The Legacy

“This sounds like the kind of story that, no matter how you end up writing it, you’re always going to know another way that’d be just as good”

Sidney D. Kirkpatrick, A Cast of Killers.

“Before we can make any accurate speculations of the causes and guilt of those involved we must know something of the community in which the victim lived and in which he died. It is my first contention that the murder itself and its consequent lack of solution had its roots deeply buried in the inner character of the community. I am convinced of this. I was there!”

King Vidor, private papers


Hugh Jackman, Ben Kingsley in Taylor Movie

Hollywood director of the Oscar-winning Boys Don’t Cry (1999), Kimberly Peirce, “became obsessed with the unsolved murder of silent-film director William Desmond Taylor” says Entertainment Weekly’s Karen Valby. ” She watched every silent movie she could get her hands on, buried herself in film archives, and believes today that she may have ferreted out the true killer and the reason for the cover-up. She co-wrote the script for Silent Star, a true-crime Hollywood noir, and lined up a dream cast of Hugh Jackman, Annette Bening, Ben Kingsley, and Evan Rachel Wood. But in 2004, the project crumbled when DreamWorks decided that a period piece with minimal appeal to foreign audiences didn’t justify a $30 million budget. All that time was lost.”

Talking to Sara Michelle Fetters of, she said: “The studio looked at the project and they loved it, And they thought it should cost $30-million, but they didn’t want to spend [that amount], they wanted to spend $20-million. I said that it was going to be tough, but that I’d try to do it as the project was really starting to mean a lot to me. That’s when they said they didn’t want to see the $20-million version, they wanted to see the $30-million version – they just didn’t want to pay for it.”

According to Pierce’s wikipedia page; the film, described as ‘In the vein of Chinatown and Mildred Pierce… is currently being revived, which is very interesting, if true. Why the view that it’s ‘minimal appeal to foreign audiences’ would have changed since 2004 is anyone’s guess.

While in Los Angeles in 2011, Cleverality Productions sought to interview Kimberly Pierce for the radio programme ‘Who Killed Bill?‘ but she was unavailable for comment. We look forward to catching her the next time if the film is, in fact, revived.

Bruce Long on William Desmond Taylor

Short fragments from three documentaries of Bruce Long, author of William Desmond Taylor: A Dossier and curator, discussing William Desmond Taylor.


Death has cast a long shadow over Hollywood

Publicist Ronni Chasen’s slaying in Beverly Hills is the latest in a string of deaths that date to at least 1922, when director William Desmond Taylor was found fatally shot in his bachelor pad near 4th and Alvarado streets.
Los Angeles Times November 28, 2010|By Steve Harvey

Several days after Hollywood publicist Ronni Chasen was found shot to death in her Mercedes-Benz, a friend voiced the hope to KNBC-TV news that the case wouldn’t turn into “another Black Dahlia.”

The friend was referring to the 1947 slaying of aspiring actress Elizabeth Short, which has never been solved.

Of course, mysterious deaths with links to Hollywood date to at least 1922, when debonair director William Desmond Taylor was found slain in his fashionable bachelor pad near the corner of 4th and Alvarado streets.

Taylor’s valet cried out the news that morning and an actress neighbor quickly notified the director’s acquaintances, including those in the habit of writing love letters.

By the time officers arrived, author Sidney Kirkpatrick wrote in The Times, there “appeared to be a party at Taylor’s bungalow: Paramount actors, actresses and executives rummaging through bedroom drawers and closets, a butler washing dishes and an unnamed extra walking out the front door with a case of bootleg gin.

“Everyone in the bungalow seemed to be looking for something, except the host, who was neatly laid out on the living room floor with a bullet hole in the middle of his back.”

“Persons of interest” abounded: an actress with a crush on Taylor; an actress’ mother with a crush on Taylor; an actress’ drug dealer; a thieving valet (who may have secretly been Taylor’s brother); a wife whom Taylor had deserted in the East; and a soldier from his wartime regiment whom Taylor had court-martialed for theft.

Police were pretty sure the butler didn’t do it, but they were certain of little else. No one was ever arrested.

Mystery has also surrounded cases in which the authorities concluded no homicide took place.

In “Deadly Illusions,” for instance, authors Samuel Marx and Joyce Vanderveen argue that director Paul Bern did not shoot himself in 1932, as the coroner had ruled. They contend that an ex-lover did in Bern, the husband of bombshell actress Jean Harlow.

In another case, the body of beautiful actress Thelma Todd was discovered in December 1935 in her Lincoln Phaeton convertible in a garage near her cafe in Pacific Palisades.

The coroner ruled she died of carbon monoxide poisoning after turning on the ignition and striking her head on the steering wheel.

But others theorized she may have been killed by a film director or an abusive ex-husband or even minions of Lucky Luciano, whom she had angered by refusing to allow casino gambling on the property.

Todd’s death followed a series of show-business scandals, and “the studio bosses were worried that many of the Americans who paid to see movies wouldn’t tolerate yet another,” wrote authors Marvin Wolf and Katherine Mader in “Fallen Angels.”

“An official finding of death by her own hand, accidental, or otherwise, put an end to speculation about murder…. A neat and tidy solution.”

Then there was the case of George Reeves, TV’s ” Superman,” who died in 1959 not by jumping out a window — as one urban myth has it — but by gunshot.

It was ruled a suicide and connected to Reeves’ inability to land serious roles after his “Superman” days.

But in “Hollywood Kryptonite,” authors Sam Kashner and Nancy Schoenberger assert that he may have been killed on orders of a studio executive whose wife was having an affair with Reeves.

No one, of course, thought the 1978 bludgeoning death of Bob Crane — the star of TV’s “Hogan’s Heroes” — in a Scottsdale, Ariz., apartment was anything but murder.

In 1994, John Henry Carpenter, a friend of Crane’s and a longtime suspect, was tried for the slaying but acquitted.

Prosecutors alleged that Carpenter, who was with Crane the night before the killing, had had a falling out with the actor.

Their case hinged in part on a photograph of a speck found on the door of Carpenter’s rental car, which prosecutors said was fatty matter from Crane’s skull.

Unfortunately, the speck was lost before the trial started. “What was the speck?” asked the jury foreman later.

Officially, the case remains unsolved.

The Times’ Larry Harnisch attributes fascination with the Black Dahlia case to the fact that the killing was a “gruesome, unsolved murder of an attractive victim with a haunting nickname.”

She picked up the nickname because of her black outfits and black hair and because a movie of that era was titled “The Blue Dahlia.”

Short’s mutilated body was found Jan. 15, 1947, in a vacant lot on Norton Avenue in the Leimert Park area.

More than 50 delusional characters confessed. No one was ever arrested.

Over the years, the villain has variously been identified as a pipe salesman, a doctor, a cop, a mobster, a cafe owner and an actor.

Meanwhile, it is too soon to predict the outcome of the investigation into the Nov. 16 slaying of Ronni Chasen. But, as the above cases illustrate (all too brutally), not every Hollywood story has a happy ending. And some have no ending at all.

Original article here.


Hollywood Legend Vidor Identifies Killer

Author Sidney Kirkpatrick intended to write the biography of director King Vidor, who it was claimed had the longest career in Hollywood, one that spanned over 7 decades. However, Kirkpatrick soon discovered that the story Vidor was researching at the time was a lot more interesting, namely the murder of William Desmond Taylor. Here Kirkpatrick describes what the legendary director unearthed.

2 responses to “The Legacy

  1. When I was a Creative Director at J. Walter Thompson Advertising Agency in Los Angeles, one of my clients was Paramount Home Video. Around 1991, my creative team and I were shown a short video cassette compilation of the proposed films (many were direct to videotape and some were still being shot) that were being slated for release on video the next year. One of those clips was a movie based on the Cast of Killers book written about the Taylor murder. I was thrilled because I had just read the book and found the incident spellbinding. But from that day on, I have never been able to find any trace of the making of Cast of Killers–or any movie focusing on the Taylor murder. Since Paramount was a key player in the original investigation, I wonder if certain powers-that-be deep-sixed any footage of the film and buried any information on its existence. Does anyone know anything about this? I know i’m not mistaken because two other folks who were with me recall how excited I became when I saw this “coming attraction.”

    • Cleverality ⋅

      Hi Marty.

      Thanks for your message. Sorry I’ve taken a while to get around to responding. I never heard of this film, though I’d love to see it. As delicious as it sounds, I doubt contemporary Paramount executives have any interest in burying this story. In 1922 and for years later, yes maybe, but today, in my experience, only real classical Hollywood buffs are concerned with the Taylor story, regardless of how fascinating it is. If you ever come across the ‘Cast of Killers’-the-movie please let me know. In the meantime, this radio drama we made might interest you: Thanks

      All the best
      Marc-Ivan O’Gorman
      Chairman, The William Desmond Taylor Society

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