This case has always fascinated me since I first saw it on TV as a kid. For those who may not have seen my post in the pet section of my postcards (silent stars and their pets), I LOVE silent films. LOVE them. They are so much more than modern media gives them credit for. Needless to say, this case is just perfect for me! It's a death in the time of silent film that would have made a perfect silent film! The Victim: William Desmond Taylor, 49, hugely popular silent film star Cause of death: Gunshot wound to the back. Date of occurrence: February 1, 1922 Time of death: Between 7:45 p.m. and 7:30 a.m. the next morning when found Facts about the wound: The bullet hole in Taylor's jacket and vest were not aligned. The powder burns indicated that Taylor was shot at close range with his left arm raised as if in an embrace. The person who shot Taylor had to be just a little over five feet tall (which describes every female suspect in this case) or would have had to crouch on the ground and shoot Taylor at an angle. The players: Mabel Normand (silent queen of comedy), Mary Miles Minter (the gorgeous young actress), Charlotte Shelby (MMM's mother), Edward Sands (con-man turned WDT's assistant), Margaret Gibson (another silent beauty, changed name and gave supposed death bed confession to the crime). The story: WDT was born William Cunningham Deane-Tanner in Ireland in 1872. He left home at the age of 18 after falling out with his father and immigrated to New York, taking various odd jobs. He married Ethel May Harrison in 1901 and had a daughter, Ethel Daisy Deane-Tanner, in 1903. He walked out on both in 1908, going out for lunch and never coming back. In 1912 he became a silent film star and eventually a director. He briefly left Hollywood to go to war as part of the British army. He had a younger brother who followed in his footsteps to Hollywood, and interestingly enough, also abandoned wife and children. WDT paid his brother's wife weekly to support them. His own wife remarried and neither herself nor their daughter ever held any grudge against him. He reconnected with his daughter later on after becoming famous. WDT was heavily anti-drug and crusaded to keep Hollywood free of these substances. Despite Prohibition, he procured alcohol often much like most famous people of the day. Mabel Normand was the last person to see him alive. They were in a relationship and had been together in his home, he walked her to her car and said goodnight. Shortly afterward, WDT was shot and killed. Witnesses reported hearing what sounded like an automobile "backfire" around 8pm. Mabel is not considered a suspect, however, she may have caused his death. Mabel was a notorius drug addict and WDT had gone to great lengths to try to help her kick the habit of opium and cocaine. She was known to spend $2,000 a month (in the 20's!!!) on drugs. Some believe that the drug dealers may have murdered WDT for his tough stance against drugs and trying to separate them from such high-profile addicts. The person who found him called the movie studio first and they compromised the crime scene by cleaning up everything including the blood. They also removed lots of paperwork and letters, save for some that were found in WDT's boot. It is believed that the film industry's close relationship with LE kept this crime from being properly solved due to the circumstances. This murder was right on the heels of Fatty Arbuckle's rape and murder trial and the mysterious poison death of Jack Pickford's (Mary Pickford's brother) wife, the actress Olive Borden. The studios were avoiding scandal at all and any cost. Mary Miles Minter was the blonde haired beauty and picture of innocence, much in the style of Mary Pickford. However, she had a very unstable and unhealthy obsession with WDT. She would constantly approach him sexually and did not handle being turned down repeatedly by him well. WDT was actually worried about her obsession because he was old enough to be her father and she was becoming increasingly erratic in her behavior. She would threaten to throw tantrums if he tried to remove her from his residence and after his death, insisted that they had been engaged to marry. MMM had a previous history of taking her mother's gun and locking herself in her bedroom when she was younger. She fired a shot and pretended to be dead, the jumping up and scaring the family when they made it into the room. The bullet from this instance was located and matched the type of bullet used by the killer. Charlotte Shelby was the typical stage mother who lived vicariously through her daughter's success. She was obsessed with her daughter and brandished a gun or made threats to male actors on a regular basis. MMM had a relationship with director James Kirkwood as a teenager and became pregnant, CS became enraged and arranged for an abortion and threatened Kirkwood with her gun. Once, finding MMM in an embrace with popular male actor Monte Blue, CS brandished her gun towards him and said If I ever catch you hanging around Mary again, I'll blow your godd****ed brains out." The most condemning instance was in 1920, when she brought her gun to WDT's residence demanding to know if MMM was there or not. MMM was not there at that time but regularly hung around the residence. In 1937, CS's other daughter testified that she "protected" CS from the WDT trial. Her non-family alibi was from actor Carl Stockdale, who mysteriously received payments of $200 from the family for life. MMM's grandmother is said to have thrown the gun in the river, but the gun was recovered. Edward Sands was a conman who bilked the Navy out of loads of money by enlisting repeatedly under different names and then forging his own discharge papers. He became WDT's personal assistant and though things were great at first, eventually he stole money and jewelry from him in large amounts. He stole WDT's car and wrecked it. He had the pawn slips from selling WDT's sent to Taylor's house in a brazen display. Before the murder someone was plaguing WDT with phone calls and hanging up, perhaps to see if he was home. WDT had $5,000 in money that he kept. This money was not found when the body was discovered, yet his rings were on his fingers and there was $78 found on him. Edward Sands committed suicide after the murder. Margaret Gibson (aka Patricia Palmer/Pat Lewis) was a very beautiful actress who had worked with WDT several times. In 1964, while having a heart attack, she claimed to have shot WDT. During her time as an actress she was arrested for vagrancy connected with opium dealing in 1917. She was in a house for prostitution at the time. After the arrest she became Patricia Palmer. In 1923 she was arrested again for felony charges involving blackmail and an extortion ring. The charges were dropped by the D.A. It is unknown whether this ring could have been involved in WDT or what, if any, direct contact Gibson had with the victim. There are also some that speculate his brother could have killed him or that WDT was bisexual and murdered because of this. WDT was a quiet individual who enjoyed solitude. He was intelligent, sophisticated, with excellent manners. He was well liked by his peers and respected for his active role in getting rid of drugs in Hollywood. Unfortunately he employed shady people and was involved with troubled ladies. One of these acquaintaces lead to his myterious, unsolved death. Links: http://www.classichollywoodbios.com/WilliamDesmondTaylor.htm http://www.taylorology.com/ The Kiss starring WDT and Margaret Gibson (youtube) Mary Miles Minter Interview Excerpts (youtube) Also on the last link is an interview with a retired detective from the case.