Old Hollywood, Jealousy

This isn’t Old Hollywood, but it did happen back in the day.

This actress was probably A- list when she was killed.

She was headed to A list.

She was the co-lead on a brand new show that was set to be a massive hit.

Her husband, a celebrity offspring was jealous of her success and jealous of the time she was spending with another man.

Even though the couple had separated, he wanted the actress all to himself and killed her.

He did so at the perfect time.

There had been a crime spree the days leading up to her death which saw random killings of couples and women and several armed robberies.

It took so long for the police to realize those suspects were not the suspects in the death of the actress, they had no clues or witnesses and our killer was never brought to justice.

Actress: Barbara Colby

Show: Phyllis

Husband: Bob Levitt, Mother: Ethel Merman
Ethel Merman was an American actress and singer. Known primarily for her distinctive, powerful voice and leading roles in musical theatre, she has been called “the undisputed First Lady of the musical comedy stage”.

Other Man: James Kiernan

The Unsolved Murder of Barbara Colby

As I was recently watching a rerun of the 1971 premiere episode of the Columbo series entitled, “Murder by the Book”(there were two previous TV movies). I was interested as I am completing the biography of Peter Falk. In this episode the guest star Jack Cassidy, it was directed by some kid named Steven Spielberg and written by another kid named Steven Bochco. I interviewed both of those kids for the biography.

However, in re watching this entry I noticed a standout actress named Barbara Colby who was brutally murdered in the episode. When I read the credits and saw her name, I recalled that she was in actuality brutally murdered four years later in 1975 in Los Angeles (Venice) with a fellow actor. She had just secured a regular part (she had done 3 episodes already) on “Phyllis ” starring Cloris Leachman.

This story of Barbara Colby and her murder is found on the great website that was created and written by a friend, the talented Scott Michaels.

On Thursday night July 24, 1975, Barbara was about 30 miles from her Topanga Canyon home teaching an acting class in Venice CA (according to the LA Times). At about 11:50pm, she and her actor companion James Kiernan were walking to their car parked in this lot. It was normal for Barbara and pals to congregate in the parking lot after class and talk. Her friend actor Ron Rifkin would have been there too – but he stayed home sick that evening. They were approached by two black men in a light colored van. Barbara and James were shot once. Neither were robbed.
Police received a call just before midnight, stating that a man was heard screaming, and then gunshots. When police arrived, Barbara was dead at the scene. A small caliber bullet had entered her left arm and chest, perforating her left lung. She was 35 years old.
Before he died from his gunshot wound at David Brotman Memorial Hospital at 1:32am, James Kiernan gave police the details of their brutal unprovoked attack.

The day after the shooting, LA Times reported: In a violent 40 minutes, two women and a man were murdered and six other people were threatened, molested or robbed Thursday night in three separate street attacks in the West Los Angeles-Santa Monica area.
By Monday, LA Times headlines warned: Homicides Doubled, High Crimes Up 14% and Police Beef Up Force After Five Murders.

Six young men were soon arrested and questioned after the crime spree – but they were cleared with no connection found to Barbara’s murder. The case was never solved.

On a side note, Barbara’s mother kept her daughter’s bloodstained handbag.

On the Saturday after the shooting, Barbara was given an afternoon (closed casket) visitation service at Pierce Brothers Funeral Home at 1307 Seventh Street in Santa Monica. In the next parlor from Barbara’s wake, Mrs. Gloria Witte’s funeral began at 3pm. Mrs. Witte (age 57) had been slain on the same night/same area, minutes before, by gun-toting punks on a thrill ride. – Source:

Read more on these Tags: , , , ,