Looking for Mabel Normand

Madcap Mabel Normand




First-Lieutenant Taylor


Marilyn Slater

Looking for Mabel

October 31, 2010



The photos of William Desmond Taylor came from the Los Angeles Times Photo Achieve, through the kindness of Mary Mallory.

After I put pictures of Sergeant Taylor on Looking for Mabel, yesterday, a friend asked about Taylor’s military service, I had read something in Bruce Long’s brilliant Taylorology a few years ago but Taylor’s enlistment didn’t include anything about Mabel Normand, so …

I had to look it up. William Desmond Taylor was 46 in the summer of 1918, it was near the end of WWI but no one knew that then.  He enlisted in the British Army as a private, he was British and it was the British thing to do. 

 In a number of articles found in Taylorology 40, April 1995, the photos were found in the LA Times Achieve were reported to have been published in a number of newspapers.  In one of them, there are four soldiers outside a tent; one is Taylor and another is identified being Sergeant Major Ellis G. Towt.  When Taylor was killed Towt’s interview was published in the February 6, 1922, San Francisco Call-Post

     ..."I was stationed at Windsor, Nova Scotia, when Bill Taylor 'blew' into camp. He told me he was manager [director] for Mary Pickford. His civilian address was given as the Los Angeles Athletic Club. At that time, too, I believe, he was head of the Motion Picture Directors' Association.

     "He was dressed in very expensive clothing when he arrived. It was on August 18, 1918. Besides his clothing he wore several diamonds.  "I noticed that he was a gentleman, well educated, silent and considerate of others. There were few available tents and I offered to share mine with him, even though he was only a private.

     "His poise and efficiency soon won him promotion to corporal and later to sergeant. At my suggestion he sent his diamonds and expensive clothing back to Los Angeles.

     "During the time that he was in camp he put on several shows for us and won wide publicity. Later he became sick. It was his stomach. He couldn't eat, but requested that I not get a doctor. I notified the medical corps, however, and he was placed in a hospital. Soon after his recovery he went overseas and I never saw him again.

 Taylor was assigned to the Royal Army Service Corps (RASC) of the Expeditionary Forces Canteen Service, stationed at Dunkirk and promoted to the temporary grade of lieutenant on January 15, 1919.without additional pay or allowances. The RASC was responsible for land, coastal and lake transport; air dispatch; supply of food, water, fuel, and general domestic stores but not military and technical equipment.

 Taylor had left Los Angeles in July 1918, like all recruits he had to have a physical examination; this was done by the Canadian (British) recruiting mission in Los Angeles.  The examination was done by Dr. Maddock, who in an interview done in 1922 remembers that Taylor as a “…man of fine physique for his age, one of the best physical specimens I had yet seen.”

Recruits were sent to San Francisco and than to either Vancouver or Chicago; the records show that Taylor entered service on July 3, 1918 in Chicago.           

In the NEW YORK TIMES, February 7, 1922 ran the Stuart Cooling’s interview regarding Taylor’s time at the tent camp at Fort Edward Fort Edwards at Windsor, Nova Scotia. 


…”In the summer of 1918 with other recruits; I was Provost Sergeant. He (Taylor) was very quick to learn and became a Lance Corporal in two weeks, a Corporal in three weeks, a Sergeant in five weeks, and a company Sergeant Major in two months. Then we went to England and he got a Lieutenant's commission in the Army Service Corps of the British Army. His men worshipped him--would do anything for him.” 

Ivan Rovel was interviewed in 1922 about the William Desmond Taylor; he knew in 1918, it was found in the February 9, 1922, CHICAGO AMERICAN

     "I enlisted in the British army in Chicago in the latter part of August, 1918, and was sent to Windsor, Nova Scotia.

     "There I was placed in Company C, made up of colored men from various parts of the British West Indies.

     "William Desmond Taylor, the man slain in Los Angeles, was Sergeant Major of my company. We left Canada on November 6, 1918, arriving at Bristol on November 18, 1918.

     "From there we were sent to Hounslow Barracks, where we were grouped and assigned to different regiments throughout England, Ireland and Wales.

     "Taylor was assigned to some regiment other than mine and we parted at Hounslow Barracks. It was generally understood he was sent off somewhere to receive a commission. But to the best of my knowledge he was a Sergeant                                                                                                     

Sergeant-Major Percy Sweet also served with Taylor in January 1919, he was interview February 8, 1922 by the WISCONSIN NEWS and reported that Taylor was a first lieutenant with Army Service Corps of the Expeditionary Forces Canteen Service, stationed at Dunkirk, on the Belgian border, shortly after the armistice.  ...Sweet declared it very probable Taylor was advanced to a captaincy as stated in Monday's dispatches, after the armistice. He said privates and officers in non-fighting units such as the one to which Taylor was attached, were commissioned rapidly that they might take the places of officers who had seen hard service. He asserts positively that Taylor was a first lieutenant, being second in command to Maj. Meghar, a veteran with a long record in the British service in India.  

 The officials of the Lasky Studios found the records in Taylor’s bungalow after his death of his service as a lieutenant when they were going though Taylor’s personal papers. Among the items were a “pass of leave from duty” in Dunkirk for Lieutenant Taylor, dated April 4, 1919.  William Desmond Taylor’s British army number was F-56979, and regiment E.F.C., R.A.S.C.   He served in Flanders and was the second officer to enter Lille after the Germans evacuated the city.  He also reached Cologne and other German points and spent some time in London before returning to States.

1922, February 6, San Francisco Call-Post

1922, February 7, NEW YORK TIMES,

1922, February 8, WISCONSIN NEWS

1922, February 9, CHICAGO AMERICAN

1996, April, Taylorology, Taylorology 40, Bruce Long

2010, October 30, FACE BOOK, Mary Mallory

LA TIMES Photo Archives

Wikipedia, William Desmond Taylor encyclopedia





thanks Mary

The lovely Neva Gerber returned  http://looking-for-mabel.webs.com/nevagerber.htm