Robert Taylor Poster


Jump to: Overview (5)  | Mini Bio (1)  | Spouse (2)  | Trivia (42)  | Personal Quotes (25)  | Salary (5)

Overview (5)

Born in Filley, Nebraska, USA
Died in Santa Monica, California, USA  (lung cancer)
Birth NameSpangler Arlington Brugh
Nicknames "The Man with the Perfect Profile"
The New King
Height 5' 11½" (1.82 m)

Mini Bio (1)

Born Spangler Arlington Brugh, Robert Taylor began displaying a diversity of talents in his youth on the plains of Nebraska. At Beatrice High School, he was a standout track athlete, but also showed a talent for using his voice, winning several oratory awards. He was a musician and played the cello in the school orchestra. After graduating he thought of music as a vocation and started studying music at Doane College in Crete, Nebraska. In the early 1930s he decided to follow in his father's footsteps and study medicine. He enrolled at Pomona College but also joined the campus theater group and found himself in many lead roles because of his handsome features. He was inspired to go on to the Neely Dixon Dramatic School, but about a year after graduating from Pomona, he was spotted by an MGM talent scout and given a contract in 1934. That same year, he appeared in his first movie, on loan-out to Fox for a Will Rogers entry, Handy Andy (1934). He also did an MGM short, Buried Loot (1935), for its "Crime Does Not Pay" series, which provided good exposure. However, the next year he did even better by being cast as the lead, again on loan-out, this time to then struggling Universal Pictures, in Magnificent Obsession (1935) with Irene Dunne, the story of a happy-go-lucky party guy who inadvertently causes blindness to the young lady he wishes to impress and then becomes a doctor in order to cure her. The movie was a big hit, and Taylor had a taste of instant box-office stardom. Along with his good looks, Taylor already showed solid dramatic skill. However, critics viewed of him as a no-talent flash-in-the-pan getting by on his looks (a charge levied at his closest contemporary comparison, Tyrone Power over at Fox). He had to endure some brutal reviews through his first years in Hollywood, but they would soon fade away. In 1935 alone, he appeared in seven films, and by the end of the year, he was at the top of his form as a leading man and being offered substantial scripts. The next year he appeared with Greta Garbo in Camille (1936), and for the remainder of the decade MGM's vehicles for him--not to mention a pantheon of top actresses--clicked with audiences. On a personal level, despite his impressive family background and education, Taylor would often strike those who met him as a mental lightweight. Intellectually inclined actress Luise Rainer was shocked when she struck up a conversation with him at a studio function in 1937 when, after asking him what his goals were, he sincerely replied that his most important goal was to accumulate "a wardrobe of ten fine custom-tailored suits." That he usually comes across on screen as having a confident, commanding presence is more of a testimony to his acting talent than his actual personality. He held rigid right-wing political beliefs that he refused to question and, when confronted with an opposing viewpoint, would simply reject it outright. He rarely, if ever, felt the need to be introspective. Taylor simply felt blessed to be working behind the walls of MGM. His affection for the studio would blind him to the fact that boss Louis B. Mayer masterfully manipulated him for nearly two decades, keeping Taylor's salary the lowest of any major Hollywood star. But this is also indicative of how much trust he placed in the hands of the studio's leaders. Indeed, Taylor remained the quintessential MGM company man and would be rewarded by remaining employed there until the demise of the studio system in the late 1950s, outlasting its legend, Clark Gable. Though not quite considered treasures to be locked away in film vaults, Taylor's films during the first five years of his career gave him the opportunity to explore a wide spectrum of romantic characters, playing young officers or doctors more than once. Some noticeable examples of the variety of roles he took over a year's time were his chip-on-the-shoulder Lee Sheridan in A Yank at Oxford (1938), ladies' man/boxer Tommy McCoy in The Crowd Roars (1938) and cynical southern gentleman Blake Cantrell in Stand Up and Fight (1939). Taylor would truly become a first-rate actor in the following decade. By the 1940s, he was playing edgier and somewhat darker characters, such as the title roles in Billy the Kid (1941) and smooth criminal Johnny Eager (1941). With the arrival of the war, Taylor was quick to make his contribution to the effort. As an actor, he made two memorable combat movies: Stand by for Action (1942) and the better known (and for the time, quite graphic) Bataan (1943). From 1943 to 1946, he was in the US Naval Air Corps as a lieutenant, instructing would-be pilots. He also found time to direct two flight instruction training films (1943) and other training films for the Navy. Rather didactic in his ultra-conservative political beliefs, he became involved in 1947 as a "friendly witness" for the House Un-American Activities Committee investigating "Communist subversion" in the film industry. Anyone who knew Taylor knew he was an arch conservative but doubted that he could articulate why. He publicly stated that his accepting a role in Song of Russia (1944) was bad judgment (in reality, it was against his nature to balk at any film assignment while at MGM) and that he considered the film "pro-Communist." He also--rather unwittingly--fingered fellow actor Howard Da Silva as a disruptive force in the Screen Actors Guild. Although he didn't explicitly accuse Da Silva of being a Communist, his charges of "disruption" had the same effect, and the veteran actor found himself blacklisted by the studios for many years. After the war and through the remainder of the decade, Taylor was getting action roles to match his healthy box office draw, but there were fewer of them being offered. He was aging, and though he had one of his best known roles as the faith-challenged Gen. Marcus Vinicius in the monster hit Quo Vadis (1951), he was now being seen more as a mature lead. MGM, now under the aegis of Dore Schary, made the decision to move a significant amount of production to England to cut costs and opted to film several big-budget costume epics there starring Taylor. With Walter Scott's Ivanhoe (1952), he was back (as once before in 1949) with the dazzling young Elizabeth Taylor pining for him as the exotic young Jewish woman Rebecca, effectively pulling off a role ideally suited for an actor a decade younger. With a great script and lots of action (forget about the mismatch of some matte backdrops!), the movie was a smash hit. He had a new look--rakish goatee and longer hair--that fit the youthful illusion. The movie did so well that MGM opted for a follow-up film based on the King Arthur legend, Knights of the Round Table (1953). It was not quite as good, but Taylor had the same look, and it worked. To his credit, Taylor continued to push for challenging roles in his dramatic output; the old "pretty face" stigma still seemed to drive him. He played an intriguing and most unlikely character in Devil's Doorway (1950)--an American Indian (dark-stained skin with blue eyes!) who wins a Medal of Honor for heroism in the Civil War but comes home to his considerable land holdings to encounter the continued racial bigotry and envy of his white neighbors. It contained pushing-the-envelope dialog with many thought-provoking scenes dealing with the social plight of the Indian. Taylor did several noteworthy pictures after this film (e.g., the edgy Rogue Cop (1954)) and was even more swashbuckling in one of the lesser known of Sir Walter Scott's romantic novels, The Adventures of Quentin Durward (1955), again successful in a younger-man role. Though his contract with MGM expired in 1958, he accepted a few more films into the 1960s. He put on some weight in his 50s, and the effects of heavy chain smoking began to affect his looks, but Taylor successfully alternated between starring film roles and television, albeit at a somewhat reduced pace. He founded his own production company, Robert Taylor Productions, in 1958 and moved comfortably into TV work. From 1959 to 1962, he was the star of the TV series The Detectives (1959), and when Ronald Reagan bowed out of TV's popular western anthology Death Valley Days (1952) for a political career, Taylor took over as host and sometime actor (1966-1968) until his death from lung cancer at the age of only 57.

- IMDb Mini Biography By: William McPeak

Spouse (2)

Ursula Thiess (24 May 1954 - 8 June 1969) ( his death) ( 2 children)
Barbara Stanwyck (14 May 1939 - 25 February 1952) ( divorced)

Trivia (42)

Directed 17 United States Navy training films during World War II.
Is Interred at Forest Lawn, Glendale, CA, in the Garden of Honor, Columbarium of the Evening Star (not accessible to the general public).
Inducted into the Hall of Great Western Performers of the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in 1970.
Had two children with Ursula Thiess: Terrance (b. June 18, 1955) and Tessa (b. 1959).
He holds the Hollywood record for longest contract with one studio (MGM)--24 years from early 1934 to late 1958--and lowest contract salary (initially $35 a week, in 1934).
Right-handed Taylor spent weeks perfecting his ability to draw a gun with his left hand in preparation for his role in Billy the Kid (1941).
After doctors predicted that Taylor's mother would die before the age of 30, his father became a doctor for the express purpose of curing her of childhood invalidism and was ultimately successful.
He was called "The New King" after Clark Gable's departure from MGM in 1953.
Is portrayed by Terrence E. McNally in The Silent Lovers (1980).
The favorite of all his films was Waterloo Bridge (1940).
His funeral was attended by many Hollywood celebrities, and Ronald Reagan, the Governor of California, gave the eulogy.
He was romantically involved with Virginia Bruce, Irene Hervey, Lia Di Leo, Virginia Grey and Eleanor Parker.
After the war he joined the ultra-right-wing Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals founded in February of 1944 by Sam Wood and Walt Disney.
Actively supported Ronald Reagan's campaign to become the Republican Governor of California in 1966.
Following the success of Knights of the Round Table (1953) Taylor's movie career declined. He managed to remain at MGM until 1958, when he signed for his own television series, The Detectives (1959).
Four episodes of "The Robert Taylor Show" (also known as 330 Independence Avenue, SW (1963) ) had been produced and a fifth was in line at the time of the sudden cancellation of the unaired series in the summer of 1963. Scripts had been written by Bruce Geller, Leonard Freeman, Tom Seller and Lawrence Edward Watkin. The series was to be based on official files from the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare. When NBC realized that the producers had not gotten permission to use the department's files, the network canceled the series.
Supported Thomas E. Dewey in the 1944 and 1948 presidential elections and Dwight D. Eisenhower in the 1952 and 1956 elections.
His second favorite movie was Camille (1936) and his favorite co-star was Greta Garbo.
He and Clark Gable were very good friends, and Taylor was one of the active pallbearers at Gable's funeral in November 1960.
He was the first American actor to star in a film made in England, A Yank at Oxford (1938).
Was ranked fourth in box-office appeal in 1936, third in 1937 and sixth in 1938.
He left his signature, footprints and handprints, together with those of Barbara Stanwyck, in the cement in the forecourt of Grauman's Chinese Theater in Hollywood on June 11, 1941.
He inspired the fictional character called Danger: Diabolik (1968), an antihero featured in Italian comics. Diabolik was created by sisters Angela and Luciana Giussani in 1962, and his features were graphically inspired by Taylor: dark hair with a distinctive widow's peak and striking blue eyes and eyebrows.
His flying interest emerged after Flight Command (1940), when he bought a single-engine plane and took lessons for a pilot's license. After World War II, when he served in the U.S. Navy from 1943-45 as a flight instructor and narrator of 17 training films, MGM bought him a twin-engine Beechcraft, which he flew regularly until the early 1960s.
The 12-mile section of U.S. Hwy. 136 between the Nebraska towns Beatrice and Filley was officially designated the Robert Taylor Memorial Highway in 1994 (source: Gage County Historical Society, Beatrice, NE).
His lifelong hobbies included hunting, fishing, flying and writing letters.
He was diagnosed with lung cancer in the spring of 1968 after feeling increasingly breathless and tired for some time. He immediately underwent cobalt treatment; however, he did not give up smoking until shortly before undergoing major surgery to remove his entire right lung on 8 October 1968.
In a feature in the May 21, 1961, "Family Weekly" magazine, Taylor stated he became a hunter during his more mature years after he met Gary Cooper at Sun Valley, ID, in 1939. Occasional hunting companions of note were novelist Ernest Hemingway and Wallace Beery, Clark Gable, Robert Stack and John Wayne.
He was a music major at Doane College from 1929-31 and played the cello in the trio "The Harmony Boys", in the Doane String Quartet, and in the Doane Symphony Orchestra in Nebraska. When he was in Hollywood he regularly attended the annual concerts given each year at the Hollywood Bowl.
After their divorce, his ex-wife Barbara Stanwyck auctioned off their $100,000 home at 423 N. Faring Rd., in the Bel-Air section of Los Angeles, and all its furnishings, and collected 15% of his earnings until he died in 1969.
He starred in one of the first post-World War II pro-Indian movies of the American cinema, Devil's Doorway (1950) (his first western, although Delmer Daves Broken Arrow (1950) was released one month before). "Devil's Doorway" was completed first but held back from release because of the nervousness of MGM's studio brass over the subject matter.
Started smoking in his early teens and often smoked three to five packs of cigarettes a day as an adult.
Joined the historical theatrical club The Lambs in 1939.
His only musical was "Broadway Melody of 1936 (1936). He sang for the only time in his career, a song called "I've Got a Feeling You're Fooling.".
After he appeared before the House Un-American Activities Committee, his films were banned in Soviet-occupied Hungary and Czechoslovakia, and Communists called for a boycott of his films in France.
Was given his first screen test by Samuel Goldwyn with a 14-day option in 1933, but nothing came of it.
Magnificent Obsession (1935) was the film that made Taylor a major star. It did the same for Rock Hudson when Universal remade it in 1954 (Magnificent Obsession (1954)).
Was a Boy Scout.
Appears in three Oscar Best Picture nominees: Broadway Melody of 1936 (1935), Quo Vadis (1951) and Ivanhoe (1952).
Mentioned in The Three Stooges short Three Missing Links (1938).
Jane Ellen Wayne in her biography of Taylor states that his last movie was Devil Make Care (Feature Film Corp. of America, 1968). However, what became of this movie is something of a mystery.
After World War II he worked on a series of relatively insignificant films until "Quo Vadis" reestablished him as a major star.

Personal Quotes (25)

Acting is the easiest job in the world, and I'm the luckiest guy. All I have to do is be at the studio on time and know my lines. The wardrobe department tells me what to wear, the assistant director tells me where to go, the director tells me what to do. What could be easier?
For 17 years it was Mr. Mayer [MGM studio chief Louis B. Mayer] who guided me, and I never turned down a picture that he personally asked me to do.
I was this punk kid from Nebraska who had an awful lot of the world's good things tossed in his lap.
I must confess that I objected strenuously to doing Song of Russia (1944) at the time it was made. I felt that it, to my way of thinking at least, did contain Communist propaganda.
It's happens that I like the people of Nebraska. They're the best, the most hospitable, the most honest, the most trustworthy people in our whole darned country. And you lucky Nebraskans who are still living there just believe me. I've been a lot of places, and I have met a lot of people, and I still say Nebraskaland has the best hunting and the best people in the whole country.
[about his childhood in Nebraska] I was not--I still am not--gregarious. I was then, as I am now, uneasy when I am with more than one person. I preferred being alone on the prairie or in the woods, to playing football with the gang. After school I didn't play with the other kids. I liked to be alone by myself. And I was alone. I never ran with a group. I wasn't unhappy. On the contrary, I read a lot. I wasn't at all the dreamy sort. I had my horse. I had my bike. I always had a flock of animals to care for. I just had enough to do on my own and that's how I preferred to do and be.
I got $35 a week and my mother, grandmother and I had to live on it. There was that awful night when I realized we had one thin dime in the world. I had been studying hard at the studio, trying to do everything they told me. But I seemed to be getting nowhere, and getting there fast. I had nothing and no prospects of ever getting anywhere. I hadn't any chance of being a success in this business but I had confidence in myself. I knew I could land something--maybe a salesman's job--and make more money than I had been getting. We would be all right, then. In the morning I went to Mr. Louis B. Mayer and asked him to release me from my contract . . .
In my freshman year [1929] I played the leading role in the campus performance "Helena's Boys", greatly to the disgust of Professor Gray [Herbert B. Gray. Taylor's cello teacher from 1925-31], who wanted to know why I fiddled about with such nonsense. He said that I should concentrate on the cello, that I had the makings of a concert artist, what had I to do with "playacting"? I couldn't tell him. I didn't know myself. I don't know now. I only know that there was something in the musty smell of backstage that I like.
[about his role in Devil's Doorway (1950)] I admired the characterization because of the fact that the Indian, previously considered the "heavy" in early Westerns, is a regular guy. For once he gets a chance to tell his side of the story.
[October 23, 1947, on Communist "influence" in Hollywood] I can name a few who seem to sort of disrupt things once in awhile. Whether or not they are Communists I don't know . . . One chap we have currently, I think, is Mr. Howard Da Silva. He always seems to have something to say at the wrong time. Miss Karen Morley also usually appears at the guild meetings.
[about the House Un-American Activities Committee investigations into Communist "influence" in Hollywood] These investigations, the way they are being run in Washington at the moment, remind me more of a three-ring circus than of a sincere effort to rid the country of a real threat. There's nothing any of us are going to tell them in Washington that the FBI didn't know five years ago. Maybe it's easier to call 20 friendly names from Hollywood than to have a look at the FBI files! Maybe it's better publicity for the home-state electorate, too!
A screen metamorphosis is more psychology than histrionics. The thing is to analyze the character you are playing and then the various stages of self-development become a logical outgrowth of that individual finding himself.
When I went to college at Pomona, California, I still had no clear idea as to what I wanted to do. The operation on the settler must have made some sort of imprint on my mind, for I remember playing about with the idea of studying medicine. But I soon changed my mind, and, throwing overboard all intentions of wielding a scalpel, I took up economics! Sounds strange, doesn't it? And, from economics, I drifted to psychology, where, for the first time, I "took root". The subject interested me, and in a very short time I found myself studying it pretty deeply. But fate was already mapping out a different sort of career for me.
I do remember one event during this time [1923] that seemed to me then to be some sort of landmark. This occurred when I was 12, an emergency operation had to be performed on a snow-bound settler. The temperature was 12 below zero, but that didn't matter. A man's life was at stake--and so the operation had to go on. The kitchen table of the settler's humble home was our operating table, and it fell to my lot to assist my father by getting the hot water ready, and sterilizing the instruments, after which there was nothing left for me to do except to watch, in a sort of half-hypnotized way, as the delicate incisions were made and the operation duly completed successfully.
[on Vivien Leigh] She was one of the most beautiful and talented ladies ever to grace a motion picture screen.
[on ex-wife Barbara Stanwyck] She is one of the finest actresses in show business. A lot of young actors and actresses could have profited then and now from a few "seminars" with "Missy" on their professional attitudes--their regard for the business of being an actor--on their on-stage and off-stage deportment, as it were, because I doubt that there ever has been, or ever will be, a greater "pro" than Barbara.
"Know yourself", said the wise old Greeks. That is the simple but profound maxim which, I am convinced, has been largely responsible for my feet stepping firmly up the movie ladder. Unless you do know yourself, your capabilities, and--what is perhaps more important still--your limitations, then opportunity will go on knocking on your door in vain. If you analyze yourself and find out your own strength and weaknesses, then you have taken the first step towards understanding others and being able to interpret them. In its more direct application to the film business this will result in there being less likelihood of any miscasting. And, by carrying out these principles I very soon learned to resist the temptation of "flying high" and playing roles for which I was temperamentally and physically unsuited.I have rigorously kept to that rule of only playing roles for which I know myself to be fitted.
[on Gary Cooper, after his death] Coop was the handsomest man--certainly one of the two or three best actors--ever to honor the ranks of the motion picture business. He was a very special man, darling, a very talented man, and probably felt forgotten. You can't afford to get old in this business. It just walks away from you.
Looks are good or bad, according to taste. My appearance doesn't fascinate me. But I'm not the one who has to be pleased, either. It's a big help to an actor if people like to look at him but it has nothing to do with acting.
Working with Greta Garbo during the making of Camille (1936) was an inspiring experience I'll never forget and that, doubtless, will leave its mark.
My metabolism doesn't lend itself to the [Bette Davis-James Cagney] brand of high-pressure careering. I stayed with one studio for 20 years, took what they gave me to do, did my work. While I wasn't happy with everything, I scored pretty well.
People seem to think I'm a millionaire, but I'm not. I've saved a little money but every time a chance came along to strike it rich outside the movie business, like the real estate deals of some stars, I was always a dollar short or a day late. It's the story of my life.
If I didn't need the money I make on TV, I tell myself I'd hunt and fish all the time. Ernest Hemingway and Gary Cooper got me interested in it years ago, and looking forward to hunting and fishing has often, in this business, kept me from going nuts.
[about MGM chief Louis B. Mayer] Some writers have implied that Mayer was tyrannical and abusive, and a male prima donna who out-acted his actors. As I knew him, he was kind, fatherly, understanding and protective. He gave me picture assignments up to the level that my abilities could sustain at the time and was always there when I had problems. I just wish today's young actors had a studio and boss like I had. It groomed us carefully, kept us busy in picture after picture, thus giving us exposure, and made us stars. My memories of L.B. will always be pleasant. and my days at MGM are my happiest period professionally.
The Middle East is going to get us into the third world war.

Salary (5)

Handy Andy (1934) $35 a week
There's Always Tomorrow (1934) $35 a week
Times Square Lady (1935) $59 a week
West Point of the Air (1935) $59 a week
Murder in the Fleet (1935) $59 a week

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