Letters to Life Magazine
Robert Taylor and Time/Life publications were not a good match. They looked at him as a good looking star and nothing more. Mr. Taylor didn’t think much of them, either. The following is a selection of letters from fans about their coverage of Mr. Taylor.
The outrage felt by the fans about Robert Taylor’s treatment illustrates how strongly they felt about him. Even now, there are a lot of people who think that Mr. Taylor was rarely treated fairly by the media.
9/18/39 Sir: The incredible nerve of anyone calling Mr. Taylor a “wooden leading man.” Martha T. Borden, Clarksdale, Miss.
9/18/39 Sir: Whoever writes your articles on movies must be a first-class dumbbell. The “writer” calls Robert Taylor a wooden leading man. I can understand that. He’s probably a homely, bowlegged, ignorant lug himself, so naturally he would hate handsome Robert Taylor. B. Olin, Charleston, W. Va.
Life: The professional peculiarities of Robert Taylor and the personal peculiarities of LIFE’s movie reviewer are not interrelated. Editors.
3/7/38 Sir: In your description of the Movie of the Week (LIFE Feb. 14), you mentioned Robert Taylor as being “beautiful.” We will all admit that he is very handsome but it is only
the jealous and envious fellows that make wisecracks about him. He’s a great actor and someday I’m going to Hollywood to tell him so if I have to walk all the way from Delaware to California. James L. Collins, Newark, Del.
3/7/38 Sir: Life you leave Robert Taylor alone. He’s beautiful and you’re jealous. Myrtle Jones, Boston, Mass.
6/7/37 Sir: Robert Taylor returned to the Pomona College campus to make a series of newsreel pictures with his former professors. After working all morning he had lunch in the college dining room. While at lunch some members of the Frosh class strategically parked a Model T Ford by Robert Taylor’s car and completely dismantled it [the Ford], thereby preventing him from driving away. When Taylor returned from lunch, the Freshmen were busily reassembling the Ford. He took the joke good humoredly, talking to Prof. Charles K. Edmunds and former Prof. Herbert Grey while the Ford was reassembled. Sidney Duffy, Pomona College, Claremont, Calif.
2/22/37 Sir: Inclosed (sic) are some pictures of movie actor Robert Taylor’s grandpa, Jacob A. Brugh, 84, of Holmesville, Neb. He is father of Dr. Spangler Brugh, who was Robert Taylor’s father. Grandpa, as you know from news stories, is on relief.
Toothless and unable to buy store teeth, Grandpa Brugh likes to suck on his pipe. He likes to smoke, too, when he can afford tobacco. He lives in three back rooms: kitchen,
bedroom and sitting room. He rents out two front rooms, getting $4 a month. He can’t afford to use electricity. Notice motto “Father” hanging on dresser. This was given to him years ago by Dr. Spangler Brugh. E.K. Langevin, Omaha, Neb.
3/15/37 Great Lover’s Grandfather Sir: I wish to take as violent an exception as is possible to your photographs of Jacob A. Brugh and the letter accompanying them as published in LIFE for Feb. 22. I know the Brugh family and have known them for many years. They are entirely normal people, having all the civilized characteristics of other people of the middle class. They would cheerfully support the old gentleman but he won’t let them. He is in that state of advanced senility where he enjoys having the public think he is severely abused by his children and particularly by his grandson, now known as Robert Taylor, the Great Lover.
You are putting Arlington Brugh, or Robert Taylor, on an extremely hot spot. He either has to admit that he is a tightwad of the first order or that his grandfather is nuts and a contrary old rascal to boot.
You dealt with the case of Edward Maileham in an intelligent manner. You left no room for doubt that the ancient poet was a fine man, had accomplished something, was respected, loved by all who know him, but was, withal, senility-stricken and had to have his affairs administered by a guardian. The same thing is true for Jacob A. Brugh, except that he has lost his money and therefore needs no guardian. His sons have repeatedly offered him a good home.
Another fact to be considered is that the Great Lover is a good fellow. He is not overstuffed by his own importance. He came home last fall, went rabbit hunting with the neighbor boys and otherwise conducted himself as a country lad home for a vacation. It may seem funny to Life, who knows so many four-flushers, to conceive of a person being in the movies for the money, for the same reason that you operate Life and for the same reason that I operate a hamburger joint. You don’t care whether people look at pictures, and I don’t know whether they found my hamburgers indigestible, but we both like a profit. So does Arlington Brugh. The only difference is that we all three work along different lines and with different degrees of prosperity.
Arlington Brugh began his career as a radio entertainer peddling mange cure, bath(?) remover and flea powder over one of the smaller radio stations at a fee of about $10 a week. He actually worked for a living and was sensible enough to commercialize on his pretty appearance, when the opportunity came. So would you or I, if we could.
I won’t tell you to cancel my subscription, as I don’t have one. I buy your product at the drug store, and was one of the first to order it as to be sure of getting it. I could tell the druggist to sell my copy to someone else but then I would have to borrow one and that would be getting us no place. Therefore, I will still buy it as usual….. Herman L. Harpenter, Blue Springs, Neb.
The last letter refers to this story from 1937:
The Pittsburgh Press, Feb. 4, 1937
Robert Taylor’s Grandfather Doesn’t Want to Be Burden on Him
By the United Press. Holmesville, Neb., Feb 5–Jacob A. Brugh, grandfather of screen lover Robert Taylor, came to this little hamlet’s only general store to say that he didn’t want “to be a burden” to the handsome youth who is Hollywood’s No. 1 hero.
He blamed the screen star’s mother for his return to relief rolls.
“She thought I would hold him back,” he said. “She never liked me.”
The 82-year-old retired farmer-who preferred to talk about his horse trading days–seemed bewildered as he rubbed his hand over the side of his worn overcoat and thrust it deep into an overall pocket.
“I don’t want to be a burden,” he said, “but I think I should get some help.”
He shifted a tobacco cud slowly. “That boy though, that boy’s the greatest actor they got out there in Hollywood.
“I’d sure like to talk to him. I’ll hear from him, too, pretty soon.”
He said he didn’t believe that actor Brugh–or Taylor–had heard of his plight. “I sent him a registered letter,” he said. “But it came back. It wasn’t even opened.”
He said he had seen Taylor in but one picture, “Handy Andy,” produced during his first year in pictures.
Mr. Brugh has cooked his own meals since his wife died two years ago, and lives in the little cottage which they owned. A young couple live in the house to “look after him” They pay no rent.
He is nearly deaf.
He said he had lived on $4 during recent months from money saved from pension checks. His name was restored to old age assistance rolls in January, entitling him to $16 a month.
Grace Brugh, 15, cousin of Robert Taylor, also lives in the little village. She believed that something should be done for her grandfather, but Taylor wasn’t to blame.
When Robert Taylor was informed of this situation, he took immediate steps to rectify his grandfather’s financial situation. Jacob Brugh passed away on 28 Feb 1937.