MURDER IN HOLLYWOOD: Solving a Silent Screen Mystery

Charles Higham, Author . Univ. of Wisconsin/Terrace $24.95 (242p) ISBN 978-0-299-20360-3

Although the author, a veteran Hollywood biographer (Kate ; Bette ; Marlene ), claims to have solved the murder of silent film director William Desmond Taylor (1872–1922), this overly melodramatic account of his life and death sheds little light on the mystery. In 1907, Taylor, an Irish immigrant, deserted his wife and daughter in New York City and turned up in Hollywood as a screen actor; later, he became a well-known director. Attractive and intelligent, Taylor had many affairs with both men and women, including actress Mabel Normand and his cook and houseman, Edward Sands, a thief and compulsive liar whom Taylor later fired. On the night of February 1, 1922, Taylor was shot and killed at his home. According to Higham, the murderer was actress Mary Miles Minter, who harbored an unrequited love for Taylor. He bases his theory on some police documents given to him by director King Vidor, Minter's lack of an alibi for the time of the murder, and some complicated political corruption, which, according to the author, motivated the district attorney to eliminate Minter from the list of suspects. Higham doesn't really overturn other hypotheses that implicate Normand, Sands and others or an unidentified man seen by a witness leaving the scene. There's more heat than light in this convoluted account. B&w photos. Agent, Dorris Halsey. (Nov.)

Reviewed on: 10/04/2004
Release date: 11/01/2004
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