The Mysterious Disappearance Of Actress Jean Spangler

The Golden Age of Hollywood brought great change to the film industry, with the Big-Five movie studios (Paramount, MGM, Fox, RKO, and Warner Brothers) producing experimental films and using new technology. At the peak of the Golden Age in the '30s, as many as 80 million people went to see films despite the Great Depression, per History. It was also a time when young women aspired to become film stars, much like the successful actresses of that time including Greta Garbo, Joan Crawford, and Bette Davis, among others.

Jean Spangler was a dancer and model who had high hopes of becoming a movie star. At 27 years old in 1949, Jean was on her way to the top, appearing in small roles in movies and television, just waiting for a breakout role that would get her noticed and catapult her into stardom. Now, the name Jean Spangler is somewhat famous, although not for the reasons that she wanted. October 7, 1949, was the last time Jean Spangler was seen alive, and the cause of her disappearance has baffled many up to this day (via Palm Springs Life).

Early years and personal life

Jean Elizabeth Spangler was born on September 2, 1923, in Seattle, Washington. Her family relocated to Los Angeles in her younger years. As a teenager, Jean enjoyed dancing and performed at the Florentine Gardens and the Earl Carroll Theatre, per Front Page Detectives. Shortly after her high school graduation, she married Dexter Benner when she was just 19 years old. The couple didn't have a good relationship, though, as Jean filed for divorce only six months after their marriage and alleged that Benner was cruel to her. Despite this, the couple had their first child, a daughter named Christine, in 1944.

Jean and Dexter's divorce was finalized in 1946, and Dexter was given custody of Christine. However, Jean again tried to fight for custody in 1948, this time winning the case. According to York Daily Record, Jean and Christine lived with Jean's mother, brother, and sister-in-law in the same home in 1948. By that time, Jean was also working on her career, already having appeared in uncredited roles as an extra in a few movies.

Jean's mysterious disappearance

On October 7, 1949, Jean told her sister-in-law, Sophie, that she had to go and meet her ex-husband, Dexter, to talk about child support. She also had a scheduled movie shoot that same night. She left her daughter with Sophie as her mother was in Kentucky visiting relatives. Later in the day, Jean called her home to say that she would be working late the entire night, per 9 News.

By the next night, Jean Spangler still wasn't home, which worried Sophie. She filed a missing persons report at the police station and the authorities took down details. However, being a young woman who worked in the film industry, the police didn't look too much into the case, thinking that Spangler would show up eventually, as reported by Palm Springs Life. It wasn't until someone found Jean's purse at Griffith Park the next day that authorities took action.

The handle of Jean's handbag was damaged and investigators found a cryptic note inside that read, "Kirk, Can't wait any longer. Going to see Dr. Scott. It will work best this way while mother is away" (via Entertainment Weekly).

Investigation reveals clues

The LAPD went on to investigate Jean Spangler's case, using the note in her handbag as their primary clue. Using the "Dr. Scott" mentioned in the note as a lead, investigators interviewed all doctors with the name Scott in the Los Angeles area. However, this resulted in a dead-end as none of them had a listed patient named Jean Spangler, per 9 News. In interviews with friends, authorities also learned that Jean was allegedly three months pregnant when she disappeared. They concluded then that Jean was seeking an abortion, which was illegal at the time. There were places where women could get abortions, but of course, they were off the books.

Jean's ex-husband was also interviewed, but he claimed that he had not seen Jean for weeks, which was backed up by his new wife. He also said he did not have a scheduled meet-up with her. The studios where Jean work was also investigated, but authorities found out that no movies were in production on the night Jean said she was going to work, per Palm Springs Life. A witness claimed he saw Jean at a Farmers Market at approximately 6 p.m. the night she left her home, and she appeared to be waiting for someone.

The last clue was the "Kirk" mentioned in the note. During the course of the investigation, the police received a call from none other than Kirk Douglas himself, who was already a big movie star at the time.

Kirk Douglas and other men

In Kirk Douglas' call to the detectives, he stated that he only remembered Jean when a friend told him that she was the woman who worked as an extra in his movie. "I talked and kidded with her a bit on the set... But I never saw here before or after that and have never been out with her," he said.

Jean Spangler was an extra in the movie "Young Man with a Horn" which starred Kirk Douglas. As Jean's mother recalled, there were a couple of instances when Jean was picked up at their home by someone named Kirk, although she couldn't say for certain that it was Kirk Douglas as the man stayed in the car both times (via Front Page Detectives).

Actor Robert Cummings, who worked with Jean on a film, also offered a clue when he revealed a conversation he had with Jean when he noted that she "sounded happy." Jean replied that she was, indeed, happy because she had "a new romance." When Robert asked if it was a serious relationship, Jean said, "Not really. But I'm having the time of my life," (via Palm Springs Life). The investigation also revealed that Jean Spangler had connections with many men, including actors, an educator, a nightclub owner, and a rich playboy. The investigators cleared Kirk Douglas of any involvement in Jean's disappearance.

Jean Spangler's case remains unsolved

After scouring surrounding areas and following leads, investigators were led to nowhere. There were reported sightings of Jean Spangler throughout the years, but none of them panned out. Jean's mother, Florence, believed that something bad happened to her daughter. In an interview, per The Los Angeles Times, she said, "I am sure she would have communicated with us if she is alive and free. And nobody can tell me that she would have left her baby unless she was forced to do so; she loved her too much."

Aside from Jean's bag, no other clues or remains were ever found. To this day, Jean Spangler's disappearance is still an unsolved missing person case, as no clues were found pointing it to be a homicide (via Entertainment Weekly). It seems that as time passes, more questions only arise and her disappearance may remain one of Hollywood's most fascinating mysteries that may never be solved.