He appeared in 205 films between 1915 and 1948. He was nicknamed "The King of the Silent Serials." Born William Mannion in Horseheads, New York, he was raised in New York City. He later changed his surname to Desmond.
He started out in vaudeville and the legitimate stage before making his film debut.
Desmond died at age 71 of a heart attack in Los Angeles, California.