Around 1943. Lynne Baggett is new to Hollywood. She arrived, age 18, from Wichita Falls, Texas, where she was discovered by a talent scout. Now, she has a three-year contract with Warner Brothers and this is one of the shots they’re using to promote her. Unfortunately her career will go nowhere. Although her filmography on IMDb lists 24 movies, most of her appearances are uncredited.
In 1947, she will meet Sam Spiegel, a notoriously temperamental producer and 20 years older than her, at a screen test for one of his films. She will move in with him and the following year they will get married. By 1949 there are rumours that the marriage is under strain. When, early in 1951, Sam travels to London for pre-production of The African Queen, Lynne embarks on an affair with a handsome young writer who, like her, is married. Later that year, according to Sam, she will slash all his suits and destroy six Picassos. In 1952 he will file for divorce.
In 1954, Lynne’s life will go into a tailspin. She will do a hit-and-run on her way home from a party (echoes of Helen Walker), when the car she’s driving slams into a station wagon filled with boys returning from summer camp. Four will be injured and one killed. She will get off lightly – acquitted of manslaughter but sentenced to 60-days in county jail and placed on three years’ probation. The judge will remark:
I cannot accept her story of a blackout [after the accident] and the jury couldn’t believe it, either. She was extremely rational soon after the accident, and from then until she was arrested two days later she used every resource at her command to get her car repaired and to conceal her identity.
In June 1959 things will go from bad to worse. Lynne will take an overdose of sleeping pills but then call a telephone operator and tell them what she’s done. It’s a plea for help. In August, a friend will find her in a terrible state. She will claim she slipped, fell halfway under her foldaway bed, hurt her back, couldn’t move or reach her phone and had to be rescued by firemen. Whatever the case, she will be kept in hospital to be treated for malnutrition. Later the same year she will become partially paralyzed from drug addiction and diagnosed as a chronic depressed neurotic.
Finally, in March 1960, six weeks after being released from a private sanitorium, she will take another overdose and be found dead, age just 35.
In her defence, according to an article by Laura Wagner in issue 78 of Films of the Golden Age, Lynne’s severe emotional and mental problems may have been caused, at least in part, by a head injury she sustained as a child.