26 April-William Desmond Taylor

William Desmond Taylor was a famous Hollywood actor and director who was a native of Carlow town, Ireland. He acted in several films and directed over fifty films before his death in 1922. Taylor was popular and well-known figure in Hollywood during the early part of the 20th century. He was a founding member of the Motion Picture Director’s Association.

William Desmond Taylor was born at Evington House, The Elms, Carlow, Ireland in 1872. His real name was William Cunningham Deane-Tanner. His father Major Kearns Deane‐Tanner who was born in Cork, was an officer in the Carlow Rifles. He was stationed in the Military barracks in Carlow town. Major Tanner served as Captain of the Carlow Volunteer Fire Brigade when it was established in 1878. Taylor’s uncle, Dr Charles Kearns Deane Tanner was an MP for mid Cork who was actively involved in the Plan of Campaign and was a supporter of Irish Home Rule.

When Taylor was young his family moved to Dublin. When he failed the army entrance test his father sent him to work on a ranch in America. Taylor later moved to New York City where in 1901 he married Ethel May Hamilton who was the daughter of a wealthy stockbroker. The couple had one daughter. He ran a highly successful antique shop in New York City until he mysteriously disappeared in 1908.

Taylor turned up four years later in Hollywood having changed his name to William Desmond Taylor. He worked initially as an actor but later as a director of silent movies. He directed, with great success, several films including Tom Sawyer (1917). In 1918 he enlisted in the Canadian Army in order to serve in World War 1. He returned to Hollywood after the war and had success directing films such as Anne of Green Gables (1919) and Huckleberry Finn (1920).

The last film which Taylor directed was The Green Temptation, just before he was murdered on February 1st 1922. His body was discovered in the living room of his home in Los Angeles. All investigators could say was that he had been shot once in the back. Several suspects were questioned but nobody was ever charged and Taylor’s murder is officially a cold case. When he was buried his daughter, Ethel Daisy, put his real name on his headstone.

William Desmond Taylor, Hollywood actor and director was born in Carlow town, Ireland in the year 1872 On This Day.

Image from page 226 of “Motion Picture Studio Directory and Trade Annual (1916)” (1916) by Internet Archive Book Images on 1916-01-01 00:00:00


The Elms, Athy Road, Carlow


2 Replies to “26 April-William Desmond Taylor”

  1. very nicely done bio of Taylor but you may want to double check your information about his military service. He actually enlisted in the British army, reported for active duty in Aug 1918 and was sent to Windsor, Nova Scotia for training. He went to England in November and was then sent to Dunkirk. He enlisted as a private and was released from active duty as a Captain in the British Reserve Corps. He returned to Hollywood in May of 1919. Following his death newspapers accounts erroneously reported that he had served in the Canadian army. You may verify the information on taylorogy.com a site devoted to William Desmond Taylor.

    • Thank you for the information Cathy. We regret that we got it wrong about the military service of William Desmond Taylor. He was a very interesting person who led an eventful life.

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