the United Press, June 19, 1928.

Neighbors claim they saw a “woman in white” fleeing the murder scene, heard the clicking of heels on the pavement as well as the Glabs’ gate swinging shut. When Belford-Glab was questioned, she was wearing a white dress and a white coat. Police also found two pistols in the Glab home, one of them having been recently discharged.

Years later, the pistols earned her the nickname “Oklahoma Two-Gun Girl.”

According to Belford-Glab, her husband was having trouble with his ex-wife.

Young woman standing, leaning against a table, and another woman in a fur coat is sitting.
Hazel Glab, seated, and her niece were questioned by police in the shooting death of John Glab in 1928. Photo courtesy Los Angeles Public Library.

Victim planned to flee

Days before murder, the victim phoned Herman Dink, of Reno, saying he would be there by Tuesday “unless I am bumped off before I can get away,” according to the Associated Press, June 21, 1928. “If I am bumped off, you will know who did it.”

Dink said the victim told him “several times about an ‘ex-cop’ and about the alleged intimacy of the ‘ex-cop’ and Hazel,” according to the news report.

Another witness, Marian Adams, said he repeatedly heard the victim threaten to kill his wife, McIntyre and then himself. According to Adams, the victim believed McIntyre was still involved with his wife and planned the murder-suicide because “this can’t go on this way,” according to the AP report.

Servants in the Glab home said they heard Mrs. Glab threaten to shoot her husband during their “frequent and violent quarrels.”

Police poked holes in her story, even going as far as showing she went to McIntyre’s apartment the night of the murder. She finally admitted she visited him that night but only for drinks.

The deputy district attorney said there was insufficient evidence to secure a conviction, leaving the case unsolved.

The story made headlines across the country but faded until 1930, when the widow sued “to obtain a larger share of his estate, estimated to be $500,000. She is seeking to uncover assets amounting to $250,000 which she alleges have been concealed by relatives of the slain Chicago druggist. Glab’s murder never has been solved,” reported the AP, April 27, 1930.

According to multiple sources, Glab was her third husband. “She had been known at various times as Hazel Garland, Hazel Poole, Hazel Vendig, Hazel Williams, Hazel Reynolds and Sue Reynolds,” according to a June 16, 1935, news report from the Fresno Bee.

She moved on with her life, but not her ambition. Her undoing would prove to be a purple pen, hotel stationery and a dead millionaire. To be continued in Part 2 (link opens new tab).