Martin "Moe" Snyder (December 6, 1893 – November 9, 1981),[a] commonly known as Moe the Gimp due to his lame left leg, was a Jewish-American gangster from Chicago, active in the 1920s and 1930s. Snyder was born and raised on Chicago's southwest side. He was five years of age when he injured his leg in an accident. Snyder left school after the fourth grade and sold papers as a newsboy. He later worked in newspaper circulation, and then moved to a job with the Metropolitan Sanitary District.
Snyder had both political and entertainment world connections. He knew most of the nightclubs in Chicago and the people who performed there. He once served as a bodyguard for Al Jolson. His second wife was the singer and entertainer Ruth Etting, whom he married in 1922 and whose career he aggressively promoted.[b] Snyder and Etting met when she was performing at the Marigold Gardens. He divorced his first wife to marry Etting.
In 1927, the couple moved to New York City, where Etting landed a starring role in the Ziegfeld Follies. After a move to Los Angeles in the early 1930s, Etting was hired for some film roles, later doing The Chase and Sanborn Hour there with Jimmy Durante. Etting remained in Los Angeles for her radio work, while Snyder returned to Chicago.
Divorce and shootingEdit
By 1934, the aggressive and controlling management of Snyder began to create professional problems for Etting. She was not being considered for many jobs due to Snyder's arguments with those who employed her. Etting went to England for work in 1936, where Snyder managed to involve himself in a street fight soon after their arrival; this resulted in unfavorable publicity for Etting. Etting divorced Snyder on the grounds of cruelty and abandonment on November 30, 1937. Snyder did not contest the divorce; he received a settlement from Etting.[c]
In January 1938, Snyder began making threatening telephone calls to Etting, at first claiming she concealed assets from him when the divorce settlement was made. Snyder was also upset that Etting was now seeing her accompanist, Myrl Alderman. Snyder told Etting he intended to come to California and kill her.[d] Etting obtained both police and private protection, but apparently believed the danger was past when Snyder did not appear soon after his telephone threats; she dismissed her bodyguards.
Snyder detained Myrl Alderman at a local radio station on October 15, 1938. He forced the pianist to drive him to his former wife at gunpoint. Etting and Edith Snyder, his daughter, were in the house when Snyder and Alderman arrived. When Snyder was told Edith was in another part of the house, he forced Etting to call her into the music room, where he held Etting and Alderman at gunpoint. Snyder told them to be quiet and that he intended to kill them all. When Myrl Alderman tried to speak, he was shot by Snyder, who then told Etting, "I've had my revenge, so you can call the police."
Etting, who said the only gun in the house was hers, was able to go into her bedroom for the gun after the shooting of Alderman. When Snyder saw Etting with the gun, he wrestled it away from her; it fell to the floor where Edith Snyder picked it up and started shooting at her father. Edith's shots did not hit her father, but went into the floor. Snyder's daughter said she shot at her father to save Ruth Etting.[e]
Charges and trialEdit
Snyder was charged with kidnapping Myrl Alderman and the attempted murder of Alderman, Etting, and his daughter, Edith, as well as California state gun violations. Snyder claimed that Myrl Alderman had a gun and shot at him first. He also said that Ruth Etting would not press charges against him because she was still in love with him. Snyder said he was drunk when he made the threatening calls to Etting and at that time, his intentions were to kill Etting and himself.
During Snyder's trial for the attempted murder of Myrl Alderman, Etting and Alderman were married in Las Vegas. Snyder was found guilty and sentenced, but was released on appeal after a year in prison. In January 1940, he won a new trial, but was returned to jail in lieu of bail. In August 1940, Myrl Alderman asked the district attorney to drop further prosecution attempts against Snyder for the 1938 shooting.
Snyder, who claimed to have been born in 1896, returned to Chicago in 1940 and went to work in the mail room at Chicago's City Hall. He was still living in Chicago and working in the City Clerk's office in 1972. In 1975, Snyder was interviewed for a Chicago Tribune article about the 1930s, where he claimed the stories about his mob connections were untrue. Snyder said he worked for a song publisher and that he knew various celebrities through that work.
Snyder had at least one child from his first marriage, a daughter, Edith. After her father and Ruth Etting were divorced, she remained living with her stepmother. Edith died of a heart condition in 1939. It is believed that Snyder died in Chicago in 1981.
Portrayal in filmEdit
Along with Ruth Etting and Myrl Alderman, Snyder sold his rights to his story to MGM for the 1955 film Love Me or Leave Me. James Cagney portrayed Snyder in the film, which was a fictionalized biography of Etting, who was played by Doris Day. Snyder was very dissatisfied with the way he was portrayed in the film.
- Snyder said he was 44 years old at his attempted murder trial in 1938.
- Snyder's aggressive behavior was well-known among those who had worked with Etting. It was said that most people working on Broadway were afraid of him. Ed Sullivan described Snyder as viewing the world as a battleground in the 1930s.
- Snyder received half of Etting's earnings at the time, $50,000, some securities and half interest in a home in Beverly Hills, California. Etting deducted the gambling debts of Snyder's she had paid and the cost of a home for Snyder's mother from the settlement.
- Snyder continued to claim he was cheated in the settlement even after shooting Myrl Alderman. When he spoke with his daughter on the telephone, Snyder also threatened her, saying he "would fix her ticket too".
- At the police reenactment of the shooting three days later, Edith Snyder wept as she said, "I don't yet know whether I am sorry I missed my Dad or whether I am glad".
- "Snyder Denies Ruth's Charges". Oakland Tribune. December 15, 1938. Retrieved January 4, 2017 – via Newspapers.com.
- Damuth, Laura; Breckhill, Anita (Winter 2000). "Ruth Etting: Chicago's Sweetheart and L.A.'s Little Lady". Nebraska Library Association Quarterly. pp. 18–23. Archived from the original on December 16, 2005. Retrieved April 1, 2015.
- Friedwald, Will (2010). A Biographical Guide to the Great Jazz and Pop Singers. Pantheon Books. p. 559. ISBN 978-0-3754-2149-5. Retrieved January 17, 2017.
- Leonard, William (June 12, 1955). "Ruth Etting: They Called Her Chicago's Sweetheart". Chicago Sunday Tribune. pp. 28–29. Retrieved April 1, 2015 – via Newspapers.com.
- Othman, Frederick C. (December 15, 1938). "Snyder Discloses Events Leading Up To Divorce In 1937". Oshkosh Daily Northwestern. p. 14. Retrieved January 16, 2017 – via Newspapers.com.
- "'Chicago's Sweetheart' Ruth Etting Dies at 82". Chicago Tribune. September 25, 1978. p. 11. Retrieved January 17, 2017 – via Newspapers.com.
- "Stage-Air Star Retires From Shows, Matrimony". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. United Press. November 16, 1937. Retrieved January 16, 2014.
- Mitchell, Curtis (January 1936). "Secrets About Radio Marriages". Radio Mirror. Macfadden Publishing: 28–29. Retrieved January 16, 2017.
- "What's New On Radio Row". Radio Mirror. Macfadden Publishing: 8. January 1935. Retrieved January 16, 2017.
- "Daughter of Snyder Tells of Shooting". Oakland Tribune. December 13, 1938. Retrieved January 4, 2017 – via Newspapers.com.
- "Tells Shooting By Ex-Husband Of Ruth Etting". Chicago Tribune. December 14, 1938. p. 10. Retrieved April 1, 2015 – via Newspapers.com.
- "Divorced, Ruth Etting Plans World Jaunt". Reading Eagle. December 1, 1937. Retrieved January 16, 2014.
- "Screen Star Testifies in Snyder Trial". The Evening Independent. December 13, 1938. Retrieved January 16, 2014.
- "Ruth Etting's Husband Shot By Her Former Mate, Moe Snyder". The Lincoln Star. October 17, 1938. p. 1. Retrieved March 31, 2015 – via Newspapers.com.
- "Ruth Etting Tells Grand Jury Snyder Made Death Threats". The Lincoln Star. October 19, 1938. Retrieved January 4, 2017 – via Newspapers.com.
- "Two Bodyguards For Pretty Ruth Etting". News-Herald. January 6, 1938. p. 9. Retrieved August 24, 2014 – via Newspapers.com.
- "Bodyguards Taken From Ruth Etting". The San Bernardino County Sun. January 9, 1938. Retrieved January 4, 2017 – via Newspapers.com.
- "Death Threat Described By Ruth Etting". The Pittsburgh Press. December 13, 1938. Retrieved January 16, 2014.
- "Snyder Scored By Ruth Etting". The Pittsburgh Press. December 13, 1938. Retrieved January 16, 2014.
- "Slangy Phrases, Scandal Hints Enthrall Court As Ex-Spouse Of Ruth Etting Relates Shooting". The Palm Beach Post. December 16, 1938. p. 11. Retrieved January 14, 2014 – via Newspapers.com.
- "Star's First Hubby Shoots At Successor". The Evening Independent. October 17, 1938. Retrieved January 16, 2014.
- "Edith Snyder Weeps as Police Stage Reenactment of Shooting". The Cumberland News. October 19, 1938. Retrieved January 4, 2017 – via Newspapers.com.
- "Ruth Etting's Ex On Trial In Strange Case". Sarasota Herald-Tribune. December 9, 1938. Retrieved January 16, 2014.
- "Ruth Etting's Secret Husband Shot By First". The Reading Times. October 17, 1938. Retrieved January 4, 2017 – via Newspapers.com.
- "But Etting Refuses to Reveal What Action She'll Take". The Brooklyn Daily Eagle. October 17, 1938 – via Newspapers.com.
- "Testimony of Snyder Heard". The San Bernardino County Sun. December 16, 1938. Retrieved January 4, 2017 – via Newspapers.com.
- "Snyder Claims Alderman Went for Gun". The Salt Lake Tribune. December 16, 1938. Retrieved January 4, 2017 – via Newspapers.com.
- "Ruth Etting Weds Pianist, Spouse Shot". The Telegraph. December 14, 1938. Retrieved January 16, 2014.
- "Verdict Reversed In Ruth Etting, Snyder Conflict". The Spartanburg Herald. Spartanburg, S.C. Associated Press. December 13, 1939. p. 5. Retrieved January 16, 2014.
- "Moe Snyder Jailed to Await Hearing". Bradford Evening Star. January 13, 1940. Retrieved January 5, 2017 – via Newspapers.com.
- "Alderman is Ready to Drop Prosecution Against Moe Snyder". The Lincoln Star. August 23, 1940. p. 6. Retrieved March 31, 2015 – via Newspapers.com.
- Leonard, William (June 12, 1955). "Ruth Etting: They Called Her Chicago's Sweetheart". Chicago Sunday Tribune. p. 36. Retrieved April 1, 2015 – via Newspapers.com.
- Blades, John (April 27, 1975). "Six With Special Reason to Remember". Chicago Tribune. p. 34. Retrieved April 1, 2015 – via Newspapers.com.
- "Movie Partly True". San Antonio Express. May 20, 1972. p. 2. Retrieved August 25, 2014 – via Newspapers.com.
- "Moe Snyder Weeps Bitterly at Death of 'Poor Little Baby'; Miss Etting Grieves at Loss". The Lincoln Star. International News Service. August 5, 1939. p. 1. Retrieved March 31, 2015 – via Newspapers.com.
- "Martin Moe Snyder 1893-1981-Illinois, Cook County Deaths, 1878-1939, 1955-1994". FamilySearch.org. Retrieved April 1, 2015.
- "The Gimp Is Back, Still Rough On Ruth". Life. Life: 67, 70. June 20, 1955. Retrieved January 18, 2014.