High Wall, 1947, Is Playing on TCM on June 25 (USA)

High Wall, 1947, is playing on Turner Classic Movies on Sunday, June 25 at 10:00 a.m. est.  Closed captioned.

1947I highly recommend this film.  Robert Taylor is playing totally against type as an injured war veteran who has a haematoma on his brain that is causing him to act irrationally.  This is so far from the glamorous Taylor we know and love and demonstrates his amazing range as an actor.

High Wall is a departure for Robert Taylor. In the 30’s he portrayed mostly handsome society boys. In 1941 he toughened up his image with Johnny Eager. This is an entirely different path. The lead character, Steven Kenet, has returned from a job flying freight in Asia after his service in WW II. He’s eager to see his wife and displeased to find out she has a job. Kenet is even more displeased when he discovers she is having an affair with her boss. To complicate matters, he has a brain injury and is suffering blackouts and other symptoms. Seeing his wife in her lover’s apartment triggers rage and violence. The wife is dead and Kenet is the only suspect. He confesses and is committed to a mental institution for psychiatric evaluation. The unique thing about the film to me is Taylor’s ability to play vulnerability. Kenet is neither a pretty boy nor a villain. He is a man in torment.

Taylor uses his shoulders beautifully to portray hopelessness. They droop in the scenes where the character is locked in solitary confinement. After his operation they are straight. The confusion on his face when he’s offered an opportunity to see his son at the hospital is masterful as he passes through a range of emotions moving from delight to doubt to anger to confusion. There is a remarkable sequence in which Kenet is dragged off after attacking a visitor. Taylor’s body positions change constantly–this is hardly the “wooden” acting for which he is so often condemned. Another great sequence is his walk up the stairs at the end to see his son. Kenet’s face radiates joy. The camera work is stylish and the chiaroscuro is masterful. This movie was apparently not well received in its time probably because it isn’t the “Robert Taylor” people expected and it is largely forgotten now. It deserves to be remembered. Review by me for the IMDb.

Some behind-the-scenes photos:

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Robert Taylor with co-stars Audrey Totter and  Bobby Hyatt.

 

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Fulvia’s Graphic Novel

Robert Taylor fan Fulvia, who lives in Rome, has written a graphic novel about Mr. Taylor.  I have posted it under Fan Art.  The view it, click on Fan Art above.  The text is in Italian but the pictures alone are worth a look.  Enjoy.

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Ivanhoe, 1952, Is Playing on TCM on June 10 (USA) and can be seen on demand until June 17

Ivanhoe, 1952, is playing on Turner Classic Movies on Saturday June 10 at 12 noon est. and can be seen on TCM on demand until June 17.

Ivanhoe was one of the most successful films of the year and brought in over $10 million at the box office, about $89,823,018.87 in 2015.

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Robert Taylor and Liz Taylor in Ivanhoe.

Wonderful movie! This film is an exciting adventure-romance which never once loses its pace or feel. Robert Taylor brings depth to a potentially dull lead character. Jean Fontaine is great as his love, the Lady Rowenna. Elizabeth Taylor, though, steals the show with her stunning portrayal of Rebecca of York! This film has aged very well and shows first-hand to a young generation just why Elizabeth Taylor was such a star.

Although this film is an extremely enjoyable adventure, it also has the guts to tackle some complicated issues and resolve them in a very non-Hollywood fashion. As Ivanhoe feels his love for the beautiful Rebecca grow will he defy convention and pursue the lovely Jewish girl or remain with the safe charms of the blond, Anglo-Saxon Rowena The answer is intelligently handled and surprising. This film is one of the greatest examples of the classic adventure.  Review by David Arbury for the IMDB

Here are a few behind the scenes photos:

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Left to right: Mr. Taylor and Peter Ustinov; waiting; with unknown person.

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Left to right: with Joan Fontaine who played Rowena; with Ms. Fontaine and director Richard Thorpe.

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Left to right: with Elizabeth Taylor; with Liz and Emlyn Williams

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Left to right: with George Sanders and Liz Taylor; with Liz Taylor.

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Robert Taylor Can’t Remember

A letter from Robert Taylor has recently appeared on eBay.  As usual, he hasn’t included the year but has noted the month and day.

ROBERT TAYLOR

Mr. Taylor looking like he can’t remember (from Lucky Night).

February 4

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Essig—-

When I got back from Webster City last September I had every intention of sending you a picture!

Maybe I did send you one!  For the life of me I can’t seem to remember.

In any case, if I did send you one previously you can tear this one into small pieces.  And my thanx to you for the very pleasant stay I had with you at the Shady Oaks Motel.

See ya again soon I hope.

There is no signature.  This is the actual letter.

 

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Robert Taylor Died on June 8, 1969

Robert Taylor died of lung cancer on June 8, 1969.  At his funeral, California Governor Ronald Reagan gave the eulogy.  Here are a few excerpts from that eulogy, given on June 11, 1969.

“How to say farewell to a friend named Bob.  He’d probably say, ‘Don’t make any fuss.  I wouldn’t want to cause any trouble.

“How to speak of Robert Taylor–one of the truly great and most enduring stars of the golden era of Hollywood?  What can we say about a boy named–well, a boy from Nebraska with an un-Nebraska-like name of Spangler Arlington Brugh?

“MGM was a giant and the home of giants.  It had the greatest stars in an era when Hollywood was a Mount Olympus peopled with godlike stars–Gable, Tracy, Grant, Montgomery, Coleman, Cooper, the Barrymores.  And there were goddesses to match–Garbo, Shearer, Crawford, Irene Dunne.  Bob Taylor became one of the all-time greats of motion picture stardom.  Twenty-four years at that one studio, MGM, alone.  Thirty-five years before the public.  His face, instantly recognizable in every corner of the world.  His name, a new one–a household word.

“And all of this came in one sudden, dazzling burst.  To simply appear in public caused a traffic jam.  There has never been anything like it, before or since–possibly the only thing that can compare to it–Rudolph Valentino, and why not?  Because on all of Mt. Olympus, he was the most handsome.

“Now there were those in our midst who worked very hard to bring him down with the label, ‘Pretty Boy.’  And, of course, there’s that standard Hollywood rule that true talent must never be admitted as playing a part in success if the individual is too handsome or too beautiful.

“It’s only in the recent years of our friendship that I’ve been able to understand how painful all of this must have been to  him–to a truly modest man–because he was modest to the point of being painfully shy.  In all the years of stardom he never got over being embarrassed at the furor that his appearance created.  He went a long way to avoid putting himself in a position where  he could become the center of attention.”

“His quiet and disciplined manner had a steadying effect on every company he was ever in, and at the same time, throughout the country, who remember him because he taught them to fly.  He fought combat city in World War II as a Navy flier and he wound up teaching others–and I’ll bet he taught them good.  There was no caste system in his love of humanity.”

“He loved his home and everything it meant.  Above all he loved his family……(to the family) In a little while the hurt will be gone.  Then you will find you can bring out your memories.  You can look at them–take comfort from their warmth.  As the years go by you will be very proud.  Not so much of the things that we have –talked about here–you are going to be proud of simple things.  Things not so stylish in certain circles today, but that just makes them a little more and of greater value.  Things he had like honor and honesty, responsibility to those he worked for and who worked for him, standing up for what he believed and, yes, even a simple old-fashioned love  for his country, and, above all, an inner humility.

“He needed the strength (at the end) that he could only get from being in that home filled with [Ursula’s] presence.  He spoke to me of this only a few days ago.  It was uppermost in his mind, and I am sure he meant for me to tell [her] something that he wanted above all else.  There is just one last thing that [she] can do for him–be happy.  This was his last thought to me.”**

 

Robert Taylor and Ronald Reagan at a birthday party for Mr. Reagan.

Robert Taylor’s and, since 2010, Ursula Thiess’ grave at Forest Lawn Cemetery.

Grave of Dr. S. A. Brugh, Robert Taylor’s father.

Grave of Ruth A. Brugh, Robert Taylor’s mother.

Grave of Michael Thiess, Ursula’ Thiess’ son.

 

**The eulogy was printed in Ursula Thiess’ book “…but I have promises to keep” My Life Before, With & After Robert Taylor. Copyright 2007 by Ursula Taylor.

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Undercurrent, 1946, Is Playing on TCM on June (USA)

Undercurrent, 1946, is playing on Turner Classic Movies on Wednesday, June 7 at 11:45 a.m. est.  Closed captioned.

Director Vincente Minneli said of Undercurrent : He [Robert Taylor] out acted her [Katharine Hepburn] and stole the picture as the demanding and sadistic husband.  It was Kate who was miscast. (Charles Tranberg, Robert Taylor: a Biography, BearManor Media, 2011, pages 176-177.) 

abcAll of the criticisms of this movie might well be flushed down the loo. This is one powerhouse of an interesting movie.  Call it Film-Noir. Call it Mystery/Suspense. Call it Psychological Thriller. Call it what you may…I call it: absorbing drama.  It moves very deliberately…and the facts are revealed one by one, in true mystery fashion, until the fantastic, thrilling ending.

Those who say that Hepburn and Mitchum were miscast are just so wrong. Hepburn wasn’t playing Hepburn here…she wasn’t Tracy Lord here. She wasn’t a know-it-all New England uppity snob here. Not a worldly character at all. She played a different character than I’ve ever seen her do. Hepburn doesn’t rely on her stable of clichés to capture our imagination here. She does it with imagination and as few of the Hepburn cornerstone mannerisms as possible. Good result!

Und23 (10)Robert Taylor is fascinating to watch. He has so many secrets in this role. And they reside behind his facade for us to watch and enjoy. He slowly swirls into controlled mania and desperate determination. Very fine, indeed. He should have been nominated for this one.

And then there’s Mitchum! What can one say about Mitchum without gushing foolishly. Gee whiz…the first time you see him…he shows us a side of him we have hardly ever seen! He seems at peace, mild in character, mellow in mood…pensive…other worldly. Likable even! Never gruff or abrasive like we’ve seen him so many times before.

What is unique about this story is that we really do not know what is going to happen next. We spend most of the movie residing in Hepburn’s character’s mind. Her wondering, her confusion, her search for the truth — at all costs.

I was expecting not to like this movie. I was expecting it to be another formulaic Hepburn vehicle about high society. But this is where this movie takes a left turn into an underrated mystery.  I enjoyed the use of the theme to the Third Movement of Johannes Brahms’ Third Symphony throughout the movie. RT677It lent a delicious air of mystery, love and luscious pastoral passion to the whole affair.

And to say that Vincente Minnelli was WRONG for this movie? Gee whiz! He was perfect! Why compare him to Hitchcock? Minnelli has manufactured a mystery world all his own. Sure there are devices. All movies have devices. But they are handled so deftly…we don’t rely on them to make us aware of the story — they don’t get in our way. They heighten our interest and this very absorbing plot.

Well done. I wish it had been a longer movie…it was THAT kind of movie. I recommend this one…Review by Enrique Sanchez, Miami, FL for the IMDB.

Some behind the scenes photos:


Left to right: Katharine Hepburn, Robert Taylor, Karl Freund; Ms. Hepburn & Mr. Taylor; Ms. Hepburn, Mr.  Taylor, Mr. Freund; Mr. Taylor.


Left to right: Robert Taylor with Crew Members; Mr. Taylor, Robert Mitchum, Mr. Minelli;  Ms. Hepburn, Mr. Taylor & 2 others.

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Left to right: Ms. Hepburn and others; Mr. Minelli and Mr. Taylor; Ms. Hepburn, Mr. Minelli, Mr. Taylor.


Left to right: Ms. Hepburn, Mr. Taylor, Mr. Freund; Mr. Taylor and Cinematographer Karl Freund.

Back home..and happy, Robert Taylor, back at MGM and before the cameras again after 3 years as an officer in Navy, finds huge satisfaction relaxing between scenes of his first postwar picture, Undercurrent. During such moments away from the camera, he likes the pickup of cup coffee. (original caption)

 

 

 

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Above and Beyond, 1952, Is Playing on TCM on May 26 (USA)

Above and Beyond, 1952 is playing on Turner Classic Movies on Friday, May 26 at 12:30 a.m. est. (which is actually May 27).  Closed captioned.  This is one of several roles for which Robert Taylor should have won an Oscar.  He was outstanding.

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Larry Keating and Robert Taylor

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Robert Taylor and Eleanor Parker

Considering that  Above and Beyond was made during the height of the hysteria now known as McCarthyism, one would have expected a jingoistic flag-waver out of Hollywood. Instead, surprisingly, the screenplay as written allows the Paul Tibbets character (Robert Taylor) the opportunity to register a variety of emotions, in a most realistic and compelling performance.

This is ironic, seeing as the real Tibbets, decades after the event (the bombing of Hiroshima), is to this day unrepentant. Not to criticize his position in any way, because that was a different time and place, and it’s Tibbets’ view that he had a job to do, and the morality of it all, he has stated, is best debated by others.

But the film is all the more compelling because of the ambivalence written into the Tibbets character, and Taylor’s especially fine work. There are uniformly strong performances throughout the cast, notably those of Eleanor Parker (Lucy Tibbets), James Whitmore (the security officer) and Larry Keating (General Brent).

Another surprise: the team of Melvin Frank and Norman Panama (screenplay, direction) had been best known for their Bob Hope comedies, when under contract at Paramount. Their first dramatic effort was “Above and Beyond,” and they acquitted themselves admirably.

Final note: the musical score by Hugo Friedhofer is immensely satisfying: stirring in an emotional sense, with just a touch of, but not too much of, militaristic flavor.

Dore Schary, a Democrat, had succeeded fervent Republican Louis B. Mayer at MGM in 1951, and had encouraged the production of Above and Beyond. One wonders if (a) the film would have been made at all on Mayer’s watch, and (b) if it had, would it have been more of a cornball, John Wayne-type flag-waver. Thankfully, those questions are moot. “Above and Beyond” is a stirring, finely-crafted film. I would stress again the unusual nature of the protagonist’s ambivalence as portrayed in a film made during a very sensitive time in America’s history.  Review by Alan Rosenberg, Toronto, Canada for the imdb.

Note: I don’t agree with some of this reviewer’s comments but I thought the review is worth reading.  Judith

Some behind the scenes photos:


Robert Taylor and Eleanor Parker signing autographs for fans.

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Left to right: hanging out on the set; lunchtime


More hanging out.


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