Tuesday, February 3, 2009

The Mystery of William Desmond Taylor

We promised you that we’d come back to the unsolved murder of Paramount director William Desmond Taylor – the Paramount director and notorious playboy who was found shot to death by his manservant on February 1, 1922.

You’ve already learned about Taylor’s clean-up crew who swooped in to protect his public image (and, more importantly, theirs) and, while they succeeded in ruining the crime scene and rendering the murder unsolvable, they failed to destroy all evidence of risqué behavior. Here’s just a few of the things that this one little murder revealed about some of Hollywood’s biggest names of the time:

One little scandal that was uncovered despite efforts was an illicit relationship between Taylor and Mary Miles Minter – an actress held with the same standards of purity as we hold Minnie Mouse. In fact, the book Hollywood’s Babylon calls her “an embodiment of demure innocence.” Investigators found a letter from her to Taylor in the pages of a book of erotica in Taylor’s study. Mabel had been the last person to see Taylor alive. But that’s not all:

Taylor, it was found, had been carrying on simultaneous affairs with Mabel Normand (part of the original clean-up crew), Minter, and – wait for it – Minter’s mother, Charlotte Shelby. After Minter’s limo left Taylor’s place the night before his body was discovered, a neighbor heard a shot and looked out her window to see a figure that looked like a man but “walked like a woman” leaving the house. Some people believe this could have been Minter’s mother, who owned a .38 caliber pearl-handle revolver that she had recently been seen practicing with. Two .38 bullets were found in Taylor's heart. Soon after the murder, she skipped off to Europe.

Another interesting tidbit of scandal is that Taylor’s butler – a man named Sands – was, in reality, Taylor’s brother. He’d been on the run from police and Taylor helped disguise him. After the murder, Sands went missing, never to be found again. Interestingly enough, though, this kind of behavior ran in the family:

By far the most explosive discovery of the investigation was that William Desmond Taylor was not, in fact, William Desmond Taylor. He was William Deane-Tanner and he’d disappeared from New York in 1908 – leaving behind a wife and daughter.

Has there never been anyone we can trust in Hollywood?

1 comment:

MCBias said...

What an entertaining mess! The only way it could get any more sordid is if they found out Taylor was really a woman pretending to be a man. Good post.