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John Gerard Longer de Saulles

John L. de Saulles (1912)
Born 1879
South Bethlehem, Pennsylvania
Died August 3 1917
Westbury, New York
Occupation American athlete and Real estate broker
Spouse(s) Blanca Errázuriz
Children John L. de Saulles Jr
Parents Arthur Brice de Saulles and Catherine Heckscher

John Gerard Longer de Saulles (b. 1879 – August 3, 1917) was a prominent American athlete, Real estate broker and business man who was murdered by his millionaire wife, leading to a widely-reported trial.


Early life

John "Jack" Gerald Longer de Saulles was born in South Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, the son of Arthur Brice de Saulles and Catherine Heckscher, a daughter of New York City merchant Charles A. Heckscher. He became a star quarterback and captain of the Yale University's varsity team of 1901, being chosen as the quarterback on the all-American team. In 1902 he was named Head Coach of the Virginia Cavaliers football team,[1] where he compiled a 8-1-1 record.

In 1911, de Saulles travelled to Chile as representative of the South American Concessions Syndicate, a concern made up largely of Americans living in London, which was active in promoting the Trans Andean Railroad, connecting the railway systems of Chile and Argentina. While there, the 32-year-old de Saulles met 16-year-old Chilean heiress Blanca Errázuriz. They were soon engaged and on December 14, 1911 he married her at the English Catholic Church,[2] in Paris, France.[3]

Blanca Errázuriz and John de Saulles (1912)

The married couple settled in New York City, where he became a partner of the family-owned real estate firm Heckscher & de Saulles. He participated very actively in the 1912 presidential election, where de Saulles organised 72,000 college men for Wilson. In the campaign de Saulles and President Wilson became close friends, and he was rewarded with an appointment as U.S. Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary to Paraguay,[4] but after the Senate had confirmed the appointment and even though he took the oath of office, he resigned before traveling to take up the post, explaining that his business interests in the United States made it impossible for him to accept.[5]



The divorce

In 1915, Blanca Errázuriz befriended Rudolph Valentino in New York City, where he was working as an exhibition dancer and had gained attention for his rendition of the Argentine tango, which was the craze at the time. Valentino enjoyed befriending many people of high society, and Blanca Errázuriz was unhappily married to De Saulles by whom she already had a son. Whether the two, Valentino and Errázuriz, actually had a romantic relationship is unknown, but Valentino was quite smitten with her so when Blanca was seeking a divorce from her husband, Valentino agreed to provide proof in court that Joan Sawyer, his dancing partner, was having an adulterous relationship with De Saulles; and took the stand to support Blanca's claim of John's well known infidelities.[6]

Mr. de Saulle was not pleased with this and once the divorce was granted on December 1916,[7] he used his political connections to have Valentino arrested along with a Mrs. Thyme, who was a known "madam", on vice charges (the exact charges are unknown). The evidence was flimsy at best (Valentino having been near the wrong place at the wrong time) and after a few days in jail, Valentino's bail was lowered from $10,000 to $1,500.[8 ] The scandal was well publicized along with the trial and Valentino felt degraded. No one would hire him and his old friends would no longer talk to him. Blanca seemed to not even thank him for his testimony.

The murder

Blanca Errázuriz and her only child, John "Jack" de Saulles Jr. (1917)

Shortly after the divorce, on August 3, 1917, Blanca had herself driven from her home in Roslyn, New York to the The Box, in Meadowbrook Colony, near Westbury, New York, the country home of her ex-husband. She had legal claims over the custody of their son, since she and her husband had been given shared-custody over him, but de Saulles refused to acknowledge the court's decision. She arrived at The Box shortly after 8 PM, and found de Saulles sitting in the porch of the house. They started to argue, and she pointed a gun at his head demanding he immediately hand over the child to her. When he tried to disarm her, she shot him five times[9]. He was rushed to the Nassau County Hospital, but died there at 10:20 PM of his injuries.[10] In the meantime, she awaited at the house for the arrival of the police, to whom she surrendered. She was charged with murder in the first degree and imprisoned in the Nassau County Jail at Mineola, New York, leading to a sensational trial.[11]

The widely-reported case went on for months, relegating the First World War that was raging in Europe to the inside pages of the newspapers. Blanca was defended by Henry Uterhart, a noted criminalist of the time, and the principal witness for the defense was Suzanne Monteau, Blanca's French maid, who had accompanied her that night and completely supported her version of the facts.[12] Blanca Errázuriz became the darling of the press, and the champion of the suffragettes who portrayed her as the victim of the chauvinism prevalent in the society of the time,[13] while Valentino's name was again dragged through the mud though he had nothing to do with Blanca by this point.

Blanca Errázuriz was unanimously acquitted of the murder charges on December 1, 1917 in what was called a "popular" verdict.[14] Valentino changed his name from Rodolfo Guglielmi to various variations of Rudolph Valentino, partly to avoid association with the scandal and partly because Americans had trouble pronouncing Guglielmi. After the trial, he moved to Hollywood,[8 ] where he started his successful movie career. Years later he tried to contact her again, but she would neither respond his calls or agree to see him. Blanca Errázuriz, who later married and divorced from a Chilean businessman, lived until 1940, when she committed suicide.


The case was the basis for the 1918 silent movie The woman and the Law, directed by Raoul Walsh; with Jack Connors, Miriam Cooper and Peggy Hopkins Joyce. The name De Saulles was changed to La Salle but the film's opening credits admit to being based on the story. Producer William Fox wanted Miriam Cooper to play in the film, as she so closely resembled the woman she was to portray. According to Cooper, people on the street would mistake her for Blanca De Saulles. Cooper fell ill when the film was to go into production, bowed out, and was replaced by another actress, who proved to be so terrible that Fox laid down the law with Cooper, telling her to make the film no matter how sick or how well she felt. It also helped that Raoul Walsh was her husband.

Additional information


  1. ^ University of Virginia College Football Directory
  2. ^ New York Times, for December 14, 1911
  3. ^ Cass City Chronicle, Cass City, Michigan, for July 5, 1912
  4. ^ Appointment as diplomat to Paraguay
  5. ^ "DE SAULLES IS SUED BY HIS CHILEAN WIFE; Former Yale Football Star and Friend of President Wilson Wed in 1911. TWO WOMEN ARE NAMED Fifth Avenue Real Estate Man Was Promoter in Chile When He Met the Heiress.". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-08-08.  
  6. ^ "DESAULLES' FRIENDS DIVORCE ACCUSERS; Dancing Partner of Joan Sawyer and Manservant of SlainMan Gave Testimony.COOK ALSO A WITNESSDistrict Attorney Says Evidence ofMaid Will Be Strong Part ofMurder Prosecution.". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-08-08.  
  7. ^ "LUTHERAN BOOK IS RUSHED.; Published In Seven Days to Answer Charges Against Reformer.". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-08-08.  
  8. ^ a b Leider, Emily W., Dark Lover: The life and death of Rudolph Valentino, p. 68-76
  9. ^ "LITTLE SON SEES MRS. DE SAULLES; Mother's Depression Dispelled by Boy's Visit to Her in Jail. DE SAULLES WILL UNSIGNED Testament Outlines Plans for "Little Jack's" Future--Inquest Into Killing Begun. Waits With Arms Outstretched. Better Than Medicine. LITTLE SON SEES MRS.DE SAULLES Will Provided for Boy.". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-08-08.  
  10. ^ New York Times, for August 4, 1917
  11. ^ Cass City Chronicle, Cass City, Michigan, for August 24, 1917
  12. ^ "DE SAULLES KILLING RE-ENACTED BY MAID; Suzanne Monteau Supports Theory That Mistress Acted on Sudden Impulse. TELLS OF PROVOCATION Says De Saulles's Looks Were Terrifying and He Declared MotherShould Never Have Boy.". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-08-08.  
  13. ^ "BROTHER DEFENDS DESAULLES' HONOR; Denounces Attack on Slain Man's Memory as "Grossly and Incredibly False." WIFE'S MONEY NOT MISUSED Prisoner, He Says, Agreed to the Division of Their Boy's Custody. MAY LET HER SEE HER LAD Uncle Promises to Do What He Thinks Father Would Have Done --Great Crowds at Funeral. Asks for Her Boys. Police Keep Crowd in Order.". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-08-08.  
  14. ^ "A "POPULAR" VERDICT.". New York Times. Retrieved 2008-08-08.  

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