Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Who Killed William Desmond Taylor?

"A Cast of Killers"

Vidor King & Eleanor Boardman
Vidor King & Eleanor
Boardman

When film director King Vidor researched this case for a movie he planned to make he began to wonder if Taylor was gay or at least bisexual. According to A Cast of Killers, there was at least one source who credited those rumors.

That source was art director George Hopkins, a gay man who had worked with Taylor. In A Cast of Killers, King Vidor's meeting with Hopkins is detailed. According to Hopkins, he was one of the people at the Alvadaro Court bungalow that morning.

"Charlie Eyton called and said Bill was dead," Hopkins remembered, "and to get there as fast as I could. I was the first one there from the studio. I didn't even know Bill'd been murdered until I was already back at the studio. I just ran upstairs and gathered every scrap of paper I could find and got the hell out."

"What were you looking for?" Vidor asked.

"I figured you already knew that, too," Hopkins replied.

"Taylor slept with men."

Paramount art director George Hopkins
Paramount art
director George
Hopkins

Hopkins indicated that Sands had blackmailed Taylor because of the director's relations with men. Hopkins sprung a bombshell on Vidor with an unexpected question. "How do you know Peavey was homosexual?" Hopkins asked.

Vidor replied that the butler had been arrested for soliciting, "Peavey was obviously homosexual or why would he be in a park soliciting young boys?... Unless he was soliciting them for Taylor!"

The story has Vidor making several unwarranted leaps. First, he assumes on the basis of very little information that Taylor had gay affairs. Then he jumps from this possibility to that of the director's having been interested in "young boys." Whether Taylor had gay relationships is not known with certainty. Nor is there any evidence that, if he was bisexual, that he had an interest in young boys.

Also, the charges against Peavey himself were rather vague. Indecent exposure could have been connected with gay cruising. Then again, as is speculated in Taylorology, in those segregated days it could even mean that the black man had been denied the use of a "whites only" restroom and was caught urinating behind a bush in the park.

However, most of those who have investigated this baffling case agree that Peavey was not the killer. Peavey died in 1937. In 1930, he gave a press interview in which he is reported to have said that he believed that a famous actress and her mother murdered Taylor. They are not named but they do not have to be. Any reader with the slightest background in the case knew he was talking about silent film actress Mary Miles Minter and her mother Charlotte Shelby.

Many people suspected that Taylor was done in because of his love life. A director has a great deal of power and Taylor was a handsome man. He also had an ingratiating personality and a generous streak. This combination of characteristics made him very attractive to women. 

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