Buck Taylor

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Buck Taylor
Born Walter Clarence Taylor, III
(1938-05-13) May 13, 1938 (age 77)
Hollywood, Los Angeles
California, USA
Occupation Actor
Years active 1961–present
Spouse(s) Judy Ann Nugent (1961–1983) (divorced)
Goldie Ann Taylor (1995–present)

Walter Clarence "Buck" Taylor, III (born May 13, 1938) is an American actor best known for his role as gunsmith-turned-deputy Newly O'Brien in 174 episodes during the last eight seasons of CBS's Gunsmoke television series (1967–1975). In recent years, he has painted the portrait of his friend and Gunsmoke series' star James Arness.[1] Taylor's painting specialty is the American West, and each year, he creates the posters for several Texas rodeos. Taylor lives with his second wife on a ranch near Fort Worth, Texas.[2]

Early years, education, military[edit]

Taylor was born in Hollywood, Los Angeles, California, to Mr. and Mrs. Walter Taylor, Jr. He has an older sister, Faydean Taylor Tharp (born ca. 1931) of the Greater Los Angeles Area. His father was the character actor Dub Taylor, sometimes known as "Cannonball" Taylor, and a native of Richmond, Virginia. Buck Taylor was born in the same year that his father got his first acting role in the film You Can't Take It With You. Dub Taylor, one of cinema's most prolific supporting actors, appeared with dozens of leading actors, including John Wayne and the musicians Tex Ritter and Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys. Buck grew up on the various Hollywood sets, and was close to his father's Texas friend, the Western actor Chill Wills.[3]

Taylor graduated from North Hollywood High School and studied theatre arts at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. In 1960, he tried out for the Olympic Games in gymnastics. He served two years in the United States Navy.[2]

Acting career[edit]

Television and film roles[edit]

Taylor's first acting role was as Trooper Shattuck in the 1961 episode "Image of a Drawn Sword" on CBS's Dick Powell's Zane Grey Theater. He appeared on the sitcoms The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet and My Favorite Martian. He was cast twice in the 1963-1964 ABC series The Greatest Show on Earth. He portrayed Mickey Vecchione in the 1963 episode "My Son the Social Worker" on Going My Way.

Taylor co-starred in the Walt Disney production, Johnny Shiloh, the first of more than fifty films. He was then cast in an uncredited role in Ensign Pulver (1964) and in The Wild Angels (1966), as a motorcycle gang member. He guest starred on Have Gun - Will Travel, The Rebel, and three times on Stoney Burke. He was cast on The Fugitive, and The Legend of Jesse James. He appeared as well on The Virginian. He also appeared as frustrated newlywed Gard Hayden in The Outer Limits in the 1964 episode titled "Don't Open Till Doomsday".

Newly O'Brien on Gunsmoke[edit]

Taylor's long-term role on Gunsmoke was not his first role in a weekly series. In the preceding 1966–1967 season, he starred in ten episodes as John "Brad" Bradford, along with Michael Anderson, Jr., and Barbara Hershey, in ABC's The Monroes, the story of an orphaned family trying to survive in the Wyoming wilderness.[4]

Gunsmoke introduced Taylor on a weekly basis to millions of viewers. Dub Taylor also guest starred numerous times on the series. Before Taylor was cast as handsome young gunsmith "Newly", he had actually appeared in an earlier segment of the series as an outlaw. As Newly, however, he was clearly one of the "good guys" in the same tradition as James Arness as Matt Dillon. The Newly character superseded that of Clayton Thaddeus "Thad" Greenwood, played by Roger Ewing (born 1942). Taylor got along so well with the Gunsmoke cast that he named his second and third sons, Matthew Taylor and Cooper Glenn Taylor for James Arness' (1923–2011), Marshal Matt Dillon character and for Glenn Strange (1899–1973), the character actor who played the bartender, Sam, and remained on the program until cancer claimed his life. Strange never knew of the honor, for Cooper Taylor was not born until 1975. Taylor was actively involved in the preparation of the script for the 1987 Gunsmoke: Return to Dodge reunion film,[5] by which time Milburn Stone, the cranky Doc Adams character, had died. Ken Curtis, who had portrayed the deputy Festus Haggen, felt shortchanged by the offer of far less pay than Amanda Blake and passed on the project. In 1991, Taylor co-starred with Curtis in what turned out to have been Curtis' last acting role in the film version of Louis L'Amour's Conagher, which also starred Taylor's friend, Sam Elliott and Elliott's wife, Katharine Ross.[3]

Acting after Gunsmoke[edit]

At the age of 43, Taylor was cast as the outlaw Dan Clifton, who died at 31, in the 1981 film, Cattle Annie and Little Britches, a fictional portrayal of the teenaged bandits, Cattle Annie and Little Britches, played by Amanda Plummer and Diane Lane, respectively. Taylor is called "Dynamite Dick" in the film, but Clifton's nickname was "Dynamite Dan."[6]

In 1983, Taylor appeared in the film, The Triumphs of a Man Called Horse. In the film, Gettysburg (1993), he played William Gamble. In the 2003 production, Gods and Generals, Taylor was cast as Maxcy Gregg.[7]

He appeared on CBS's Dallas starring Larry Hagman and Walker, Texas Ranger starring Chuck Norris.[3]

Taylor had a memorable role too as "Turkey Creek" Jack Johnson in Tombstone (1993) and appeared in 1997 in Rough Riders, both co-starring with Sam Elliott. He appeared in director John Lee Hancock's The Alamo (2004) and in the Wyoming-based Flicka (2006), a loose adaptation of the novel My Friend Flicka.[8]

He appeared as Ben Lily in January 2008, with his friend Val Kilmer in the CBS miniseries Comanche Moon, another in the Lonesome Dove line of television films. Taylor in 2008 worked in three films, The Hard Ride, The Last Horseman, and Legend of Hell's Gate.[8] While he was clean shaven in Gunsmoke, he, like other cowboy actors, later elected to sport a deep mustache.

Taylor's self-portrait hangs in the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame in Fort Worth. Taylor is also an inductee of the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame in Fort Worth and has received the "Spirit of Texas" Award. In 1993, he received the Golden Boot award which honors the "Best of the West" from the Motion Picture and Television Fund. In 1998, Taylor, Rex Allen, and Christina Paine won the "Cowboy Spirit Award".

In 2000, Taylor was memorialized in "The Trail of Fame" on the streets of Dodge City, the western Kansas town where Gunsmoke is set. He has also received the "Spirit of the West" award, along with Jack Palance and Roy Rogers. Additionally, Taylor is recognized on the Hollywood Walk of Fame with his friends Sam Elliott and Katharine Ross. Taylor's star also appears on the streets of "Little Hollywood" in Kanab, Utah. There his star is between Ronald W. Reagan and Tom Mix.

In 1981, Taylor was inducted as a trustee in the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City for his Gunsmoke role.[3] In 2006, he was awarded by the same organization with the "Wrangler" (or Western Heritage Award).[3] Taylor has a plaque on the Walk of Western Stars in Santa Clarita, California, that includes past recipients James Arness and other Gunsmoke alumni, Dennis Weaver and the late Amanda Blake.[8]

Artistic pursuits[edit]

In 1993, Taylor began selling his paintings at the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas. These paintings are sold through his website, private art shows and festivals, and at galleries. His private commissions can be found in the Loomis Fargo headquarters, the Franklin Mint, John Wayne Enterprises, the American Quarter Horse Association Museum in Amarillo, the National Ranching Heritage Center museum in Lubbock, and in the hands of private collectors Roy Clark, Val Kilmer, Roger Staubach, Powers Boothe, Jasey Wrenn, Sam Elliott, and James Arness. Taylor is the official artist for several rodeos, including the Pendleton Round-Up in Pendleton, Oregon, and state fairs.[3]

Friendship with James Arness[edit]

Though Taylor worked with some of the giants in Hollywood such as: Jack Lord, David Janssen, Bill Bixby, Michael Landon, Vince Edwards, John McIntire, Robert Fuller, James Drury, among many others, he was still an unfamiliar, struggling actor. In 1967, he worked alongside popular actor James Arness on a 2-part episode of Gunsmoke, at the beginning of the 13th season - which was also the first 2 episodes of the season, where he played a son getting shot to death by one of the guys. Later the same year, the producers of Gunsmoke invited him back to play a new character being vacated by Roger Ewing, who departed with his Thad Greenwood character, after 2 seasons, where Taylor played Newly O'Brian. When he finally worked with Arness, he was a little intimidated (because of his acting mentor's private life, that Arness was a very quiet, private man, in real-life), but as his character grew popularity, as does his professional friendship with James Arness, as the two became friends, being 15 years apart. He also have both of his younger children named after Taylor's acting mentor (Arness), thanks to Buck, admiring the man. In 1972, Taylor shared the Bronze Wrangler, with Arness, at the Western Heritage Awards. One of their friends, Harry Morgan, who guest-starred on the show, 4x, was also the friend of one of Arness's children, whose one of Morgan's sons spent the night at Arness's ranch, where Taylor frequently visited. When the series was canceled, Taylor became a star, while continuing to stay close with Arness, for 36 years, whether they traveled to Western Festivals, or by phone, until Arness's own death on June 3, 2011. He was also reunited with Arness, once, in 1987, to reprise his role as Newly in Gunsmoke: Return to Dodge, where it was one of the highly-rated TV movies of all.

Buck Taylor said a lot of things of his ex-TV marshal and/or acting mentor, beginning in 2001, with James Arness: The Greta Garbo of Dodge City Speaks, under Gunsmoke's website, about Arness's personal life, "I ... socialized with [James Arness] maybe two or three times. I didn't even speak to him a lot. I gave him a lot of space. I think that's why I lasted as long as I did."[9] Then, 5 years later, in 2006 of Chronicle of the Old West, Buck also told the story about Arness, as the Gunsmoke series was coming to a close, "You know, just a terrific gentleman, a very humourous guy, very humble, kind of a reclusive person, you know. He came to work, did his job and left. While he was there, he was just wonderful to talk to and to be around. I didn't say too much to him, for 8 years. I didn't want to infringe on his privacy and I really respected that and I respected the way he conducted himself and his personal life. I've got to know him real good, later, and a great friendship." In the same interview, Taylor also said if Arness had a great memory, "That's true, he had a photographic memory and he wouldn't read a script, to come in - on the 1st Day of filming for Matt Dillon; and the director would say, 'Tell 'em the story, you know, bad guys come into town, you're out of town, Festus goes dutchy, you come in, and beat the bad guy up and that's it.' Basically, that's what happened every week; and then, you go and have a drink in the long branch. Well, he said, 'In this scene, these are pages, it'll be about 5 pages, you have a scene at noon.' Well, he had all the dialogus - I mean, there were several lines and he looked at them, put some other actors in the scene. You'd take them up, round them up, throw waste in the basket, over there and they looked at them."[10] Then, the following year, in 2007 on Pentecostal Evangelistical Assemblies of God, Taylor continued to talk about his friendship with Arness, "James Arness is still my hero. He’s a humble and shy guy. I named my son Matthew after his character. He’s a patriotic American, wounded in World War II. When I painted a portrait of him, he asked me to make him look like he did on Gunsmoke."[11] Finally, the last thing that Taylor said in 2011, which was 6 months after Arness's death on History.net on his on- and off-screen chemistry with Arness, for the last 8 seasons, "It was hard to work with him, because he was a funny guy," Taylor explains. "He had a great sense of humor. I'd run into the marshal's office in the rehearsal, out of breath, and say, 'Marshal, there's a fight in the Long Branch!' He'd look at me and go: 'Oh, all right now. OK. We've got ourselves a serious actor. Let's just wait till the take before we do all that stuff, Buck.' And then when I would try to be serious, he'd start laughing. Once they got to laughing, they'd laugh for weeks. Milburn Stone [who played crusty but lovable Doc], they were all the same way. You've got to have a sense of humor and have some fun. We had some great times."[12] And the very last thing Taylor said about Arness, back in 2013 for American Cowboy, "He was great. With his boots on he was about 6’8”. He was huge. John Wayne loved Jim and introduced him for an award once. Jim walked on stage, and the Duke said: 'You’re bigger than I am!' Jim said, 'Taller, maybe.' You never felt intimidated by his height. He was a very gracious and humble man… In my travels around the country with my artwork, people always ask about Gunsmoke. They still revere Gunsmoke over a half-century later. It’s amazing. I was at the right spot at the right time. That show had great writing, but a simple premise: Some special friends that would do anything for each other… I would like to play in an action movie like Iron Man. Maybe something with Mickey Rourke. I could play his dad [laughs]. He acts like I paint—extemporaneous and bold. Don’t be afraid of color and breaking rules; make it different and interesting. If it turns out good, it’s a happy accident. I have happy accidents."[13] The deaths of both of Arness's children (daughter Jenny in 1975, followed by adopted son Craig in 2004), as well as Arness's brother (Peter Graves, in 2010), all 3 of those drew the relationship between Arness and Taylor, as Taylor received word all about the loss of his acting mentor's private life, before he loss Arness himself.

Personal life[edit]

In 1961, Taylor married the actress Judy Ann Nugent, who was a sister-in-law of actor Nick Adams.[14] The couple divorced in 1983. They had three sons: Adam Carlyle Taylor (1966–1994), Matthew Taylor (born 1970), and Cooper Glenn Taylor (born 1975). Adam was an assistant director, and Matthew and Cooper are Hollywood stunt men who were reared in Montana. Taylor is the father-in-law of actress/producer Anne Lockhart (born 1953), the widow of Adam Taylor, who died three days before his 28th birthday in a highway accident in Madison County, Montana. Anne is the daughter of actress June Lockhart. Taylor has two grandchildren, Carlyle and Zane Taylor, the daughter and son of Adam and Anne.[8]

Taylor and current wife Goldie, a flight attendant, met in 1995 at a quarter horse show, where his paintings were being exhibited. They wed after a three-month courtship and run a ranch on the Brazos river in Texas.

Taylor supports the John Wayne Cancer Foundation, the Walt Garrison Multiple Sclerosis Foundation, the Future Farmers of America Scholarship, the Screen Actors Guild Retirement Home, the Ben Johnson Children's Hospital, and Frontier Texas!, a state-of-the-art museum for which Taylor does some of the narration. The museum opened in 2004 in Abilene, the seat of Taylor County (coincidence of the name) in West Texas.


  1. ^ "Buck Taylor Paintings". Bucktaylor.com. Retrieved 2012-08-26. 
  2. ^ a b TV.com (1938-05-13). "Buck Taylor Bio – Buck Taylor Biography – Buck Taylor Stories". Tv.com. Retrieved 2012-08-26. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f Buck Taylor | Actor and Western Artist | Biography. bucktaylor.com
  4. ^ "The Monroes" (1966) – Full cast and crew. imdb.com
  5. ^ Amazon.com: Gunsmoke- Return to Dodge (VHS, 1987)
  6. ^ "Cattle Annie and Little Britches". Internet Movie Data Base. Retrieved December 27, 2012. 
  7. ^ "Buck Taylor Biography". Starpulse.com. 1938-05-13. Retrieved 2012-08-26. 
  8. ^ a b c d Buck Taylor (I). imdb.com
  9. ^ "Gunsmoke: Reading Room". Retrieved 7 October 2014. 
  10. ^ "Buck Taylor & R.W. Hampton Interview - Chronicle of the Old West - The Old West is a time and a place of the Heart". Retrieved 7 October 2014. 
  11. ^ http://www.pe.ag.org/Conversations2008/4893_Buck.cfm
  12. ^ "Buck Taylor – Art of the West". History Net: Where History Comes Alive - World & US History Online. Retrieved 7 October 2014. 
  13. ^ "At Home with Walter Clarence "Buck" Taylor III". Retrieved 7 October 2014. 
  14. ^ Judy Nugent (I). imdb.com

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