The murder of William Desmond Taylor

29b80f0f21c9a48e497261a62d265e99You can walk down any street in Los Angeles and be sure that at some point in Hollywood history, something happened there that still gets people talking after all these years. Take, for instance, South Alvardo Street. There is a parking lot where the Alvarado Court Apartments once were. Years before they were demolished, there was a murder in one of those lavish bungalows. 1922 was the year. William Desmond Taylor was the victim. You’ll have read his name on countless Top 10 Countdowns about Hollywood’s most infamous scandals of The Golden Age, I’m sure, and undoubtedly at the very top of the list, more often than not. His murder shocked Los Angeles and indeed all of America. He was a film director, producer, and actor, and like all of them, he didn’t really lead a quiet life. On February 1, 1922, he and Mabel Normand were having a private party at his house. At 7.45pm he walked her to her car and at 8pm he was dead. Shot in the back. What happened in those 15 minutes remains a mystery to this day. There have been many, many theories, but nothing has come of any of them. As you can imagine, the suspect list is pretty big: Mary Miles Minter, a young actress who was supposedly going to be the next Mary Pickford and with whom Desmond Taylor was involved. She was apparently quite smitten with him and might have killed him out of jealousy; Edward Sands, his houseman, who, by all accounts, was a sociopath. Before being hired by William Desmond Taylor, he had prior convictions for forgery, embezzlement and fraud; Charlotte Shelby, who is often thought to have indeed been the killer of William Desmond Taylor. She was the mother of Mary Miles Minter and had the well-known habit of threatening any man who came near her daughter; Mabel Normand herself, who was never a serious suspect, but who was very keen on getting her love letters back from his house. This raised some suspicion at the time, and she was a suspect, but it is safe to say that she most definitely did not kill him. In fact, before she died in 1930, she reportedly said ‘I wonder who killed poor Bill Taylor?’; Margaret Gibson, a silent movie actress, who confessed on her deathbed that she was the one who killed him. However, this type of confession was made by many, many people over the years and no one could ever be sure who was teling the truth. And since they and all the witnesses have passed away, his murder will continue to baffle readers and Hollywood enthusiasts for years to come.

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5 thoughts on “The murder of William Desmond Taylor

  1. Mike

    This is a great story, Carol. I read a book on this about 20 years ago. Would be a great movie. I heard scripts have been written on this but never got optioned. I could see David Fincher directing it.

    Liked by 2 people

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