Born Ida Estelle Taylor in Wilmington, Delaware, the daughter of Harry D Taylor and Ida LaBertha (Barrett) Taylor, Estelle married three times. Her first husband was banker Kenneth Malcom Peacock, her second was William Harrison "Jack" Dempsey, the world heavyweight boxing champion, and her third, theatrical producer Paul Smith. She had no children.
After relocating to Hollywood, she began taking bit parts in films. One of Taylor's earliest successes was in 1920 in Fox's While New York Sleeps with Marc McDermott. She and McDermott play three sets of characters in different time periods. This film was lost for decades, but has been recently discovered and screened at a film festival in Los Angeles. Taylor is possibly best recalled for her roles in the 1922 drama Monte Cristo, opposite John Gilbert; the enormously successful 1923 Cecil B. DeMille directed The Ten Commandments as Miriam, the sister of Moses; as Lucrezia Borgia in the 1926 Warner Bros.' first feature-length film with synchronized Vitaphone sound effects and musical soundtrack Don Juan, with John Barrymore, Mary Astor and Warner Oland; 1927's New York, featuring Ricardo Cortez and Lois Wilson; 1931's Street Scene with Sylvia Sidney; the Academy Award-winning Cimarron; and the Clara Bow talkie Call Her Savage in 1932.
Taylor married heavyweight boxing champion Jack Dempsey in 1925. She was supposed to have co-starred in a movie with Rudolph Valentino, which would have brought her more widespread fame, but he died just before production was to begin. In 1928, she and husband Dempsey starred in a Broadway play titled The Big Fight, loosely based around Dempsey's boxing popularity, which ran for 31 performances at the Majestic Theatre.
When she divorced Dempsey in July 1933, she walked away with $40,000 in cash as well as three of their cars and their $150,000 estate. When a fan came up to her for an autographed picture of her which had Dempsey's name on top, she allegedly wrote "This is the last time that son-of-a-bitch will be on top of me."
Taylor was a close friend of Mexican-born actress Lupe Vélez. On the evening of December 13, 1944, she spent several hours at a restaurant having dinner and drinks with the actress before Vélez returned home and committed suicide. The ensuing press coverage briefly propelled Taylor once again into the headlines.
Taylor's last film appearance was in the 1945 Jean Renoir directed drama The Southerner. In her later years, Taylor devoted her free time to her pets and was the president and founder of the California Pet Owners' Protective League. In 1953, Taylor served on the City Animal Regulation Commission in Los Angeles, California.
Taylor died in 1958. She had been suffering for some time with cancer and had been bedridden the last six months. She was interred at Hollywood Forever Cemetery.
For her contribution to the motion picture industry, Estelle Taylor was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1620 Vine Street in Hollywood, California.
In a 1983 American made-for-television movie biopic of Jack Dempsey, Estelle Taylor was portrayed by British actress Victoria Tennant.