Murder in Hollywood

Solving a Silent Screen Mystery

By Charles Higham
(University of Wisconsin Press, Hardcover, 9780299203603, 242pp.)

Publication Date: November 2004

Other Editions of This Title: Paperback

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    For more than eighty years, the famous unsolved murder of William Desmond Taylor, the legendary bisexual film director, has generated debate and controversy.  Now, best-selling author Charles Higham has solved the crime.  Higham uncovers the corruption and intrigue of Los Angeles in the Roaring Twenties—and the film industry moguls’ complete domination of the city’s authorities.
    When it was discovered that a famous star of the day had probably killed Taylor, a massive cover-up began—from the removal of crucial evidence to the naming of innocent people as killers—which has continued until now to protect the truth.  Murder in Hollywood goes beyond the killing to unearth unknown details about the life of Taylor before his arrival in Hollywood, as well as the stories and histories buried by the crooked authorities and criminals involved the case. The author’s exclusive interviews with the culpable star, his unique possession of long-vanished police records, and the support of the present-day Los Angeles county coroner—who examined the evidence as if the murder had taken place now—have ensured a hair-raising thriller.
    Charles Higham successfully presents the most plausible and convincing solution yet to the mystery.  In the process he paints a vivid portrait of Hollywood in the 1920s—from its major stars to its bisexual subculture. The result is a compelling answer to a long-standing mystery and a fascinating study of a place, and an industry that, as today, let people reinvent themselves. Murder in Hollywood is more extraordinary than any crime of fiction and more exciting than any action adventure movie.

About the Author

Charles Higham, critically acclaimed writer, poet, critic, and playwright, is a literary and film detective. Among his many publications are The Duchess of Windsor and Kate, Bette, and Marlene, biographies of Katharine Hepburn, Bette Davis, and Marlene Dietrich, which have earned him high positions on bestseller lists and prestigious literary prizes. After holding the post of Regents Professor and writer in residence at the University of California, Santa Cruz, he was the Hollywood feature writer for the New York Times from 1970 to 1980. He is also the author of Howard Hughes: A Secret Life, which is a basis for the Martin Scorsese film The Aviator, starring Leonardo DiCaprio.

Praise For Murder in Hollywood

"This is an excellent book and should attract considerable interest in film history circles as well as among readers who enjoy a good true-crime story well told." —John Baxter, Kubrick: A Biography and Mythmaker: The Life and Work of George Lucas

"An amazing tale of police corruption and journalistic irresponsibility. Higham's thoroughness—the way he documents the cover-ups, the planting and removal of 'evidence,' the innuendo, the collusion of the studios, the myriad odd events that led to no one ever being brought to trial for Taylor's murder—is impressive, as is the methodical way he deals with all previous explanations of what took place."—Todd McCarthy, Variety

“Charles Higham has written the most thoroughly researched and carefully considered of all the books on the legendary William Desmond Taylor murder case. Drawing on his immense knowledge of motion picture history, Higham makes Murder in Hollywood a compelling story of deceit, jealousy, greed, and—ultimately—insanity in the early days of moviemaking.”— James Curtis, author of W. C. Fields: A Biography

“Here is a detective biography on a grand scale, sparklingly written and brilliantly researched, which will capture and hold its readers’ fascination and attention throughout.”—Doyce B. Nunis Jr., Distinguished Professor Emeritus of History, University of Southern California

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