Contents

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p. ix

List of Illustrations

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p. xi

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Prologue

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pp. 3-15

I have been interested in the William Desmond Taylor case for much of my adult life. The story fascinates: Hollywood in the glamorous, drugridden 1920s; a famous director murdered in his luxury apartment; major stars Mabel Normand and Mary Miles Minter investigated for the...

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1. Last Day

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pp. 17-25

On the frosty winter morning of Wednesday, the first of February, 1922, the famous Hollywood director who called himself William Desmond Taylor woke in the front upstairs bedroom of his luxurious white bungalow duplex in Alvarado Court, in the wealthy Los Angeles district...

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2. A Wandering Life

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pp. 26-48

The man who was killed that night, and thus became the subject of the greatest of Hollywood mysteries, was born William Cunningham Deane- Tanner in Carlow, County Carlow, Ireland, on April 26, 1872. He was the second child and oldest son of the dashing, forty-year-old Captain...

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3. George and Mary

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pp. 49-73

In October 1915, Taylor received an offer from the big, loud-voiced multimillionaire Frank A. Garbutt, patriarch of a clan that exercised considerable power in the raw boomtown of Los Angeles. Oil, printing, motion pictures, real estate—these were only a few of the interests of this...

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4. A Gay Association

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pp. 74-89

In June 1920, Taylor was allowed, along with a small handful of Famous Players’ directors, to form his own unit. He could now commit himself to his beloved team of George Hopkins as art director, Julia Crawford Ivers as scenario writer, and her son James Van Trees as cameraman. He...

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5. Death and After

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pp. 90-113

Shortly after dawn broke that day, Henry Peavey woke in his five-dollar-a- week lodging-house room at 127½ Third Street in downtown Los Angeles, dressed and breakfasted, and walked to an all-night Owl drugstore. He bought, for fifty cents, a bottle of Phillips’ Milk of Magnesia..

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6. Mirrors of Deceit

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pp. 114-135

The reason Thomas Lee Woolwine protected Mary Miles Minter from a charge of murder was not only that he had strong connections to Famous Players–Lasky through Charles F. Eyton and Frank A. Garbutt. It was not only that he was a close friend of Charlotte Shelby and...

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7. False Leads and Red Herrings

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pp. 136-174

Behind all the blarney and ballyhoo of a press on fire with callous excitement over a celebrity murder, there was the tragedy of two people who were innocent of the crime: the out-of-town stranger who would never be able to discuss his trip to Los Angeles, and Edward Sands, who went...

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8. What Happened to the Cast

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pp. 175-192

The tragic fate that dogged seemingly everyone in the Taylor affair did not spare Neva Gerber. She recovered slowly from his death, achieving considerable success acting and with her production companies, coowned with director Ben Wilson. She took months off to marry a young...

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9. Last Events

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pp. 193-206

On the night of April 26, 1933, a bankrupt Edward L. C. Robins, Ethel Deane-Tanner’s husband, was working as supervising janitor of the apartment building at 680 Madison Avenue, where he had lived in a penthouse before he married Ethel. While he was talking to a tenant, in...

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Acknowledgments

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pp. 207-209

My greatest debt is to the remarkable Bruce Long, of Tempe, Arizona,who, since 1984, has made the William Desmond Taylor case a life’s work. His now sadly discontinued Taylorology, though back issues are available on the internet, a unique publication devoted to that one...

Source Notes

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pp. 211-217

Index

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pp. 219-227