Robert Taylor and Ursula Thiess liked to live a quiet country life at their Mandeville Canyon home with their children and animals. Yet they were able to turn on the glamor when the occasion demanded it. The following is an interview with Mr. Taylor by columnist Sheilah Graham in 1960. Ms. Graham’s scorn for Ursula as a housewife may be feminist wrath or something more complicated. A possible explanation follows the article. The accompanying pictures show the Taylors at home and on the town.
Star Doesn’t Take His Acting Seriously
by Sheila Graham
Hollywood (NANA)–There was one time when Robert Taylor was very worried: When he was trying whether to make up his mind to reconcile with first wife Barbara Stanwyck or to marry German actress Ursula Thiess. He loved Ursula, but Barbara was unhappy. Fortunately for the three of them, Robert married Ursula who prefers to be the adoring type of wife with the great big strong man making all the decisions.
In the old days –25 years ago—Bob was unsure of himself; Barbara wasn’t. Nothing bothers him today.
“Have you ever taken yourself seriously as an actor?” I asked the still very handsome Mr. Taylor.
“No, I don’t believe in taking any part of this business too seriously,” Bob replied. “It’s just another job, a darn good job. But this present tendency to ‘get into the part,’ to ‘live your part’–if you have to be out of breath, to get out of breath, and all that, is a lot of nonsense to me. Some of the “Method” boys I’ve worked with have done that, and I’ve had to guard to keep from laughing right in their faces.”
Studio biggies will tell you that during Robert’s 25 years of stardom, he never caused anyone a single headache (Miss Stanwyck excepted, of course). “I don’t believe in temperament,” said Bob. “I don’t think that being good at your job entitles you to bad behavior. Sometimes nervous strain makes a sensitive actor jumpy and then he forgets himself.
Original caption for the right hand photo: 16 Feb 1955, London, England, UK — Original caption: London: Robert Taylor To Make Film Here. Hollywood film actor Robert Taylor with his wife, German born actress Ursula Thiess, dine at a West End restaurant. They arrived in London on Saturday; and Mr. Taylor is to make a film in this country.
“But most actors are spoiled early in their career. Too much adulation, too many things done for them, publicity people telling them what to say or saying it for them. In the earlier days, when I started, actors were little white gods as far as the studios were concerned. Many actors were spoiled by this; they seemed to think it was a license to treat people badly, to order them around. It stemmed from insecurity, too.”
Nowadays, stars are under contract to themselves, in most cases where they are big at the box office or in television. Robert owns a big piece of his TV show and gets a percentage of his movies. He wasn’t surprised when “The Detectives” was picked up for the next season. Nothing surprises him.
“Ursula and I lead a quiet life in our home in Mandeville Canyon. We get the feeling on our 113 acres that we’re miles from nowhere. Actually we’re 15 minutes from the heart of Beverly Hills. Ursula is a good rider and we can cover 16 miles of bridle trail without leaving our property.”
From Left: Dining with Nancy Reagan; examining a party favor; the photo on the right shows Mr. Taylor, Ursula Thiess, Anna Maria Alberghetti, Nancy Reagan, Rosanno Brazzi and Ronald Reagan at an Ambassador Hotel reception.
They own cattle, horses, hunting dogs, cats and chickens. One hired hand runs the great outdoors, and Mrs. Taylor has a woman to help her around the house, but–”if she had the time she’d do it all herself,” says her husband.
From Left: Robert Taylor sampling his wife’s cooking. She made an effort to get him to eat vegetables and salads; the couple sharing his love for hunting; the family at home at their cabin in Wyoming.
In good housewifely fashion, Ursula does the marketing herself. Robert hates to waste money and this delights him. His wife also participates in the neighborhood car pool on kindergarten days. They have a son, now going on 5, and a blonde blue-eyed 10 month old daughter. Also living with them are Ursula’s two daughters [actually a daughter and a son] by her previous marriage. Ursula had a fairly good career under way when she married Taylor. I doubt that she will act again, except maybe a bit here and there in Bob’s TV series.
It has long been rumored that Robert Taylor and Sheilah Graham were lovers. She was eight years older than he, but Mr. Taylor didn’t mind older women. Sheilah Graham may have harbored resentment against Ms.Thiess because she had married the man for whom Ms. Graham still had feelings. Perhaps she had gotten her hopes up when Mr. Taylor and Ms. Stanwyck divorced in 1951. Ms. Graham does sound like a woman scorned dripping bile on her successful rival. None of this can be proved at this point but it is intriguing.
Robert T. Westbrook (born 1945) is an American writer. He was born to columnist Sheilah
Graham Westbrook five years after the death of her lover F. Scott Fitzgerald. There is some question as to Robert’s biological father, who Graham claimed was Trevor Westbrook, a British businessman she divorced in 1946. However, after Graham’s death in 1988, the British philosopher A.J. Ayer came forward to say he was the father of Robert’s older half-sister Wendy and that Robert’s biological father was most likely the Hollywood actor Robert Taylor. (Wikipedia)
To me, it seems out of character for Mr. Taylor to father a child and never acknowledge him. Even Robert Westbrook admitted that he wasn’t sure whether his father was Robert Taylor or Victor Mature. There is no resemblance between Mr. Taylor and Mr. Westbrook.
And a flashback to a glamorous Hollywood party around 1950.
From left: Robert Taylor greets Robert Stack. Barbara Stanwyck and gossip columnist Louella Parsons are seated; Mr. Taylor and Mr. Stack look bored out of their minds. Barbara Stanwyck seems animated and Louella Parsons serious.