Santa Clarita Valley History In Pictures

Comedian Charley Mack Sues Ex-Secretary for Embezzlement.

Aspiring Acress Adept at Getting the Wrong Kind of Attention.


Charles E. Mack and Alice Polk: Wire photos accompanied news stories about the former's lawsuit against the latter in December 1932. Click each image to enlarge. Cutlines below.


Charles E. Mack, the famous blackface comedian who lived on Newhall's 8th Street in the late 1920s-early 1930s, sued his former confidential secretary to recover the $11,000 she allegedly embezzled from him. But that's the middle of the story. We're getting ahead of ourselves.

Alice Polk had a penchant for grabbing sensational headlines. The aspiring actress was working as a stenographer for a wealthy Beverly Hills contractor named Robert H. Nicholson in 1931 when she sued him for $50,000, claiming he drove her to the top of a mountain and made unwelcome sexual advances. When the case went to trial in 1932, our Charley Mack, her former employer, testified. On whose behalf, we don't know. Miss Polk, asked on the stand whether she had ever "kissed" Mr. Mack, replied coyly: "I can't answer that question, because I cannot betray the honor of Mr. Mack." She added: "I was Mr. Mack's greatest inspiration. I wrote some of his best lines" (Los Angeles Times, 2/17/1932).

Whatever he said, Charley Mack's testimony befuddled the jury. It couldn't reach a verdict and was discharged. On retrial, Miss Polk lost. But she still wanted that $50,000. So, she turned around and sued a banker named Wade E. Hampton for that amount, charging him with breach of a promise to marry her (L.A. Times, 7/31/1932). We'll have to investigate further, but it's likely she lost that one, too.

Dial up the clock five months to December 28, 1932. Charley Mack must have been incensed when he realized, one month after Alice Polk left his employment, that his accounts were $11,443 short. But he realized it back on June 25, 1930, according to reports (L.A. Times, 12/29/1932). She had worked for him from October 1, 1928, to May 20, 1930. Now here it was, two and a half years later. Why was he just getting around to suing her?

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Carl S. Kegley and the original Mrs. Kegley (Hazel). Click to enlarge.

Rhetorical question. We don't know, and it's too late to ask. We don't know the outcome of his lawsuit, either, but consider: (a) you can't bleed a turnip (or an "aspiring actress"); and besides, (b) Charley Mack died in a car crash 12 months later, January 11, 1934.

Our story doesn't end there. In 1934, Miss Polk, who, incidentally, claimed to be a descendant of President James K. Polk, married the firebrand attorney Carl S. Kegley, leader of the Los Angeles Minute Men. Kegley thought the police incompetent, and he hated District Attorney Buron Fitts most of all, especially after Fitts accused Kegley of being an accomplice to gangsters. Which he was. Kegley accused Fitts of being on the take. Which he was. But that's not the road we're going down.

Rather: The new Mr. and Mrs. Carl Kegley had a problem. Namely, the old Mrs. Kegley. She wanted her husband back. Or at least his alimony check. She complained. The court listened. Turns out, Carl Kegley married Alice Polk in Phoenix on the same day he obtained a quickie divorce decree by mail from a court in Juarez, Mexico. He never went to Mexico. L.A. Superior Court Judge Frank Smith ruled the divorce invalid. Now there were two Mrs. Kegleys. And one of them (the new one) was pregnant.

But wait, there's more.

By so ruling, Judge Smith overturned the divorces of every other celebrity who'd obtained a mail-order decree from a Mexican court (United Press story, May 5, 1934).

As in Hollywood, there are no degrees of separation (pun intended) in the Santa Clarita Valley. Thanks to Carl Kegley taking a shortcut to marry Alice Polk, Saugus residents Hoot Gibson and Sally Eilers would have to file for divorce all over again.

Now we're done.

— Leon Worden 2020


Back of Mack photo on left, back of Polk photo at right. Click each image to enlarge.


LW2357a & LW2357b (Mack): 9600 dpi jpeg from original print (unevenly cut to 8"x11"), purchased ~2013 by Leon Worden. LW2357c & LW2357d (Polk): 9600 dpi jpegs from original 6x8-inch ACME photo distributed by Newspaper Enterprise Association, purchases 2020 by Leon Worden. Download original scans: LW2357c (Polk-front), LW2357d (Polk-back).
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