Monday, February 18, 2013

Dudley Field Malone, 2: From Croton to Paris to Hollywood


      Internationally famous lawyer Dudley Field Malone played a prominent role in spectacular human rights causes early in the 20th century. 
       When women whowere lawfully picketing the White House and Capitol were arrested and jailed for obstructing the sidewalk, he defended them in court. And when the administration of Woodrow Wilson continued to harass and jail peaceful women pickets, he quit a lucrative and highly visible government post to protest the President's failure to act on women's suffrage. 
       To replace Malone as Collector of the Port of New York, Wilson appointed Undersecretary of the Treasury Byron R. Newton. As a newspaperman, Newton had watched the Wright Brothers' first experimental flight at Kitty Hawk in 1903. He is today remembered for a biting verse he wrote about New York City:   

                           Vulgar of manner, overfed,
                           Overdressed and underbred;
                           Heartless, Godless, Hell's delight,
                           Rude by day and lewd by night,
                           Bedwarfed the man and large the brute,
                           Ruled by Jew and prostitute,
                           Purple robed and pauper clad,
                           Rotten, raving, money-mad;
                           A squirming herd in money's mesh,
                           A wilderness of human flesh;
                           Crazed by avarice, lust and rum -- 
                           "New York" thy name's Delirium.

      Dutifully, Newton's first public statement was a bitter denunciation of women's suffrage, whether granted by state or national action.
      Following his widely publicized resignation as collector of customs and free to aid the cause of women's suffrage, Malone threw himself into legal activity on the movement's behalf. He masterfully proved to a Virginia jurist that the warden of the District of Columbia Jail had no authority to transfer the women prisoners to a workhouse in Virginia and forced their return to Washington.
      Faced with Malone's formidable adversarial talents, the Wilson Administration capitulated and unconditionally freed all women prisoners in November.
      He was identified with many liberal movements, helping to defend Max Eastman, Floyd Dell and the other Masses defendants. Outspoken in his defense of five Socialist lawmakers in Albany who were expelled from the Republican-led legislature after their election in 1919, Malone accepted Socialist backing when he ran independently on the Farmer-Labor ticket in 1920. Morris Hillquit and other prominent Socialists praised him. He led a delegation of lawyers to Bell County, Kentucky, in support of striking coal miners there.

File:Dudley Field Malone, 1882-1950, bust portrait, right profile.jpg
A handsome Dudley Field Malone in 1913 when he entered 
government service.

Many Marriages
      In 1908, Dudley Field Malone married Mary Patricia O'Gorman, daughter of Judge and U.S. Senator James A. O'Gorman [D-N.Y.] Their marriage would end in a Paris divorce in 1921 that attracted considerable attention because he and his wife were both Roman Catholics. Until the day she died in 1961, his former wife would call herself "Mrs. Dudley Field Malone."
      Malone and his second wife, Doris Stevens, drove to Peekskill from Croton on December 5, 1921. Justice of the Peace Edward J. Wilson left customers at his hardware store to perform the marriage ceremony in the village clerk’s office at 10 a.m. Doris insisted on retaining her maiden name.
      During the Twenties, Malone became a successful international divorce lawyer. So many wealthy Americans were traveling to Paris to Paris to shed their marital bonds quickly, he opened an office in the French capital. He later claimed that he had arranged more reconciliations than divorces for those who sought his help with their domestic problems.
His conciliatory skills were of no avail to save his marriage to Doris Stevens, however. She obtained a Paris divorce in 1929 on grounds of abandonment. Doris retained the Croton house at the corner of North Highland Place and Mt. Airy Road.
      Malone married his third wife, Minnesota-born actress Edna Louise Johnson, in London on January 29, 1930. A son, also named Dudley Field Malone, was born at the Harkness Pavilion of Columbia Presbyterian Hospital on January 1, 1931, the first arrival of the new year in New York.
Gloria Swanson, who had been Malone's neighbor when she lived at Longue Vue Farm on Mt. Airy Road in Croton as the Marquise de la Falaise de la Coudray, was impatient to divorce her French nobleman husband. Her new love was Michael Farmer, a handsome 30-year-old Irish playboy. Unhappy with the slow progress of her divorce, she wired Malone from California asking him to speed up her divorce so she and Farmer could be married on their arrival in New York.
In her 1980 autobiography, Swanson on Swanson, she wrote, "I don't know how he arranged it, but we drove to Elmsford, gave him our passports, and were married by the mayor there in Dudley Malone's parlor on August 6, 1931."
      It was a secret marriage, and the couple traveled back to Hollywood by train as Mr. and Mrs. Martin Forster. Gloria and Michael next eloped to Yuma, Arizona, for a much publicized wedding. Controversy, which the publicity-conscious movie industry dearly loves, erupted when the upstaged mayor of Elmsford pointed out he had already married Swanson and Farmer in the ceremony arranged by Dudley Field Malone.
Malone had an earlier association with Gloria Swanson and the movie industry as corporate secretary of her movie production company called Gloria Productions. The company had been organized and bankrolled by her longtime lover Joseph P. Kennedy, whose trysts with her in Croton had been conveniently timed to coincide with periods when the Marquis was away.
      Proposed as a wartime grain-saving measure in 1917, the 18th Amendment prohibiting the manufacture and sale of alcoholic beverages did not go into effect until 1920, long after the war had ended. During the so-called Roaring Twenties, the country was divided into “Drys” (supporters of Prohibition) and “Wets” (for repeal).
      In June of 1924, the Ku Klux Klan and Drys under the leadership of William Jennings Bryan had made religion an issue in the Democratic convention at New York City's Madison Square Garden, preventing the nomination of Governor Al Smith, a Wet and a Catholic. On the 103rd ballot, an all-time record, the convention nominated the lackluster and uninspiring John W. Davis for president and Bryan's brother, Charles, for vice president.
      Always a political nonconformist, Malone made many unpredictable choices in his career. He supported Smith for re-election as governor in New York but refused to support the national ticket. Instead, he toured the country speaking for Senators Robert M. La Follette of Wisconsin and Burton K. Wheeler of Montana as candidates of the Progressive Party.
      He not only opposed the investigation into the Tammany Hall machine's participation in municipal corruption conducted by retired Judge Samuel Seabury but helped his friend, the popular bon vivant mayor Jimmy Walker, prepare his defense to the charges. Malone and comedian George Jessel had campaigned with Walker when he first ran for mayor in 1925.
      Seabury, who had presidential ambitions, had dumped the report of his investigations in the lap of Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt. Roosevelt called a hearing in Albany to look into Seabury's charges against Walker. In the face of mounting evidence that the jaunty mayor and his administration had been for sale, the mayor resigned.

      With his divorce practice in decline during the Depression, Malone was forced to declare bankruptcy in 1935. Turning his attention to Broadway, he appeared in several plays, mostly in bit parts. In 1941, he left New York for California and a job as general counsel for Twentieth Century-Fox studios.
      His physical resemblance to Winston Churchill earned him a role as the British prime minister in the 1943 Warner Brothers film Mission to Moscow. Recounting the experience of Joseph E. Davies as ambassador to the Soviet Union, the movie glossed over the brutal repressions of the Stalin regime in a thinly disguised attempt to keep public opinion favorable to Russia as an ally in the war.
      He also supplied Churchill’s voice in the film Edge of Darkness about the Norwegian underground and played Churchill again in An American in Paris. His acceptance of an actor's role toward the end of a long law career surprised some of his friends. He explained it by reminding them that "all lawyers and politicians are actors at heart."

      Troubled with a heart condition for about a dozen years, he was admitted to Culver City Hospital on October 4, 1950, and died of a heart attack the following day at the age of 68.
      Of all his public actions, Dudley Field Malone was proudest of having sacrificed a prestigious appointment on the altar of principle. His selfless gesture was a significant milestone in the bitter struggle that finally won the vote for American women.
      His son, also named Dudley Field Malone, had a long career as a theatrical talent agent and manager. Among his clients were singer Jane Froman and actor and screenwriter Emlyn Williams. He died of lung cancer in Bellport, Long Island, on January 1, 1990, his 59th birthday. There were no immediate survivors.

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