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Thursday, June 30, 2016

Rex Harrison & The Suicide Inquest

On July 8, 1948, three days after Carole's death, Coroner Ben Brown held an informal inquest to find out what the motive was for her suicide. Carole's lover Rex Harrison arrived at the hearing with his boss Darryl F. Zanuck. He denied being romantically involved with Carole. When Rex was asked why she had killed herself he said: "I'm sorry, but I can't give you any explanation for it at all. We talked about scripts of a new play I had and the possibilities of her playing in it. We also discussed her project of returning to England. I told her I might be able to help. Her death was a great tragedy. She was a fine actress - and a wonderful woman."

Rex Harrison at the hearing

Rex also claimed that Carole was having financial problems and that she was suffering from malaria. Carole's maid Fannie Mae Bolden told the coroner that Rex had dinner at the house every day and that Carole was not despondent. According to Fannie's version of events Rex arrived at the house on the afternoon of July 5 and told her "I think she's dead". Then they both went upstairs and found Carole's body on the bathroom floor. Rex put his hand on her arm and said "I feel a little life." Fannie also said she saw a second note in the house.

 
Florence Wasson at the hearing
 
Carole's close friend Florence Wasson testified that she saw the second note too. She said the note was about the cat, Miss C, being sick and needing to go to the vet. However Carole's mother, Clara Ridste, said there was nothing wrong with the cat. Unfortunately the second note disappeared from the house. Years later Lilli Palmer, Rex Harrison's wife, admitted that the second note was a lovers farewell and that a police officer was paid $500 to destroy it.


When the hearing was over Carole's death was officially ruled a suicide. Coroner Brown told the press "I've gone as far as I can. I have gone to the limits of my authority. The testimony itself revealed no criminal action, and I cannot go further". Carole's family refused to believe that she took her own life. They thought that Rex Harrison was responsible for her death and that he bribed the police to cover it up. Her family even hired a private investigator but they were unable to prove he did anything illegal.

Carole's death certificate


A clip about Carole from Rex Harrison's A&E documentary