The Director’s Mysterious Death

By | Feb 1, 2009

On the morning of February 2, 1922, the body of silent film director William Desmond Taylor was discovered at his home. The director had been killed by a shot in the back. In his pockets was his wallet with 78 dollars, a silver cigarette case and an ivory toothpick. A 2 caret diamond ring was on his finger.

Mabel Normand, a popular silent film comedy actress, was at the Taylor home on February 1, leaving the house at 7:45. It is thought that she was the last person, other than the murderer who saw him alive. She left the house in a happy mood.

Taylor was born William Cunningham Deane-Tanner on April 26, 1872 in Ireland. he came to America in 1890. He married in 1901 to Ethel May Harrison whose father was a wall street broker. He vanished in 1908 deserting his wife and daughter.

While there were many suspects including Mabel Normand, Edward Sands – a former Taylor’s Valet, and Henry Peavy – Taylor’s Valet, no one was ever charged with the murder. Even to this day the identity of the actual murderer is unknown.

It has been discovered that Taylor had a relationship with teen screen actress Mary Miles Minter. At his death Taylor was 49 and she was 19. There is cause to believe that they may have had an intimate relationship prior to her turning 18. Minter’s mother Charlotte Shelby has also been linked as a possible suspect in the murder. Shelby, too, may have had an intimate relationship with Taylor.

From 1993 to 2000, Bruce Long collected and compiled information about Taylor and the murder. He called his effort Taylorology. It can be found at


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