Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Drugs, Sex, and Murder in 1920s Tinseltown

Hooray for Hollywood

Bizarre events in Hollywood have been going on for a long time. We are fascinated by scandals in the movie industry. None of the present-day events — illicit romances, drug charges, accidental overdoses — can meet the mystery of a famous case of 1922.

Hooray for Hollywood
That screwy, ballyhooey Hollywood!
Where any office boy
Or young mechanic
Can be a panic
With just a good-looking pan
And any barmaid
Can be a star maid
If she dances with or without a fan.

Lyrics by Johnny Mercer

Johnny Mercer's teasingly cynical lyrics about the Hollywood that he knew so well capture the spirit of the capitol of filmdom in the 1920s and 1930s. With a little gentle tweaking, one might add a variation that would suggest some of the elements of the most famous unsolved murder case in Hollywood history — the murder of director William Desmond Taylor.

Hooray for Hollywood
That phony, super Coney, Hollywood
Where any movie goddess
Can be an addict
Or be ecstatic
With just a pusher or two,
And any starlet
Can be in the market
To keep her honey from being blue.

— Parody lyrics by Russell Aiuto

William Desmond Taylor
William Desmond
Taylor

The case has all of the elements of the unreal world of Hollywood. It has a famous director of silent films shot in the back. It has, among the suspects, a dope-possessed movie star, several sex-crazed female movie stars, a young up-and-coming screen goddess with an insatiable lust for the director, the starlet's monster of a stage mother, hitmen, drug pushers, and the victim's brother. If this were not enough, there's an embezzling chauffeur, a gay housekeeper, charges of gay and bisexual escapades, hysterical and dishonest movie executives, and a district attorney who seemed to want to produce a cover-up.

Place all of these characters in the context of 1920s movie scandals, prohibition, and the raffish characters that made up the movie industry at that time, and you have a story of passion, greed, and, most of all, a very mysterious murder.

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