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Silent Era Movie Star – Mary Miles Minter – Involved in Murder & Scandal

Ian Harvey

Mary Pickford (aka America’s Sweetheart) is probably the first name that pops into your head when thinking of stars from the Silent Era. She appeared in silent movies for ten years, appearing in 54 motion pictures.

Actress MaryMilesMinter(1902-1984)

Actress MaryMilesMinter(1902-1984)

She was born Juliet Reilly, in 1902, in Louisiana, to Broadway actress Lily Pearl Mile (aka Charlotte Shelby) and Joseph ‘Homerun’ Reilly. Charlotte decided that she wanted her daughter to become the brightest star of the Silent Era, although her husband didn’t agree and forbade the use of his name in doing so.

Juliet, at five years old, accompanied Margaret (her sister) to an audition and was spotted by a director and given her very first role.

MaryMilesMinter

MaryMilesMinter

That was the beginning of her stage career and was highly in demand; being famed for her visual appeal, as well as her talent. Because of child labor laws in 1912, Juliet was 10 and acting in a Chicago play, Charlotte passed Juliet off as her deceased cousin, using her passport, and Juliet then became Mary Miles Winter.

In 1922, February 1st, Taylor was murdered at home in Los Angeles. The investigation that ensued caused widespread media embellishment and speculation.

Minter circa 1917.

Minter circa 1917.

They stated that love letters (in code) had been found at Taylor’s home and had come from Minter. This was true; however, the letters were more than three years old.  Minter, at this point in time, was at the peak of her career and the scandal that this murder brought her affected her greatly.

Minter in 1924.

Minter in 1924.

There were a few suspects in Taylor’s murder, one of which was Minter’s mother.

In 1937 Minter made a public statement “Now I demand that I either be prosecuted for the murder committed fifteen years ago, or exonerated completely.

If the District Attorney has any evidence, he should prosecute.

If not, then I should be exonerated… Shadows have been cast upon my reputation.”

William Desmond Taylor directing May McAvoy in the silent film Top of New York (1921), several months before his death

William Desmond Taylor directing May McAvoy in the silent film Top of New York (1921), several months before his death

The murder of Taylor is still unsolved.

When Minter was interviewed in 1970, she described Taylor as being her ‘mate’ and recalled having to go view his body after his death.

She says she demanded that they do a blood transfusion, to bring him back, as she believed him still alive – until she touched the body “That deadly cold… convinced me as nothing else could have done.

No life can return to this man.” She broke down and sobbed: “They crucified Jesus. Now they’ve crucified… They’ve crucified my mate”.

The Amazing Impostor (1919)

The Amazing Impostor (1919)

Minter stated she was happy and content to live the rest of her days without the Hollywood career she used to have. She reconciled with her mother in her later years and continually stated her love for Taylor.

Minter invested a lot of her money into real estate in LA and seems to have done well from it.

Here is another  Silent film story from our vault: “The Power of Love” is a silent movie from 1922 and it is the first 3D movie in the world

 

Her mother, Charlotte, died in 1957 at Minter’s home in Santa Monica.