Murder and mayhem

Mary Miles Minter in pictures

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I’ve probably mentioned my fascination with Mary Miles Minter, the Louisiana native who swiped her dead cousin’s name and made it big in Hollywood as a silent film star only to get entangled in a famous murder case.

Mary was born Juliet Reilly, and that’s the name she put on her passport application in 1921 for a trip to the British Isles, Frances, Switzerland, Italy and Spain.

A few years later, her nightgown was found in the bungalow of murdered director William Desmond Taylor. The media uproar ended Mary’s career. Taylor’s murder was never solved.

She tried to flee the Hollywood publicity hounds with a trip to Japan, China and Hong Kong. She didn’t even take the time to take a new passport photo.

After envying Mary’s exotic travels, I decided to see if I could find her family photos in the passport collection. It’s just a matter of figuring out which names they used.

Here’s Pearl Miles Reilly, Mary’s mother. No surprise that she went with Mary on her trips. She was the ultimate stage mother. Allow an ocean to separate them? I think not.

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Mary’s big sister, Margaret, also went along on the 1921 trip. She was confused about which name to sign – her real name Margaret Reilly or her stage name Margaret Shelby. She started to sign her name as Shelby and then crossed out “Sh” and signed Reilly.

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The girls’ father, Homer Reilly, went to France in 1918 for work.

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