Murder, Morphine, and Madness at the Birth of Hollywood

Book - 2014
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Baker & Taylor
Draws on primary sources--including witness testimonies, coroner's inquest files, FBI records, court transcripts, and contemporary newspapers--to examine the mystery behind the 1922 murder of William Desmond Taylor, the president of the Motion Picture Directors Association.


New York Times Bestseller

Edgar Award winner for Best Fact Crime

The Day of the Locust meets The Devil in the White City and Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil in this juicy, untold Hollywood story: an addictive true tale of ambition, scandal, intrigue, murder, and the creation of the modern film industry.

By 1920, the movies had suddenly become America’s new favorite pastime, and one of the nation’s largest industries. Never before had a medium possessed such power to influence. Yet Hollywood’s glittering ascendency was threatened by a string of headline-grabbing tragedies—including the murder of William Desmond Taylor, the popular president of the Motion Picture Directors Association, a legendary crime that has remained unsolved until now.

In a fiendishly involving narrative, bestselling Hollywood chronicler William J. Mann draws on a rich host of sources, including recently released FBI files, to unpack the story of the enigmatic Taylor and the diverse cast that surrounded him—including three beautiful, ambitious actresses; a grasping stage mother; a devoted valet; and a gang of two-bit thugs, any of whom might have fired the fatal bullet. And overseeing this entire landscape of intrigue was Adolph Zukor, the brilliant and ruthless founder of Paramount, locked in a struggle for control of the industry and desperate to conceal the truth about the crime. Along the way, Mann brings to life Los Angeles in the Roaring Twenties: a sparkling yet schizophrenic town filled with party girls, drug dealers, religious zealots, newly-minted legends and starlets already past their prime—a dangerous place where the powerful could still run afoul of the desperate.

A true story recreated with the suspense of a novel, Tinseltown is the work of a storyteller at the peak of his powers—and the solution to a crime that has stumped detectives and historians for nearly a century.

& Taylor

A narrative account of the unsolved murder of popular Motion Picture Directors Association president William Desmond Taylor draws on recently released FBI files to consider a host of potential suspects against a backdrop of Roaring Twenties Hollywood. 40,000 first printing.

Publisher: New York, N.Y. Harper, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, [2014]
Copyright Date: ©2014
ISBN: 9780062242167
Branch Call Number: 364.1523 M3159t 2014
Characteristics: 463 pages, 32 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 24 cm


From Library Staff

Try "Tinseltown" while you're waiting for Michael Connelly's "The Late Show."

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Nov 12, 2014

The mystery surrounding the murder of director William Desmond Taylor rivals another notorious Hollywood cold case, the Black Dahlia. Peopled with the the highest tier of Hollywood power brokers to the lowest rungs of losers and hangers-on, the story is also an informative history about the early structure of film production, distribution, and theater franchising that persists even today. A little slow at times, but I stuck with it because I am a sucker for tales that take place in a city with streets named Sunset and Alvarado.


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