Minter, Mary Miles (1902–1984)

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Minter, Mary Miles (1902–1984)

American actress whose brief career was abruptly ended by scandal. Name variations: Juliet Shelby. Born Juliet Reilly on April 1, 1902 (some sources cite 1898) in Shreveport, Louisiana; died of heart failure on August 4, 1984, in Santa Monica, California; daughter of Charlotte Shelby; married Brandon O'Hildebrandt (died 1965).

Selected filmography:

The Fairy and the Waif (1915); Always in the Way (1915); Barbara Frietchie (1915); Dimples (1916); Faith (1916); Her Country's Call (1917); The Gentle Intruder (1917); The Eyes of Julia Deep (1918); The Ghost of Rosie Taylor (1918); Anne of Green Gables (1919); The Amazing Imposter (1919); Nurse Marjorie (1920); Judy of Rogue's Harbor (1920); A Cumberland Romance (1920); All Souls' Eve (1921); Tillie (1922); The Cowboy and the Lady (1922); South of Suva (1922); The Trail of the Lonesome Pine (1923); Drums of Fate (1923).

Mary Miles Minter was born Juliet Reilly in Shreveport, Louisiana, in 1902. Minter appeared on stage for the first time at the age of five, as "Little Juliet Shelby," in the Arnold Daly production of Cameo Kirby. Although her acting talent was less than impressive, Minter's good looks won her a contract with the Metro film studio in Hollywood, California, in 1915. She went on to star in minor films, including Barbara Frietchie (1915), Dimples (1916), and The Ghost of Rosie Taylor (1918). After moving to the Realart-Paramount studio in 1918, the following year she starred in Anne of Green Gables, the first film version of the L.M. Montgomery novel.

Minter was "associated" with William Desmond Taylor, a director and ladies' man whose murder in February 1922 rocked Hollywood. Taylor had also been involved with actress Mabel Normand , and although neither was seriously suspected of the crime, in the course of the investigation it came out that each actress had visited him privately on the night he was shot. Despite the fact that she had several pictures waiting for release, including 1923's The Trail of the Lonesome Pine, which would prove to be her most notable, Minter's career was over. (Normand was a more valuable star, but the blow dealt to her career by the scandal was fatally compounded later the same year by a separate murder committed by her chauffeur, supposedly with her pistol.)

After a short stay in New York City, Minter spent the rest of her life in Santa Monica, California, living comfortably off real-estate investments. She survived a vicious beating during a robbery of her home in 1981, and died in 1984 of heart failure. Taylor's murder was never officially solved. Director King Vidor began an investigation of the crime in 1967, detailed in the posthumous publication of A Cast of Killers (1986); his conclusion that the murder was committed by Minter's mother Charlotte Shelby has now been accepted by many.


Finch, John Richard, et al. Close-Ups From the Golden Age of Silent Cinema. NY: A.S. Barnes, 1978.

Katz, Ephraim. The Film Encyclopedia. NY: Harper-Collins, 1994.

Grant Eldridge , freelance writer, Pontiac, Michigan