VIP Lila Leeds

Lila Leeds (January 28, 1928 - September 15, 1999)

Lila Leeds is best known as the actress who was arrested with Robert Mitchum for marijuana in 1948. She and Mitchum both did 60-day sentences for their "crime," but Mitchum fared better than Leeds did in the aftermath.

Leeds was a 20-year-old starlet under contract at Warner Brothers who resembled Lana Turner when she met restauranteur Stephen Crane while working as a hat-check girl. Crane had been married to Turner, and the couple had a child, Cheryl, who became infamous after she stabbed and killed Turner's mobster boyfriend to defend her mother at the age of 15.

At the time of her arrest with Mitchum, Leeds was engaged to Crane. One of her bit parts was in Turner's vehicle Green Dolphin Street, where she plays a Eurasian woman who drugs the leading man and rolls him. She was luminous there, and as the receptionist in 1947's Lady in the Lake (shown.)

Cheryl Crane's book Detour: A Hollywood Story says:

"Dad knew that Lila had smoked pot ever since she tried it at a St. Louis party three years before with members of the Stan Kenton orchestra, and sometimes she overdid it....She was often stoned, and his friends cautioned Dad that she had a problem, but he knew pot was no enslaving 'devil's weed,' as it has been painted in the unintentionally hilarious 1936 cautionary film Reefer Madness."

After Leeds was arrested on August 31, 1948 , Stephen Crane fled to Europe rather than become entangled in scandal, abandoning Cheryl when she was only five years old. There he tried his hand at writing a gossip column titled, "Champagne and Vinegar." In his debut column he wrote about the Mitchum bust, saying, "Yet if Mitchum should come to Paris he could attend a small private jive club on the Left Bank where waiters come around to the tables and roll the marijuana cigarettes for you." No less than three Hollywood stars, he noted, were "seen entering" the place the previous week.

In a police deposition, Leeds accused her roomate Vicki Evans of being a police informer, and said that Mitchum was framed for the offense. (Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Sept. 27, 1949) Leeds said she and her roomate often smoked reefers together but Evans refused to smoke them on the day of the bust, and she was the one who let police in. Evans (real name: Florence Fidele of East End, Pittsburgh) denied the charge two days later in the same paper, calling it "silly." Neither Evans nor bartender Robin Ford, who brought Mitchum to the scene of the "crime," were tried for the incident.

Crane writes that Leeds said she was introduced to heroin by fellow inmates at LA County Jail, and it lead to addiction. Other than the Reefer Madness-style anti-drug film She Shoulda Said No, Leeds never had another film role. She became so destitute that she hocked the 3-carat diamond ring Stephen had given her for $750. In the 70s, she worked as a faith healer for addicts.

TCM will be airing several movies with Leeds in 2014:


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