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Thomas Corbally, 83; Figure of Mystery Was Reputed Spy

From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Thomas Corbally, a businessman and New York socialite cloaked in mystery and involved in international intrigue, has died in Manhattan. He was 83.

Corbally died April 15 of complications from heart disease, said his third wife, Renee.

For the record:

12:00 a.m. May 8, 2004 For The Record
Los Angeles Times Tuesday April 27, 2004 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 39 words Type of Material: Correction
Corbally obituary -- An obituary of Thomas Corbally in Monday’s California section stated that he was a figure in a British scandal that brought down Prime Minister Harold Wilson’s government. It was the government of Prime Minister Harold Macmillan.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Saturday May 08, 2004 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 3 inches; 123 words Type of Material: Correction
Corbally obituary -- The obituary of businessman and New York socialite Thomas Corbally in the April 26 California section contained incorrect and misleading information in the following sentence: “The revelations led to the resignation of British war minister John Profumo and the loss of the 1964 elections by Prime Minister Harold Wilson’s Conservative government.” A correction on Page A2 on April 27 properly identified the deposed prime minister as Harold Macmillan. The Profumo scandal added to Macmillan’s unpopularity with his own Conservative Party, and he resigned Oct. 18, 1963. A fellow Conservative, Alec Douglas-Home, took over as prime minister from Oct. 19, 1963, until general elections on Oct. 15, 1964, handed the government to the Labor Party and Labor Prime Minister Harold Wilson.

Corbally had long been associated with Kroll Associates, a security consulting firm, and had friendships with Hollywood stars, business leaders and such international luminaries as Mother Teresa, Sir Jimmy Goldsmith of Britain and King Hussein of Jordan.

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Although Corbally had little documented service as a spy -- he was with the Office of Strategic Services during World War II -- friends and his serial girlfriends and wives believed he was involved throughout his life in espionage assignments. A Southern California friend has called him “the original James Bond.”

Corbally, an immaculate dresser who looked like Jason Robards and sounded like Johnny Cash, has also been described by Hollywood’s Robert Evans, a lifelong friend, as “the quintessential playboy of the ‘40s and ‘50s.”

The lifestyle as international playboy, coupled with Corbally’s vague positions with businesses he seemed to know nothing about, certainly provided appropriate cover for any spying he might have done.

He clearly was a player in what became known as Britain’s Profumo scandal in 1963. The revelations led to the resignation of British war minister John Profumo and the loss of the 1964 elections by Prime Minister Harold Wilson’s Conservative government.

According to FBI records, the scandal emerged when Corbally informed the U.S. ambassador to Britain that Profumo and the military attache at the Soviet Embassy both engaged in sex with London call girl Christine Keeler. The ambassador relayed the information to Wilson.

More recently, Corbally allegedly helped set up a phony Roman Catholic foundation to help fugitive financier Marvin Frankel, who spent stolen insurance company assets on Connecticut mansions and female sex partners. Frankel pleaded guilty to devising the scheme in 2002.

Corbally maintained that Frankel had duped him into thinking he was an investment tycoon. No charges of wrongdoing ever were made against Corbally, his lawyer said.

Born in Newark, N.J., Corbally dropped out of Seton Hall University to serve in the Royal Canadian Air Force, flying in World War II’s Battle of Britain. As the U.S. became involved in the war, he joined the OSS, forerunner of the CIA.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by a sister, Patricia Frenzille.


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