Charlotte Shelby

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Charlotte Shelby
Born (1877-12-19)December 19, 1877
Died 13 March 1957 (aged 79)
Occupation Actor
Children Mary Miles Minter
Margaret Shelby

Charlotte Shelby (Lily Pearl Miles Reilly) (19 December 1877 – 13 March 1957) was a popular Broadway actress in her youth and was long noted as a suspect in the murder of Hollywood director William Desmond Taylor.

Stage mother to scandal[edit]

Shelby was the mother of actresses Mary Miles Minter and Margaret Shelby. She was reportedly domineering and manipulative in the management of her daughters' Broadway and film careers. Shelby was widely mentioned as a suspect in the murder of Hollywood director William Desmond Taylor, whom she incorrectly believed was romantically involved with her daughter Mary Miles Minter (born Juliet Reilly).[1] The theory developed owing to the discovery of love letters which the 19-year-old Minter had written to Taylor, shortly after his murder. It is now believed that Minter's infatuation with Taylor (who was 30 years her senior) was unrequited, and there is no evidence that he ever returned her romantic affections.[citation needed]

The Taylor murder was followed by sensationalized and often fabricated newspaper reports which fed years of scandal. Shelby owned a .38 calibre revolver along with unusual bullets which were similar to the one which had killed Taylor. When this became public years later, she reportedly threw the pistol into a Louisiana bayou. Shelby was socially acquainted with the Los Angeles county district attorney and spent many years in Europe, both to escape the efforts of his successor to question her and avoid much adverse press attention. Almost twenty years after the murder, Los Angeles district attorney Buron Fitts concluded there wasn't any evidence for an indictment of Shelby and recommended that the remaining evidence and case files be retained on a permanent basis (all of these materials subsequently disappeared). In 1999 it was reported that in 1964 actress Margaret Gibson had made a deathbed confession to Taylor's murder, however no independent confirmation has emerged.[2]

For many years she and her daughters were entangled in bitter disputes over how she had handled their earnings as young actresses. Margaret died of alcohol-related illness in 1939 but Mary reconciled fully with her mother. Charlotte Shelby died in Santa Monica, California in 1957. She was originally buried in a private and locked section at Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale. Mary Miles Minter later had her mother's remains, along with those of her sister Margaret, cremated and scattered.



  • Love Watches (1908)


  1. ^ In 1967 film director King Vidor, while researching for a possible movie about the murder, concluded Shelby might have killed Taylor in a jealous rage over her daughter's attraction to him. However, Taylorology has strongly disputed this conclusion while listing over 100 factual errors in Vidor's research.
  2. ^ Taylorology 84, December 1999, retrieved 22 June 2010

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