August 9, 1929: In San Francisco, the feisty Eunice Pringle demands an interview with theatre owner Alexander Pantages. Shortly, she runs from his office screaming rape. His arrest makes the following day’s press. On October 27, he was convicted and sentenced to fifty years in prison. He was over fifty and far from fit; she was a seventeen year old dancer.
Pantages appealed his conviction, was granted a retrial, and was cleared in 1931. The retrial included a renactment of the rape that demonstrated it would have been near physically impossible. Pantages died in 1936. Although he is one of the forgotten men of Hollywood, at the time of his conviction, Pantages was wealthy beyond the dreams of avarice, but the scandal and his incarceration broke him both financially and more importantly physically. He was clearly not in the best of health anyway, and there has been intelligent speculation that his accuser was not the prime mover behind his conviction. For one thing, Pringle had been badgering him for an audition; why would he reject a young woman and then sexually assault her?
Leaving aside the baselessness of the rape claim, this story has been embroidered by the usual suspects - people long on imagination, short on facts. One such claim is that Pringle confessed on her deathbed to being bribed to fake the rape claim. In reality she married twice and died aged 84 in obscurity, March 26, 1996.
This 2003 article by retired attorney Megan A. Wagner, goes into considerable depth about the background to the Pantages/Pringle case, but caveat emptor, especially with the date given for Pringle’s death!
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