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Taylorology
A Continuing Exploration of the Life and Death of William Desmond Taylor
By Bruce Long

This mirror site is available on the Silent Era website by permission of Bruce Long.
Unless otherwise indicated, all material in the Taylorology section of this website may be freely redistributed.


William Desmond Taylor
 

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New and Newsworthy
 
 

Taylorology 100 is now available.

 

In a letter in the Los Angeles Times published on February 27, 1922, director Jay Hunt wrote: “During 1913 and 1914, I directed William D. Taylor in many pictures of the Civil War period upon which I was then engaged at Inceville. I knew him well, professionally and socially, and my wife and I had been his occasional guests at dinner . . .” More of Taylor’s on-screen appearances might be found in Hunt’s films for 1913-14.

 

Twisted by Knaves, the autobiographical novel written by Charlotte Shelby, is now online with extensive commentary. A version without commentary is also available.

 

An interview with Claire Windsor, in which she talks about the impact of the Taylor murder, is at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bhwb1V4dx-8 (the Taylor-related material starts around 5:12).

 

The June 1922 issue of the humor magazine Hot Dog included a parody of the Taylor murder.

 

In 1914, the British film magazine Illustrated Films Monthly included a story version (with stills) of The Master of the Mine, a Vitagraph film in which Taylor acted.

 

At Chapman University, a 2010 master’s degree thesis by Jennifer L. Wilson was titled “The Director Desired: William Desmond Taylor and 1920's Star Discourse.”

 

A 1917 article “THE STORY, Gentlemen”, was published under Taylor’s name in Photo-Play Journal.

 

The 2012 novel Hexe: Witches, Warriors, Magic & Murder by Geffrey Von Gerlach contains a subplot of the Taylor murder.

 

There have previously been at least a half-dozen Neva Gerber films available on DVD or VHS, but all of them were produced in the mid-to-late 20s, years after Taylor was dead. Now a film is available which was made when she knew Taylor: The Trail of the Octopus, a serial from 1919. This film generally has better quality than her later available films, and gives her much more to do.

 

Taylorology 82 contained some extracts of published testimony from the 1923 hearings held by the Federal Trade Commission in their investigation of Famous Players-Lasky. The original newspaper pages containing that testimony is now online.

 

Here’s the 1931 article where S.S. Van Dine talks about the Taylor case.

 

It appears that The Tip Off was the release title of a Balboa film in which Taylor acted.

 

Here is a 1916 magazine photo of Taylor directing Pasquale.

 

There is a website devoted to Runnymede, the colony in Kansas where Taylor reportedly spent a year and a half, around 1890.

 

In March 1910, Taylor was acting in Portland and Medford, Oregon; in April 1910, he was acting in Salt Lake City, Utah; in May 1910, he was acting in Ogden, Utah.

 

“Who Killed Bill?”, a radio dramatization of the Taylor case, can be heard here.

 

During Taylor’s married years, when he was employed at an antique store, he continued to occasionally participate in small theatrical performances. Here are two, from 1905 and 1906.

 

A photo of Taylor’s father can be seen here.

 

The New York Herald contained a couple want ads placed by Taylor in 1902/3.

 

The 2011 book Lives Less Ordinary: Dublin's Fitzwilliam Square 1798-1922, by Andrew Hughes, is a history of the “enclave of the social elite” where Taylor’s parents once lived. The book devotes seven pages to Taylor, but the author mostly writes about the Taylor murder, gives very little new information on his family living in Ireland, and seems to have some incorrect data. Hughes writes that Taylor’s father had already died by the time of Taylor’s visit there with his new bride, but according to Higham (referenced to a family tree compiled by William Grogan), Taylor’s father died on June 8, 1902. According to the N.Y. Herald, “Mr. and Mrs. W. C. Deane-Tanner” sailed for Liverpool aboard the Campania on Dec. 28, 1901, which seems to indicate that daddy would have still been alive at the time of their visit. On the other hand, the N.Y. Herald also indicated that Taylor returned from Liverpool on Aug. 18, 1901. Was his father already seriously ill at that time, which prompted the earlier visit? [And it seems an odd coincidence that his parents were living at FITZWILLIAM Square, and Sands had used the alias Edward FITZWILLIAM Strathmore, long before he met Taylor.]

 

When Denis Deane-Tanner deserted his family in 1912, a newspaper item reported that he was addicted to stammering.

 

A newspaper photo of Taylor's wife, published a few months before they were married, can be found here. A clearer copy of the photo can be seen here.

 

The 1998 book The Sound of Silence: Conversations with 16 Film and Stage Personalities Who Bridged the Gap Between Silents and Talkies by Michael G. Ankerich, contains an interview with Barbara Barondess, who was the third wife of Douglas MacLean. “Douglas always told me that he and his wife heard shots and walked over to the window in time to see a woman dressed in men’s clothing leaving Taylor’s apartment. They recognized the person as Mary Miles Minter’s mother.”

 

Taylorology 99 is now available.

 

Taylorfest will was held on May 18-20, 2012 in Carlow, Ireland, and featured “a selection of his [Taylor’s] classic films, performances of scenes from his extraordinary life, talks from world experts, celebrity appearances and much more . . . .” The event also has a Facebook page.

 

We received a photocopy of a letter and envelope written by Taylor in 1914, which indicate Taylor was living at 218 North Carondelet St., Los Angeles, at that time.

 

Taylor’s baptismal record can be found here (line 4).

 

Two issues of a 1914 British fan magazine (Picture Stories Magazine) serialized the Taylor/Gibson film The Night Riders of Petersham. Part 2, published in the September 1914 issue, is online here.

 

Here is the 1922 passport photo of Kathlyn Williams and Charles Eyton. Kathlyn Williams signed Taylor’s death certificate, and Charles Eyton was at Taylor’s home on the morning the body was found.

 

A lot of old New York newspapers are available online and searchable at www.fultonhistory.com. Searching for “Cunningham Deane” (Taylor’s stage name during the 1890’s) we found some fragments of information. In a review of Fanny Davenport’s Joan of Arc, Feb. 5, 1898, New York Dramatic Mirror, the reviewer stated: “. . . Cunningham Deane was a manly and effective young officer . . .” This page from the same publication on Sept. 7, 1895 indicated Cunningham Deane was performing in a play titled Side Tracked, which opened in Chicago. A few months after Fanny Davenport’s last stage appearance in 1898, the New York Dramatic Mirror indicated on May 27, 1898 that Cunningham Deane was among the week’s visitors to their offices.

 

Huckleberry Finn, directed by William Desmond Taylor, can now be watched online at the Eastman House website.

 

During the years between 1920-1922, Mary Miles Minter’s best friend was Jeanie Macpherson, the scenario writer for Cecil B. DeMille. A short appreciation of Minter by Jeanie Macpherson was published in the January 1922 issue of Filmplay Journal.

 

An email was received from the great-grandson of Edgar Culver King, the detective who worked on the Taylor case (author of “I Know Who Killed Desmond Taylor” in Taylorology 50). Detective King had told his family that Minter’s abortion was performed in Mexico. Also, Charlotte Shelby’s attorneys told King that if charges were brought against Shelby, they would ruin King financially.

 

Here is a current photograph of a tuxedo, made for Taylor in 1911 and currently in the Paramount archives.

 

There was previously some skepticism as to whether or not Taylor acted in (and possibly directed) the 1914 Balboa film The Awakening. This clipping seemingly confirms that he at least acted in that film.

 

A blog at the Los Angeles Times had some extreme close-up photos of Taylor's home.

 

There is a William Desmond Taylor group on Facebook, which includes some information and caricatures of Dr. Charles Deane Tanner, Taylor's uncle.

 

Four books with “William Desmond Taylor” in the title have recently been published: Royal Army Service Corps Officers: . . . , Irish People Murdered Abroad: . . . , American People of Anglo-Irish Descent: . . . , Royal Logistic Corps Officers: . . . . No author is listed and the publisher has the nondescript name of “Books LLC”. We purchased the book "Royal Army Service Corps Officers:...", hoping that it would have some additional details about Taylor's military service during World War I. However the book consists of nothing more than entries reprinted verbatim from Wikipedia; presumably the other three books are also just reprinted Wikipedia entries. So the "chapter" on Taylor is identical to his Wikipedia article, and is worthless to anyone who is connected to the Internet and could get it free on Wikipedia. (Plus we consider that Wikipedia article to contain many minor errors.)

 

A student dramatization of the William Desmond Taylor murder is on YouTube: Part 1, Part 2, Outtakes.

 

Taylorology 98 included some press items regarding a mention of the Taylor case on the floor of the U.S. Senate in 1922. The actual transcript from the Congressional Record is available online.

 

A newly-restored version of Huckleberry Finn, one of William Desmond Taylor’s most acclaimed films, was screened on May 9 at the George Eastman House Film Festival in Rochester, NY.

 

The May 1914 issue of Motion Picture Magazine contains the film story for “The Riders of Petersham,” a 3-reel film featuring Taylor and Margaret Gibson, accompanied by 7 stills from the film.

 

Some of the old publications in our library are being scanned from cover-to-cover and placed in the Internet Archive, where they are text-searchable and available in a variety of formats. The links are here. Among the publications scanned in this manner are some issues of Capt. Billy's Whiz Bang. Page 14 of the April 1922 issue includes the gossip item: “Edna Purviance . . . is reported engaged to Paul Hunter, wealthy business man and polo player of Pasadena.” Could this be a clue to the identity of the person with Edna on the night Taylor was killed?

 

In 2003 there was an attempted auction of many postcards belonging to Edward F. Snyder (Edward Sands) when he was in the U.S. Navy. Details and a photo of the collection is here.

 

A nice Taylorology mirror has been added to the Silent Era website.

 

The 1984 novel The Dorothy Parker Murder Case by George Baxt is set in New York in 1926 but the William Desmond Taylor murder is an important subplot. This is an excellent book, and hopefully someday there will be a similar novelization centering on the Taylor case.

 

The 1931 Maigret novel A Man’s Head contains several references to the Taylor case, and refers to the article by Ed. King which was reprinted in Taylorology 50.

 

Capt. Edward A. Salisbury, who was featured in Taylorology 75, can be seen on DVD in the film Gow the Killer. The highlight of the film is the reenacted head-hunting raid described in the article “A Napoleon of The Solomons”.

 

Taylorology 98 is now available.

 

Life has published “The Greatest Unsolved Mysteries of All Time”, containing a brief one-page recap of the Taylor case.

 

Fallen Angels, A Blackwood McCabe Hollywood Mystery by Dominic Lagan is a recently-published novel which centers on the William Desmond Taylor case.

 

Famous Players: The Mysterious Death of William Desmond Taylor, by Rick Geary, is a nicely-done graphic novel of the Taylor murder.

 

The online USC Digital Library has a page which includes a 1937 photo of Taylor’s coat, worn when he was shot.

 

The fascinating blog of “Aimesley Jordan, Genealogy Detective” is online at http://aimesley.blogspot.com with genealogical information regarding people close to the William Desmond Taylor case. Amazing tidbits so far include a photograph of Julia Crawford Ivers, and information that Hazel Gillon had lived at 404-B S. Alvarado.

 

A 1971 interview with silent film actress Claire Windsor is available online at http://www.thephotoplayer.com/clairewindsor1971.mp3 , in which she discusses the impact of the Taylor case on her life and career. (Her discussion of the case begins five minutes into the interview.)

 

Two previously-unavailable films with lesser-known actresses linked to Taylor have been released on DVD. Sand, a 1920 western starring William S. Hart, has been released on DVD by Unknown Video. Patricia Palmer (Margaret Gibson) has a supporting role in Sand; she is only on-screen for about 3 minutes, and has no close ups. The Voice from the Sky is a 1930 sound serial starring Neva Gerber (credited as Jean Delores). SerialFest DVD Magazine No. 1, contains the audio dialogue sequences (without visual footage) from Chapter 1 of the serial. A few of Neva Gerber’s silent films have been available on home video, but this is the first time her voice can be heard. Other monthly issues of the SerialFest DVD Magazine contain the audio from other episodes of The Voice from the Sky.

 

The Fame Formula, by Mark Borkowski, is a non-scholarly history of Hollywood’s publicity agents. A portion of the book tells of a seemingly-fictional publicist who claims to have been “summoned” on the morning that William Desmond Taylor was found dead, and that the publicist was “right at the heart” of the murder.

 

Robert Giroux, author of A Deed of Death, died on September 5, 2008, at the age of 94.

 

The Age of Dreaming by Nina Revoyr is a recently-published novel which has the William Desmond Taylor case as the key plot element of the book.

 

Film director Kimberly Peirce spent several years preparing to make a movie on the William Desmond Taylor case, to star Annette Bening, Hugh Jackman, Ben Kingsley and Evan Rachel Wood. The movie was not made, but Peirce hopes to return to the project some day. In an interview she stated

. . . We solved the murder mystery. We figured out who did it,
how they did it, and how and why it had to be covered up.

The interview below seems to indicate Peirce has concluded that Mary Miles Minter was guilty.


William Desmond Taylor
 

Nonfiction Books

W.D. Taylor: A Dossier
A Cast of Killers
A Deed of Death
Murder in Hollywood
Famous Players

 

A Work in Progress

Updates to this site will be announced in the William Desmond Taylor discussion group on Facebook.

 

Bruce’s Scrapbook

Making of a Taylorologist
Publicity
Acknowledgement Bowl

 

Recommended Links

Aimesley Jordan

 

 

Email Bruce Long: bruce@asu.edu

 
 
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