Dorothy W. "Dotty" Taylor, a former WAMPAS Baby starlet and Hollywood movie actress who appeared during the early 1930s in comedies starring Laurel & Hardy and Charlie Chase, died in her sleep Thursday at the Edenwald retirement community in Towson. She was 96.
She was born Dorothy Violet Wannenwetch, the daughter of a founder of the Western Southern Life Insurance Co. and a homemaker.
During her early years, she moved with her family to Virginia Beach, Va., and later to Baltimore, where she graduated in 1929 from the old Hannah More Academy in Reisterstown.
Mrs. Taylor was 17 when she went to California in 1929 for a two-week vacation that turned into a permanent relocation. She began to frequent the Hollywood social scene and acted in local theater productions.
"I was only going to visit my cousin in Santa Barbara. Before I knew it, I was there for good," she said in a 2001 interview with the Best of Times, a Keswick Multi-Care Center publication, where she worked for years as entertainment director.
Mrs. Taylor moved to West Hollywood and fell in love with Roger Marchetti, the famed Hollywood attorney who represented Bing Crosby and Howard Hughes.
The petite blond, blue-eyed actress, accompanied by Mr. Marchetti, became a regular at such Hollywood watering holes as the Brown Derby, the Coconut Grove at the Ambassador Hotel, and Chasen's.
"We always had the best seat in the house and even if the most prominent table had been taken the head waiter would always gather tables together to make a head table for our party, which usually consisted of Howard Hughes, Jean Harlow, Joan Crawford, Wallace Beery, Ralph Bellamy, Ann Dvorak and on occasions Garbo," Mrs. Taylor said in an interview with Austin Mutti-Mewse of the IMDb, the Internet Movie Database.
"She adopted Dorothy Layton, her maternal grandmother's name, as her stage name," said her son, Howard M. Taylor III of Towson.
Mrs. Taylor's big break came in 1932 when she was named a WAMPAS Baby by the Western Association of Motion Picture Advertisers in the United States.
The organization began naming 13 talented starlets whose motion picture career showed promise in 1922.
Others sharing in WAMPAS Baby honors in 1932 included Ginger Rogers, Eleanor Holm, Mary Carlisle and Gloria Stuart.
Her debut film in 1932 was Chickens Come Home which starred Laurel & Hardy and Thelma "Toddy" Todd. Other films she appeared in during 1932 included County Hospital, Pack Up Your Troubles, The Chimp and Young Ironsides with Charlie Chase, the Baltimore-born comic actor.
Her last picture was Hollywood on Parade in 1933, which starred Mary Pickford and Johnny May Brown.
Mrs. Taylor, whose love affair with Mr. Marchetti collapsed, abruptly abandoned her Hollywood career and returned to Baltimore in 1934.
Within a month of returning to Baltimore, she met and married Howard W. Taylor Jr., a Baltimore businessman.
The marriage ended in divorce.
"She moved on and didn't lament leaving Hollywood. She was good at moving on and through things," her son said.
In 1947, Mrs. Taylor was recruited to be a volunteer at the Home for Incurables as Keswick was then known. In 1954 she became the home's paid entertainment director. She retired in 1977.
Mrs. Taylor, who had lived on Purlington Road in Homeland for many years, later moved to Elkridge Estates before settling in the Towson retirement community in 1996, where she participated in shows.
Despite the passing of the years, Mrs. Taylor retained her sense of style and beauty.
"She always looked like a million bucks," said John P. Cook, her grandson, who lives in Hollywood, St. Mary's County. "I never saw her wear anything else but high-heels."
Mrs. Taylor enjoyed going to the movies and the theater. She was also an avid gardener.
At her request, there will be no services.
In addition to her son and grandson, Mrs. Taylor is survived by a great-granddaughter. Her daughter, Barbara Ann Raley, died earlier this year.