Brenda Allen

Last updated
Brenda Allen
Born1913 or 1914 [1] [2]
Other namesMrs. Marie Mitchell, Marie Brooks [3] [4]
OccupationBrothel owner, prostitute
Known for Brenda Allen scandal
Robert H. Cash
(m. 1960;div. 1961)
[4] [3] [5]

Brenda Allen (aka Marie Mitchell) was a madam based in Los Angeles, California, whose arrest in 1948 triggered a scandal that led to the attempted reform of the Los Angeles Police Department (L.A.P.D.). Allen received police protection due to her relationship with Sergeant Elmer V. Jackson of the L.A.P.D.'s administrative vice squad, who reportedly was her lover.


Early career

Allen began as a sex worker in Los Angeles in the 1930s, though she already had several prior morals charges in other US cities. She rose to prominence around 1940 as the successor to Ann Forrester (aka "Black Widow"), who had previously run a $5,000-a-week prostitution syndicate but was convicted and sentenced to prison. [6]


After an attempted robbery of Brenda Allen and Sergeant Jackson in which Jackson shot and killed the perpetrator, the press and other members of the police became aware of their relationship. Wiretaps led to the arrest of Allen and the resulting publicity to the convening of a grand jury.

The publicity from the grand jury revelations of police corruption led to the resignation of L.A.P.D. Chief Clemence B. Horrall and his replacement by retired Marine Major General William A. Worton, who had served with the Marine Corps' III Amphibious Corps at the Battle of Okinawa. [7]


Worton was appointed by L.A. mayor Fletcher Bowron on a temporary basis. He served from July 1949 to August 1950, when he was replaced as chief by William H. Parker, who had served the general as a special aide and then as head of Internal Affairs (Horrall's deputy chief, Joe Reed, also resigned after being shamed by grand jury testimony.) It was Parker, in his 16-year reign as police chief, who is credited with cleaning up the L.A.P.D.

Cultural impact

The relationship between Allen and Jackson was depicted in author John Gregory Dunne's 1977 novel True Confessions , which was later turned into a movie starring Robert de Niro and Robert Duvall (as Jackson).

Brenda Allen was played by Joan Van Ark in the CBS made-for-television film Shakedown on the Sunset Strip (1988).

The story of Brenda Allen also plays a role in the 2011 video game L.A. Noire . In an attempt to divert media attention from Allen's arrest and protect themselves, the corrupt police chief and other public officials expose an affair between German singer Elsa Lichtman and the game's protagonist, Cole Phelps, resulting in him being demoted and disgraced.

The scandal appears in the James Ellroy novels The Black Dahlia , The Big Nowhere , Perfidia and This Storm , and is mentioned extensively in the book LAPD '53 for which Ellroy provided text to photographs provided by the Los Angeles Police Museum.

See also

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  1. "Brenda Allen Quits Battle, Begins Term". Los Angeles Evening Citizen News. Retrieved March 26, 2021.
  2. "Brenda's Revenge". Time. July 11, 1949. "and she hadn't been in love since she was 21 (about 15 years ago by latest reckoning)." Retrieved March 26, 2021.
  3. 1 2 UPI. "Charges Wife Misrepresented Herself Falsely". Redlands Daily Facts. Retrieved March 27, 2021.
  4. 1 2 California Marriage Index, 1960-1985. FamilySearch. Retrieved March 27, 2021.
  5. Murphy, Annie (June 14, 2018). "Seduction, Corruption, Deception, and Protection – The Black Widow and the Vice Queen (Part 2)". Los Angeles Public Library.
  6. Rasmussen, Cecilia. "History of Hollywood Madams Is Long, Lurid". Los Angeles Times. November 30, 1997. Retrieved August 30, 2011
  7. "California: Brenda's Revenge". Time . 11 July 1949. Retrieved 14 August 2011.

Further reading