The Talking Mail Box

I have no idea why the Talking Mailbox didn’t catch on. This publicity photo is said to be from 1943, taken in California, and the young lovely listening to the mailbox is Lynn Baggett, whose story is a cautionary tale for young women with stars in their eyes. Miss Baggett was “discovered” at the age of 19 by a Warner Brothers talent scout while walking to work in downtown Dallas, and came to Los Angeles where she landed a movie contract and appeared in 24 films.

She was, however, credited in only three of them. She is remembered in some circles as a beautiful but silent waitress in Mildred Pierce (1945), as a jilted beauty in Douglas Sirk’s Lured (1947), and as the widow Mrs. Philips in the film noir D.O.A. (1950).

Her real role was as a studio beauty. Playwright Arthur Laurents said of her: “She was very sweet, and very dumb.” A producer’s wife said that Baggett was “foolish, with no brains at all,” and over-indulged in alcohol and cocaine. Baggett lived with and later married producer Sam Spiegel, who was 20 years her senior. But after four years, Spiegel lost interest and divorced her, claiming multiple adulteries on her part. For her part, she said, “He said I made him nervous and he asked me to leave.” Among her other paramours were Irwin Shaw and John Huston.

After parting from Spiegel in 1952, she became an Arthur Murray dance instructor. In 1954, after attending a party given by Arthur Treacher, she drove her Nash Rambler into a station wagon filled with boys returning from summer camp, killing a 9-year-old. She fled the scene. When arrested, she told the police, “I wish I’d been killed instead of the boy. I’m so confused. I wish I were dead.” She served 50 days in jail, and said it was an important experience for her, but she never was able to get her life together again. In 1959, the ambulance was summoned twice, once when she was found under her bed, unconscious from malnutrition, and once to rescue her from an overdose of sleeping pills. In 1960, she died from her second overdose; she was 34 years old.

There was no mention of the Talking Mailbox in her obituary.

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