Note: I’ve added a page called Fan Art which currently shows the works of two visual artists and Robert Taylor fans. Click on Fan Art below the header picture.
by Leon Rice
Robert Taylor became a movie star because he “just happened” to join a college acting group. He has now become a TV star because he “just happened” to live across the street from Dick Powell. As he explains it, “I bought a farm across the road from Dick Powell. Has Dick Powell ever given you a sales talk? This is a stubborn man who knows what he is selling, why he’s selling it and–what’s more–why the person he’s selling it to should buy it. He was sold on TV. I should be on TV. I wanted no part of TV. He sold me on it. So I’m on TV and loving it.
Taylor, who is without question one of filmdom’s greatest stars, now has his own TV series on ABC-TV each week. Appearing with him, from time to time, is his beautiful wife Ursula. She was persuaded to come out of retirement to play the continuing role of a reporter.
Taylor is considered to be one of the most photogenic males who ever faced a camera. Like Elizabeth Taylor on the distaff side, it is believed to be impossible to take a bad picture of him, regardless of the camera angle. For most of his career, he has struggled to prove that he was more than a pretty boy and that he really could act.
Robert Taylor was born Spangler Arlington Brugh on August 5, 1911, in Filley, Nebraska. Hiss father was a doctor. Spangler Arlington Brugh went to Doane College in Crete, Nebraska. There he took the pre-medical course and also studied the cello. He was undecided as to whether he would become a musician or follow in the footsteps of his father. When his music instructor transferred to Pomona College in California, Spangler Arlington Brugh followed him there. For no reason that actor Robert Taylor can now remember, he joined the dramatic club and played a variety of small roles. In his senior year, he played in Journey’s End. Incidentally, this is Taylor’s only acting experience before alive audience. [Not true. Mr. Taylor acted with the Pasadena Playhouse after college.]
After studying acting privately for a few months following his graduation in 1933, Brugh–convinced that he had no real talent as an actor–returned to his hometown of Filley when his father became ill. After his father’s death, Spangler Arlington Brugh and his mother returned to Hollywood in November, 1933. He started to study acting again and made the studio rounds. Samuel Goldwyn took a free fourteen-day option on his services and immediately dropped him. A talent scout at MGM believed in him, however, and persuaded MGM to sign the young actor at a big thirty-five dollars a week. His first assignment was an almost invisible part in a Will Rogers picture called Handy Andy. After several other microscopic parts, he was given the second lead in Society Doctor starring Chester Morris. This movie released to theaters across the country late in 1934. A tidal wave of fan mail for the young co-star overwhelmed the studio executives. Spangler Arlington Brugh died and Robert Taylor was born.
A few pictures later, while on loan-out to Universal, Robert Taylor proved he was not a one-part freak. He played opposite Irene Dunne in Magnificent Obsession. Mail arrived in truckloads. Exhibitors begged for more. But it was not until 1936 opposite Greta Garbo in Camille, that he really hit his peak as a matinee idol of the screen. He was twenty-five years old and he was considered one of Hollywood’s great permanent stars.
In 1937 Taylor was Barbara Stanwyck’s co-star in two pictures. Their friendship grew into romance and they were married on May 14, 1939, soon after Miss Stanwyck’s divorce from Frank Fay. They were divorced February 21, 1951.
During the late ’30s, Taylor was selected as one of the ten top box-office attractions–runner-up to Clark Gable as King of Hollywood.
Taylor voluntarily left his movie star career to serve in World War II and at war’s end, was discharged as a full lieutenant in the U. S. Navy. After the war, his career took a whole new turn. He began to play parts with more character, which made greater demands on his abilities as a creative actor. Taylor appeared in Quo Vadis and then he made Ivanhoe. These were followed by the role of Lancelot in Knights of the round Table and the lead in Quentin Durward. Later came pictures such as Tip on a Dead Jockey and Killers of Kilimanjaro. These parts are a far cry from the roles that got Taylor nicknamed “The Heartthrob of a Nation.”
During the actor’s twenty-five years with MGM, he was the workhorse of the studio. He made over fifty movies and co-starred with Irene Dunne, Janet Gaynor, Garbo, Vivien Leigh, Barbara Stanwyck, Joan Crawford and Katharine Hepburn.
In 1954 Robert Taylor married Ursula Thiess, a German-born actress who had two small children by a previous marriage. They now have two children of their own–Terence and Tessa.
In the twenty-seven years that Robert Taylor has worked before the cameras he has grown up and developed. He has matured. He has developed his techniques as an actor. Now no longer just a “pretty boy,” even his appearance has changed. He is handsome and playing two-fisted, rugged roles. He strives constantly to increase and improve his ability.
Television audiences can judge how well he has succeeded by watching his MGM movies now being shown. These include his magnificent portrayal of Armand Duval opposite Garbo in Camille. His latest roles have been widely diversified–romantic costume parts, dashing adventuresome roles and realistic character studies. Robert Taylor proves the depth of his matured ability by playing each one with the skill and ease of a master craftsman. He hates being half-good at anything. From this facet of his personality and realistic approach to life comes promise of increasingly finer performances on television in his current series, The Detectives, as well as on the screen.