William Desmond Taylor | Tom Sawyer | The Soul of Youth

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William Desmond Taylor

William Desmond Taylor was an American film director. He regularly worked with screenwriter Julia Crawford Ivers, and it is hard to separate their contributions. Much of what this article describes as Taylor's work, might actually be Ivers'.

This article does NOT discuss Taylor's still-unsolved murder. Instead, it deals with his films.

Tom Sawyer

Tom Sawyer (1917) is an adaptation of the novel by Mark Twain.

Tom Sawyer shows features in common with Taylor's later feature The Soul of Youth (SPOILERS):

Both films often show their heroes against landscapes with buildings and vegetation. This often leads to interesting, visually beautiful compositions.


A number of exterior scenes feature architecture:


The Taylor-Ivers films do creative things with titles, mixing action with writing. In Tom Sawyer, we sometimes see Tom's thoughts superimposed as titles over his face.

Fantasy Episodes

Tom Sawyer opens with a tiny version of Tom telling his adventures to author Mark Twain.

The Soul of Youth

The Soul of Youth (1920) is a film about a young orphan. It takes a wide ranging look at social problems that confronted such teenagers.

Links to Allan Dwan

The Soul of Youth has a surprising number of links, to the subjects found in Allan Dwan films. I am unable to explain this: an influence from one of these directors to another? Common aspects of the zeitgeist? Who knows?

Some of the resemblances involve architecture:

Other resemblances involve subject matter: The Soul of Youth has a Prologue, something that also appears in some Dwan films, including some of the Fairbanks.


The hero hides underground from the police, under the sidewalk grating. Later, the rich teenager will emerge up a ramp from an underground railway platform, and be menaced by the bad guys. The two scenes seem parallel, and echoes of each other.


The Taylor-Iverson films do creative things with titles, mixing filmed action with writing. In The Soul of Youth, the title cards sometimes burst into live action, in corners of the cards not covered by writing.

Fantasy Episodes

Two scenes show the hero's mental imagery: