Carlow to honour pioneer of Hollywood Silent Movies

“Taylorfest” to celebrate life and work of Carlow native, William Desmond Taylor

Marc-Ivan O'Gorman, Director of TaylorFest which runs at the Visual Centre for Tontemporary Art and the George Bernard Shaw Theatre in Carlow from September 21 to 23.

· “Huckleberry Finn” to premier in Ireland 92 years after it was first screened

A movie based on the Mark Twain classic “Huckleberry Finn”, and directed by a Carlow-born film director, is to premier in Ireland – 92 years after it was first screened in Hollywood!

The 1920’s black and white silent film will be seen for the first time by an Irish audience at Taylorfest, a festival celebrating the amazing life and work of one of the pioneers of the Hollywood silent movie era, William Desmond Taylor, on the 140th anniversary of his birth.

TaylorFest will run in Carlow Town from September 21st – 23rd and is expected to spark fresh debate about Taylor’s still unsolved murder in Los Angeles in 1922.

Taylor was born in the area now known as The Elms on the Athy Road in Carlow in 1872. He moved to America when he was 18 and to Hollywood in his late 30s. He acted in 27 movies and directed 60 during the golden era of the Hollywood silent movie.

He directed the first film version of ‘Huckleburry Finn’ in 1920, followed by ‘Soul of Youth’, a film about a young orphan which takes a wide ranging look at social problems that confronted such teenagers. This is the precursor for the noted James Deane movie ‘Rebel without a Cause’.

The book Huckleberry Finn was first published in 1884, and has never been out of print. The character of Huck Finn has appeared in over 40 films, starting with the 1917 version of Tom Sawyer, also directed by William Desmond Taylor.

Less than two years after finishing Huckleberry Finn, William Desmond Taylor’s body was discovered lying on the floor of his living room by his butler with a bullet wound in the back. A major investigation by the Los Angeles Police Department followed, but to this day the murder remains unsolved.

Tylorfest is the brainchild of Carlow man and filmmaker Marc-Ivan O’Gorman, who believes the memory of William Desmond Taylor deserves to be honoured. While his compelling story continues to fascinate Hollywood, it remains more or less unknown here.

Taylorfest 2012 will spark a fresh look into Taylor’s murder and possibly unravel one of the great murder mysteries of the controversial Hollywood 1920s era. It is also hoped it might spur someone to come forward with information about his ancestors.

Taylor’s murder, along with other Hollywood scandals such as the Roscoe Arbuckle trial, led to a frenzy of sensational and often fabricated newspaper reports which almost brought down the entire Hollywood film industry.

The 1950s drama Sunset Boulevard is thought to be based on Taylor’s murder. It starred Gloria Swanson who played Norma Desmond – a reference to both Taylor’s middle name and his friend and movie star, Mabel Normand, who was the last person to see him alive.

According to O’Gorman it is important to recognise William Desmond Taylor’s contribution to Hollywood. “The Irish had as much of a role in the creation of Hollywood as the Jewish Moguls or any other group. William Desmond Taylor was one of the era’s most prolific film makers and his murder remains one of the biggest scandals of the early Hollywood era.

“I’ve lived and worked in LA and am very interested in Hollywood history. Through films like Chinatown, LA Confidential, Sunset Boulevard, Singing Rain, they love to construct stories of their past. What fascinates me is the real story of the people who make up Hollywood.”

O’Gorman said he came from the same street in Carlow as Taylor and Taylorfest and his Who Killed Bill radio documentary/drama have been passions of his for several years. Coincidentally, that production has just been shortlisted in the best radio drama category of the imminent PPI Radio Awards.

“It would be great to find a living relative and get a little closer to the truth to exactly what did happen on that faithful day.”

Opening on Culture Night on September 21st , TaylorFest will be a celebration of silent films and 1920’s glamour. As well as films it includes talks, art exhibitions, musical performances and photo exhibitions.

Highlights over the weekend include:

- The premieres of “The Soul of Youth” and “Huckleberry Finn” in the Geroge Bernard Shaw Theatre on Friday, September 21 and Saturday, September 22, both starting at 8pm. Both will be screened in their original form with live musical accompaniment.

- A tribute to Taylor through narration and monologues from key characters in his life by Carlow Little Theatre Society on Friday, September 21 at 1pm

- An exhibition ‘In the Time of Taylor’ in the Carlow County Museum on Friday, September 21 and Saturday, September 22

- An exhibition by artists in the monochrome palette of Taylor’s films in Visual all weekend

- The ‘Taylor-festival Club’, a prohibition-style speakeasy with performances of folk and jazz music of the era running into the early hours nightly at the Pembroke Club d’Art.

- The screening of ‘Hugo’, Martin Scorsese’s multi-award-winning film, about silent movie pioneer Georges Melies at Visual on Sunday, September 23 at 3pm.

Taylorfest runs at the stunning Visual Centre for Contemporary Art and The George Bernard Shaw Theatre, and at various break-out locations including the Carlow County Museum and Carlow County Library.

The Festival is supported by Carlow County Development Partnership.

Booking can me made online on www.gbshawthreatre.ie or at 059 917 2400 and many of the events are free.

For more on TaylorFest check out www.william-desmond-taylor.org/taylorfest or www.gbshawtheatre.ie