MARY MILES MINTER

Open, general discussion of silent films, personalities and history.
salus
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Unread post by salus » Wed Jul 07, 2010 4:44 pm

Im surprised a major film hasnt been made on this case, I believe while Mary was alive she threatened to sue if they tried to tie her into the murder so they shied away from it. Didnt King Vidor want to do a film but after meeting Mary was too sorry for her and decided to forgo it. Well there is no excuse now and its a great whodunnit.

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Unread post by FrankFay » Wed Jul 07, 2010 5:12 pm

I don't think there would be enough mainstream interest. I think that the movie about the Ince death (The Cat's Meow) only got made because Hearst, Davies and Chaplin were on the boat- and a lot of people only know of Hearst and Davies from the connection to Citizen Kane.

Buster Keaton's career would be better suited to a film- a fall from the heights into alcoholism, but with a happy ending. I bet they'd cast Adam Sandler.
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missdupont
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Unread post by missdupont » Thu Jul 08, 2010 1:36 am

I believe Doug Fairbanks and Mary Pickford's love story would make a great film, and show the trajectory of the silent film industry at the same time. It would offer strong parts to both a male and female star.

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Bob Birchard
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Unread post by Bob Birchard » Thu Jul 08, 2010 2:08 am

missdupont wrote:I believe Doug Fairbanks and Mary Pickford's love story would make a great film, and show the trajectory of the silent film industry at the same time. It would offer strong parts to both a male and female star.
I've always thought the Doug and Mary story could make a good film as well. But the emphasis is on "could." The real problem with such projects is how do you avoid the "and then I sang" cliches of "The Jolson Story"? You need to be able to establish these folks as real people to an audience that by and large doesn't have a clue who they were.

I always thought the film "Gable and Lombard" was a pretty good movie about two movie stars--it just wasn't GABLE & LOMBARD. How can you believe (good as he was) a TV actor who played a supporting role in his one hit series, "Marcus Welby, M.D.," as "The King of Hollywood"?

I think Kevin Kline was great as Fairbanks in "Chaplin." Didn't look anything like Doug, didn't act anything like Doug, but he managed to convey a sense of "Doug" that made the character believable. The less said about Maria Pitillo as Pickford the better---she managed to convey nothing of the aura of "Mary."

Part of what makes the story of Doug and Mary (or any other major personality) compelling is knowing who and what they were. If the broader audience doesn't have this knowledge then you have to play "substitution." Doris Day isn't anything like Ruth Etting--but she has star power and that makes "Love Me or Leave Me" work as a drama whether you know who Ruth Etting is or not. Keefe Braselle is the "spitting image" of Eddie Cantor in "The Eddie Cantor Story," but he conveys none of the excitement Cantor generated on stage and screen. Which film would you rather take to a desert island?

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Unread post by drednm » Thu Jul 08, 2010 5:35 am

As I remember it, King Vidor and pal Colleen Moore really wanted to make a film in the late 60s about the murder of William Desmond Taylor. I'm sure MMM would have been an impediment and she didn't die until 1984. Vidor's last mainstream film was in 1959.

Even now, although the names involved wouldn't ring many bells with contemporary audiences, the story would make a good film. Charlotte Shelby would be a memorable movie monster.
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Unread post by Bob Birchard » Thu Jul 08, 2010 8:25 am

drednm wrote:As I remember it, King Vidor and pal Colleen Moore really wanted to make a film in the late 60s about the murder of William Desmond Taylor. I'm sure MMM would have been an impediment and she didn't die until 1984. Vidor's last mainstream film was in 1959.

Even now, although the names involved wouldn't ring many bells with contemporary audiences, the story would make a good film. Charlotte Shelby would be a memorable movie monster.
A lot of the "context" for "Cast Of Killers" was spun to make it more interesting than it was. Kirkpatrick's tale that the Taylor scandal (and the other Hollywood scandals of the early 1920s) put a premature end to an illicit affair between Vidor and Colleen Moore and that his effort to solve the murder was motivated by his desire to gain back, in some way, their lost years together is largely fiction.

So is the notion that Vidor hid his research material away so no one else could find it. Oral historian Nancy Dowd, and probably others as well, had seen the material before Kirkpatrick "discovered" it.

Vidor's interest in the Taylor case was motivated by one thing: He wanted to get back into the movie business, and he thought the Taylor story might provide a viable script for a comeback. He did not investigate very deeply. He was close to Colleen Moore and Adela Rogers St. Johns in his later years, and the notion that Mary's mother was the killer came from St Johns, and had been touted by her for years with no real evidence to back up her theory.

I did not meet Kirkpatrick until after the book came out, but I was aware of it because two friends of mine were working with him aiding his "top secret" research. Then, several months before the book was released, I got a phone call one day:

"Hello, Bob, this is Sidney Kirkpatrick. You remember? We've been talking about my William Desmond Taylor research for the past couple of years . . .?"

It was actually the first time I'd ever heard Kirkpatrick's voice, or had any direct contact with him, but I was too polite to correct him. He was calling to do some spell checking on several names--the only one that sticks in my mind after all these years was James Van Trees. I helped him with the spellings on maybe four or six names. He thanked me, and we hung up.

A look at the photo section in the book will offer a pretty fair idea of how "once over lightly" the research was for "Cast of Killers." The photo of Faith MacLean that was actually Kathlyn Williams--also the picture of Mary Pickford with a man in uniform identified as Taylor (it isn't). and the picture of Mary Miles Minter in "Faith," which is neither of MMM nor from "Faith," and there may be others as well, I don't recall at the moment.

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Unread post by salus » Thu Jul 08, 2010 8:43 am

Who was this young man that Mary left her money to,she described him as "just like a son" Also where the servants who beat and robbed Mary put in jail, and has anybody spoken to them? Also there was a woman who claimed that she was Mary's daughter, was a DNA test done to determine this and also has anybody ever spoken to her. I think they would be fascinating to hear what Mary said over the years. For a semi-recluse she seemed to have an entourage around her. Hollywood is full of gay men trolls who look for stars of the past and try to cling to them, a recent example was the shameless explotation of silent star Anita Page who was talked into these camp films in her 90s.

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Unread post by Bob Birchard » Thu Jul 08, 2010 10:53 am

salus wrote:Also there was a woman who claimed that she was Mary's daughter, was a DNA test done to determine this and also has anybody ever spoken to her.
The woman who claimed to be MMM's Hungarian-born daughter was befriended by film collector David Bradley, who arranged to hire an attorney for her. The attorney advised her not to talk to the press, but she couldn't help herself and talked to the Santa Monica Evening Outrage--er, I mean the late, unlamented Evening Outlook.

I was over at Bradley's house to return a film I had borrowed the day the story appeared (or soon thereafter), and as I was sitting on the couch in his living room, Bradley worked himself up into one of his fine furies. He got up from his chair and charged into a back room and came back in with a walking stick. He threw the newspaper down on the couch beside me with the woman's picture facing up, and began beating the picture with the cane.

Whap! Whap! Whap! he struck again and again with the cane, barely inches from where I sat. I didn't dare move a muscle.

"That f***ing c**t, the lawyer told her not to talk to the press!"

Bradley was in his late 60s and not in the best of health and he quickly ran out of steam. Had I not been used to seeing him in a rage over this, that and the other thing through the years I would have been terrified. As it was I managed to stay and chat for an appropriately polite but short amount of time and made my exit.

Despite Bradley's faith in this woman's story, she was later revealed to be a fake--or is that flake? A fortune hunter seeking to grab Mary's money.

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Unread post by drednm » Thu Jul 08, 2010 10:59 am

gee how much money could MMM have had at her death? She hadn't worked in 60 years and her films were basically lost or out of circulation....
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Unread post by FrankFay » Thu Jul 08, 2010 11:06 am

drednm wrote:gee how much money could MMM have had at her death? She hadn't worked in 60 years and her films were basically lost or out of circulation....

As Bob Birchard posted earlier MMM had invested well in property and owned quite a few houses and buildings- she probably had a nice income from rentals and put it into the bank. Quite a few stars invested in properties- Ben Turpin owned a couple of apartment houses and from what I've read he saved additional money by serving as his own janitor.
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Unread post by Danny Burk » Thu Jul 08, 2010 11:12 am

Speaking of David Bradley, he once told me a story about his visiting MMM, remarking that she would continually fawn and carry on over him, calling him "Bill" all the while (i.e. that she was out of it and thought that he was WDT.) I have no way of knowing whether there was any truth to it, but knowing that David loved a good story, I've tended to regard it as such and nothing more. I wouldn't have dared disagree or question him, lest he "bring down the iron door" (as he liked to put it) on further contact with me too...

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Unread post by Brooksie » Thu Jul 08, 2010 9:29 pm

drednm wrote:As I remember it, King Vidor and pal Colleen Moore really wanted to make a film in the late 60s about the murder of William Desmond Taylor. I'm sure MMM would have been an impediment and she didn't die until 1984. Vidor's last mainstream film was in 1959.

Even now, although the names involved wouldn't ring many bells with contemporary audiences, the story would make a good film. Charlotte Shelby would be a memorable movie monster.
Setting aside how accurate or otherwise Kirkpatrick's book is (I think it's a cracker of a read and doesn't attempt to be much else), the final analysis he makes, and puts in the mouth of Vidor, was probably correct - there were still too many people from that era around with egoes to be trodden on. MMM was just one of them.

It would be nice to think that there would be enough interest in the story to see a movie made of it, but if one ever got up, I suspect it would most likely end up as one of those awful low-rent telemovies, like the adaptation of Shirley Temple's autobiog from a few years back.

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Unread post by Bob Birchard » Thu Jul 08, 2010 10:28 pm

Brooksie wrote:It would be nice to think that there would be enough interest in the story to see a movie made of it, but if one ever got up, I suspect it would most likely end up as one of those awful low-rent telemovies, like the adaptation of Shirley Temple's autobiog from a few years back.
The film rights to "Cast of Killers" were purchased by Paramount, though it never got made. The trajectory was just as you described. The idea was to make a feature film, but as time dragged on it was slated to be a TV movie. It was later determined that it would cost too much to produce to return a profit.

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Unread post by Bruce Long » Fri Jul 09, 2010 9:35 am

Film director Kimberly Peirce came the closest to making a film on the Taylor murder. As she stated in the interview at
http://www.moviesonline.ca/movienews_14388.html
...The William Desmond Taylor murder. If you knew the research I did. I went to the King Vidor collection. I got everything that had ever been written on it. We solved the murder mystery. We figured out who did it, how they did it, and how and why it had to be covered up. It was an amazing experience. Hollywood basically covered up this murder along with the government to protect the industry that was about to be erased, and to protect America’s innocence....I’d cast that movie, Annette Bening, Hugh Jackman, Ben Kingsley, Evan Rachel Wood— dream cast. The studios said, “We love this movie.” I was on the one-yard line. We were going to shoot it and they said, “We would love to shoot a $30 million version of this movie, but we would like to pay for the $20 million version.” I was like, “Should I cut $10 million?” They were like, “No, we want to see the $30 million version, but we want to pay for the $20 million version.” ...So I lost some time with the William Desmond Taylor story.

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Unread post by Frederica » Fri Jul 09, 2010 9:47 am

Bruce Long wrote:Film director Kimberly Peirce came the closest to making a film on the Taylor murder. As she stated in the interview at
http://www.moviesonline.ca/movienews_14388.html
...The William Desmond Taylor murder. If you knew the research I did. I went to the King Vidor collection. I got everything that had ever been written on it. We solved the murder mystery. We figured out who did it, how they did it, and how and why it had to be covered up. It was an amazing experience. Hollywood basically covered up this murder along with the government to protect the industry that was about to be erased, and to protect America’s innocence.....
Has Pierce ever revealed her findings?

Not to be a spoilsport, but has anyone ever suggested that Taylor may have been shot during a random burglary attempt? I don't know enough about the case to know if that's a reasonable theory or if it was ever ruled out.
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Unread post by salus » Fri Jul 09, 2010 9:54 am

Its more likely Taylor was killed by the drug establishment of which he was trying to save Mabel Normand from , i never understood how Patricia Palmer/Margaret Gibson fit into this puzzle.

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Unread post by drednm » Fri Jul 09, 2010 9:58 am

The case was so corrupted by crooked cops, the district attorney, the studios, and the media it's almost impossible to figure out.

Charlotte dressed as a man is the winner. It seems the most likely.

Even the crime scene, as I remember, was compromised over and over again, stuff removed, evidence planted, etc.
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Unread post by mmandarano » Fri Jul 09, 2010 10:17 am

In regards to "A Cast of Killers," even if it isn't the most accurate book, it was a thrilling read and I think would translate quite well to the screen. I had thought some years back of writing a screenplay for it and trying to figure something out with the rights. I contacted Sidney Kirkpatrick and had several conversations with him over email. The rights are still at Paramount. In the late-80s, several versions of the script were made including one by "Chinatown" penner Robert Towne. David Lean even expressed interest in directing before he died!!! Imagine that, a David Lean film based on "Cast of Killers" with a screenplay by Robert Towne! Anyway, Sidney says the rights are completely tied up at Paramount and chances are the film will never get made unless some producer with a solid step-deal decides to choose that as his next project. Not to say a spec script couldn't entice someone, but it's hard to put that much time and energy into something that you don't have the rights to! If it was made right I don't think it would matter that many of the "characters" are not known today. A good mystery is a good mystery whether totally fictional or rooted in little-known non-fiction. Here's hoping one day some gutsy producer brings it to the screen!

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Unread post by Frederica » Fri Jul 09, 2010 10:19 am

drednm wrote:The case was so corrupted by crooked cops, the district attorney, the studios, and the media it's almost impossible to figure out.

Charlotte dressed as a man is the winner. It seems the most likely.

Even the crime scene, as I remember, was compromised over and over again, stuff removed, evidence planted, etc.
Yes, I know these are popular theories. I also haven't seen much in the way of solid evidence supporting them, but again--I haven't spent any time looking at the case, other than just reading the usual suspects and spot-perusing Bruce Long's Taylorology site. I just wondered if anyone had ever promulgated the interrupted burglary theory. I freely admit it is not as much fun as conspiracy and corruption, but it looks about as reasonable as the other theories.
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Unread post by Bruce Long » Fri Jul 09, 2010 10:30 am

Frederica wrote:...I just wondered if anyone had ever promulgated the interrupted burglary theory. I freely admit it is not as much fun as conspiracy and corruption, but it looks about as reasonable as the other theories.
That theory was actually the perferred theory by one of the detectives who worked on the case, who stated:
"I believe and always will believe that a burglar killed Taylor. He was known as the 'Dinner Time Thief' because he always stole between 5:30 p.m. and 7 p.m., when residents of the Westlake district were out eating. I checked the police records, which disclosed that this thief had committed about 25 burglaries in the area surrounding the Taylor home during the year prior to the director's slaying. Immediately after the murder of Taylor this burglar ceased operating..."
(Taylorology 85)

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Unread post by Frederica » Fri Jul 09, 2010 10:38 am

Bruce Long wrote: That theory was actually the perferred theory by one of the detectives who worked on the case, who stated:
"I believe and always will believe that a burglar killed Taylor. He was known as the 'Dinner Time Thief' because he always stole between 5:30 p.m. and 7 p.m., when residents of the Westlake district were out eating. I checked the police records, which disclosed that this thief had committed about 25 burglaries in the area surrounding the Taylor home during the year prior to the director's slaying. Immediately after the murder of Taylor this burglar ceased operating..."
(Taylorology 85)
My question answered, thanks.

OK, sorry for the interruption, back to the colorful speculation!
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Unread post by drednm » Fri Jul 09, 2010 10:42 am

yet.... on Taylor's body were his wallet with cash, a pocket watch, a diamond ring, etc.... some burglary.
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Unread post by Frederica » Fri Jul 09, 2010 11:11 am

drednm wrote:yet.... on Taylor's body were his wallet with cash, a pocket watch, a diamond ring, etc.... some burglary.
Quite often when a burglar is interrupted in a burglary (as for example, William Desmond Taylor re-entering his apartment) a startled and armed burglar might shoot the interruptee. Under those circumstances burglars are known to flee the scene. Especially if there are still people about who can hear a loud gunshot, which in this case, there were.

But again, not as much fun as the other theories and distinctly uncinematic.
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Unread post by Bob Birchard » Fri Jul 09, 2010 2:13 pm

salus wrote:Its more likely Taylor was killed by the drug establishment of which he was trying to save Mabel Normand from , i never understood how Patricia Palmer/Margaret Gibson fit into this puzzle.
To answer Fred: Yes, it has been suggested that it was a random act.

The idea that MMM's mother did it has some logical basis. She was known to pack a pistol (at least in Santa Barbara) and she didn't want to lose her meal ticket. But Taylor and MMM had not worked together for two years, and if one subscribes to the theory that Taylor was gay--there seems to be no compelling reason to suspect Charlotte Shelby. I question whether Taylor was gay. He certainly seemd to have a fair number of women friends, and those I spoke with who were in Hollywood at the time and who mentioned Taylor did not offer the suggestion that he was gay--but, of course, this is anecdotal rather then real evidence. MMM always said that Taylor was a "real man," but then she claimed she was a virgin when she married in the 1950s. Ultimately, however, it seems to me Mary and her sister seemed to use the threat of "exposing" Charlotte as a means to getting what they wanted out of her, and they made numerous contradictory statements through the years.

I always felt that it was at least a possibility that Mabel Normand pulled the trigger. She was, after all, the last known person to see him alive. It was her career that ended with the shooting (Minter worked for another year), and Mabel was involved in that weird Cortland Dines shooting sometime later--the one where Mabel and Edna Purviance and Mabel were in the back room adjusting their faces, the front doorbell rang, Dines opened the door to find Mabel's chauffeur pulling the trigger for no compelling reason. Huh?

But the Margaret Gibson/Patricia Palmer possibility seems the most compellingto me. First, she knew and had worked with Taylor. Second, she was shady character who was involved in prostitution and a shake-down ring. Third, she was such a shady character she was compelled to leave the country in the 1930s. And Four, she made a deathbed confession--which under the law is considered air-tight proof because of the notion (whatever anyone else might think) that people won't lie when they're facing their Maker. Gibson/Palmer also fulfills the candidacy by way of being a virtual unknown in Taylor's circle and therefore not likely to be on the short list of suspects at the time.

I spoke with the guy who heard the confession, and he certainly had nothing to gain by making himself known to Bruce Long and Taylorology. He isn't writing a book or making a movie or attempting to make his living as a lecturer on unsolved mysteries.

There are other potential candidates, of course, and if one bothers to read all 100 or so issues of Taylorology, one can follow those leads, and also come away with the notion that a lot of what we "know" about the Taylor murder comes from later accounts that jumbled or invented the facts and often significantly differ with the details as first reported in the papers st the time immediately following the killing.

I've never been much convinced by the anti-drug crusader/drug delaer arguments. There is certainly some press to support the idea that Taylor was campaigning against drugs in Hollywood, but it seems highly unlikely that he would be so involved (and successful) with this campaign to warrant being offed by drug dealers.

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Unread post by Frederica » Fri Jul 09, 2010 3:01 pm

Bob Birchard wrote: But the Margaret Gibson/Patricia Palmer possibility seems the most compellingto me. First, she knew and had worked with Taylor. Second, she was shady character who was involved in prostitution and a shake-down ring. Third, she was such a shady character she was compelled to leave the country in the 1930s. And Four, she made a deathbed confession--which under the law is considered air-tight proof because of the notion (whatever anyone else might think) that people won't lie when they're facing their Maker. Gibson/Palmer also fulfills the candidacy by way of being a virtual unknown in Taylor's circle and therefore not likely to be on the short list of suspects at the time.
Dying Declaration is an exception to hearsay rules, but it's not used very often these days. People quite often lie like rugs on their deathbeds. We must agree to disagree on this, Bob. I have no reason to think she didn't confess to killing Taylor on her deathbed, but I'll bet quite a few other people confessed to killing him too, deathbed or not. Some people make a habit of confessing to crimes. I think Patricia Palmer was loonier than the Everglades.
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Unread post by Chris Snowden » Fri Jul 09, 2010 3:38 pm

Frederica wrote:Dying Declaration is an exception to hearsay rules, but it's not used very often these days. People quite often lie like rugs on their deathbeds. We must agree to disagree on this, Bob. I have no reason to think she didn't confess to killing Taylor on her deathbed, but I'll bet quite a few other people confessed to killing him too, deathbed or not. Some people make a habit of confessing to crimes. I think Patricia Palmer was loonier than the Everglades.
Why do you think she was crazy? I haven't heard anything to suggest she was. I haven't heard of anybody else confessing to the murder, either, though maybe Bruce has.

Palmer had worked with Taylor. She was still in the area at the time of the killing. She had been in trouble with the law both before and after the killing (including involvement with a fairly sophisticated criminal gang). To my knowledge, she's the only person who ever confessed to the crime, and she did so under circumstances in which she had no reason to lie.

I don't think Palmer pulled the trigger (Faith MacLean saw a man coolly walking away from Taylor's bungalow after she heard what must have been the gunshot). But the trigger man may have been involved in the same gang that Palmer was busted with a couple of years later.

Her association with the killer could have produced the guilt that prompted her to ask for a priest as she lay dying. When it seemed none would arrive, she confessed to her only friend in the world that the Taylor murder was her fault.
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Unread post by salus » Fri Jul 09, 2010 4:03 pm

Faith Maclean said that it looked liked a woman wearing a mans coat, perhaps since Palmer was involved with these shady drug and prostitution characters she was sent to kill him since he would let her in. Did Palmer find God in her later years that made her repent. We alsoi cant rule out Mabel Normand because of her drug connection, people will do anything for their next hit

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Unread post by greta de groat » Fri Jul 09, 2010 4:05 pm

Chris Snowden wrote:
Frederica wrote: Her association with the killer could have produced the guilt that prompted her to ask for a priest as she lay dying.
Or she cold have just been Catholic.

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Unread post by salus » Fri Jul 09, 2010 4:07 pm

I wonder what Mary Miles minter's reaction would have been if she had heard Margaret Gibsons confession in 1964.

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Unread post by Frederica » Fri Jul 09, 2010 4:14 pm

Chris Snowden wrote: Why do you think she was crazy? I haven't heard anything to suggest she was. I haven't heard of anybody else confessing to the murder, either, though maybe Bruce has.
Can't remember details. Did she say why she had killed him? Based on what little I read about her, she struck me as exactly the kind of person who would falsely confess to guilt in a high profile case.

Bruce will have to confirm, but I've run across tiny news squibs about people confessing to the Taylor murder, as I recall from quite a few years later. I didn't keep them, though, doggone it, maybe he has seen some.
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