Robert Taylor Would Have Been 103 Today (August 5)

258238,xcitefun-happy-birthday-cakes-3Happy Birthday Robert Taylor

Robert Taylor was an extremely versatile actor. During the four decades of his career he played a doctor, a soldier, a gangster, an ancient Roman, a murderer, a brain damaged veteran, a cowboy, a spy, a Medieval knight, a cop, an archaeologist, a playboy, a special agent, a buffalo hunter, a sailor, a boxer, a pilot, an engineer, a smuggler, a yacht captain, a butler, a RT90songwriter, a Broadway producer, a riding school head, an FBI man, a student, a Marshall and many more.  Robert Taylor starred in 77 films, 2 TV series and many radio plays. He was the first top level star to appear on television–on the Ed Sullivan show in 1952 to promote a film. Mr. Taylor was a guest on both radio and television programs, including What’s My Line.  He made a number of print ads and one television commercial (with his wife Ursula Thiess).

In his private life, Robert Taylor was married twice: first to actress Barbara Stanwyck from 1939 to 1951; then to German actress Ursula Thiess from 1954 to his death in 1969.  The term most people used to describe him was “gentleman.”  Mr. Taylor was extremely professional and well liked by his fellow actors and the crews of his films.

Robert Taylor and Ursula Thiess had two children; a son named Terrence and a daughter called Tessa.

pick079784uuuDespite his decades of stardom, Robert Taylor was never arrogant, egotistical or narcissistic. He remained a regular guy who could fit in in almost any environment.

During the second World War Robert Taylor served as a Navy pilot trainer and narrated and produced 17 training films.  Mr. Taylor was a conservative politically and closely associated with Ronald Reagan, campaigning for Mr. Reagan in his California gubernatorial campaign.

To sum it up:

 (Robert 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.)

ist2_3198263-decorative-swirl-motifHere are a few of my favorite Robert Taylor moments in films:

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‘Broadway Melody of 1936’ (1935). Broadway producer Bob Gordon watches his protege (and girlfriend) Eleanor Powell rehearse.

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“The Crowd Roars,” 1938. Down and out boxer Tommy McCoy agrees to go back to the ring after accidentally killing his best friend.

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“Flight Command,” fighter pilot Alan Drake mourns the loss of his friend Lt. Jerry Banning (Shepperd Strudwick) and vows to continue his work on a fog landing device.

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“The Hangman,” 1959. Deputy Marshall Mackenzie Bovard (aka the hangman) is being driven nuts by lovely Selah Jennison (Tina Louise).

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“Cattle King,” 1963. Wyoming rancher Sam Brassfield is having trouble tying his tie (again).

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“High Wall,” 1947. Brain injured veteran Steven Kenet doesn’t know whether or not he killed his wife. This is Robert Taylor playing totally against type.

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“Johnny Eager,” 1941. Ruthless gangster Johnny Eager looks quizzically at his pal Jeff Hartnett (Van Heflin).

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“Personal Property,” 1937. Sheriff’s Officer and fake butler Raymond Dabney (aka Ferguson) isn’t happy about the size of Crystal Wetherby’s (Jean Harlow) husband’s pajamas.

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“Rogue Cop,” 1954. Crooked cop Christopher Kelvaney mocks Karen Stephanson (Janet Leigh). “Don’t you have a sad story to tell me? I love sad stories.”

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“Valley of the Kings,” 1954. Archaeologist Mark Brandon (the pre-Indiana Jones) tells Ann Barclay Mercedes (Eleanor Parker) that she’s the only woman who ever came to his rooms only to talk to him.

“Quo Vadis,” 1951. Army Commander Marcus Vinicius flirts cautiously with the Empress Poppaea (Patricia Laffan) as she describes what she’d like to do to him.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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About giraffe44

I became a Robert Taylor fan at the age of 15 when his TV show, "The Detectives" premiered. My mother wanted to watch it because she remembered Mr. Taylor from the thirties. I took one look and that was it. I spent the rest of my high school career watching Robert Taylor movies on late night TV, buying photos of him, making scrapbooks and being a typical teenager. College, marriage and career intervened. I remember being sad when Mr. Taylor died. I mailed two huge scrapbooks to Ursula Thiess. I hope she got them. Time passed, retirement, moving to Florida. Then in 2012 my husband Fred pointed that there were two Robert Taylor movies that evening on Turner Classic Movies--"Ivanhoe" and "Quentin Durward." I watched both and it happened all over again. I started this blog both for fans and for people who didn't know about Robert Taylor. As the blog passes 200,000 views I'm delighted that so many people have come by and hope it will help preserve the legacy of this fine actor and equally good man.
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9 Responses to Robert Taylor Would Have Been 103 Today (August 5)

  1. June says:

    Yes, I knew it was Robert Taylor’s birthday today, However it was quite startling to think it was 3 years ago I was there in Beatrice with my friend Janie,celebrating his birthday with Tessa and Terry and Linda. The time I spent there still seems so vivid as I have all my photos scrolling as my screen saver. The constant slide show of the photos I took together with the places I went with Janie has kept that oh so special trip, very much alive. Cannot believe how fast time goes by these days. Thank you for the post Judith and your favorite photos.

  2. Mario says:

    Mr.Robert Taylor, one of the greatest and profesional actors of Classic Hollywood, and maybe the most underrated of all of them also. Nice post Judith. Thanks for the memories. Thanks Mr.Taylor.

  3. giraffe44 says:

    You’re very welcome, June and Mario. It’s nice to think that Mr. Taylor is getting the recognition he deserves now with two good bios, TCM and Warner Archive. June, I wish I had been there three years ago. Thanks to you both for writing.

  4. dianne345 says:

    Great photos, great performances. My personal favorites, in addition to “Quo Vadis,” would include “Ivanhoe,” “Knights of the Round Table,” “All the Brothers Were Valiant,” “Quentin Durward,” “D-Day the 6th of June,” “Party Girl” & “Waterloo Bridge.” Wonderful as he looked in B&W, I think he looked even better in color. I even have a color version of “Waterloo Bridge” that I taped years ago on TNT.

    It’s too bad that neither Linda Alexander’s nor Charles Tranberg’s bios were published by a major publisher & in hardback. The research in the Tranberg book seems to be good but the editing is terrible, unless a new version has been printed. The paragraph about Ursula’s death is especially bad. But the pictures are good & plentiful.

    Thanks for this birthday tribute to our favorite star.

    • giraffe44 says:

      I agree that Mr. Taylor looked wonderful in color. Apparently this was a concern when color became the regular choice–how would the stars look in color? Fortunately Robert Taylor passed the test with flying colors. He had ruddy skin, very dark hair and sparkling blue eyes–a great color combination. I know what you mean about the bios–the small publishers just cannot promote the books properly. I even wrote the Charles Tranberg and volunteered to proofread the manuscript if he does a second edition. I don’t think he took me seriously but as a former teacher, sloppiness drives me nuts. He even got the name of “High Wall” wrong–he consistently calls it “The High Wall.” Grrr. I’m glad you liked the birthday tribute–I enjoyed doing it.

  5. Rosie Jue says:

    HAPPY BIRTHDAY, ROBERT TAYLOR, You will live on forever in our hearts. Love you as “Roy Cronin” in Waterloo Bridge

  6. SusanaG says:

    Judith, thank you for the tribute and for sharing your favorite Robert Taylor moments in films. There are so many that I couldn’t even start to list them all. Every film he made has a particular sequence, no matter how short, that will catch your eye one way or another and will remain forever with you. Viewed from the perspective that he’d have turned 103 yesterday, it seems a long, long way behind us. But for those who have been watching him on TV for years now, it is only a short step, an indication that, in a way, he’s still around.

    • June says:

      Robert Taylor is an underrated screen immortal, and Su you are so right. He will never be gone, not while we and others like us, watch his films again and again, always with enjoyment and appreciation of his talents.

  7. giraffe44 says:

    Su and June, isn’t it wonderful that Mr. Taylor can still be part of people’s lives so long after he died? Motion pictures have changed the way we look at history, I think, in a good way. Someone in Shakespeare says he can summon the dead. Another person asks if they will respond. Well, yes they do now–we can summon them and enjoy their company whenever we want. 🙂

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