Robert Taylor (born Spangler Arlington Brugh; 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 on June 8, 1969 at the age of 57.
Born Spangler Arlington Brugh in Filley, Nebraska, he was the only child of Ruth Adaline (née Stanhope) and Spangler Andrew Brugh, a farmer turned doctor. 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.
As a teenager, Taylor was a track star and played the cello in his high school orchestra. Upon graduation, he enrolled at Doane College in Crete, Nebraska. While at Doane, he took cello lessons from Professor Herbert E. Gray, 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. He joined the campus theater group and was eventually spotted by an MGM talent scout in 1932 after production of Journey's End.
He signed a seven-year contract with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer with an initial salary of $35 a week, which rose to $2500 by 1936. The studio changed his name to Robert Taylor. 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.
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 the U.S. Naval Air Corps. 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. 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 Many Rivers to Cross in 1955 co-starring Eleanor Parker. In 1958, he shared the lead with Richard Widmark in the edgy John Sturges western The Law and Jake Wade. Also 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).
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 for lack of coordination with HEW.
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. Taylor would remain with the series until his death in 1969.
Marriages and children
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. Stanwyck divorced Taylor (reportedly at his request) in February 1951. The couple had no children.
Taylor met German actress Ursula Thiess in 1952. They married in Jackson Hole, Wyoming on May 23, 1954. 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. On May 26, 1969, shortly before Taylor's death from lung cancer, Ursula Thiess found her son Michael's body in a West Los Angeles motel room. 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 natural father with insecticide.
In February 1944, Taylor helped found the Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals. In October 1947, Taylor was called to testify before the House Committee on Un-American Activities regarding Communism in Hollywood. He did this reluctantly, regarding the hearings as a "circus" and refusing to appear unless subpoenaed. In his testimony concerning the Screen Actors Guild (SAG), delivered on October 22, 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."  Two people already under investigation by the FBI, Karen Morley and Howard Da Silva, were mentioned as troublemakers at SAG meetings. Taylor alleged that at meetings of the SAG, Da Silva "always had something to say at the wrong time." Da Silva was blacklisted on Broadway and New York radio, while Morley never worked again after her name surfaced at the hearings. 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". Taylor also labeled screenwriter Lester Cole "reputedly a Communist", while adding, "I would not know personally". After the hearings, Taylor's films were banned in Communist Hungary and in Czechoslovakia and Communists called for a boycott of his films in France.
In 1952, Taylor starred in the film Above and Beyond, a biopic of Enola Gay pilot Paul Tibbets. 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 and to fly to locations for filming.
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 to $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.
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.
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. 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.
Taylor's funeral was held at Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery, in Glendale, California. 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, Mickey Rooney, George Murphy, Audrey Totter and Taylor's ex-wife Barbara Stanwyck.
For his contribution to the motion picture industry, Robert Taylor has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 1500 Vine Street.
|1934||Handy Andy||Lloyd Burmeister|
|1934||The Spectacle Maker||The Duchess's Paramour||Short subject|
|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|
|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||The Gorgeous Hussy||"Bow" Timberlake|
|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||A Yank at Oxford||Lee Sheridan|
|1938||Three Comrades||Erich Lohkamp|
|1938||The 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||The Youngest Profession||Cameo|
|1944||Song of Russia||John Meredith|
|1944||The Fighting Lady||Narrator||Credited as Lieut Robert Taylor USNR|
|1947||High Wall||Steven Kenet|
|1949||Conspirator||Major Michael Curragh|
|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|
|1953||I Love Melvin||Himself|
|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||The Adventures of Quentin Durward||Quentin Durward|
|1956||The 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||The Law and Jake Wade||Jake Wade|
|1958||Saddle the Wind||Steve Sinclair|
|1958||Party Girl||Thomas "Tommy" Farrell|
|1959||The Hangman||Mackenzie Bovard|
|1959||The 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||A 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|
|1967||Return of the Gunfighter||Ben Wyatt|
|1968||The Day the Hot Line Got Hot||Anderson||Alternative title: Hot Line|
|1968||Where Angels Go, Trouble Follows||Mr. Farriday – The 'In' Group|
|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|
|1946||Suspense||"The Argyle Album"|
|1946||Suspense||The House in Cypress Canyon|
|1952||Lux Radio Theatre||Westward the Women|
|1953||Theater of Stars||Mail Order|
- Wagner, Laura. "Robert Taylor: Matinee Idol." Films of the Golden Age. Retrieved: November 18, 2011.
- Wayne 2005, p. 165.
- 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.
- Torgerson, Dial. "Hollywood Star Walk: Robert Taylor." Los Angeles Times, June 9, 1969. Retrieved: January 28, 2015.
- Wayne 2005, p. 166.
- Hall 1937, p. 42.
- Wayne 2005, p. 167.
- Griffith, Benjamin. "Robert Taylor." St. James Encyclopedia of Pop Culture, 2002. Retrieved: November 18, 2011.
- "Robert Taylor ends Navy duty." "The Free Lance-Star, November 6, 1945, p. 2. Retrieved: January 28, 2015.
- "1953 World Film Favorite." Golden Globes. Retrieved: January 28, 2015.
- Witbeck, Charles. "Taylor sparks 'Death Valley Days'." The Modesto Bee, April 7, 1967/ Retrieved: January 23, 2013.
- "Barbara Stanwyck weds Robert Taylor on coast." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, May 15, 1939, p. 1. Retrieved: January 28, 2015.
- "Calm Barbara Stanwyck divorces Robert Taylor." Eugene Register-Guard, February 21, 1951, p. 1. Retrieved: January 28, 2015.
- "Lung cancer claims life of actor Robert Taylor." Edmonton Journal, June 9, 1969, p. 9. Retrieved: January 28, 2015.
- "Robert Taylor, Ursula Thiess wed." Times Daily, May 24, 1954, p. 4. Retrieved: January 28, 2015.
- "Boy is born to German actress, Robert Taylor." Sarasota Herald-Tribune, June 19, 1955, p. 14. Retrieved: January 28, 2015.
- "Robert Taylor father of girl." Lakeland Ledger, August 17, 1959, p. 6. Retrieved: January 28, 2015.]
- "Robert Taylor's stepson dead." The Bulletin, May 28, 1969, p. 7B. Retrieved: January 28, 2015.
- "Actress discovers son dead." The Leader-Post, May 28, 1969, p. 6. Retrieved: January 28, 2015.
- Wayne 2005, p. 192.
- Ross 2002, p. 197.
- Imwold et al. 2005, pp. 188–189.
- "Reds are blasted by Robert Taylor." The Montreal Gazette, October 23, 1947, p. 2. Retrieved: January 28, 2015.
- Alexander 2008, pp. 193–235.
- Slide 1999, p. 1.
- Balio 1985, p. 499
- "Karen Morley, 93, blacklisted actress." Sun-Sentinel, April 21, 2003. Retrieved: January 28, 2015.
- Madsen 2001, p. 250.
- Humphries 2008, p. 83.
- Mayhew 2005, p. 90.
- "Brig-Gen Paul Tibbets." The Telegraph, November 2, 2007. Retrieved: January 28, 2015.
- Groves, Martha. "Actor Robert Taylor's former ranch is set to go on auction block." Los Angeles Times, November 12, 2012. Retrieved: January 28, 2015.
- Groves. Martha. "Robert Taylor ranch sells for $12 million to Chicago buyer." Los Angeles Times, December 3, 2012. Retrieved: January 28, 2015.
- "Taylor has cancer." Herald-Journal, December 4, 1968, p. 24. Retrieved: January 28, 2015.
- Wayne 2005, p. 191.
- "Gov. Reagan hails Taylor at funeral." The Spokesman-Review, June 11, 1969, p. 25. Retrieved: January 28, 2015.
- "Suspense-- 'The house in Cypress Canyon'(12-5-46)." YouTube. Retrieved: November 18, 2015.
- Kirby, Walter. "Better radio programs for the week." The Decatur Daily Review, December 28, 1952, p. 36; via Newspapers.com. Retrieved: June 5, 2015.
- Kirby, Walter. "Better radio programs for the week." The Decatur Daily Review, March 8, 1953, p. 46; via Newspapers.com. Retrieved: June 23, 2015.
- Alexander, Linda J. Reluctant Witness: Robert Taylor, Hollywood and Communism. Twentynine Palms, California: Tease Publishing, 2008. ISBN 978-1-934678-64-0.
- Balio, Tino. The American Film Industry. Madison Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Press, 1985.ISBN 0-29909-874-5.
- Hall, Gladys. Robert Taylor's True Life Story. New York: Dell Publishing Co., 1937.
- Humphries, Reynold. Hollywood's Blacklists: A Political and Cultural History. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2008. ISBN 0-7-4862-456-2.
- 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.
- Madsen, Axel. Stanwyck. Lincoln Nebraska: iUniverse, 2001. ISBN 0-595-19398-6.
- Mayhew, Robert. Ayn Rand and Song of Russia: Communism and Anti-Communism in 1940s Hollywood. Lanham Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 2005. ISBN 0-81085-276-4.
- 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.
- Slide, Anthony. Actors on Red Alert: Career Interviews with Five Actors and Actresses Affected by the Blacklist. Lanham Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 1999. ISBN 0-81083-649-1.
- Tibbets, Paul W. Mission: Hiroshima. New York: Stein & Day, 1985. ISBN 0-8128-8169-9
- Tranberg, Charles. Robert Taylor: a Biography. Albany, Georgia, 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.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Category:Robert Taylor.|
- Robert Taylor at the Internet Movie Database
- R at the TCM Movie Database
- Robert Taylor collection at the Nebraska State Historical Society
- Photographs of Robert Taylor
- Robert Taylor (actor) at Find a Grave
- Robert Taylor Actor
- Persons of Exceptional Prominence List (Official Military Personnel Files) at the National Archives at St. Louis https://www.archives.gov/st-louis/military-personnel/public
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