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The Murder of William Desmond Taylor


VII) - The Fates of the Players


Mary Miles Minter

Mary Miles Minter

The William Desmond Taylor affair didn’t destroy Mary Miles Minter’s career.   At the time that the scandal broke she had two films left to shoot on her Paramount contract.   The previous four films she had made were yet to be released, and did reasonably well at the box office.   One of them, The Trail of the Lonesome Pine (1923) was widely considered to be her best film since Anne of Green Gables.   Paramount wanted her for the female lead in The Covered Wagon, but Charlotte Shelby refused to allow her daughter to appear in a Western.   She demanded that Paramount buy out her daughter’s contract for $350,000, which they did in June 1923.   UFA and Pathe made offers, but Minter had tired of life in the public eye and would never make another film.   She enjoyed a long retirement in comparative comfort thanks to wise investments in real estate. 

Mary Miles Minter died on 4th August 1984 at the age of 82.   Today, only six of the fifty-five films she made are known to have survived.


Mabel Normand

Mabel Normand

In the summer of 1922, Normand travelled to Europe in an attempt to escape the pressures brought to bear on both her mental and physical health by the scandal surrounding the murder of Taylor. The release of Suzanna, the film she was working on when the scandal broke, was delayed until February 1923, and proved a box office success, as did her second release that year, The Extra Girl. However, she would find herself once again embroiled in a scandal when her chauffeur shot oil tycoon Courtland S. Dines on New Year’s Day 1924 for making what he perceived to be an insulting comment to the actress.

Her association, however innocent, with two scandals in as many years had an inevitable effect on her film career.   After a short break, Normand tried her luck on the stage, but a poor choice of material and a weak stage voice swiftly brought her stage career to an end.

In 1926 she married Lew Cody, her co-star in Mickey (1918), one of her biggest hits.   The marriage was something of a sham – the couple spent most of their marriage living apart.

Normand was hospitalised with pneumonia in March and August 1927.   The following year, she was diagnosed with tuberculosis and her already frail health rapidly declined.   She moved into a sanitarium in Monrovia in September 1929.   The tuberculosis finally claimed her life at 2.25am on 23rd February 1930.


Charlotte Shelby

Charlotte Shelby

 Charlotte Shelby was reconciled with Mary Miles Minter following the legal agreement that settled their differences over the whereabouts of the money Mary had earned as a minor.   In 1932, she filed a lawsuit against a broker who, she claimed, had lost over $400,000 of Minter’s money.   The case dragged on for decades.

 Shelby moved to Santa Monica with Minter, where she died in 1957 at the age of 85.



Henry Peavey

Henry Peavey

 Henry Peavey died in the Napa State Hospital of general paresis, an impairment of mental function caused by damage to the brain from untreated syphilis, on 27th December 1931.




Margaret Shelby Fillmore

Margaret Shelby

 Fillmore married film director Emmett J. Flynn on 17th March 1937, but the marriage was annulled a few weeks later because Flynn was already married.   Her chronic alcoholism eventually took its toll on her health and she died on 21st December 1939 at the age of 39.   On the 27th December 1939 the Los Angeles Herald Examiner, reporting on her funeral, noted that the name of the embalmer who prepared her body for burial was William D. Taylor



Charles Eyton

Eyton died on 2nd July 1941, aged 70.   He shot a number of film serials, most of which starred his wife Kathlyn Williams, from whom he was divorced in 1931.


Thomas L. Woolwine

Thomas Lee Woolwine

Woolwine resigned from his position as District Attorney because of ill health.   He spent a year convalescing in Europe before returning to Los Angeles.   Woolwine died of liver disease on 8th July 1925 at the age of 50.




Asa Keyes

Asa Keyes

 Asa Keyes succeeded his boss Thomas L. Woolwine as District Attorney from 1923 to 1928, when he was imprisoned for one-to-fourteen years for accepting bribes from the Julian Petroleum Company.   He was released from prison  on 13th October 1931.   He worked briefly - and unsuccessfully - as a car salesman, and then as general manager of a bail bond company.   He hoped that a pardon from Governor Rolph issued on 18th August 1933 would enable him to practice once more as a lawyer, but the State Bar Board of Governors found that he hadn’t ‘sufficiently rehabilitated himself in the eyes of the public.’

 Keyes died of a stroke on 18th October 1934 at the age of 57.


Buron Fitts

Buron Fitts

 Fitts remained as District Attorney until 1940, surviving a perjury trial in 1936 and a sniper’s bullet through the windscreen of his car in March 1937.  Having failed to win re-election in 1940, Fitts returned to law practice.   He joined the Army Air Corps shortly after the start of WWII, rising to the rank of major.  Fitts’ body was found with a bullet wound to the head on the driveway of his home on 29th March 1973.  He had apparently committed suicide at the age of 78.



Friend Richardson

Friend W. Richardson

 Richardson defeated former DA Thomas L. Woolwine to become the 25th governor of California beginning from January 1923.  He served until 1927, by which time his ultra-conservative policies had alienated him from much of the Republican party.   He returned to newspaper publishing and remained active in politics in appointed positions.   Richardson retired in 1939 and died from a heart attack on 6th September 1943 at the age of 78.



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