After the Philadelphia police took Hope Dare’s mugshot in 1938, a reporter managed to get access to it and photograph it for a news publication. Was a payoff involved? Very likely, since the ex-Broadway showgirl was a celebrity, albeit a fading one. On the back of her mugshot-turned-news-photo is the comment “not a publicity photo.” Seriously? Well, it was the era of film noir, and perhaps someone might get confused and think Hope was making a comeback in a role as a femme fatale.
The truth was that she’d been charged with being a “suspicious character.”
Hope was the lover of a mobster lawyer named Julius Richard Davis, aka “Dixie Davis.” Prior to taking up with Dixie, Hope had been a chorus girl and dancer with the Ziegfeld Follies in New York City. Ziegfeld described her as “the most beautiful redhead I ever hired.” In 1932 she was photographed at a New York nightclub in the company of prizefighter Jack Dempsey.
She was born Rosa Lutzinger in Iowa, towards the close of 1908. Her father disappeared before she turned two, and her mother got remarried to a fireman from Las Vegas, New Mexico.
Rosa had big dreams and plans and wasn’t about to spend her life in a one-horse town. As soon as she could, she moved to The Big Apple and adopted a stage name — Hope Dare — that expressed her optimistic outlook on the world, with a nod to life’s challenges and her readiness to take them on.
By the time her mugshot was taken in Philadelphia, Hope was pushing 30 and her glamorous showbiz career was over.
Dixie Davis was a smart, unscrupulous guy. Born in 1904 to a poor family, his brains and chutzpah got him into Syracuse University, then Columbia Law School. After graduation he worked at a distinguished New York City law firm, but the money he made didn’t flow in fast enough to satisfy his expensive tastes. He turned to defending policy lottery violators in Harlem at $15 a pop. From there he moved on to the big-time, becoming a lawyer for mobsters.
By 1931 Dixie was raking in a fortune as a lawyer for Arthur Flegenheimer, better known as “Dutch Schultz.” Schultz referred to Dixie as his “kid mouthpiece.” When Schultz was murdered in a Newark restaurant in October 1935, Dixie took over his multi-million dollar “policy empire.” The lawyer to gangsters became one himself.
That same year an ambitious lawyer from Michigan named Thomas Dewey was appointed the special prosecutor for the Southern District of New York. Setting set his sights on cleaning up organized crime in the city, Dewey put Dixie and a handful of his cronies squarely in his sights.
Dixie was no fool; he saw the writing on the wall and vanished from the city in July 1937. Detectives eventually located him in Philadelphia, shacked up with his girlfriend, Hope. After battering down the door to their apartment, the police took them into custody..
Hope, who put on a black wig to hide her red hair, claimed her name was “Rose Rickert.” The charges against her were dismissed. Dixie was sent to New York to face the music.
At the time of his arrest, Dixie was a married man. After the arrests, his affair with Hope was widely publicized. Thanks to the publicity, his wife divorced him. Her comment to the press: “The redheads always get them, don’t they?”
Dixie had already been disbarred for having advised criminals in general and Schultz in particular, in advance of committing crimes. He was indicted for conspiracy to operate the numbers racket.
He was held at the Tombs prison in lower Manhattan, from which he was allowed to make “secret” visits to Hope at her apartment, in return for cooperating with prosecutors. Hope desperately wanted him to get out of organized crime. She knew that if he didn’t, he was going to end up dead. She pressed him to cooperate with Dewey, and eventually he agreed.
He received a lenient prison sentence in return for testifying against his co-defendant, Jimmy Hines, and was released from prison in July 1939. Having turned state’s evidence, his career in the underworld was over. The Witness Protection Program didn’t exist then, so the couple had to be very careful not to let their whereabouts be known. After Dixie was released from prison, he and Hope were married in a secret ceremony guarded by detectives. The newlyweds moved across the country to Los Angeles.
Fast-forward thirty years. On December 30, 1969, two masked men home broke into the Davis’s Bel-Air home. Dixie was away from the house, but Hope was at home. The burglars tied her up at gunpoint and ransacked the house, stealing cash, furs, and jewelry. After the men left, she was able to get free and call police. Dixie returned home about 30 minutes after the robbery. Upon hearing the details, he sat down in the living room, suffered a heart attack, and died.
Hope was one tough broad. She lived another 30 years, dying on March 31, 1999, aged 90.
Featured photo: Hope Dare’s 1938 mug shot, rephotographed by a news photographer. Collection of the author.