February 2

This Day in History

Crime

Feb 2, 1922:

Murder in Hollywood: A tale of vice and vixens

Police discover the body of film director William Desmond Taylor in his Los Angeles bungalow. Lieutenant Tom Ziegler responded to a call about a "natural death" at the Alvarado Street home of Taylor. When he arrived they found actors, actresses, and studio executives rummaging through the director's belongings. He also found Taylor lying on the living room floor with a bullet in his back--not exactly suggesting a "natural" death.

The murder of Taylor, 50 years old, became a nationwide scandal and proof to the nation's moralists of Hollywood's depravity. Two of the actresses linked to Taylor got caught up in the scandal and saw their film careers die a quick death following the murder. Comedian Mabel Normand had been linked romantically with Taylor, but was sent to a sanatarium to to recover from tuberculosis, and died. While she was away, Mary Miles Minter, a teenager, became a star in Taylor's silent films and fell in love with him. Charlotte Shelby, Minter's mother, disapproved of the budding relationship.

After his murder, a love note to Taylor from Minter was found in his home, along with her nightgown in the bedroom. Other damning facts came to light. Minter had once tried to shoot herself with the same type of gun used in Taylor's murder. Furthermore, Shelby had previously threatened the life of another director who had made a pass at her daughter. And to top it off, Shelby's alibi witness received suspiciously large sums of money after the murder. Still, 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Many years later, in Minter's unpublished autobiography, she admitted that she and her mother were at Taylor's bungalow on the night of the killing.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.

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