The Scandalous Murder of William Desmond Taylor

The Scandalous Murder of William Desmond Taylor


(light flickering on)
(distant sirens)
– This week on BuzzFeed Unsolved,
we investigate the murder
of William Desmond Taylor,
a notable film director
in 1920’s Hollywood.
Let’s peek behind the curtain
and see a little bit behind
the glitz and the glamour.
– Well, but you know what they say.
It’s not all glitz and glamour.
But you just said that, right?
– Yeah.
– Ah, I don’t know how else to restate it.
Sometimes people get
murdered in Hollywood.
(laughter)
– Let’s get into it.
– [Narrator] Hollywood.
February 2, 1922.
The crime: murder.
And what would become one
of the biggest scandals
to rock early Hollywood.
The victim: film director
William Desmond Taylor.
Known by his friends as Bill.
Born in Carlow, Ireland on April 26, 1872.
Directing more than 40 films
for what is now known as Paramount
and working with
Tinseltown’s brightest stars.
Taylor was well-liked, respected,
and seen as a leading filmmaker.
Taylor himself even starred
in one of the first feature films
that would define Hollywood
and would later serve as President
of the Motion Picture
Directors Association
for several years.
By all accounts, William Desmond Taylor
was a glimmering beacon
in the cinema firmament.
– [Shane] Forty movies in 1920
equates to two weeks of work?
– [Ryan] Yeah, ’cause they…
– [Shane] This movie’s
called “Man Drops Potato.”
– (laughter) Yeah.
And there was like shooting
ten movies at the same time,
in the same room.
– Uh huh.
– No sound.
– He’s got six cigars in his mouth.
He’s operating seven different cameras.
– He also acted in one.
And that became a Hollywood classic.
– Was he a good actor?
– He only acted in one so…
– Nope.
– He was a big deal back then, all right?
– Okay.
– Leave WDT alone.
– Okay.
– Jesus.
– Look, I’m not calling
into question his talent.
– Yeah.
– Or his reputation.
– This is coming from the auteur
of “Dogs Watch Television
for the First Time.”
– It’s a good video.
– [Narrator] Picture if you
will the scene of the crime.
Nestled on the corner of
Alvarado and Maryland,
in the posh L.A. neighborhood
of Westlake Park,
sits the luxurious apartment
of William Desmond Taylor.
The time: 7:30 a.m.
February 2nd.
Taylor’s valet, Henry Peavey,
arrives at his usual time to
make breakfast for Taylor.
Upon opening the door,
Peavey spots the obscured feet
of his boss on the ground.
He calls out to Taylor.
No response.
Creeping in a bit farther,
Peavey discovers to his horror
the body of William Desmond
Taylor, fully dressed,
lying face up with blood around his mouth.
No sign of a struggle
is immediately apparent.
It’s assumed he died of natural causes.
Peavey’s shouts alert the neighbors,
many of them Hollywood stars
and starlets themselves,
who gradually shuffle
into Taylor’s apartment.
– [Shane] Who’s there?
Like Greta Garbo and Charlie Chaplin?
“Let’s get a load of this bloody man.”
– [Ryan] Well, the thing is,
he lived in an apartment
complex that was very luxurious
and there was a lot of people
who were already in Hollywood
living next door.
– [Shane] Wow, that’s fun.
– [Ryan] It was a wild scene.
Also, the last th–
– [Shane] Asdfghj.
“It was a wild scene.”
– It is!
– The last thing you want
when there’s a crime scene that’s fresh
is everybody shuffling in
their fucking night robes.
– Walking in with cosmopolitans.
– Yeah, exactly.
“Wonder what’s goin’ on here.
“Ew, gross. Blood.
“Oh, I got it on my shoe.
“Let me rub it off on this carpet.”
That kind of thing.
– Yeah.
– You don’t want that in a crime scene.
– [Narrator] 8:00 a.m.
The police arrive on the scene.
8:40 a.m.
Coroner William Macdonald arrives
to move and examine the body.
And it becomes quite obvious;
this death was not due to natural causes.
They lift Taylor’s body
to reveal a pool of blood
staining the carpet where Taylor lay.
A .38 caliber bullet had entered
the left side of his back.
(gun fires)
Based on the placement of the bullet holes
in Taylor’s jacket and vest,
officials conclude that
his arms were raised
at the time he was shot.
Bizarrely, the police would
later consider this could mean
Taylor was embracing somebody
who then shot him in the back.
– [Ryan] Meaning they shot him
while they were hugging him.
And then, boom.
– Or just from the…
Like, boom.
– No, but he got shot in the back.
It went through the back.
– He got shot in the back?
– That seems awkward.
– Right?
– Also, wouldn’t you shoot yourself?
– Wouldn’t you shoot yourself?
I don’t know, bullets…
Do they stay in a body or do they just…
Yeah, they stay in a body, right?
– Well, there’s exit wounds sometimes,
and this one had an exit wound.
– So it would’ve shot the person.
– Unless they planned it
so that they were like,
kind of like an ole
situation where he’s like,
(grunt) and move like that.
– Or like, (pfffw)
– Yeah, they’re like,
running with the bulls…
– Something like that, yeah.
– …except it’s a bullet.
– [Narrator] Police also
supposedly find a silky garment,
pinkish in color that
“resembled a nightgown.”
Detectives Sargent Edward
King later tells reporters
he thinks it belonged to a woman.
A robbery is ruled out as
Taylor’s wallet was left behind
with $78 cash inside,
as well as other valuable
items in the home.
Shortly after the discovery
of the bullet wound,
the Alvarado Court Apartments
are filled with reporters
and photographers from
every L.A. newspaper,
as well as several papers outside of L.A.
Amidst the chaos of the crime scene,
one detail worth mentioning
is the fact that before
police and reporters arrived,
Paramount’s studio manager Charles Eyton
visited the crime scene
upon hearing the news.
It’s believed that Eyton removed evidence
from Taylor’s apartment that morning
in an attempt to avoid or at
least minimize the scandal.
Some even believe he may
have planted false evidence
such as pink lingerie,
perhaps to hide the fact that,
as one theory had it,
Taylor was a homosexual.
Detective Sargent Edward King,
who was assigned to the Taylor case,
is among those who believed
Paramount was taking measures
to keep silent their stars
who may have had useful information
on the chance that it
would implicate them.
When considering their roster of stars
associated with the case,
the motive for the studio
interfering was quite strong.
Though, this only leads to more questions.
What was Eyton cleaning up?
And whom was he covering for?
– [Shane] So the studio heads back then…
Sort of playing God.
– [Ryan] Yeah, sort of, yeah,
like a little bit of a God complex.
Any time a major studio and a
person in a position of power
starts tampering with any
kind of case like this,
things aren’t what they seem, obviously.
– [Shane] All bets are off.
Got those dirty, dirty
Hollywood fingers all over it.
– [Ryan] This is like a
classic dirty Hollywood story.
– [Shane] It stink, man.
– [Ryan] It stinks, yeah.
– [Shane] All the way up to the top.
– It’s makin’ my mouth dry.
That’s better.
(puckering lips)
(laughter)
– Poppy.
– [Narrator] Let’s take
a look at the night
before the body is discovered.
The night that Taylor was shot.
7:45 p.m.
Hollywood comedy star Mabel Normand,
the last person known to
have seen Taylor alive,
leaves Taylor’s home
and is driven off by her
chauffeur, William Davis.
8:00 p.m.
A sound that could have been a gunshot
is heard by actor and
neighbor, Douglas MacLean,
and his wife, Faith.
This possible gunshot is also
heard by apartment manager,
E.C. Jeseren, who writes it
off as a misidentification
when no other disturbance follows.
– [Ryan] At first I thought,
that’s a bit suspicious.
But then the more I thought
about it, I was thinking…
– [Shane] You write it off last night,
I was in my apartment,
and in the hallway I heard what, at first,
I thought was a woman like,
maybe, in pain or in distress.
At first, it was, “ahhh!”
and I was like, “Oh, no.
“Is someone in my building in trouble?”
And then I just put my ear by
the door and it changed to,
“Eohhh, uhhh, ohhh!”
It could have been someone in distress,
but my brain immediately was like,
“I think someone’s having
sex in the elevator.”
And then the elevator door closes
and I stopped hearing anything so…
– [Ryan] It’s a bit much
to confront the fact that,
“Hey, maybe someone’s
being murdered right now.”
– [Shane] It’s a lot. It’s a lot.
– So you take, maybe not consciously,
you take the easy way out.
Much like you take the easy way out
when you’re confronted
with ghost evidence.
Oh, win.
– Ryan, not the season for it.
– Shoes pivoting.
– Nope!
– Just thought I’d make that point.
– Let’s not discuss that this season.
– [Narrator] After hearing this sound,
Faith MacLean spots a man
outside Taylor’s home.
She does not get a good
look at the man’s face,
but sees that he is clean
shaven, white, of medium build,
around 5’9″, and dressed
in dark clothing and a cap.
She would later say,
“He was dressed like my idea
of a motion-picture burglar.”
– [Shane] Sounds like a hunk, right?
(laughter)
– [Ryan] Well, it sounds like
someone went to Party City
and was like, “Make me
look like a criminal.”
– [Shane] He have a cape?
– [Ryan] No, he didn’t have a cape.
He wasn’t Zorro.
– [Narrator] The man seems
to notice Faith watching him,
but does not appear to be
alarmed or in any hurry.
Faith sees the man look back
into Taylor’s home for a moment
as if saying goodbye.
Then, the man leaves, closing
Taylor’s door behind him.
At the time, Faith does
not think much of it.
– [Ryan] I don’t know how she
didn’t think much of that.
You say he’s dressed like a cat burglar.
He’s poking around this guys’ house.
You heard something that
sounded like a gunshot.
I think all those things together
may make me think a little bit about it.
– [Shane] What if he was
just turning around, though,
and like, it looked like
he was saying goodbye,
but what if he just sorta
did a double take like,
“That’s a wrap.”
(laughter)
– [Narrator] 8:15 p.m.
Howard Fellows, Taylor’s chauffeur
at the time of his death,
moves Taylor’s car into the garage.
When he goes to drop off the
keys at Taylor’s apartment,
Taylor does not answer his door,
despite the lights being on inside.
It’s assumed by police
that Taylor was already dead at this time.
The next day, police would
find six cigarette butts
in the alley behind Taylor’s
and the MacLean’s apartments.
The MacLean’s maid, Kristina Jewett,
heard footsteps in this alley
around the time of the supposed gunshot.
Perhaps the killer bided his time
until he saw an opportunity to strike.
– [Shane] Why is this unsolved?
Seems like a…
Seems like they’re really zeroing in here.
– [Ryan] Well, we don’t
know who the man is.
– [Shane] Ohhh…
– [Ryan] And most importantly,
we don’t know if the man
was acting independently.
– [Shane] Mmm…
– [Ryan] Looks like you’re
jumping to conclusions.
– [Shane] Yeah, I am.
– [Ryan] Yeah… (laughter)
Maybe that detective mind of yours
isn’t as strong as you thought.
– No, no, no.
It’s pretty strong.
I have a strong brain.
– [Narrator] Also left out
was the testimony of two men
who claimed an unknown man
inquired where Taylor lived
around 6:00 p.m. on the night of murder
at a nearby gas station.
The man’s description was
similar to Faith MacLean’s.
Although, this man was
wearing a dark suit.
– [Shane] Yeah, he’s at a gas station?
– [Ryan] He’s at a gas station near–
– [Shane] Maybe buyin’ more smokes.
– [Ryan] There it is.
See there, he’s back!
He’s back.
Yeah, he was asking where Taylor lived.
He was at a gas station near
where Taylor lived already.
– [Shane] Wait, he was asking where Tay–
– [Ryan] He was asking these
two men at a gas station,
at 6:00 p.m., two hours
before the gunshot,
where Taylor lived.
– Oh, I missed that part entirely.
– I guess the detective mind
is actually not there at all.
– Ah, interesting.
– [Narrator] Exiting the
events of that night,
let’s examine odd events that, perhaps,
foreshadowed Taylor’s demise.
(phone ringing)
Towards the end of 1921,
Taylor had received several mysterious
and unnerving phone calls
seemingly with nobody on
the other end of the line
when he answered.
Additionally, Taylor’s home
was robbed on December 4, 1921.
The thief had taken jewelry
and the special imported
cigarettes Taylor smoked,
which had gold tips.
On December 27th, he
received a strange package.
And for more details on that,
let’s get into our first suspect.
The first suspect is Edward F. Sands,
who had previously served
as Taylor’s secretary
slash valet slash cook.
In 1921, Sands had
forged checks from Taylor
for more than $5,000.
Also taking jewelry and clothing
before eventually disappearing.
Sands had previously been
court-martialed for embezzlement
and dishonorably discharged
from the U.S. Navy.
According to actress Clair Windsor,
Taylor had voiced his
intention to skill Sands
if he ever saw him again.
– [Ryan] $5,000 back then,
it’s actually quite a bit of cash.
– [Shane] Yeah. So, oh!
So Taylor was going to kill him!
– [Ryan] Yeah because he
had stolen so much from him.
– [Shane] That’s so strange.
Do you think he meant it?
– [Ryan] I mean, it could have been like,
“I’m gonna kill him next time I see him,”
and then you see him
and you’re like, “Hey!”
– [Shane] Yeah, right.
I can’t imagine he’d see
him at like the Copacabana
and he just…
– [Ryan] Just pull out
a gun and shoot him.
– [Shane] Yeah, yeah.
– [Ryan] No, I think he was angry with him
is what we’ll get from that.
– [Shane] Mmm…
– [Ryan] This is just demonstrating
that there is bad blood
between the two of them.
– [Shane] Yes.
– [Narrator] This
conversation was several days
before Taylor himself was murdered,
further demonstrating a grudge.
Sands had spent time digging up dirt
on Taylor’s private life
before finally absconding with his money.
This snooping brings us
to one of the weirdest twists in the case.
The revelation that Taylor
wasn’t who he said he was
and Sands, perhaps, knew it.
As mentioned before, Taylor
had received a strange package
on December 27th.
The package was postmarked
from Stockton, California
and contained a pawn slip for the jewelry
that was stolen on December 4th.
The pawn slips had been
signed William Deane-Tanner,
which as Taylor’s murder
investigation would reveal,
was Taylor’s real name.
Along with the pawn slip
was a note that read,
“So sorry to inconvenience
you, even temporarily.
“Also observe the lesson of
the forced sale of assets.
“A Merry Christmas and a happy
and prosperous New Year.”
Also notable was the name
used to sign the note.
“Alias Jimmy V.”
This could possibly be a reference
to the film “Alias Jimmy Valentine,”
a movie about a thief who
frequently alludes the cops.
More importantly, this
note suggests the thief,
possibly Sands, stole the
jewelry and then pawned it off
using Taylor’s real name to taunt him
as Sands likely knew there was a reason
Taylor had changed his name.
Before making the change,
Taylor had started and deserted a family.
A past he had hidden to
preserve his reputation.
Perhaps knowing this,
Sands sent this note and jewelry
pawn slips to mock Taylor.
It’s worth mentioning,
the handwriting on this
note was similar to Sands.
Police attempted to lure
Sands to Los Angeles
via a woman he’d dated.
A ploy that did not work.
And police were never able to
question their major suspect.
– [Ryan] I mean, it very
well likely could be him.
They just never were able to catch him.
He’s a greasy one.
– [Shane] They just couldn’t find him.
– [Ryan] I mean, I don’t know, it’s 1920s.
Must be harder to find people.
– [Shane] Yeah, I guess
you just go find a tree
to sit under somewhere.
– [Ryan] Yeah, yellow pages?
I don’t know.
I mean, I think you’re pretty fucked
once he gets passed the state border.
– [Shane] Move to a new town.
Tell ’em, “Hi there, my
name is Ricky Goldsworth.”
– [Ryan] Ricky Goldsworth.
– You know, if you ever
get tired of doing this,
you can just move to a new town,
tell ’em your name’s Ricky
Goldsworth, and you’re done.
You’re set for life.
– Yeah, I’d tell ’em that.
I want the top house.
I want the top room.
– You can just move into a new town–
– No, no. Yeah I can.
– No, you can’t just move
into a town and take a house.
– I don’t think you heard me.
– With what?
– “I want the best house
in your neighborhood
“and I want it stocked
with food, furnished,
“and I want servants, as well.
“I want butlers and you’re gonna be one.”
– “Sir, you can’t..
“I’m the mayor, sir.”
– “No, that’s not how this is goin’ down.”
– “Oh, shit.”
– “Your outfit’s in my car.
“I’ll expect you at my
house later, 8:00 a.m.
“Leave the keys under the mat.”
– “Yes sir, Mr. Goldsworth.”
(deep sigh)
– Good Goldsworth.
What a story.
Goldsworth’s really comin’ into his own.
– You’re talkin’ to me?
(laughter)
– [Narrator] The second
suspect is Mabel Normand,
the Queen of Comedy.
Mabel was the last known
person to see Taylor alive
and it had been long rumored
that Mabel and Taylor were intimate.
A fact that Mabel denied.
Though, it’s easy to see
why this was believed.
One of the valuables
found in Taylor’s pocket
was a silver locket containing
a photo of Mabel Normand,
engraved with “To my dearest.”
Mabel also admitted that she and Taylor
had exchanged letters,
which the press dubbed the
“Blessed Baby letters,”
named after Taylor’s pet name for Mabel,
which she used when
signing her letters to him.
However, the letters were not
found at Taylor’s apartment.
Some believe these letters
could have been among the evidence
removed from Taylor’s apartment
by studio manager Charles Eyton.
– [Ryan] I think it’s pretty certain
that they were in his house
and they were removed,
which doesn’t look good.
– [Shane] The studio head
removed these love letters
between Mabel and…
– [Ryan] Yeah, so she
would sign her letters,
“Blessed Baby.”
– [Shane] Blessed Baby.
Weird thing to sign–
– [Ryan] Well that was his
pet name for her, which is–
– [Shane] “Oh, Blessed Baby.”
(laughter)
That’s, ugh.
– [Ryan] Yeah, it’s gross.
– [Shane] Why does the studio head care…
– [Ryan] That’s the question
you should be asking.
Why should he care that Mabel Normand
is placed inside his
apartment several times
with these letters possibly.
Why does he care about the
relationship being public?
– [Narrator] Mabel said
she wouldn’t have minded
if people read them,
but thought that they
might be “misunderstood.”
Eyton would eventually turn over
some of Taylor’s personal
papers to the police.
But it’s possible that
he still retained papers
the studio didn’t want them to see.
– [Ryan] Well, also, what the shit?
Why don’t they just get a search warrant,
and go to this dude’s house,
and be like, “Hey man,
give us everything.”
– [Shane] He owns the law, man.
– [Ryan] Oh, you think that like,
the studio owns the
police like in the pocket?
– [Shane] Yeah, ‘course they are.
– [Ryan] I mean, that’s
not for sure, is it?
– [Shane] You ever see L.A. Confidential?
L.A. cops back in the
day were in the pocket
of the powerful men in the city.
– [Ryan] That’s a fictional film.
– [Shane] Yeah, I know.
– [Narrator] On February 9th,
the “Blessed Baby letters”
were turned over to the
Chief Deputy DA W.C. Doran.
After causing such a fuss,
what did these letters day you might ask.
Of what I could find,
in all of what was actually handed over,
one read, “Sorry I cannot
dine with you tomorrow,
“because I have a previous
engagement with a Hindu prince.
“Some other time.
“Blessed Baby.”
– [Ryan] Not exactly a criminal manifesto.
– [Shane] No.
Hey, we’ve all been to
dinner with a Hindu prince.
– [Ryan] Yeah! Yeah, right?
That’s just something you do.
– [Shane] What a life she’s leading.
– [Ryan] So, this could either be A:
these letters were in fact very suspicious
and not all of them were handed over.
Or B: she was kind of worried
that this may make it seem
like they’re in a relationship,
overreacted, and by her
overreacting and saying,
“These may be misunderstood,”
it actually made her look more guilty.
– [Shane] Yes.
– [Narrator] At the behest
of District Attorney Thomas Lee Woolwine,
Detective Sargent King
had Mabel’s home searched
in response to a tip
that the murder weapon
would be found in her house.
During that search, two
guns were uncovered,
but both were .25 caliber
and did not match the murder weapon.
One theory holds
that while Mabel didn’t
murder Taylor herself,
Mabel’s addiction to drugs,
her association with drug dealers,
and Taylor’s known insistence
in helping Mabel get off drugs
possibly led to someone from
Mabel’s world doing the job.
– [Shane] She’s on drugs?
– Yeah.
– Mabel!
– [Ryan] She had trouble
with alcohol and drugs.
To be fair, most of Hollywood
had trouble with drugs back then.
– [Shane] It’s just like
amphetamines or somethin’?
This a old-timey drug?
– [Ryan] I’m not sure what the drugs were,
but I know that most of
Hollywood at the time
was under the influence of drugs
and Taylor was crusader in terms of that.
He was against it.
He was trying to clean Hollywood up.
– [Shane] Pretty boring
for him to be that way.
– [Ryan] Well, I mean,
maybe boring enough–
– [Shane] Maybe all of
Hollywood ganged up on him
and said, “This guy’s a real buzzkill.”
– [Narrator] Captain Edward A. Salisbury,
an explorer and colleague of
Taylor’s, was quoted saying,
“Billy Taylor threatened
to make an example
“of the drug peddlers in Hollywood,
“but they evidently got him first.”
The third suspect is Mary Miles Minter,
a 19-year-old silent film star
who was vocal about her most likely
unreciprocated love for Taylor,
who had directed her in the past.
A few love letters
written by Mary to Taylor
were found amongst Taylor’s possessions.
One of which read, “Dearst, I love you.
“I love you. I love you.
“X X X X X X X X X X.
“Yours always, Mary.”
– [Ryan] Not exactly a poet.
(laughter)
– [Shane] Very insistent.
That’s a lot.
– [Ryan] You know,
incriminating, perhaps not.
Embarrassing, definitely.
– [Shane] Yeah, I wouldn’t want that.
I’d kill someone if they were like,
“I’m going to make this letter public.”
– [Narrator] Other letters
were bizarrely written in code.
Though, when decoded,
contained nothing but
the written affections
of a young girl.
– [Ryan] I know that may
seem weird, it is weird.
– [Shane] What kind of code?
– [Ryan] Like a cypher and when decoded,
it was pretty much her telling him
she wanted to take long drives with him,
sit by the fire and snog.
– [Shane] Boy, I can’t
imagine why this guy
didn’t want anything to do with her.
(laughter)
– [Narrator] Another item
turned over to police
on February 9th was a
lace and silk handkerchief
embroidered with Mary’s initials of M-M-M.
Rumors began that the pink
nightgown found in the apartment
also had the initials M-M-M.
Both of these items
could possibly place Mary
in his apartment at least at some point.
– [Shane] So where was the handkerchief?
– [Ryan] In his apartment.
– [Shane] In his apartment.
– [Ryan] And so was,
apparently, this nightgown.
If there, in fact, is a
pink nightgown in there
with her initials on it, I mean,
that looks like maybe they
may have been intimate.
At the very least, it places
her inside his apartment,
which all the investigators
are trying to do.
– [Shane] Which to me,
again, is not that suspect.
– [Ryan] I suppose.
– [Shane] I’ve had people in my apartment
who didn’t murder me.
I don’t find it that suspicious
that the handkerchief was in the apartment
’cause, I don’t know, she
seems to have been after him
and she’s over there for a
cup of tea at some point.
– [Ryan] Or maybe she could
have mailed it to him.
– Yeah, just like, “Here’s my scent.
“I’m a weirdo, remember?”
– “Smell it before you go to
sleep at night think of…”
– “Think of the drives we might take.
“I love you, I love you, I love you.”
– “You decoded the letter, right?”
– “Yeah, I’ll get to that.”
– [Narrator] Though, interestingly,
Mary claimed that she and
Taylor had never been intimate.
Mary also stated that she did not believe
that any of the men she had rebuffed
would be jealous enough to kill Taylor.
After hearing that Taylor had been shot,
Mary showed up at his
apartment in dramatic fashion
as reporters took note.
– [Shane] I love it!
Her showing up in
dramatic fashion, though.
That’s just her, you know,
going to the hot party of the…
If all, like you say, all the
big stars are there, like,
“Oh… Oh and here she comes
“slipping in a fresh puddle of blood.”
– [Ryan] You think they
were taking selfies
with the body or something?
– [Shane] Well, maybe. I don’t know.
It seemed like it was the hot ticket.
– [Ryan] Well, I looked at that more,
with a more incriminating lens.
I thought it was her putting on a show
to show that she was remorseful
so that in the case of
a murder investigation,
everyone would have taken
note how heartbroken she was.
– [Narrator] Aside from a
possible motive of killing Taylor
due to being rejected,
there isn’t much to implicate Mary.
It’s more likely her
relationship with Taylor
boiled down as a way to escape
from her overbearing stage
mother, Charlotte Shelby.
Who, by the way, is our
fourth and final suspect.
Charlotte Shelby, mother
of Mary Miles Minter,
pushed her daughter into
acting at a young age.
Mary was actually originally named Juliet
and Shelby even went as far as having Mary
steal the identity of a dead
cousin named Mary Minter
to make Juliet older on paper
so that Mary slash Juliet
could continue working.
From then on, Juliet went
by Mary Miles Minter.
– [Shane] Classic stage mom.
– [Ryan] That is fucking insane.
– [Shane] I mean, we’ve talked
about stage moms before.
I think it’s a little strange
to take your little child,
dress them up like a little pony,
put them out on a stage,
“Ohh, dance for the people.
“Dance.”
– [Ryan] “Dance!”
– [Shane] You’re three years old!
– [Ryan] “Dance for them and
make sure you refer to yourself
“by the name of your dead cousin.”
– [Shane] It’s very strange.
– [Ryan] It’s one thing to
have a stage name, right?
It’s another thing to steal the identity
of a dead family member so that
you could go recite Hamlet.
It’s fucking strange.
– I don’t think she was reciting Hamlet.
– You get what I’m saying.
(laughter)
– [Narrator] Shelby was a reported suspect
because she’d been angry with Taylor
for her belief that he
deflowered her daughter.
Once Charlotte Shelby learned of this,
she started several arguments with Taylor
for getting too close to her daughter.
Shelby’s relationship with her daughter
was already strained to begin with
and it’s conceivable
that there was jealousy
that she was losing her
daughter to an older man.
According to some accounts,
Shelby had even threatened to kill Taylor
on more than one occasion if
he got too close to Mary again.
Both an author of a book on the case,
as well as a film director
who planned to adapt the case into a film
believed that Shelby is
the most likely culprit.
If you’ll recall,
police speculated that Taylor
was shot during an embrace.
Perhaps that embrace
was a faux-olive branch
extended by Shelby to Taylor
to lure him into a trap.
– [Shane] Mmm…
– [Ryan] She’s the only one I could see
who would have fake-hugged
him so she could shoot him.
– [Shane] Yeah. Yeah.
– [Ryan] ‘Cause maybe it’s like,
“Bury the hatchet.
“It’s okay that you’re dating my daughter.
“I approve. You’re dead.”
– [Shane] That’s pretty good.
I like this lady as a suspect.
– [Ryan] A lot of people
like her as a suspect.
– Yeah? God, I love the hug murder.
That’s good.
– It is, right?
– Especially if it’s her, you know,
I’m picturing like, Anjelica Huston.
Just sort of embracing and just eyes.
– And then, yeah, while the hand is there,
putting her back, taking
the gun to the back, boom.
It doesn’t even seem very
logical or effective.
I feel like you’re more
likely to shoot yourself.
But, you know, old Hollywood.
She was a stage mom.
She liked theatricality.
– [Narrator] There were rumors that Shelby
and District Attorney Thomas
Lee Woolwin were friends
and perhaps, romantically
interested in one another,
opening the door for some
to suspect a cover-up.
– [Shane] She’s just
sleeping with the detective?
– [Ryan] The district attorney.
– District attorney?
– Yeah.
– They were just like, “A dame, huh?”
(laughter)
“I guess I’ll cover-up a murder for her.
“As long as she’s smoochin’ me.”
– (laughter) Exactly.
– Push a bunch of files into the garbage
and that’s a cover-up.
“Cover-up what you can.
“Let’s make some more pictures.”
– She seems the most likely suspect to me.
On that, we agree.
– The only thing that’s weird
about Charlotte Shelby being the culprit
is that the MacLean’s saw a
white male leave the apartment
around the time of the gunshot.
– I mean, there could have
been two people there.
– I guess she could have hired someone
to do the whacking for her.
– That’s true.
– [Narrator] William Desmond
Taylor’s high profile murder
continues to baffle.
An intertwined web of stardom,
lust, jealousy, and rage
set against the backdrop
of the false facade
of glitz and glamour in
an immoral Hollywood.
In the end, all we can do is take a guess
as to who was truly responsible.
But for now, the case remains unsolved.

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