Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Drugs, Sex, and Murder in 1920s Tinseltown

Mabel and Mack

Mabel Normand
Mabel Normand

The friendship of famous film comedian Mabel Normand and William Desmond Taylor, noted director, was an intriguing element in the case. A glamorous killer is always more interesting than a valet.

Normand was a drug addict. It was well known that Taylor attempted to cure her of her drug dependence. It was further known that Taylor was protective of Mabel and was trying to separate her from her drug suppliers.

Most of all, Mabel Normand was the last person known to have seen Taylor alive. Those who were close to the victim in both relationship and time were inevitably suspected.

What was the relationship between this beautiful suspect and the victim? Taylor was 20 years older than Normand and could have been her lover. More likely, they were friends, with Taylor assuming the roles of confidante, escort, and mentor. Mabel was vivacious, pretty, and certainly a good companion. Beyond that, one can only speculate, and speculation would only carry investigators so far. For one thing, Normand had a solid alibi.

Mack Sennett
Mack Sennett

A fourth suspect was Normand's lover, the highly successful comedy director Mack Sennett. The two — Mack and Mabel, immortalized in a Broadway musical of the 1960s — had motives, so the speculation went. Mabel was jealous of Taylor's involvement with other women, and, unable to rekindle his interest in her, killed him. Or Sennett was jealous of Taylor, because he was still very much in love with Normand. But because he was estranged from her, he killed Taylor in a fit of jealousy. It seems that the soap-opera environment of 1920s Hollywood fostered such theories.

But, like Normand, Sennett had an iron-clad alibi.

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