The premise of The Fixers: Eiddie Mannix, Howard Strickling and the MGM Publicity Machine, by E. J. Fleming, is that in the days when the movie studios dominated the Los Angeles economy studio executives used their influence with city officials, including law enforcement, to protect their stars — the studios’ biggest assets — when the stars got into trouble. The “fixers” were studio executives who were charged with cleaning up these messes, even if the clean-up involved tampering with evidence, as is believed to have happened in numerous sensational cases, including the murder of director William Desmond Taylor and the purported suicides both of Jean Harlow’s husband Paul Bern, a studio executive himself, and Thelma Todd, the comedic actress and nightclub entrepreneur, just to name a few.
Fleming covers these and many other famous Hollywood crimes and scandals, focusing on how MGM fixers Eddie Mannix and Howard Strickling interfered with investigations and engineered coverups. Most of the incidents he covers are familiar stories in the Hollywood hagiography, even if the coverups and skullduggery behind them are not. One that is not as well known, however, is the story of the death in December 1937 of comedian Ted Healy, a vaudevillian and successful supporting player in movies who earned a place in the slapstick comedy hall of fame by inventing of the Three Stooges.