_________________________________________________ _______________________________________________ ______________________________________________________ ______________________________________________________ Taylorology * Issue 84 -- December 1999 Literateweb.com
WHO WAS MARGARET GIBSON
Margaret (Gibby) Gibson's career
started as part of her family's business
as both of her parents had worked on the
stage. Her father was a musician by the
name of Ellsbarry J. Gibson, born and raised in
from Scotch-Irish stock. Her mother's maiden name was Cellia
Ella Fisher, born in
mother was noted for her beauty, her voice was described
as like the “gentle coming of dawn”. Gibby was born
entertainment for the cowhands and miners coming into town.
Gibby was thoroughly western in breeding and spirit
getting her education on the fly, she was an outdoors
person. She was of course, a splendid equestrian
and comfortable roughing it.
By the age of 12 years old, she became the support of
her mother. Her mother's father sang, and her mother's
mother danced. For two years, she appeared on the Patages
Vaudeville Circuit. By 1909, she became part of
The Theodore Lorch Stock Company. By the age of 15,
Gibby had played over 100 different parts on the stage
before turning her interest to the silent
screen in 1912 where before long, she was playing
leading roles. Western films were an excellent fit.
In the Fall of 1914, Gibby was working for Vitagraph
wrote of Gibby celebrating her 19th birthday with a
reception at her own bungalow on a cliff overlooking
the ocean. Her guests were people she worked with.
It was written that this was the first home that she
has had. As a child, her homes were hotels and
theatrical boardinghouses but after 3 years of working
for Vitagraph, she had a home of her own, which she had
paid for herself.
"She was like a kid with a new toy. In the midst of her
merriment she tried to sing "Home, Sweet, Home," but it
was too much for her. She wept like a child, but from
pure joy. And her many guests united in claiming it
was the most beautiful compliment any home ever received,
for the little Vitagraph star, who had never known a home
in all her life, welcomed her friends into her own home”
Another story in the Fall was found in the
Movie Pictorial, Gibby is described as the youngest
leading lady at the Vitagraph Stock Company. Her
personal talisman were gold-pieces (to quote from
the article, Gibby said: “sometimes gold-pieces
seem to be more human than human beings, because
sometimes mortals are not worth a cent, and the gold
coins are always worth a great deal--full face value.”)
Like other pretty women in the films business Gibby
receives letters from men that had fallen in love
with her. She is said, to have ‘ridden through all
this empty flatter with as much sound sense as a
businessman would have’. Even fellow actors were
not immured to her charms; Charles Thompson was
arrested for stealing jewelry as gifts for her.
Infatuated Actor in Jail
an actor, aged 25, is in jail here charged
with the theft of $150 worth of jewelry,
belonging to his landlady. The baubles
were presented by Thompson to Miss Margaret
Gibson, leading woman of the Vitagraph
Company, with whom Thompson is said to be
could dance the tango, she had been taking lessons
that summer, she was seem at
the beach resort dance pavilions, she was young and
pretty and welling to partner in the tango. She won
1st prize in the Ocean Park Bathing Girls Parade in
1914. Life was good.
September 1914 MOTION PICTURE
Margaret Gibson Wins First Prize
for Having the Prettiest Bathing Suit
The first prize carried with it the honor of
being the handsomest girl with the niftiest
suit, $50 and a beautiful silver and gold
loving cup. Of course, this little champion
of the screen had to carry off first prize,
and she did it well, too. Eddie Dillon, of
Mutual fame, and W. H. Clune, the
and they decided right away that Miss Gibson
was the winner of first prize…
In 1914 Gibby and the actor William Desmond
Taylor worked in 4 films together, ‘The Kiss’,
The Love of Tokiwa’, ‘The Riders of Petersham’
and ‘A Little Madonna’. She co-stared with
Charles Ray in ‘The Coward’ 1915), during the
Triangle formation; she became an actress at the
Thomas Ince Film Company.
Gibby left Vitagraph the only company she had
worked for in April of 1915 to work for Richard
'The Sea Ghost'. Gibby was then found in September
of 1915 working for Centaur Features for David
Horsley, where she had signed a two-year contract
where she appeared in 'The Protest' and 'Could a
Man Do More' with Crane Wilbur. She also appeared
in 'The Soul Cycle'. During that period, a moral
attack on the film studios elicited the following
defensive statement from Miss Margaret (Gibby)
"To me, it is outrageous, to read of this
very rabid attack on the motion picture people.
I have invariable been treated with the utmost
courtesy and consideration by the male members
of my profession. We are a very busy class
of people, and to us, art is art! We really
have not time to make anything less of it.
"It is people who find that time hangs heavily
on their hands who get into mischief. Certainly
that could not apply to motion picture people,
and I desire to register a vigorous protest by
the hardest working class of people I know, the
moving picture people, to the slur cast upon their
Gibby was an expert equestrian and motorist.
She had a stable built to accommodate her ‘silky
black’ horse named Dan and also a special garage
for her little, green car. She called them her two
pets and didn’t know which she loved most; Gibby
said in February of 1916, "Don is splendid for a
ride in the early mornings before work for the day
has begun. The little green motor is at its best
in the evenings, when it can travel miles and miles
through the flower-scented air, and leave the memory
of worries behind.”
In 1913, it looked like Gibby
was on the way up in her career.
The critics in 1916 who had watched
the work of this young star since she
became a member of the Horsley studios
were unanimous in their verdict that
her career had but begun.
When Gibby’s contract was completed, she signed
with Christie Comedy Company to be featured in a
series of 2-reel comedies.
But sadly, by 1917 Gibby was arrested for vagrancy,
this was a euphemism for prostitution and she was
also accused of dealing opium. The large and very
public trial took place and although she was
acquitted; she changed her screen name to
Gibby used the name Patricia Palmer in the 1919
“Rowdy Ann” with Fay Tincher, Eddie Barry, Harry
Depp and Katherine Lewis. Gibby dropped out of
Christie's for several months returned in
November of 1920 to make more Christie Comedies.
In 1921, she was working for Lasky and was working
in Long Beach at the Ranger Production using the
name Patricia Palmer as of August 1922. She
continued to work in films; in 1927, she appeared in
“King of Kings” in a small role.
Gibby used nine different names that I have found
Patricia Palmer, Patsy Palmer, Margaret Gibson,
Margie Gibson, Marguerite Gibson, Helen Gibson,
Ella Margaret Lewis, Ella Margaret Arce, Pat Lewis.
The records at IMDb show that she appeared in over
140 movies between 1913 and 1929.
She was working for Paramount/Lasky in 1921, while
her old co-star William Desmond Taylor was now a
director. In February 1922, when he was killed he
was in pre-production on his next feature. Gibby
continued to work during the aftermath of the murder.
She was never questioned nor was her name part of
any stories about the killing.
Again, Gibby was arrested on
time on federal felony charges regarding a violation
of Mann Act dealing with prostitution. It seems she
had tried to blackmail a couple of her customers.
Two men she was connected with had pleaded guilty,
the charges against her were later dropped but both
the names of Margaret Gibson and Patricia Palmer
were used in the newspaper stories. She continued
to work in films until sound films seemed to end her
film career in 1929.
I was unable to find any information about Gibby
between 1929 and 1935, she didn’t seem to make the
transition to sound movies and she had changed her
name a number of times so is a little hard to track.
It is known that she went to
married Elbert Lewis. Elbert worked in the Oil
business as an auditor for Shell Oil. In a personal
letter from Elbert dated
of the morning of Gibby’s arrival in
”when I pushed all the boats out of the harbor so
your ship could come in…” This would lead me to
believe they knew each other before she came to
wrote of retiring to either
Because of the work Elbert did, they traveled
extensively in the
In 1940, Gibby returned to the
treatment of a bladder infection. She had two
war, she was unable to return to her husband, and
Elbert could not make his way to the States. He was
killed in the Japanese’s bombardment of the oil
Gibby lived on a widow’s pension using the
name Pat Lewis in a small house in the Hollywood
Hills from the 1950s until her death. She had become a
Roman Catholic late in her life, living a rather
peaceful and quiet life with her grey cat named ‘Rajah’
and working in her garden.
for a priest fearing death was near. A young neighbor
reported in 1999, some 35 years after Gibby’s death that
she had made a deathbed confession of killing William
Desmond Taylor to him, as the priest had not arrived.
The witness recalled Gibby talking about being “nearly
caught” and that she had “fled the country.”
There is also a story from the same neighbor that while
watching Ralph Story’s
when a program aired about the
had gotten hysterical and said she had killed WDT.
Although, Gibby was working
at Paramount/Lasky when
William Desmond Taylor was
killed in 1922 making 5
films, the following years 1923 she appeared in 4
films and she worked in the film industry until
1929 she was never became a big
The books dealing with the unsolved murder included:
Knopf, ISBN 0-394-58075-3
solving a silent screen mystery,
Press, ISBN 0-299-20360-3
(King Vidor's view of the
publisher: Onyx; Reprint edition,
Scarecrow Press, ISBN 0-8108-2490-6
Sennett, Mack (1954), King of Comedy,
Doubleday, ISBN 0-9165-1566-4
Brash, S. and J. Cave, ed. (1993),
"The Director", Unsolved Crimes
(True Crime Series), Time-Life Books,
There is good solid information in all of
these books, but of course the authors have
speculated and have selected the facts that
support their point of view and some include
just plan silly errors. Bruce Long’s book,
“A Dossier” is listed here but it is his Taylorology,
which has become the prime source for information
regarding the WDT case.
More information found
Editor: Bruce Long
William Desmond Taylor: The Unsolved Murder
by Dina-Marie Kulzer
"...while suffering the heart attack
that caused her demise, she [Gibson]
told neighbors that she had shot
by William Thomas Sherman, Seattle WA,
You Tube “The Kiss” (1914)
William Desmond Taylor & Margaret Gibson
You Tube “12 Silent Film Celebrities”
& the William Desmond Taylor Case
You Tube “Mary Miles Minter Audio Interviews”
web site on the
The E! Channel "Mysteries & Scandals"
series to Mabel Normand.
Raphael F. Long, 1996,
What Did I know and When did I know it?
Taylorology * Issue 84 -- December 1999
In a New York Times archive article about MMM being in a train wreck accident Patricia Palmer is listed as one of the cast who had received injuries. This was in MMM's last movie-Trail of the Lonesome Pine (I think that was the name of it).
In Taylorology there are some articles about her that would lead one to believe that she might have been connected to opium, opium dens, prostitution, blackmail, etc. One thing that stuck in my memory is that WDT had been reported in opium dens a few weeks before his death gathering info for his movies. Did he see Gibby at one? Did he try to help her? She did get work at his studio after his death and was in that MMM movie I mentioned.
Also, it is documented that WDT worked in a hotel in
An article in Taylorology about Gibby tells about an extortion attempt on a man. During the interviews there is mention that she still lived with her mother and married a gentleman named Roy D'Arce who I believe also was an actor.
Another thing that I wondered when I first started looking for info on Gibby is why did she end up caring for her mother at 12-15 years old? Laudanum addiction was pretty prevalent among women during that time and laudanum was opium? Was Gibby's mother an addict?
Just thoughts to ponder...
William Desmond Taylor in Top of New York 1921
Margaret Shelby (MMM's sister)
William Desmond Taylor 1913
Thomas Lee Woolwine, D.A. 1922
Buron Fitts D.A. (1926-1940)