Thomas Ince was one of early Hollywood’s most pioneering producers—in fact, some credit him for popularizing “producer” as a job title and for codifying what it meant to do the job, as well as helping to develop the Western as a genre. But today, if Ince is remembered at all, it’s for his death aboard a yacht owned by William Randolph Hearst, amidst a star-studded party attended by Chaplin, writer Elinor Glyn, and actress/Hearst’s mistress Marion Davies. For decades, rumors have swirled that Ince was felled not by “acute indigestion,” as Hearst’s papers claimed, but by “a bullet hole in [his] head,” as Kenneth Anger put it. Who was Ince, what really happened on that yacht, and why have fictionalizations of his death (spread by Anger and others) flourished for so long?
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