Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Paul Kelly, Killer Actor

Act II

Barbara Stanwyck
Barbara Stanwyck

Every celebrity's life has at least two acts, and the curtain soon rose on Act II for Paul Kelly and Dot Mackaye. She served less than two months, and he walked out of prison after two years.

By 1931, they were back in New York on Broadway — he in "Bad Girl" and "Hobo," she in "Cold in Sables" at the Cort. On Feb. 11 that year, they were married in a civil ceremony in New York. They made a point of noting on their license that he was living at 310 W. 44th St., in the Theater District, and she was living with her daughter Mimi across town at the Hotel Tudor, on East 42nd Street.

"Sables" was Mackaye's final performance. She retired, she later said, to focus her energy on her new husband and daughter, raised as Mimi Kelly.

The couple bought a hobby farm, which they dubbed Kelly-Mac Ranch, near the San Fernando Valley town of Northridge, California. They spent much of their time there, although Paul Kelly was in demand for both film and stage roles.

Mackaye wrote a play, "Women in Prison," based on her experiences at San Quentin. It was made into a 1933 film, Ladies They Talk About, with Barbara Stanwyck.

On Jan. 2, 1940, Mackaye was driving home to the Northridge ranch on a foggy night when she was forced to swerve off the road to avoid an oncoming car. Her car rolled, but she managed to crawl out of the wreckage. She insisted she wasn't seriously hurt, and a passerby drove her home. Her physician, Dr. Edward Ehret, visited Mackaye but found no injuries.

Two days later, Mackaye telephoned the doctor about abdominal pain, and he ordered her to the hospital. On Jan. 5, she suddenly lapsed into unconsciousness and died of internal injuries that had gone undiagnosed. She was 40.

In an obituary, the Los Angeles Times called her "the vivacious Dorothy Mackaye, once the toast of the theatrical world."

Her daughter, Mimi Kelly, had a modest show business career of her own, in understudy and supporting roles from the 1940s to the 1950s, in such Broadway hits as "South Pacific" and "Finian's Rainbow."

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