The Scandalous Secret of Lew Cody’s Door

And how is everyone today? I’ve tweaked the ol’ blog banner up there, changing the Impact font to something a little more unique. The serifs are just a tad old-timey, but not too much. Or so I like to think.

Anyhoo! Here’s a marvel from the February 1927 issue of Motion Picture Magazine: actor Lew Cody posing with a door in his house bearing graffiti from just about anyone who was Anyone in Hollywood. Some of the details are hard to make out, and darn that glare, but if WordPress will play nice you should be able to click on it to see it up close:

Lew Codys door mot pit mag Feb. '27

I spy Mabel Normand, Alma Rubens, Charles Ray, Henry B. Walthall, Marie Prevost, Rudolph Valentino, Ralph Spence, Lloyd Hamilton…and note the fantastic “CONSTANCE T. VS. BUSTER” scratch toward the top (meaning Constance Talmadge and Buster Keaton, of course!).

Lew Cody, by the way, was in about 100 films from 1914-1934, for a time specializing in “male vamps.” He was one of the wittiest gents in Hollywood, often in demand as a speaker at social functions. He was also a close friend of  Keaton’s and husband to Mabel Normand from 1926 up until her 1930 death from TB (they may have married on a dare, but don’t take my word for it). He died of a heart attack in 1934. Leaving behind this door.

Geez. I want this door. Whatever happened to it, I wonder? Did it vanish when yet another old Hollywood home was torn down, eventually rotting to nothing in a scrap pile?

Lew Codys door detail mot pit mag Feb. '27

Now, I was simply going to post this pic for fun and be done with it, but out of idle curiosity I Googled “Lew Cody door.” Very much to my surprise, up popped a 1930 newspaper article: “Initials On Door Name Lew Cody In Divorce Action.” Well, grease my hair and call me Rudy!

Lew Cody article 1 1930

Holy cow! Did the innocent photo that amused me so much contain a decades-old secret? (And, wait, is that a dressing room door then, or is it still a door in Cody’s house? It really looks like a door in Cody’s house.)

As Capt. Wallace C. Ayer explained it, a few years before (after presumably travelling on business) he visited his wife in Hollywood to see that she had a bunch of expensive clothes and jewelry from an unknown source. Then he heard through the grapevine that his wife and Lew Cody were on quite affectionate terms.

Lew Cody article 3

Here’s the whole article:  And here’s one more, clarifying that the inscription was: A. W. O. L.  X  LEW  MAE AYER” (which I included below):,6141936&hl=en

Lew Cody article 2 1930

Well good grief, lady, try to hide your shame a little more thoroughly. 

Yup, I did it too–scrolled up, clicked, and scrutinized the photo for that A.W.O.L. Either I’m blind, Captain Wallace had an eye for detail that would make Rembrandt jealous, or there’s a different, clearer photo of it that circulated somewhere. In fact, the latter seems possible–in the January 1927 Motion Picture Magazine, one reader named Sally had written in to the popular Answer Man column with some questions, one being about Cody’s famed door:

Lew Cody door snippet

I could be wrong, of course, but if curiosity had been piqued about Cody’s door there must have been an image or two circulating at some point in time, unless it was just being mentioned in some of those publicity blurbs (as I call them). At any rate, I CAN’T FIND “A. W. O. L. X LEW MAE AYER.” [UPDATE: One of my fellow bloggers found it, take a look at the comments section!]

And there ya are, folks–what was originally going to be a simple post of a fun image turned out to be a peek into the scandalous lives of (some of) the rich and famous. The More You Know…!

17 thoughts on “The Scandalous Secret of Lew Cody’s Door

  1. Lol! It gets curiouser and curiouser. Do you think it possible there were TWO doors? Maybe Lew had a liking for graffiti doors. I’d give a pretty penny to now where that thing (or those things) is/are now.

    • I see it now!! THANK YOU!! At first it looked more like *smudge smudge* BEAVER. (Notice how the article don’t say what type of star it is…that’s mighty interesting).

      • It was actually the star that drew my attention. I was expecting a Jewish movie mogul like Louis B Mayer or Jesse Lasky, and there was the “AWOL…” No idea what it means in this context.

  2. Constance and Buster seemed to be real pals. I’ve seen several group photos with them in it, and they always seem to be having fun, or Constance laughing appreciatively at Buster, even when Natalie or Norma are looking glum. She also did a cameo in his Seven Chances. So the implied friendly rivalry between them scrawled on the door seems fitting. Lloyd Hamilton signed the door “For no reason,” something Buster used frequently too.

    • Thanks for the comment, John. 🙂 I’ve noticed that Buster and Connie seemed to have a lot of fun together. She was apparently full of fun and mischief.

  3. John, you did say on the Seven Chances disc that Buster bought Constance the car that she was driving in Seven Chances. It was nice that they got along very well with each other.

  4. Reminds me that in the interesting biography of dancer/director Charles Walters (“Easter Parade” etc.) the author writes that young gay men in Hollywood in the early 1930’s enjoyed getting together with Lew Cody for parties at his Malibu Beach house.

  5. Hi…. I think the Constance Talmadge and Buster is not Keaton. It’s William Collier, Jr. who’s nickname was Buster and who was engaged (more or less) to Talmadge for many years.

    • Interesting–that could very well be. I lean towards Keaton because of his friendship with Lew and his playful friendship with Constance, but it’s just a guess.

  6. The door was stolen in 1934 after Lew’s death. Nobody knows who took it (somebody with access to his house).

      • I was searching for it some years back. I looked at the list of suspects (friends and hired help) who had access. Harry Joe Brown said Lew owed him a lot of money for expenses that Harry advanced to Lew. He even filed a claim against Lew’s estate if memory serves. Don’t get me wrong I think Harry was a good guy, but he’s a list of suspects…

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