The Headline: Director Found Murdered: Starlets Among Suspects
William Desmond Taylor, an elegant and celebrated 45-year-old director, had a serene expression on his face and a .38 bullet in his back when police arrived at his Los Angeles bungalow February 2, 1922. Officers found a full house that included Keystone Kops heroine Mabel Normand rummaging through Taylor’s desk drawers, a Paramount executive burning papers in the fireplace and a houseman calmly washing dishes.
They also discovered love letters from female stars and a closet filled with women’s lingerie. One pink silk nightgown was monogrammed “M.M.M.” for Mary Miles Minter, the 19-year-old blond nymphet who starred in Anne of Green Gables. The media had a field day with a suspect list that reportedly numbered 19, among them Normand (Taylor had tried to get her off drugs), Minter, Minter’s fiercely protective mother and houseman Henry Peavey (who had a previous arrest record for soliciting young boys). Despite all the suspects–and all the publicity–no one ever was charged.
In 1967, King Vidor, director of such epics as The Fountainhead and War and Peace, researched the Taylor case in hopes of making it into a movie. But after interviewing survivors and reading secret police files, he locked away his 650 pages of notes, taking his findings to the grave in 1982. Filmmaker Sidney Kirkpatrick eventually found Vidor’s notes and fashioned them into a stunning book. His conclusions: Taylor was homosexual, and the lingerie had been planted in his home by his studio. Houseman Peaves had procured the boys for Taylor, not himself. And the killer was Minter’s mother, Charlotte Shelby, who had found her daughter at Taylor’s home.
Vidor had presented his solution to Mary Miles Minter, who was then in her sixties and grossly obese–a “real-life Norma Desmond,” he wrote later in his notes. When Vidor asked her to confirm it, Minter sobbed, “My mother killed everything I ever loved.” Minter died in 1984.
Officially the case remains unsolved.
Classic Movie Quotes: Star Wars – May the Force be with you
The Line: “May the Force be with you.”
Who Said It: Alec Guinness as Ben Kenobi–among others–in 1977’s Star Wars.
The Setup: George Lucas’ Star Wars franchise became a cinematic entity that made Hollywood history with with prequels, sequels and billions of dollars in licensed merchandise, ranging from miniature spaceships to vinyl wallpaper.
The Payoff: In 1978, a paper presented at the eighth annual convention of the Popular Culture Association reported 46 percent of Americans were baffled by the concept of “the Force,” a confusion widely shared by the organization’s 2,000 members. Some academics saw it as simple Manichaean dualism, others as Orthodox Christianity or Hollywood Zen. Fraser Snowden of Louisiana’s Northwestern State University argued with some passion that the Force derives from “the impersonal bipolar absolute of Chinese Taoism and the all encompassing ki energy field of the Japanese art of aikido.” He offered to teach how to experience the Force. Most conventioneers decided they had other engagements.
Classic TV Revisited: Breakfast Time and TV-am
In another of our Classic TV Revisited moments we take a look at the early days of breakfast TV in the UK with Breakfast Time and TV-am.
Channel: ITV, February 1983 and BBC1, January 17, 1983
Starring: Frank Bough, Selina Scott, David Frost, Angela Rippon, Michael Parkinson, Anna Ford, Robert Kee.
A long forgotten 30 odd years each.
Very, very dated morning news programmes.
The first breakfast TV shows in British history.
Why were they so good?
To be frank, they weren’t.
To say both had teething problems would be to underestimate the financial and personal wars that ensued.
They must have sounded like good ideas at the time?
Yes, they were top-class homages to American networked morning shows.
Soothing, a bit shallow and generally cheesy, then?
Who were the stars?
Selina Scott joined nice “uncle” Frank Bough on BBC1’s Breakfast Time from January 17, 1983.
And on ITV?
The Famous Five – Rippon, Parkinson, Frost, Kee and Ford.
So what happened?
The BBC kicked off with a mix of news, sport and funnies, introduced by Bough and Scott.
No, Bough. Scott was a smooth-as-silk Princess Diana clone who wore rather funny nanny-style dresses.
Wasn’t there a funny lady who looked like an enthusiastic cucumber?
I think you’re referring to Diana Moran, aka the Green Goddess. She became the real star even though Nick Ross was on hand to add gravitas.
Tell me more about the Goddess.
Diana Moran was our answer to Jane Fonda.
Of course. But we still felt those burns.
She wasn’t famous, then?
Not really. BBC bosses saw her working on HTV in her green gear and snapped her up.
What about TV-am?
Its first broadcast was in February 1983. David Frost promised viewers a bowl full of news and showbizz. Fellow TV-am man Peter Jay said he had a “mission to explain”.
But it all turned sour?
And bitter. The ratings went soggy.
Peter Jay quit after only six weeks. By April, Anna Ford and Angela Rippon were sacked. Robert Kee and Michael Parkinson stuck around.
But didn’t TV-am survive?
Yes it did. A then little-known TV exec called Greg Dyke decided to introduce Roland Rat.
Don’t tell me it worked.
He was the rat’s whiskers. Anne Diamond arrived with that very pleasant chap Nick Owen.
They had Selina and Frank trapped. When Roland and his pal Kevin the gerbil appeared in the school holidays in April 1983 ratings rose by a whopping 52%. Anne and Nick owe an awful lot to those puppets.
Didn’t Frank have a spot of bother in 1987?
Indeed he did, but you’ll have to do your own research on that.
Want some coke with that rum, Frank? Mr Bough can’t talk to you now, he’s a bit tied up.
That’s the first time a rat has joined a sinking ship.
Not to be confused with:
Breakfast with Frost, Today, Farming Today, The Rat Catchers.
Movie Tens: James Dean
Even sixty years plus after his death actor James Dean continues to fascinate, here are ten facts you may not know about the iconic star.
James Dean was nominated for two posthumous Best Actor Oscars: In 1956, for East of Eden (he lost to Ernest Borgnine in Marty), and in 1957 for Giant (he lost to Yul Brynner in The King and I).
Jimmy was not speeding when he was killed on California’s Highway 466. (He was struck head-on by a Ford station wagon, driven by Donald Turnupseed, 23. ) Although Dean had received a speeding ticket an hour earlier, it has since been proven he was actually driving 60 to 65 mph when the accident occurred.
Jimmy was set to star in two films at the time of his death: The Left-Handed Gun: Billy the Kid’s Story and Somebody Up There Likes Me, about the life of boxer Rocky Graziano. Both roles were filled by Dean competitor Paul Newman.
Jimmy often referred to himself as “the little bastard,” a name he had painted on the back of his Porsche Spyder days before his death.
In November 1951, struggling actor Dean worked as an offscreen stunt tester on the N.Y.-based TV game show Beat the Clock.
Before his three starring film roles, Jimmy had bit parts in Fixed Bayonets, Sailor Beware and Has Anybody Seen My Gal?
Rumors have always run rampant that Jimmy had homosexual relationships. When asked about it, he answered enigmatically, “Well, I’m certainly not going to go through life with one hand tied behind my back.”
Jimmy’s famous red jacket from Rebel was purchased from Mattson’s department store on Hollywood Boulevard. Following his death, the store hiked the price on the jackets to a then exorbitant $22.95. Warner Bros. actually bought two of them for filming. Afterward, Jimmy gave one to his friend, composer Leonard Rosenman, who wore it until it fell apart. Nobody knows what happened to the other.
A week before his death, Jimmy ran into one of his favorite actors, Alec Guinness, at Hollywood’s Villa Capri. When an excited Dean showed Guinness his new Porsche Spyder, the British star begged him to get rid of it, saying Dean wouldn’t live long if he kept the car.
When Jimmy finally met his idol, Marlon Brando, at a party, he acted so strangely Brando told Leonard Rosenman that Jimmy needed to see a psychiatrist. Jimmy was already in therapy at the time.
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