Who was Juliet Reilly?
she was the woman who became
Mary Miles Minter
Birth: April 1, 1902; Shreveport, Louisiana
Death: August 4, 1984 (aged 82); Santa Monica, California,
Married: Brandon O'Hildebrandt (1957–1965) (his death)
Looking for Mabel
December 7, 2009
Juliet was the second daughter of Broadway actress Charlotte Shelby (Lily Pearl Miles Reilly); her older sister Margaret had a much smaller career as an actress but was very well received by the critics. Her father was J. Homer Reilly. Charlotte separated from Homer when Juliet was 4 or perhaps 5. Juliet appeared on stage for the first time about that same time. From the very beginning the little girl was working continually however Juliet was not able to work in 1911 in Chicago because of the Gerry Society and the states child labor laws; her mother took matters in hand and used the birth certificate of a cousin of Juliet’s who had past away and 9 year old Juliet became 17 year old Mary Miles Minter. By the time she was thirteen she had made her first feature film. Her career has been documented in a number of books, she was a productive actress and was able to support herself, her older sister, her mother and even her grandmother; it was a household of women. Although MMM was the wage earner making $2250 per week, when a dollar was worth a dollar, it was Charlotte that seems to have run the family. Charlotte negotiated a contract for her underage daughter for $1,300,000 over a five-year period for 20 pictures. In 1916 Margaret and Mary established a widely publicized "hotel" for stray dogs on the ample grounds of their Santa Barbara, California home.
MMM had a rather playful nature, which was reflected in a story, found in the posthumously published autobiography of Joseph Henabery, he writes of an incident of her mischievous sense of humor:
"Mary had a pixie quality. One day while I was working on the stage making a picture with Jack Holt, just as I called 'Camera' to start a scene, a big hunk of modeling clay hit the backing of the set. It had been thrown from behind me and was obviously a prank. The boys cleaned up the mess and I was again ready to shoot when the same thing happened again. I turned around quickly and before she was able to duck out of view I saw that Mary was the culprit. She ran--with me after her--and finally, after a long chase I caught up to her, turned her over my knee and gave her good a spanking, much to the amazement of a number of spectators."
Although she played a virginal damsel in reality before she was 20, she has been said to have had a number of love affairs one with director, James Kirkwood, which ended in an abortion and than affairs with actors; Sam Belasco and Monte Blue. Also she had a short romance with Thomas Dixon, the pencil magnate. She had an emotional involvement with William Desmond Taylor, her director, a man over 30 years older than herself and although MMM was sexually active there doesn’t seem to be any actual information of a physical relationship between MMM and WDT; there is enough material that shows that she felt that WDT was her intended husband; this involved little mash note she wrote to him and in a 1970s interview in which MMM described Taylor as her "mate?" Charles Higham, talked with MMM herself, which he record; it is on You Tube. In an invasion of privacy case she testified under oath she was engaged to be married to WDT.
MMM made four more films after the death of WDT so the idea that her career ended in February 2, 1922 is just not true. “The Trail of the Lonesome Pine” was her last film released in 1923. MMM was now 21 and made her own discussions and declined a number of offers to continue her film work. Her 1922-23 releases did well at the box office; the executives wanted MMM to play in the James Cruze’s western epic, “The Covered Wagon” in 1923, she refused. The role fell to Lois Wilson and this road was not taken which might have created a new film persona. She left for a vacation in Hawaii. She sailed on the Wilhelmina for an extended curse to the Orient.
With the death of WDT, Charlotte Shelby, and MMM were both included in the list of suspects, even though Charlotte was said to be a friend of District Attorney, Thomas Woolwine. The whole investigation is detailed in the magnificent Bruce Long’s Taylorology. 1925 a new examination to the unsolved murder was opened by a new District Attorney Asa Keyes.
After the DA was though with her MMM moved to New York with her much loved grandmother, Julia B. Miles, in 1925, MMM lost her to cancer. MMM then moved to Paris and sued her mother for her money, it was very messy but was settled out of court, the settlement was signed by MMM and her mother at the American Consul in Paris, France, on January 24, 1927. MMM was in Paris until 1929 her mother and her had reconciled. There was also a romantic relationship between MMM and Louis Sherwin, a news correspondent and film critic, her life had gone on. By 1930 she was back in California living in Santa Barbara. Although she was reported not to be contemplating a return to films, MMM was on a diet and had lost 30 pounds in three months trying to bring her weight down to normal. In later years, her weight became a health problem as she is often described as morbidly obese.
In 1932, Charlotte Shelby filed a lawsuit against a stockbroker who lost over $400,000 of Mary's money. The case dragged on in the courts for approximately 30 years before being settled.
However when MMM’s sister wanted money she sued her mother but it was MMM that had created the family fortune. Margaret in 1937 won a $20,000 judgment from her mother for the sale of property on which she lived. Margaret in the court process accused her mother and sister of involvement in the killing of WDT so the murder case was reopened by yet another District Attorney, Buron Fitts, who convened a Grand Jury. In the end no one was prosecuted after the 1937 testimony. MMM publicly announced in the Los Angeles Examiner newspaper, "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".
Margaret Shelby Fillmore was a lovely woman and although overshadowed but her breathtakingly beautiful sister, she was a working actress. She retired from the movies in 1920 according to a number of newspaper stories; she was going into the real estate business and purchased a tract near the California Country Club, Los Angeles. May 26, 1925 she married Hugh Fillmore, the grandson of former President Fillmore, in Casa Margarita. Charlotte Shelby was at the wedding of her older daughter to the ex-president’s grandson however her sister MMM was not. The disagreements that existed between the sisters continued. By February 11, 1927, Margaret Fillmore had filed for a divorce. Margaret said that she was annoyed by Hugh’s refusal to give her money, and by his arrogant attitude. She was married again March 17, 1937, to Emmett J. Flynn, the troubled director at a Yuma elopement and was granted an annulment April 3 less than a month later as he was still married to someone else and on June 5, 1937, Flynn died. Margaret died December 21, 1939 of chronic alcoholism estranged from her mother and sister. There were only 10 people present at the funeral services held in the chapel of the Garrett Brothers Mortuary at 921 Venice Boulevard, this included both sister and mother and her internment took place at Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale. She left them each a dollar in her will (they contested the will in court). In September 1940, the Fillmore will case was settled, MMM and Charlotte received shares in property Margaret own.
Mary Miles Minter Interior Decorating Firm sued fellow film star, Robert Herrick on August 13, 1943 for an unpaid bill for merchandise. In April 12, 1949 The Evening Independent reported that MMM was still in the interior decorating business.
There was money to be made in Los Angeles real estate and MMM invested well; another of her successful ventures was as an antique dealer as well as interior decorating firm. The mother and daughter lived together in a large house on Adelaide Drive in Santa Monica. It was in September of 1956 that MMM requested that the money held in her trust be transfer from the control of Charlotte to her own hands, which was approved by the Superior Court. MMM sometimes told people how much she loathed her mother and yet their relationships seems to have been the most stable and enduring in MMM’s life
Charlotte died in 1957 at 80; it was only with the death of her mother that MMM married her long time business partner and friend, Brendan Hildebrandt in 1958. Mary and Brendan had an interested in numerology and astrology. They changed their name from Hildebrandt to O'Hildebrandt.
MMM was widowed in August 1965, Brendan left MMM among other properties the proposed $2.5 million O’Hildebrandt office building on Ocean Avenue in Santa Monica. MMM was truly on her own. She gave a number of interviews about her early life during the late 1960s and early 1970s. DeWitt Bodeen's interviewed MMM; Charles Higham, talked with MMM.
The DeWitt Bodeen's interview with Mary was published in Films In Review “Mary Miles Minter - Her Story as Told to DeWitt Bodeen,”
In that interview MMM told a story about a Saturday night dance in the late 1910s where the stars shined, according to MMM:
Mary Miles Minter
Robert (Bobby) Harron
“The only stars who treated her well were Jack Pickford, Mabel Normand, and Robert "Bobby" Harron” others were crass and rude to her. “
She was willing to discuss with Professor and film historian, David Bradley who came to her home and screened her films for her, her movie career. Professor Bradley screened the 2 films he showed MMM at Santa Monica College, April 26, 1985. “The Ghost of Rosy Taylor” and “The Eyes of Julia Deep”.
On February 15, 1970, MMM was watching television, a program entitled "Rod Serling's Wonderful World of Crime" was shown. MMM said "... and it went on and on for a while and then ... I couldn't believe my eyes, there was a strip of five pictures like something either cut out or imposed upon the white TV screen and the frames oval, not quite round, five women's pictures' heads in those frames. The first was Winnie Ruth Judd, the second, cute little Mabel Normand, the middle one was me as I looked just after I met Mr. Taylor, the next one was ... my mother, Charlotte Shelby, innocent of any harm to him, and here was Louise Peete.
MMM testified that: "My feelings were utterly outraged and all of the love I felt for that man, desire to have him live, came back overwhelmingly, it hurt me deeply....” Rod Sterling has ruined her life! “The suggestion and the suspicion of murder that — with this vicious attack upon me that I was cast in the false and unspeakably cruel light of having been the actual perpetrator of his murderer — I mean of his murder, me, me of hurting him! To say it distressed me, I will say that because it's a quiet word, it did a great deal more than that I have never been the same since. It gave me a terrible dread, most people I know liked me, loved me, and I loved them, I couldn't expect total strangers to have any confidence in me if I was an uncaught murderess who had gotten away with something. It gave me a dread of what the public would think of me and my own neighbors next door all around me. It made me wonder where the next attack was going to come, like a bolt out of the blue, and it did the all of the love I felt for that man, desire to have him live, came back overwhelmingly, it hurt me deeply.... and it did the very next Saturday." MMM brought the action to recover damages for invasion of her privacy by television broadcasts of a program relating in part to the involvement of women in crimes of murder. While MMM’s fame had declined in the nearly half a century, MMM testified that at the time of the telecast she was still a person as to whom there was a public interest. In the course of the cross-examination MMM told the court that she was still contacted by people who wanted to interview her and do stories about her. On the subject of WDT murder, and the books and articles on his death MMM said, “A. Tragically, tragically so." The court found that MMM was a public person at the time of the William Desmond Taylor murder and remained so, although in lesser degree, at the time of the telecast. So MMM had no standing as the murder was in the public domain and still a matter of proper public interest, and MMM didn’t win the $350,000 she sued CBS and Sterling for. The final court statement was; "The law does not provide a remedy for every annoyance that occurs in everyday life. Many things which are distressing or may be lacking in propriety or good taste are not actionable." … and added, "There can be no doubt that one quite legitimate function of the press is that of educating or reminding the public as to past history, and that the recall of former public figures, the revival of past events that once were news, can properly be a matter of present public interest."
In 1970, at the time of her testimony MMM was still able to walk albeit with the use of a cane, her weight made it difficult for her. It was reported that she had a sense of melodrama many times by those that interviewed her. Before the jury MMM is said to have used her stage-trained quiver and with a trembling operatic voice stated she had been “destroyed” by the CBS program. She waved her cane for dramatic effect.
In 1980 MMM’s hairdresser named John Huncharek, who came every other week to MMM’s home to wash her hair and do her nails was charged with robbing her of jewelry, silver, antiques, and photos. Her photos were selling for as much as $500 each. MMM pressed charges against her ex-hairdresser, he told the D.A. that MMM had given him the photos and little jewelry gifts because she said she was in love with him. In the end he pleaded guilty to stealing the items.
The following year, the newspapers carried a story that on January 7, 1981 the 79-year-old MMM was brutally beaten, bound, gagged, and robbed of $10,000 in cash at her Santa Monica home. She was taken to the Santa Monica Hospital with a broken wrist and other injuries. Along with the cash she was robbed of antiques and jewelry worth over a quarter of a million dollars. A live-in companion/seamstress was arrested for attempting to murder Minter and for burglarizing her home. There were three others ordered to stand trial for the beating and burglary.
On eBay the wife of the artist, Dale Hartman wrote that she had worked a short time for MMM in 1984. From the list of material she has up for sale, it seems that MMM was very aware of the people writing about her and what was being written during this period.
People were often shocked to learn she had once been a famous movie star; she suffered from diabetes in her later years. John Rapore, MMM’s attorney announced that she died August 4, 1984 at the age of 82 from a stroke, which she had suffered several weeks before and heart failure at St. John’s Hospital in Santa Monica.
Joseph Reilly was MMM's younger half brother and closest surviving relative during an interview for Classic Images explained MMM’s hand-wrote will dated August 9, 1983, left the bulk of her money to Gilbert A. Chasin, whom she said she loved as a son. She requested to be cremated and have her ashes scattered in the Pacific Ocean in the Santa Monica Bay, near her home. She left various sums of her estimated 3 million dollar estate to a few associates and friends.
After her death, a second will, which was typewritten and dated June 11, 1984, turned up naming Margaret Kozma, a housekeeper working in the neighborhood as sole beneficiary of Mary's entire estate. Ms. Kozma ended up claiming she was Minter's illegitimate daughter born in Paris in 1929 although she was from Hungary. In the early 1990s, the courts invalidated the second will and rejected Ms. Kozma's claim that she was Minter's illegitimate daughter.
Said one investigator, "She's been a victim of theft and robberies for as long as I can remember."