The encrypted letter of a silent movie star
Actress Mary Miles Minter left a coded letter that may be connected to a murder case. I do not know the plain text. Can a reader decode this letter?
Thanks to Google, I came across another interesting episode from the history of cryptology on the Internet, which to my knowledge is not mentioned anywhere in the relevant literature.
Mary Miles Minter
The story centers on the silent film actress Mary Miles Minter (1902-1984).
Admittedly, I did not know this lady until now. However, on Wikipedia you can find an entry where you can read, among other things, the following:
Minter was born in 1902, the daughter of Broadway actress Charlotte Shelby. Her mother urged her to pursue an acting career. In 1915 she got her first leading role. On the screen she was mostly seen as a loving and kind-hearted young girl. In 1919 she met director William Desmond Taylor and began a relationship with the man 30 years her senior.
The relationship with Taylor came into the spotlight when he was shot dead in his Hollywood home on February 1, 1922. Among the suspects in this murder case, which remains unsolved to this day, was Minter’s mother. The details of the relationship published in the course of the Taylor murder case – including illustrious love letters, some of which were in code – permanently damaged Mary Miles Minter’s image. After the scandal, she was unable to continue her previous successes.
The encrypted letter
On the “Silent Era” website, which is about silent films, the following two-page encrypted letter from Minter can be seen without any additional information:
Presumably this is one of the “illustrious love letters” mentioned on Wikipedia. Minter apparently used a variant of the Pigpen cipher to encrypt the letter.
I assume that this letter was already solved almost 100 years ago, in the course of the mentioned scandal. However, the plaintext is not known to me. Can a reader decipher the letter? Can any other encoded letters from Minter’s pen be located?
Film divas in cryptology
Mary Miles Minter, by the way, is the third movie diva I’ve covered on “Cipherbrain” because she left her mark on cryptology history. Hedy Lamarr and Diana Dors are the other two.
The Austrian-American actress Hedy Lamarr (1914-2000) not only shone on the screen, but was also active as an inventor. As an opponent of National Socialism, she developed a radio remote control for torpedoes in 1942. This was difficult to aim and jam due to constantly changing frequencies. This method, also known as “frequency hopping,” is used today by every cell phone, among others. It was also used for encryption as early as the Second World War.
The British actress Diana Dors (1931-1984) was considered the European answer to Marilyn Monroe. In addition to her films, her private life also made headlines time and again. She left her son an encrypted message that allegedly described the whereabouts of a large sum of money. It was possible to decode this cryptogram, but the money remained untraceable.
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Further reading: Der versteckte Code im Abspann des Films “Fair Game”