Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Drugs, Sex, and Murder in 1920s Tinseltown


There are three major books on the William Desmond Taylor case. The earliest, by Kirkpatrick, is the weakest. The next, by Giroux, is well-written and well-thought-out. The last, by Higham, is the most analytical, although a bit breathlessly written. Other mentions of the case appear in biographies of Samuel Goldwyn, Mabel Normand, and Mack Sennett, although most of these can be classified as gossip.

There are two unpublished sources upon which the three principal authors rely. The most important of these is the account by King Vidor, "Who Killed William Desmond Taylor?" For the most part, Vidor's manuscript has been reproduced in its essentials in all three books. The second source is by the art director George James Hopkins, entitled "Caught in the Act: A Memoir." It is used heavily by Higham, and forms the basis of the speculation about Taylor's purported homosexuality.

Berg, A. Scott. 1989. Goldwyn: A Biography. Knopf.

Fussell, Betty. 1982. Mabel. Ticknor and Fields.

Giroux, Robert. 1990. A Deed of Death. Knopf.

Higham, Charles. 2004. Murder in Hollywood. Wisconsin.

Kirkpatrick, Sidney J. 1986. A Cast of Killers. Dutton.

Sennett, Mack, and Cameron Shipp. 1954. King of Comedy. Doubleday.

Sherman, William T. 1994. Mabel Normand. Cinema Books.

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