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Gross probes Taylor death

Sundance winner to pen rumor-fueled tale

Larry Gross has been hired to write a script about the life of William Desmond Taylor, the Hollywood silent film director whose 1922 murder remains an unsolved mystery, for Columbia Pictures.

Irwin Winkler is producing.

A former actor, Taylor became a director at Paramount, helming Mary Pickford in “Johanna Enlists” and the teenage beauty Mary Miles Minter in “Jenny Be Good.” In 1917 he became prexy of the Motion Picture Directors Assn.; by 1922 Par had made him head of his own production unit.

On the night of Feb. 2, 1922, Taylor was found dead in his mansion. Rumors flew about the killer’s identity and motive — most of the rumors centered on Taylor’s lovers, including Minter and Mabel Normand. Neither were formal suspects but both allegedly saw Taylor shortly before his death.

Gross won this year’s Waldo Scott Screenwriting Award at Sundance for the film “We Don’t Live Here Anymore,” starring Mark Ruffalo and Naomi Watts. Warner Independent Pictures is distributing the film, which will be released in August.

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