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A beautiful young dancer and extra from the movie disappears without a trace, leaving the detectives with nothing but rumor and conjecture to guide their investigation.

Then a few days later, the police receive a phone call from one of Hollywood’s biggest stars.

“It’s Kirk Douglas. I didn’t know this girl,” said the voice.

Kirk Douglas was the 33-year-old star of Champion, the recent film for which he would be nominated for his first Oscar.

Jean Spangler and Kirk Douglas

Jean Spangler disappeared without a trace on October 7, 1949.
Jean Spangler disappeared without a trace on October 7, 1949. (Public domain)

Jean Spangler’s film career had started in 1948, a year before she disappeared without a trace.

She was a dancer in various uncredited roles, doing extra work and small roles in various films.

Kirk Douglas, meanwhile, was one of Hollywood’s up-and-coming stars, about to become a star.

After his acclaimed appearance in Champion, was cast in his second lead role in Young man with a horn, a musical with Lauren Bacall, Doris Day and, as an uncredited extra, Jean Spangler.

Though he had no lines, he was about to become as big a name as Douglas in the tabloids.

On October 7, 1949, Ms. Spangler told her sister-in-law that she had to meet with her ex-husband to discuss paying child support and then she would go to work for a late night movie shoot.

A few hours later he called again to say that he would be working all night.

When he did not return home the next day, the police were called.

The Screen Extras Guild found no records indicating that she had worked that night, and no studies reported having her on the payroll that night.

And her ex-husband said he hadn’t seen her in weeks, an alibi backed up by his new wife.

By all accounts, Ms. Spangler had disappeared without a trace.

A few days later, Ms. Spangler’s purse was found in Griffith Park, a huge and rugged park about six miles from her home.

The straps on the bag were damaged, but nothing appeared to have been removed.

What was inside was a handwritten note:

Kirk: I can’t wait any longer, I’m going to see Dr. Scott. It will work best this way while the mother is gone.

This note found in Jean Spangler's bag raised more questions than it answered.
This note found in Jean Spangler’s bag raised more questions than it answered. (Public domain)

The note only intensified the mystery of Ms. Spangler’s disappearance.

The LAPD interviewed all of the Scott Doctors in Los Angeles, but none of them had Ms. Spangler as a patient.

Friends told police that Ms. Spangler was three months pregnant when she disappeared.

Detectives suspected she was seeking an abortion.

At the time, abortion was illegal, making it a risky and often dangerous procedure that had to be carried out unofficially.

And who was the Kirk mentioned in the note?

Friends and family were puzzled.

Spangler’s mother recalled that Kirk had picked her up twice from her home, but she never met him.

Shortly after the note was found, the tabloids established a link between Ms. Spangler and Kirk Douglas.

But he wasn’t on the LAPD’s radar until he called them himself.

He told detectives that he did not know Ms. Spangler and that he had been on vacation in Palm Springs.

Kirk Douglas (seen here in 1962) would go on to become one of Hollywood's most iconic actors.
Kirk Douglas (seen here in 1962) would go on to become one of Hollywood’s most iconic actors. (AP)

Then a few days later, his story changed, and the actor released a statement through his attorney.

“Mr. Douglas didn’t even remember the girl, but when he spoke to the people who worked with him on the photo Young man with a hornThey reminded her that she was a girl who wore a certain type of dress, “the statement read.

“Then he remembered her and the fact that he had teased her a little bit on set like he had a lot of other extras.”

Douglas insisted that he had never dated her or knew her name.

Douglas interrupted his Palm Springs vacation to return to Hollywood for questioning.

The police never considered him the prime suspect and his career was not hampered by his connection to Ms. Spangler.

Over the next decade he would become one of the biggest names in Hollywood, starring in movies like Spartacus, lust for life and Paths of Glory.

He died in February of this year at the age of 103.

Kirk Douglas with Doris Day in 'Young man with a horn'.
Kirk Douglas with Doris Day in “Young man with a horn.” (Warner Bros)
Micky Cohen was the most notorious crime boss in Los Angeles.
Micky Cohen was the most notorious crime boss in Los Angeles. (Public domain)

LAPD detectives were hampered by a unique problem in Ms. Spangler’s disappearance: They had too many leads, but they were all weak.

She had worked as a dancer in a nightclub related to mob bosses Anthony Cornero and Micky Cohen, as well as dozens of other shady characters.

It was also speculated in some newspapers that he was another victim of the Black Dahlia killer, who had attacked a year earlier.

A news story in wide circulation suggested without any evidence that she was “the victim of a mad butcher-murderer.”

Police also investigated whether she may have died while having an abortion, a disturbingly common occurrence while it was illegal.

Or maybe there was no crime.

Spangler had also been seen more than once with Davy Ogul, a Cohen associate.

Two days after she disappeared, Ogul also disappeared.

Police may have been dealing with a murder case, but they became increasingly suspicious that Ogul and Spangler had simply run away from town.

At the time, Ogul was under investigation for conspiracy.

And a year later, in El Paso, a customs agent and a hotel employee reported seeing Ogul and Ms. Spangler at a hotel.

Seventy-one years later, Ms. Spangler is still listed as a missing person and the LAPD has not closed the case.

If Ms. Spangler is still alive, she will be 97 years old.


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