Robert Taylor was well-liked in Hollywood. Mr. Taylor had a wide circle of social and professional acquaintances as well as colleagues and a small circle of real friends. He was easy to work with though formal on the set, at least in later years. Mr. Taylor was visited on the set by celebrities from around the world. He also knew and socialized with various political figures. Here is a sampling of friends, colleagues and acquaintances.
Edward Arnold, Lucille Ball and Gene Kelly.
Edward Arnold worked with Robert Taylor on several pictures: Johnny Eager (1941), The Crowd Roars (1938) and The Youngest Profession (1943. They played well off of each other with Mr. Arnold as the good guy in Johnny Eager and a crook in The Crowd Roars. Mr. Taylor, conversely, went from villain to hero. Lucille Ball and Mr. Taylor never worked together but Mr. Taylor played a part in I Love Lucy. In one episode “Robert Taylor is down by the hotel pool. Ethel points to his feet sticking out under an umbrella to Lucy.” In another episode, Lucy has an orange Mr. Taylor squeezed at the Farmer’s Market. Later Lucy wants to steal a Richard Widmark lemon to go with her Robert Taylor orange. Lastly, Lucy’s Robert Taylor orange has shriveled and it now looks like it says Wobert Tawler. Here Mr. Arnold, Mr. Taylor, Lucille Ball and Gene Kelly seem to be setting off on a trip. Lucy also visited the set of Bataan, 1943 as you can see in the second picture.
Robert Taylor worked with British actress Anne Aubrey and actor John Dimech in Killers of Kilimanjaro (1959). Mr. Taylor was 48, Ms. Aubrey 22. As Mr. Taylor aged, he kept being paired with much younger women. He disliked pretending to be younger and turned down scripts for Death Valley Days because the synopsis referred to his character as being in his twenties. The producer immediately changed that to forties and Mr. Taylor accepted more roles. He was actually in his fifties at the time. Robert Taylor said about that time: “My days in the boudoir are over,” pause, “on screen.”
(February 11, 1909 – November 21, 1959) was an American boxer of the 1930s (one-time Heavyweight Champion of the World) as well as a referee, and had an occasional role on film or television. In 1938 Robert Taylor played a boxer in The Crowd Roars. Max Baer is thought to have helped train Mr. Taylor for the role of reluctant fighter Kid McCoy. They seem to be having fun here. Both were also involved in War Bond tours during World War II. The lower picture here shows both of them. Mr. Taylor is second from the right, Mr. Baer fourth from the left. The man seated at the desk is Congressman and future President Lyndon B. Johnson.
Ms. Barnes was imported from England by MGM and had a lengthy Hollywood career, although she never became a top star. Here she and Robert Taylor are enjoying La Fiesta de Santa Barbara, 1935, a promotional short film for the studio. They also worked together in There’s Always Tomorrow, Broadway Melody of 1938 (1937), Small Town Girl (1936) and Where Angels Go Trouble Follows (1968). The lower photo shows them on the set of Angels the year before Mr. Taylor’s death.
Frederick Cecil Bartholomew (March 28, 1924 – January 23, 1992), known for his acting work as Freddie Bartholomew, was an English-American child actor. One of the most famous child actors of all time, he became very popular in 1930s Hollywood films. His most famous starring roles are in Captains Courageous (1937) and Little Lord Fauntleroy (1936). This photo looks like it was taken at MGM in 1936. Mr. Taylor had no experience with children personally at that time but worked well with them. Child actor Darryl Hickman said: “Taylor was a real nice man and he wasn’t condescending to kids like some actors were. He treated me as an equal.”
Robert Taylor and Jack Benny were good friends. They socialized with wives Barbara Stanwyck and Mary Livingstone. Mr. Taylor also appeared several times on Mr. Benny’s radio show, once playing the cello in a duet with Mr. Benny and once as substitute host. Mr. Taylor was also a guest at the wedding of Joan Benny and Seth Baker in 1954, as was George Montgomery.
Humphrey Bogart, Barbara Stanwyck and Robert Taylor at a public occasion. Mr. Taylor and Mr. Bogart were political polar opposites and not close. Mr. Bogart once said: “I’m not good-looking. I used to be but not any more. Not like Robert Taylor.”
MGM liked to have its stars photographed at social events. Robert Taylor, looking elegant in his tux, is joined by singer Pat Boone at a formal occasion. They both looked delighted about something. Mr. Taylor had no use for rock and roll so he probably approved of Mr. Boone.
The New York Times, March 21, 1937, reported that seniors at the New York University School of Commerce, displaying excellent taste, voted Robert Taylor and Claudette Colbert their favorite movie stars. Although they were not close friends, the two could obviously share a good laugh.
This picture was probably taken in England in the early 1950s. Robert Taylor’s beard is for Quentin Durward. They seem relaxed and comfortable with one another. The bottom shows Lt. Taylor, looking incredibly young, on leave from the Navy. Around him are, clockwise, James Cagney, Judy Garland, bandleader Kay Kyser, Fred Astaire and Harpo Marx.
Jack Conway, Frank Borzage
Frank Borzage, right, directed Robert Taylor in Three Comrades. Jack Conway, left, directed him in PrivateProperty, Lady of the Tropics and A Yank at Oxford.
Unlike many actors, Robert Taylor usually got along well with his directors. These three look like good friends here on the set of Three Comrades. Below, Jack Conway directs A Yank at Oxford. This looks like the de-bagging scene.
Alexander, Linda J. Reluctant Witness: Robert Taylor, Hollywood, and Communism. Tease Publishing, LLC, 2008. (2nd edition due in 2016)
Sheridan, James and Barry Monush. Lucille Ball FAQ Applause Theatre Cinema Books 2011
Tranberg, Charles. Robert Taylor: a Biography. BearManor Media, 2010.