TAYLOR, Robert

Nationality: American. Born: Spangler Arlington Brugh in Filley, Nebraska, 5 August 1911. Education: Attended Beatrice High School, Nebraska, graduated 1929; Doane College, Crete, Nebraska; Pomona College, California, B.A. 1933; Neely Dixon Dramatic School, Hollywood. Family: Married 1) the actress Barbara Stanwyck, 1939 (divorced 1951); 2) the actress Ursula Thiess, 1954, two children. Career: 1934—film debut in Handy Andy ; 1934–58—contract with MGM; 1943–46—flying instructor in Naval Air Corps, and also directed training films: Lieutenant; 1958—formed Robert Taylor Productions; 1959–62—star of TV series The Detectives ; 1966–68—host (and occasional actor), TV series Death Valley Days . Died: 8 June 1969.

Films as Actor:


Handy Andy (Butler) (as Lloyd Burmeister); There's Always Tomorrow (Sloman) (as Arthur); A Wicked Woman (Brabin) (as Bill Renton)


Buried Loot (Seitz) (as Al Douglas); Society Doctor (Seitz) (as Dr. Ellis); Times Square Lady (Seitz) (as Steve); West Point in the Air (Rossen) (as Jaskerelli); Murder in the Fleet (Sedgewick) (as Lt. Tom Randolph); Broadway Melody of 1936 (Del Ruth) (as Bob Gordon); Magnificent Obsession (Stahl) (as Bobby Merrick)


Small Town Girl (Wellman) (as Bob Dakin); Private Number (Del Ruth) (as Richard Winfield); His Brother's Wife (Van Dyke) (as Chris); The Gorgeous Hussy (Brown) (as Bow Timberlake)


Camille (Cukor) (as Armand Dural); Personal Property (Van Dyke) (as Raymond Dabney); This Is My Affair (Seiter) (as Lt. Richard Perry); Broadway Melody of 1938 (Del Ruth) (as Steve); Lest We Forget (Whitbeck—doc) (as himself)


A Yank at Oxford (Conway) (as Lee Sheridan); Three Comrades (Borzage) (as Erich Lokcamp); The Crowd Roars (Thorpe) (as Tommy McCoy)


Stand Up and Fight (Van Dyke) (as Blake Cantrell); Lucky Night (Taurog) (as Bill Overton); Lady of the Tropics (Conway) (as Bill Carey); Remember? (McLeod) (as Jeff Holland)


Flight Command (Borzage) (as Ensign Alan Drake); Waterloo Bridge (LeRoy) (as Roy Cronin); Escape (LeRoy) (as Mark Preiping)


Billy the Kid (Miller) (as Billy Bonney); When Ladies Meet (Leonard) (as Jimmy Lee)


Johnny Eager (LeRoy) (title role); Her Cardboard Lover (Cukor) (as Terry Trindale)


Stand by for Action (Leonard) (as Lt. Gregg Masterson); Bataan (Garnett) (as Sgt. Bill Dane); The Youngest Profession (Buzzell) (as himself)


Song of Russia (Ratoff) (as John Meredith)


The Fighting Lady (de Rochemont—doc) (as narrator)


Undercurrent (Minnelli) (as Alan Garroway)


The High Wall (Bernhardt) (as Steven Kenet)


The Secret Land (Dull—doc) (as narrator)


The Bribe (Leonard) (as Rigby)


Ambush (Wood) (as Ward Kinsman); Conspirator (Saville) (as Major Michael Curragh); The Devil's Doorway (Anthony Mann) (as Lance Poole)


Quo Vadis (LeRoy) (as Marcus Vinicius); Westward the Women (Wellman) (as Buck)


Ivanhoe (Thorpe) (title role)


Above and Beyond (Frank and Panama) (as Colonel Paul Tibbets); I Love Melvin (Weis) (as himself); Ride Vaquero! (Farrow) (as Rio); All the Brothers Were Valiant (Thorpe) (as Joel Shore)


Knights of the Round Table (Thorpe) (as Sir Lancelot); Valley of the Kings (Pirosh) (as Mark Brandon); Rogue Cop (Rowland) (as Christopher Kelvaney)


Many Rivers to Cross (Rowland) (as Bushrod Gebtry); Quentin Durward (Thorpe) (title role)


The Last Hunt (Brooks) (as Charles Gilson); D-Day, the Sixth of June (Koster) (as Brad Parker)


Tip on a Dead Jockey (Thorpe) (as Lloyd Fredman)


Saddle the Wind (Parrish) (as Steve Sinclair); The Law and Jake Wade (Sturges) (title role); Party Girl (Ray) (as Thomas Farrell)


The Hangman (Curtiz) (as Mackenzie Bovard); The House of the Seven Hawks (Thorpe) (as John Nordley)


Killers of Kilimanjaro (Thorpe) (as Adamson)


Miracle of the White Stallions (Hiller) (as Colonel Podhajsky); Cattle King (Garnett) (as Sam Brassfield)


A House Is Not a Home (Rouse) (as Frank Costigan)


The Night Walker (Castle) (as Barry Morland)


Johnny Tiger (Wendkos) (as George Dean)


Savage Pampas ( Prade's Comet ) (Fregonese) (as Captain Martin); Return of the Gunfighter (Nielson—for TV)


La esfinge de cristal ( The Glass Sphinx ) (Scattini and Sheikh) (as Prof. Karl Nichols); Where Angels Go—Trouble Follows (Nielson) (as Mr. Farriday); The Day the Hotline Got Hot (Perier) (as Anderson)


On TAYLOR: books—

Quirk, Lawrence J., The Films of Robert Taylor , Secaucus, New Jersey, 1975.

Wayne, Jane Ellen, Robert Taylor , New York, 1989.

Madsen, Axel, Stanwyck , New York, 1994.

On TAYLOR: articles—

Current Biography 1952 , New York, 1952.

Bowers, Ronald, "Robert Taylor," in Films in Review (New York), January 1967.

Obituary in New York Times , 9 June 1969.

Robert Taylor (right) in Above and Beyond
Robert Taylor (right) in Above and Beyond

Schickel, Richard, "Barbara Stanwyck and Robert Taylor: Ranch Living and Beverly Hills Glamor for the stars of Stella Dallas and Ivanhoe ," in Architectural Digest (Los Angeles), April 1990.

Alexander, Linda, "Robert Taylor: Still a Star," in Classic Images (Muscatine), November 1994.

Alexander, L., "Our Star Robert Taylor: a Tribute to Spangler Arlington Brugh," in Classic Images (Muscatine), January 1995.

Reed, George, "Fan Mail," in Movie Advertising Collector , August 1996.

* * *

There seem almost to have been two Robert Taylors. The first was a callow youth, stiff and unformed as an actor, but so very handsome that his stock soared for over a decade after his film debut in the mid-1930s. This young Taylor was earnest in Magnificent Obsession , snide and shallow in Small Town Girl , the epitome of the naive dream lover in Camille . MGM, where Taylor spent most of his career, was a glamour factory and he was groomed to be the perfect leading man: smooth, charming, boyishly sincere.

The other Taylor was less a studio creation than the inevitable assertion of the actor's capabilities and nature. Early in the 1940s, a hard, cold aspect of his personality began to emerge: in Johnny Eager he is an unsympathetic racketeer, in Undercurrent an unscrupulous, dangerous husband, in The Bribe a tough federal agent. Taylor's increasingly craggy countenance made him a natural for Westerns; the Pretty-Boy played the title role in the glamorized Billy the Kid but the tougher, more humorless Taylor took things firmly in hand in Ambush , Westward the Women , Devil's Doorway , and Ride Vaquero! His willingness to take on harsh characters, as in The High Wall , Rogue Cop , and The Last Hunt , exhibits his desire to transform himself into a player of greater versatility. Unfortunately, either he did not have it in him or MGM never gave him the chance to stretch. That he had a way with comedy is evidenced by his witty cameo in I Love Melvin and some boisterous scenes in Westward the Women , but his comedic talents went otherwise unexplored.

Taylor's only respite from the hard, often villainous roles of his later career came in splashy costume dramas— Ivanhoe , Knights of the Round Table , Quo Vadis —in which his dash could be displayed in technicolor opposite such leading ladies as Elizabeth Taylor, Ava Gardner, and Deborah Kerr.

His last decade in films was spent treading water, but Party Girl , The House of the Seven Hawks , and Cattle King are indications of what he could accomplish with a good director and an offbeat setting. He and his ex-wife, Barbara Stanwyck, even accomplished that rarity of rarities in The Night Walker : they make it a pretty good William Castle film.

—Frank Thompson

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