Audrey Meadows is expressing a widely held view about Robert Taylor. She said this in the 1950s. To my mind, Mr. Taylor never looked better than he did in the fifties. Robert Taylor had become a sophisticate, socializing everywhere from palaces to Nebraska farms. He dressed immaculately and always looked elegant, even in jeans. Yet all of his colleagues agree that Robert Taylor never lost his humility, was never arrogant or self-important.
Between the thirties and the fifties Robert Taylor grew from a beautiful boy to an extremely handsome man. He remained handsome for the rest of his life, even as he matured.
The most commonly used word for Mr. Taylor was gentleman. As George Cukor said, “Robert Taylor was my favorite actor. He was a gentleman. That’s rare in Hollywood.” (W.F. Buckley, “MGM Moles Dig Themselves a Hole,” Column, Jan 30, 1990)
Here is a selection of photos of the elegant Mr. Robert Taylor in the 1950s, along with quotes from colleagues. I’ve tried to keep photos taken at the same time together.
Martha Crawford Cantarini, stunt woman. “He was one of the legendary faces in motion picture history, but I knew him as a quiet, shy, educated gentleman whose honesty was reflected in that famous face. Early in his career, he once told me, he had vowed to always appear in movies that the whole family could see and had endeavored to keep that promise. A gentle human being, Bob loved his horses just as he did his family. He had an extraordinary quarter horse named Tommy whom I also loved from my first day on the set. (Martha Crawford Cantarini, Fall Girl: my life as a western stunt double. page 168)
Cyd Charisse, actress. “From Rock Hudson to Robert Taylor, I worked with two of the handsomest—and nicest—of men in successive pictures. (Taylor) was a very pleasant man, but kept himself aloof on the set, just palling around with his cronies. He drank coffee all day long and chain smoked. I have a hunch that, around four or five, there was something in the cup besides coffee. It didn’t effect him; he was always a gentleman on the set and a thoroughly professional artist.” (Charisse, Martin and Kleiner, The Two of Us, Mason/Charter, 1976)
Arlene Dahl, actress. “Fred Astaire and Bob Taylor were the two gentlemen of Hollywood…..Bob made me feel at home. He was my confidant. Just a sweet, wonderful man.” (Tranberg)
Tay Garnett, director, “(Taylor) was one of the world’s great gentlemen….He was serious minded, hard working and keen. In spite of his astounding good looks, he was determined to be a fine actor, and not merely a star.” (L.J. Quirk, The Films of Robert Taylor, 1975, p. 102)
Deborah Kerr, actress. “When one thinks of his extraordinary good looks, he had every right to be a bit spoiled, but not Bob. He was unassuming, good natured and had a wonderful sense of humor…I felt he was a much better actor than he was given credit for.” (Tranberg)
Robert Loggia, actor. “Bob was an extremely talented artist. He was also the ultimate gentleman and a true professional who followed the rules of the day—arrive on time, know your lines and be willing to do what had to be done to make the picture successful. Here was a guy who could convincingly play the romantic lead opposite Garbo in a picture like Camille and be just as convincing playing a cowboy. Now that’s range, but the critics really never gave him his due.” (Tranberg)
Ed Nelson, actor. “Robert Taylor was one of the few people who was a regular guy who had been under to the studios. Most of them were pampered and acted like it on the set, but not Bob Taylor. When he came to television, he didn’t act like he was too big for the small screen. Many of those film stars were babysat and pampered for years by the studios and would look down their noses when they were working in television, but Taylor was an exception.” (Tranberg)
Lawrence J. Quirk, author. (Taylor) was a true gentleman and a finer artist than he would admit to himself or to others. He was well educated, socially tactful, kind and highly intelligent….An American to the core, he loved his land, kept the faith and looked for the best.” L.J. Quirk, The Films of Robert Taylor, 1975, page 11, 12.
William Wellman, director. “I was crazy about Bob Taylor…..I think Bob Taylor’s probably one of the finest men I’ve known in my whole life. And he was an actor. And he was probably the handsomest one of them all. He did everything I asked him to. He was wonderful.” (William A. Wellman by Frank Thompson.)
Robert Walker, actor. “Without a doubt he’s the most beloved guy on the lot. Those who know say he’s never changed since the first day he came here. He’s never too busy nor too important to see people, to help them. He doesn’t have a big-shot complex. If success ever really came to me, I’d feel very proud if I could wear it as well as does Robert Taylor.” (1945 interview, quoted in Robert Taylor Movie Star Discussion Forum on TCM.com.)