The murder of director William Desmond Taylor in February, 1922, created one of Hollywood's greatest scandals, wrecking the careers of Mary Miles Minter, a youthful rival to Mary Pickford, and comedienne Mabel Normand because both were close to Taylor. Taylor's secrecy-shrouded personal life and history was so complicated and the investigation of his fatal shooting so confused, seeming even to be deliberately muddled by both Paramount and the police, that the case became the film industry's most enduring and tantalizing mystery.
In 1967, distinguished veteran director King Vidor decided to investigate the murder himself with the hope of developing the story into a film. When Sidney D. Kirkpatrick, planning a biography of Vidor, who died in 1982, came upon a locked strongbox in the garage of the guest house of Vidor's Beverly Hills home, he discovered not only meticulous records and diaries of the director's research into the murder but, astonishingly, that Vidor had convincingly identified the killer--45 years after the fact! But in solving the crime, Vidor realized that it would be impossible to turn it into a film at that time.
Kirkpatrick laid aside his Vidor biography, for the moment, to write instead "A Case of Killers," which is one of the best Hollywood books ever, containing more real-life tragedy than the fictional "Sunset Boulevard" and uncovering evidence of more political corruption than ever imagined by Raymond Chandler (or Robert Towne in his "Chinatown" script). "A Case of Killers" is at once many things: the story of a great director playing detective as a way of attempting to launch a comeback movie in his 70s, of his resuming a romance (with ever-vivacious silent star Colleen Moore, who would also be his producer) after a hiatus of more than 40 years.