Fri, 28 October 2016
William Desmond Taylor was a big deal. A director in the pre-talkie era of Hollywood, Taylor was a giant in the film industry. He worked with the likes of the greats of that time: Mabel Normand, Mary Pickford, Jack Pickford, Wallace Reed, and Douglas MacLean.
In February of 1922, the houseman found William Desmond Taylor murdered. He had been shot to death, and the resulting furor over his passing went well beyond the tabloids of the era. In context, the murder of William Desmond Taylor was yet another bargaining chip for the growing moral majority of the time period to argue against films as a valid form of creative expression directed at the youth of America.
See, Hollywood -- Tinseltown, as it was widely known -- was not the innocent place one might imagine. There were plenty of scandals, even back in the Roaring Twenties. Not only did you have the death of William Desmond Taylor, but there was also the Fatty Arbuckle rape trial to contend with. Stars were going to secret rehabs to dry out of their cocaine addictions. People were ODing and ending up cast aside.
It was a wild time. And William Desmond Taylor's murder was at the center of it all. To make matters worse, the crime was never officially solved, so this podcast episode is all to do with the unsolved murder of William Desmond Taylor.
However, there's a twist to this story that I would rather not spoil for the casual listener. It's the thing that makes this particular Hollywood murder something of an anomaly, and it's almost fit to be put on screen. The William Desmond Taylor book from which I've drawn most of my research is, of course, William J. Mann's 'Tinseltown: Murder, Morphine, and Madness at the Dawn of Hollywood.' It is a fantastically-researched book, on par, in my opinion, with Erik Larson's 'Devil in the White City.'