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Friday, August 30, 2013

Dredging Up Some Very Old News

Here's "Banana Oil" From The Silent Days That Don Lockwood Talked About ...

Never Mind MM, As In Monroe --- Give Me MMM, As In Mary Miles Minter

I'd Like Mary Pickford Better If She'd Looked More Like This
You can descend far ways down Hollywood layering of lies, it being a matter of how deep interest goes. The above grabs me for longtime absorption in hardship life of Mary Miles Minter. She's more than tangential to (at least) three books and endless study on the foul-played death of shape-shifting director William Desmond Taylor, whose own story, were it truly known, would challenge belief. So what inspires endless peruse of Hollywood's underbelly, emphasis always on tragedy and decay? Lives have been dedicated to Marilyn Monroe's death, James Dean's final road trip, George Reeves going upstairs, followed by a gunshot. My explore of these has been casual by comparison, that also the case re William Desmond Taylor and who offed him. As fascinating as that mystery's solution (which we still await) is folk born since who've applied more toward unravel than authorities in 1922 (see the remarkable Taylorology, with one hundred online issues so far dissecting the forever mystery). What got forgot is collateral damaged Mary Miles Minter, she of tantalizing closeness to Mary Pickford's hot light before Taylor-related scandal puffed it out. But wait, didn't Mary Miles do a brace of features after the director's murder and quit movies of her own volition? Evidence suggests MMM withdrew to escape a monster Mom's clutch and finally seize life for herself. She'd even nix The Covered Wagon's lead before departure (see Jesse L. Lasky's amusing account of that in memoir I Blow My Own Horn).

So Who Actually Signed This Photo? The Evil Mother, Of Course!

Can't Get Enough Of Epic Weirdness Of A Vanished Era
The real killing was of Mary's spirit by the possible, if not likely, Taylor murderess who gave Juliet Reilly (later Mary Miles Minter) birth. Charlotte Shelby was by all account a fiend cloaked in sacrificial raiment who'd have a fawning press know that she gave up all to guide her daughter through Hollywood thicket and toward glow of belovedness. What Charlotte actually did was change Juliet's name to that of a girl several years dead in order to press pecuniary advantage, steal the millions Juliet/Mary made as result, and threaten with death men who'd despoil her gold-egg-bearing offspring. So did Charlotte kill William Desmond Taylor for licking too near the flame that was Mary Miles Minter? I'd like to think so, as it's less fun assuming a drug dealing nobody committed the crime as averred by some. Shelby/Minter/Taylor's is among great Hollywood horror stories, but happened so long ago (1922) as to make latter-day dramatization less and less likely (observe flop of The Cat's Meow, 2001's recount of the 1924 Thomas Ince affair). Part of reason no one tackled Taylor during what was left of a Studio Era was linen still hung out and dirty. Like Paul Bern's later death and impact on survivor wife Jean Harlow, there was plenty suppressed, with lids nailed down tight.


Actor/Director James Kirkwood: He Seduced Mary,
and Her Mother Threatened To Kill Him For It 
What renewed GPS interest in Mary Miles Minter was chance find of the at top "news" article where she teens-told of how screen greatness was achieved, the whole thing a press-writ tissue of non-truth to celebrate Mary's eternal girlishness and sanctify Charlotte's selfless motherhood. It's all bunk from a first whopper paragraph: I became associated with the films after my mother had insisted for years that I should not do any such thing. In fact, the opposite was true, Charlotte pushing from the start with Mary in resist mode much of that time. Where's fun of being a film star if you're starved, as in denial of food, for all of fame's run? Mary's hate of movies was based largely on their taking meals off her table, and onto Charlotte and bitter sister Margaret's (... older than I am and sort of mothers me, was quote attributed to Mary, though truth was Margaret liked Mary about like Blanche Hudson liked Jane). Here's an article where content should be entirely reversed to get at something of truth, which, of course, is what I enjoy most about it. At least trade ads approached things as they were, as above in Metro's admit that Minter's contract was founded on motherly approval, that a necessity in any case where minors were hired. Hollywood was still a small town then. Was it understood that Charlotte was a lethal party to trifle with?

Never mind my meanderings and go forthwith to the wonderful Looking For Mabel Normand website, where Marilyn Slater has written by far the best summary of Mary Miles Minter's life and career. Check out too the wealth of info and rare imagery elsewhere at this matchless address.

Also there is Greenbriar's 2006 Glamour Starter post on Mary Miles Minter.

3 Comments:

Blogger Kevin K. said...

I found "A Cast of Killers" a pretty convincing book regarding the Taylor murder. It would have made a great movie but, as you say, too much time has passed for people to care anymore.

8:31 AM  
Blogger MDG14450 said...

Like kevin, I liked "A Cast of Killers," though, never reading another in-depth investigation of the case, no idea how it holds up. But the images of King Vidor in a Hollywood being literally auctioned off and knocked would make an irresistible movie.

12:06 PM  
Blogger Jim Lane said...

Such a pathetic case, poor little MMM; she never really had a chance. Thanks, John, for putting me on to Marilyn Slater's excellent summary of her career at Looking for Mabel. I posted my own at Cinevent a few years back; if any of your readers are interested, they can check it out here.

4:32 AM  

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