William Desmond Taylor (1872-1922) was an Irish-American actor and director. Before his premature death, Taylor directed 59 silent films and acted in 27.
William Desmond Taylor was born William Cunningham Deane-Tanner in County Carlow, Ireland, one of five children. In 1891, he left England for a dude ranch in Kansas, where he became really acquainted with acting. From Kansas, Taylor moved to New York City where he did some acting, and met and married Ethel Hamilton.
On October 23rd, 1908, Taylor disappeared from his family. He and his wife were prominent members of New York City society, but friends of the family described him as having “mental lapses” and they thought he wandered off in a state of amnesia. Apparently he wandered through Canada to Alaska to pan for gold and his wife and daughter had no idea he was still alive until they were sitting in a movie theatre and they saw his face on screen.
Four years later, in 1912, William Cunningham Deane-Tanner turned up in San Francisco, now christened William Desmond Taylor. It’s here where he made his mark as an actor and a director.