Robert Taylor (actor)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Robert Taylor
Robert Taylor in Waterloo Bridge trailer.jpg
in Waterloo Bridge (1940)
Born Spangler Arlington Brugh
(1911-08-05)August 5, 1911
Filley, Nebraska, U.S.
Died June 8, 1969(1969-06-08) (aged 57)
Santa Monica, California, U.S.
Cause of death
Lung cancer
Resting place
Forest Lawn Memorial Park, Glendale
Residence Robert Taylor Ranch
Nationality American
Other names Lieut Robert Taylor USNR
Alma mater Doane College
Pomona College
Occupation Actor
Years active 1934–1968
Spouse(s) Barbara Stanwyck (m. 1939–51)
Ursula Thiess (m. 1954–69)
Children 2

Robert Taylor (August 5, 1911 – June 8, 1969) was an American film and television actor who was one of the most popular leading men of his time.

Taylor began his career in films in 1934 when he signed with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. He won his first leading role the following year in Magnificent Obsession. His popularity increased during the late 1930s and 1940s with appearances in A Yank at Oxford (1938), Waterloo Bridge (1940), and Bataan (1943). During World War II, he served in the United States Naval Air Corps, where he worked as a flight instructor and appeared in instructional films. From 1959 to 1962, he starred in the ABC series The Detectives Starring Robert Taylor. In 1966, he took over hosting duties from his friend Ronald Reagan on the series Death Valley Days.

Taylor was married to actress Barbara Stanwyck from 1939 to 1951. He married actress Ursula Thiess in 1954, and they had two children. A chain smoker, Taylor was diagnosed with lung cancer in October 1968. He died of the disease in June 1969 at the age of 57.

Early life[edit]

Born Spangler Arlington Brugh in Filley, Nebraska,[1] he was the son of Ruth Adaline (née Stanhope) and Spangler Andrew Brugh, who was a farmer turned doctor.[2][3] During his early life, the family moved several times, living in Muskogee, Oklahoma; Kirksville, Missouri; and Fremont, Nebraska. By September 1917, the Brughs had moved to Beatrice, Nebraska, where they remained for 16 years.[4]

As a teenager, Brugh was a track star and played the cello in his high school orchestra. Upon graduation, he enrolled at Doane College in Crete, Nebraska.[5] While at Doane, he took cello lessons from Professor Herbert E. Gray, a man whom he admired and idolized. After Professor Gray announced he was accepting a new position at Pomona College in Los Angeles, Brugh moved to California and enrolled at Pomona.[6] He joined the campus theatre group and was eventually spotted by an MGM talent scout in 1932 after production of Journey's End.[citation needed]

Career[edit]

He signed a seven-year contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer with an initial salary of $35 a week, which rose to $2500 by 1936.[7] The studio changed his name to Robert Taylor.[8] He made his film debut in the 1934 comedy, Handy Andy, starring Will Rogers (on a loan-out to 20th Century Fox). His first leading role was in an MGM short subject called Buried Loot. Irene Dunne requested him for her leading man in Magnificent Obsession. This was followed by Camille, opposite Greta Garbo.[9]

Taylor and Jean Harlow, 1937

Throughout the late 1930s, Taylor appeared in films of varying genres including the musicals Broadway Melody of 1936 and Broadway Melody of 1938, and the British comedy A Yank at Oxford with Vivien Leigh. In 1940, he reteamed with Leigh in Mervyn LeRoy's drama Waterloo Bridge.

After being given the nickname "The Man with the Perfect Profile", Taylor began breaking away from his perfect leading man image and began appearing in darker roles beginning in 1941. That year he portrayed Billy Bonney (better known as Billy the Kid) in Billy the Kid. The next year, he played the title role in the film noir Johnny Eager opposite Lana Turner. After playing a tough sergeant in Bataan in 1943, Taylor contributed to the war effort by becoming a flying instructor in U.S. Naval Air Corps.[10] During this time, he also starred in instructional films and narrated the 1944 documentary The Fighting Lady.

After the war he appeared in a series of edgy roles including Undercurrent and High Wall. In 1949, he co-starred opposite Elizabeth Taylor in Conspirator. In 1950, Taylor landed the role of General Marcus Vinicius in Quo Vadis, opposite Deborah Kerr. The epic film was a hit, grossing US$11 million in its first run.[9] The following year, he starred opposite Elizabeth Taylor in the film version of Walter Scott's classic Ivanhoe, followed by 1953's Knights of the Round Table and The Adventures of Quentin Durward, all filmed in England. Taylor also filmed Valley of the Kings in Egypt in 1954.

By the mid-1950s, Taylor began to concentrate on westerns, his preferred genre. He starred in a comedy western in 1955 co-starring Eleanor Parker called Many Rivers To Cross. In 1958 he shared the lead with Richard Widmark in the edgy John Sturges western, The Law and Jake Wade. In 1958, he left MGM and formed his own production company, Robert Taylor Productions, and the following year, he starred in the ABC hit television series The Detectives Starring Robert Taylor (1959–1962). Following the end of the series in 1962, Taylor continued to appear in films and television including A House Is Not a Home and two episodes of Hondo.

Robert Taylor received the 1953 World Film Favorite – Male, award at the Golden Globes (tied with Alan Ladd).[11]

In 1963, NBC filmed but never aired four episodes of what was to have been The Robert Taylor Show, a series based on case files from the United States Department of Health, Education and Welfare. The project was suddenly dropped, and Warner Brothers studio boss Jack Webb sold the network a replacement series, Temple Houston, starring Jeffrey Hunter as frontier lawyer Temple Lea Houston, an actual historical figure. WB had only six weeks to get the first episode of Temple Houston on the air, and the pilot was unusable. The series ran for only twenty-six weeks.[12]

In 1964, Taylor co-starred with his former wife, Barbara Stanwyck, in William Castle's psychological horror film The Night Walker. In 1965, after filming Johnny Tiger in Florida, Taylor took over the role of narrator in the television series Death Valley Days, when Ronald Reagan left to pursue a career in politics.[13] Taylor would remain with the series until his death in 1969.

Personal life[edit]

Marriages and children[edit]

After three years of dating, Taylor married Barbara Stanwyck on May 14, 1939 in San Diego, California. Zeppo Marx's wife, Marion, was Stanwyck's matron of honor and her godfather, actor Buck Mack, was Taylor's best man.[14] Stanwyck divorced Taylor (reportedly at his request) in February 1951.[15] The couple had no children.[16]

Taylor met German actress Ursula Thiess in 1952. They married in Jackson Hole, Wyoming on May 23, 1954.[17] They had two children together, son Terrance (born 1955) and daughter Tessa (born 1959). Taylor was also stepfather to Thiess' two children from her previous marriage, Manuela and Michael Thiess.[18][19] On May 29, 1968, shortly before Taylor's death from lung cancer, Ursula Thiess found her son Michael's body in a West Los Angeles motel room.[20] He died from what was later determined to be a drug overdose. One month before his death, Michael had been released from a mental hospital. In 1964, he spent a year in a reformatory for attempting to poison his father with insecticide.[21][22]

Politics[edit]

In February 1944, Taylor helped found the Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals.[23] In October 1947, Taylor was called to testify before the House Committee on Un-American Activities regarding Communism in Hollywood.[24][25] He did this reluctantly, regarding the hearings as a "circus" and refusing to appear unless subpoenaed.[26] In his testimony concerning the Screen Actors Guild (SAG), delivered on 22 October 1947, Taylor stated: "It seems to me that at meetings, especially meetings of the general membership of the Guild, there was always a certain group of actors and actresses whose every action would indicate to me that, if they are not Communists, they are working awfully hard to be Communists", becoming the first witness to "name names" by singling out actors Howard Da Silva and Karen Morley.[27] Taylor alleged that at meetings of the SAG, Da Silva "always had something to say at the wrong time", and these remarks ultimately resulted in Da Silva being hounded out of Hollywood and blacklisted on Broadway and New York radio,[28] while Morley never worked again after her name surfaced at the hearings.[29] Taylor went on to declare that he would refuse to work with anyone who was even suspected of being a Communist: "I'm afraid it would have to be him or me, because life is too short to be around people who annoy me as much as these fellow-travelers and Communists do".[30] Taylor also labeled screenwriter Lester Cole "reputedly a Communist", while adding, "I would not know personally".[31] In consequence, Cole was sent to prison and was never able to write again under his own name.[32] After the hearings, Taylor's films were banned in Hungary and in Czechoslovakia and there were calls to boycott his films in France.[33]

Flying[edit]

In 1952, Taylor starred in the film Above and Beyond, a biopic of Enola Gay pilot Paul Tibbets.[34] The two men met and found that they had much in common. Both had considered studying medicine, and were avid skeet-shooters and fliers. Taylor learned to fly in the mid-1930s, and served as a United States Navy flying instructor during World War II. His private aircraft was a Twin Beech called "Missy" (his then-wife Stanwyck's nickname) which he used on hunting and fishing trips.

Ranch[edit]

Taylor owned a 34-room home situated on 112 acres (0.45 km2) located in Mandeville Canyon, in the Brentwood section of Los Angeles. Dubbed the Robert Taylor Ranch, the property was sold to KROQ-FM founder Ken Roberts in the 1970s. Roberts remodeled the home and put it back on the market in 1990 for $45 million. He later reduced the price $35 million but the ranch failed to attract a buyer. In 2010, the ranch was seized by New Stream Capital, a hedge fund, after Roberts failed to pay back a high interest loan he took from New Stream Capital.[35][36]

In November 2012, The Robert Taylor ranch was put up for auction by the trust that owned it. The Ranch was purchased for $12 million by a Chicago buyer in December 2012.[35][36]

Death[edit]

In October 1968, Taylor underwent surgery to remove a portion of his right lung after doctors suspected that he had contracted coccidioidomycosis (known as "valley fever"). During the surgery, doctors discovered that he had lung cancer.[37] Taylor, who had smoked three packs of cigarettes a day since he was a boy, quit smoking shortly before undergoing surgery. During the final months of his life, he was hospitalized seven times due to infections and complications related to the disease. He died of lung cancer on June 8, 1969 at Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica, California.[16][38]

Taylor's funeral was held on June 11 at the Church of Recessional at Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery, in Glendale, California.[39] Long-time friend Ronald Reagan (who was then the governor of California) eulogized Taylor. Among the mourners were Robert Stack, Van Heflin, Eva Marie Saint, Walter Pidgeon, Keenan Wynn, and Taylor's ex-wife Barbara Stanwyck.[40]

For his contribution to the motion picture industry, Robert Taylor has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1500 Vine Street.[5]

Filmography[edit]

Film
Year Title Role Notes
1934 Handy Andy Lloyd Burmeister
1934 The Spectacle Maker The Duchess's Paramour Short subject
Uncredited
1934 There's Always Tomorrow Arthur White Alternative title: Too Late for Love
1934 A Wicked Woman Bill Renton—Rosanne's Love
1934 Crime Does Not Pay #1: Buried Loot Al Douglas Short subject
Uncredited
1935 Society Doctor Dr. Ellis
1935 Times Square Lady Steven J. "Steve" Gordon
1935 West Point of the Air "Jasky" Jaskarelli
1935 Murder in the Fleet Lt. Randolph
1935 Broadway Melody of 1936 Robert Gordon
1935 La Fiesta de Santa Barbara Himself Short subject
1935 Magnificent Obsession Dr. Robert Merrick
1936 Small Town Girl Dr. Robert "Bob" Dakin Alternative title: One Horse Town
1936 Private Number Richard Winfield
1936 His Brother's Wife Chris Claybourne
1936 Gorgeous Hussy, TheThe Gorgeous Hussy "Bow" Timberlake
1936 Camille Armand Duval
1937 Personal Property Raymond Dabney aka Ferguson Alternative title: The Man in Possession
1937 This Is My Affair Lt. Richard L. Perry
1937 Lest We Forget Himself Short subject
1937 Broadway Melody of 1938 Stephan "Steve" Raleigh
1938 Yank at Oxford, AA Yank at Oxford Lee Sheridan
1938 Three Comrades Erich Lohkamp
1938 Crowd Roars, TheThe Crowd Roars Tommy "Killer" McCoy
1939 Stand Up and Fight Blake Cantrell
1939 Lucky Night Bill Overton
1939 Lady of the Tropics William "Bill" Carey
1939 Remember? Jeffrey "Jeff" Holland
1940 Waterloo Bridge Roy Cronin
1940 Escape Mark Preysing Alternative title: When the Door Opened
1940 Flight Command Ensign Alan Drake
1941 Billy the Kid Billy Bonney
1941 When Ladies Meet Jimmy Lee
1942 Johnny Eager John "Johnny" Eager
1942 Her Cardboard Lover Terry Trindale
1942 Stand by for Action Lieutenant Gregg Masterman Alternative title: Cargo of Innocents
1943 Bataan Sergeant Bill Dane
1943 Youngest Profession, TheThe Youngest Profession Cameo
1944 Song of Russia John Meredith
1944 The Fighting Lady Narrator Credited as Lieut Robert Taylor USNR
1946 Undercurrent Alan Garroway
1947 High Wall Steven Kenet
1949 Bribe, TheThe Bribe Rigby
1949 Conspirator Major Michael Curragh
1950 Ambush Ward Kinsman
1950 Devil's Doorway Lance Poole
1951 Challenge the Wilderness Himself Short subject
1951 Quo Vadis Marcus Vinicius
1951 Westward the Women Buck Wyatt
1952 Ivanhoe Sir Wilfred of Ivanhoe
1952 Above and Beyond Lieutenant Colonel Paul W. Tibbets
1952 The Hoaxters Narrator
1953 I Love Melvin Himself
1953 Ride, Vaquero! Rio
1953 All the Brothers Were Valiant Joel Shore
1953 Knights of the Round Table Lancelot
1954 Valley of the Kings Mark Brandon
1954 Rogue Cop Det. Sgt. Christopher Kelvaney
1955 Many Rivers to Cross Bushrod Gentry
1955 Adventures of Quentin Durward, TheThe Adventures of Quentin Durward Quentin Durward
1956 Last Hunt, TheThe Last Hunt Charlie Gilson
1956 D-Day the Sixth of June Captain Brad Parker
1956 The Power and the Prize Cliff Barton
1957 Tip on a Dead Jockey Lloyd Tredman
1958 Law and Jake Wade, TheThe Law and Jake Wade Jake Wade
1958 Saddle the Wind Steve Sinclair
1958 Party Girl Thomas "Tommy" Farrell
1959 The Hangman Mackenzie Bovard
1959 House of the Seven Hawks, TheThe House of the Seven Hawks Nordley
1960 Killers of Kilimanjaro Robert Adamson
1963 Miracle of the White Stallions Colonel Podhajsky Alternative title: The Flight of the White Stallions
1963 Cattle King Sam Brassfield Alternative title: Cattle King of Wyoming
1964 House Is Not a Home, AA House Is Not a Home Frank Costigan
1964 The Night Walker Barry Morland
1966 Johnny Tiger George Dean
1966 Savage Pampas Captain Martin
1967 The Glass Sphinx Prof. Karl Nichols
1968 The Day the Hot Line Got Hot Anderson Alternative title: Hot Line
1968 Where Angels Go, Trouble Follows Mr. Farriday – The 'In' Group
Television
Year Title Role Notes
1958 The Thin Man Himself Episode: "The Scene Stealer"
1959–1962 The Detectives Starring Robert Taylor Det. Capt. Matt Holbrook 97 episodes
1963 The Dick Powell Show Guest host Episode: "Colossus"
1966–1969 Death Valley Days Host 77 episodes
1967 Return of the Gunfighter Ben Wyatt Television film
1967 Hondo Gallagher 2 episodes

References[edit]

Notes
  1. ^ "Robert Taylor" Los Angeles Times: Hollywood Star Walk Retrieved: October 14, 2014.
  2. ^ "Robert Taylor." Films of the Golden Age. Retrieved: November 18, 2011.
  3. ^ Wayne 2005, p. 165.
  4. ^ Kral, E. A. "Robert Taylor of Beatrice: The Nebraska Roots of a Hollywood Star". Nebraska History Quarterly, Vol. 75, 1994, pp. 280–290. Retrieved: November 18, 2011.
  5. ^ a b Torgerson, Dial (June 9, 1969). "Hollywood Star Walk: Robert Taylor". latimes.com. Retrieved January 22, 2013. 
  6. ^ Wayne 2005, p. 166.
  7. ^ Gladys Hall, Robert Taylor's True Life Story, Dell Publishing Co., 1937, p. 42.
  8. ^ Wayne 2005, p. 167.
  9. ^ a b Griffith, Benjamin. "Robert Taylor." St. James Encyclopedia of Pop Culture, 2002. Retrieved: November 18, 2011.
  10. ^ "Robert Taylor Ends Navy Duty". The Free Lance-Star. November 6, 1945. p. 2. Retrieved January 23, 2013. 
  11. ^ http://www.whosdatedwho.com/tpx_2871050/golden-globes-usa/1954
  12. ^ Billy Hathorn, "Roy Bean, Temple Houston, Bill Longley, Ranald Mackenzie, Buffalo Bill, Jr., and the Texas Rangers: Depictions of West Texans in Series Television, 1955 to 1967", West Texas Historical Review, Vol. 89 (2013), p. 106
  13. ^ Witbeck, Charles (April 7, 1967). "Taylor Sparks 'Death Valley Days'". The Modesto Bee. Retrieved January 23, 2013. 
  14. ^ "Barbara Stanwyck Weds Robert Taylor on Coast". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. May 15, 1939. p. 1. Retrieved January 22, 2013. 
  15. ^ "Calm Barbara Stanwyck Divorces Robert Taylor". Eugene Register-Guard. February 21, 1951. p. 1. Retrieved January 22, 2013. 
  16. ^ a b "Lung cancer claims life of actor Robert Taylor". Edmonton Journal. June 9, 1969. p. 9. Retrieved January 22, 2013. 
  17. ^ "Robert Taylor, Ursula Thiess Wed". Times Daily. May 24, 1954. p. 4. Retrieved January 23, 2013. 
  18. ^ "Boy Is Born To German Actress, Robert Taylor". Sarasota Herald-Tribune. June 19, 1955. p. 14. Retrieved January 23, 2013. 
  19. ^ "Robert Taylor Father Of Girl". Lakeland Ledger. August 17, 1959. p. 6. Retrieved January 23, 2013. 
  20. ^ "Robert Taylor's stepson dead". The Bulletin. May 28, 1969. p. 7B. Retrieved January 23, 2013. 
  21. ^ "Actress discovers son dead". The Leader-Post. May 28, 1969. p. 6. Retrieved January 23, 2013. 
  22. ^ Wayne 2005, p. 192.
  23. ^ Ross 2002, p. 197.
  24. ^ Imwold et al. 2005, pp. 188–189.
  25. ^ "Reds Are Blasted By Robert Taylor". The Montreal Gazette. October 23, 1947. p. 2. Retrieved January 22, 2013. 
  26. ^ Linda J.Alexander, Reluctant Witness, North Carolina, Tease Publishing, 2008, pp. 193–235)
  27. ^ Slide, Anthony (1999). Actors on Red Alert: Career Interviews with Five Actors and Actresses Affected by the Blacklist. Lanham MD: Scarecrow Press. p. 1. ISBN 0810836491. 
  28. ^ Balio, Tino (1985). The American Film Industry. Madison WI: University of Wisconsin Press. p. 499. ISBN 0299098745. 
  29. ^ "Karen Morley, 93, Blacklisted Actress". Sun-Sentinel. 21 April 2003. Retrieved 17 December 2013. 
  30. ^ Madsen, Axel (2001). Stanwyck. Lincoln NE: iUniverse. p. 250. ISBN 0-595-19398-6. 
  31. ^ Humphries, Reynold (2008). Hollywood's Blacklists: A Political and Cultural History. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press. p. 83. ISBN 0748624562. 
  32. ^ "Lester Cole, Blacklisted In `Hollywood 10`". The New York Times. 19 August 1985. Retrieved 16 December 2013. 
  33. ^ Mayhew, Robert (2005). Ayn Rand and Song of Russia: Communism and Anti-Communism in 1940s Hollywood. Lanham MD: Scarecrow Press. p. 90. ISBN 0810852764. 
  34. ^ "Brig-Gen Paul Tibbets". telegraph.co.uk. November 2, 2007. Retrieved January 22, 2013. 
  35. ^ a b Groves, Martha (November 12, 2012). "Actor Robert Taylor's former ranch is set to go on auction block". latimes.com. Retrieved January 22, 2013. 
  36. ^ a b "Robert Taylor Ranch sells for $12 million to Chicago buyer". latimes.com. December 3, 2012. Retrieved January 22, 2013. 
  37. ^ "Taylor Has Cancer". Herald-Journal. December 4, 1968. p. 24. Retrieved January 23, 2013. 
  38. ^ Wayne 2005, p. 191.
  39. ^ Robert Taylor at Find a Grave
  40. ^ "Gov. Reagan Hails Taylor at Funeral". The Spokesman-Review. June 11, 1969. p. 25. Retrieved January 22, 2013. 
Bibliography
  • Alexander, Linda J. Reluctant Witness; Robert Taylor, Hollywood and Communism. North Carolina, Tease Publishing, 2008. ISBN 978-1-934678-64-0
  • Imwold, Denise, Andrew Brettell, Heather von Rohr and Warren Hsu Leonard.Cut!: Hollywood Murders, Accidents, and Other Tragedies. Hauppauge New York: Barrons Educational Series, 2005. ISBN 0-7641-5858-9.
  • Quirk, Lawrence J. The Films of Robert Taylor. New York: Lyle Stuart, 1979. ISBN 978-0-8065-0495-7.
  • Ross, Steven J. Movies and American Society (Blackwell Readers in American Social and Cultural History). Chichester, West Sussex, UK: Wiley-Blackwell, 2002. ISBN 0-631-21960-9.
  • Tibbets, Paul W. Mission: Hiroshima. New York: Stein & Day, 1985. ISBN 0-8128-8169-9
  • Tranberg, Charles. Robert Taylor: a Biography. Albany, GA, Bear Manor Media, 2011. ISBN 978-1-59393-615-0
  • Wayne, Jane Ellen. The Leading Men of MGM. New York: Carroll & Graf, 2005. ISBN 978-0-7867-1475-9.
  • Wayne, Jane Ellen. The Life of Robert Taylor. New York: Warner Paperback Library, 1973. ISBN 978-0-446-76103-1.

External links[edit]