Robert Taylor Was Different

Rome, Georgia News-Tribune June 11, 1969

Funeral Today for Late Actor –  Robert Taylor was Different

Mid 1930's--a young actor enjoys life.

Mid 1930’s–a young actor enjoys life.

Hollywood (AP). Some romantic figures of Hollywood’s Golden Era wore their stardom like a talisman. Robert Taylor was never comfortable with his.

Tyrone Power played the dashing figure both on and off the screen. Errol Flynn’s rakish personality was indistinguishable from his film roles. Even Clark Gable, although he snorted at being called the king, maintained an almost regal bearing in public.

Billy the Kid, a tougher image.

Bob Taylor was different. Perhaps the most handsome of all leading men in the 1930s and 1940s, he seemed ill at ease in his role as a movie star. He never acquired that veneer of sophistication of other small-town boys who achieved stardom.

Taylor is being buried today at Forest Lawn Memorial Park. He died Sunday at 57; like Dick Powell, Walt Disney and some other Hollywood cigarette smokers, he was a victim of lung cancer.

In “Escape,” with Norma Shearer

He was almost a star in spite of himself. He never pounded on the studio gates; his discovery came by accident in a college play. Almost immediately he was thrust into co-starring roles with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer’s most glamorous stars–Greta Garbo, Joan Crawford, Norma Shearer.

Returning to MGM to play an aging gunfighter three years ago, he recalled his beginning years at the studio.

“I was skinny as a rail back in my early days here,” he remarked. “I think I weighed 150 pounds when I made ‘Camille.’ I had to sweep Garbo into my arms and carry here and I almost didn’t make it. Those petticoats she was wearing must have weighed fifty pounds.”

During those early years, Taylor was frequently embarrassed by frequent references to his male beauty.

With Jean Harlow in "Personal Property"

With Jean Harlow in “Personal Property”-who’s prettier?

“The publicity wasn’t good,” he remarked later. “But the pretty boy tag wore off in the natural course of events, wear and tear, wind and rain. The change came about normally; the studio realized in 1938 or 1939 that something had to be done.”

The actor was given a build up as an outdoors man, which he enjoyed anyway. He was also cast in tough roles as the desperado in “Billy the Kid,” as a prizefighter in “The Crowd Roars” and a gangster in “Johnny Eager.”

Just before the war he did the picture he considered his best, “Waterloo Bridge.” with Vivien Leigh. He once commented: “It’s my favorite because it came at a time when I didn’t think I was a good actor. When I saw the picture, I was surprised at how good I was.”

With Vivien Leigh in “Waterloo Bridge”

Taylor became an even better actor after his wartime service in Naval Air. he was never honored by the Motion Picture Academy but he proved a stalwart performer in spectacles like “Quo Vadis,” “Ivanhoe” and “Knights of the Round Table.” Like many aging idols, he spent much of his latter career in Westerns, which he enjoyed.

Until cancer struck him, he remained active in his profession. Major roles no longer came his way. But he took what came along and played his parts with dignity. He remained unchanged–reticent in interviews, depreciating his role as a movie star, yet thoroughly professional in his work.

Mature but still magnificent.

Mature but still magnificent.


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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4 Responses to Robert Taylor Was Different

  1. Robert Taylor says:

    What a nice man! All round good bloke! especially as he’s got my name..


    • giraffe44 says:

      Mr. Taylor was indeed an all around good bloke. His real name was Spangler Arlington Brugh but L.B. Mayer, head of MGM, didn’t think that would work out on a marquee. So Robert Taylor came into being. Mr. Taylor legalized the name in 1943 (along with his wife, Barbara Stanwyck, whose real name was Ruby Stevens). Thanks for writing. It’s good to hear from another Robert Taylor.


  2. William overly says:

    More than any other actor, Robert Taylor established the standard for the contemporary American matinee idol.


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