Death in Hollywood: Eagles, Jeanne (Oscar Nominee, The Letter), Suicide

During the peak of her success, Jeanne Eagels began abusing drugs and alcohol and eventually developed an addiction. She went to several sanatoriums in an effort to kick her dependency. By the mid-1920s, she had begun using heroin. When she entered her 30s, Eagels began suffering from bouts of ill health that were exacerbated by her excessive substance abuse.

In September 1929, Eagels underwent eye surgery at St. Luke’s Hospital in New York City. At the time, she was also suffering from breathing problems and neuritis. After a ten-day stay, Eagels returned to her apartment on Park Avenue.

On October 3, 1929, Eagels and her secretary walked to the Park Avenue Hospital where Eagels had an appointment. While talking to the doctor, she began having convulsions and died shortly thereafter. The assistant chief medical examiner who performed Eagels’ autopsy concluded that she died of “alcoholic psychosis.”

The medical examiner stated that while Eagels had not consumed alcohol in the two days preceding her death, she had been “acting strangely” and suffering from hallucinations three or four days before she died.

Toxicology reports revealed that Eagels still had alcohol in her organs when she died in addition to heroin and chloral hydrate (a sedative that Eagels regularly for sleep). Her death was attributed to an overdose of the chloral hydrate.

After services in New York at the Frank E. Campbell Funeral Chapel, Eagels received a second funeral service when her body was returned to Kansas City on October 7, where she was buried in Calvary Cemetery.

Eagles was nominated posthumously for Best Actress for her role in The Letter at the 2nd Academy Awards in 1930.