A Hero Is Forgotten
On February 28, 1937, a short article titled "Headliner Fades Out" ran in the
back pages of the Los Angeles Times. A sort of living obituary, the piece
chronicled the precipitous fall of an ephemeral modern legend.
Since the summer of 1927, everything Charles A. Levine had touched ended in
ruin. In 10 years he had lost everything: fortune, family, and fame -- the latter
returning momentarily in 1934, when, the LA Times article reports, he
was "found unconscious in the kitchen of a friend's home, with five gas jets
on." In the eyes of the writer summarizing his life, Levine had sunk plenty
low. In fact, he had a ways to go.
A few months following the article's appearance, the erstwhile headliner was
back in the news, this time in connection with a Federal charge of tungsten
smuggling. After spending 18 months in jail, Levine was eventually busted again,
this time for the smuggling of an illegal alien. (The "alien" was a German Jew
denied an American visa in his attempt to escape Hitler.)
The former hero's indignities were for a time thought amusing enough for newspaper
back pages, but eventually even the tabloids lost interest. By the 1950s only
the FBI cared to investigate further.