I think if I was an avid reader of Hollywood history, I would know this story and the people involved but I am not.  On February 2, 1922, police discover the body of 50 year old film director William Desmond Taylor in his Los Angeles bungalow. The call to the police had lead Lieutenant Tom Ziegler to believe there had been a “natural death”.  This had not been the case when he arrived.  The film director’s home was full of actors, actresses, and studio executives rummaging through the director’s belongings.  This makes me visualize vultures.  Taylor was lying on the living room floor with a bullet in his back.  I don’t think a film director could stage a more bizarre scene.

The murder became a nationwide scandal and fed the moralist’s idea that Hollywood was depraved. Two of the actresses linked to Taylor got caught up in the scandal. Comedian Mabel Normand had been linked romantically with Taylor; however because she developed tuberculosis, she was sent to a sanitarium.  She died from this illness in 1930. 

When the mouse is away, the cat will play.  Mary Miles Minter, a teenager, became a star in Taylor’s silent films and fell in love with him. Her mother, Charlotte Shelby did not approve of the relationship.  Minter’s love note to Taylor, along with  her nightgown were found in the home after the murder.  Other important facts were also introduced.  Minter had once tried to shoot herself with the same type of gun used in Taylor’s murder. Charlotte Shelby had previously threatened the life of another director who had made a pass at her daughter. What’s a stage mother to do.  Shelby’s alibi witness received suspiciously large sums of money after the murder. Believe it or not, no one was ever prosecuted for Taylor’s death and the case remains officially unsolved.

Many years later, in Minter’s unpublished autobiography, she admitted that she and her mother were at Taylor’s bungalow on the night of the killing. Famous director King Vidor told people that Minter had ambiguously admitted that her mother had killed Taylor after finding her daughter at Taylor’s home.

King Vidor

King Vidor

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5 responses

  1. Birgit says:

    Of course I know this story quite well. William Desmond Taylor is an interesting character. Years earlier, he told his wife he was going out to get something and never returned! She declared him dead a few years later and only found out he was not dead but alive, well and rich, after he was dead-hahahaaa Sorry for that silly sentence. He changed his name and high-tailed it to the then, very young Hollywood. He was known to be quite the ladies’ man and was having an affair with Mary Miles Winter. She was a strong copy for Mary Pickford and was playing sweet innocents. Due to this huge story, her career was ruined. There was also his valet that seemed suspicious. It seems Taylor may have played both fields. There is the general consensus that Mary Miles Minter’s mom did the dirty deed. King, a great director, said he knew the truth and always wanted to make a movie about it but never got around to it. You should look up the case of Thomas Ince shot on board Hearst’s yacht, or they say he died by accident. It involves Ince-famous director back then, Heart, Marion Davies and Charlie Chaplin

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