Personal Report on Bob
by Mrs. May Mann Baer
This is from a movie magazine, probably in 1951. Mrs. Baer was the wife of actor Buddy Baer, who played the giant Ursus in Quo Vadis.
Two nights in a row I found myself a guest at the same Hollywood parties with Bob Taylor, who was alone and dateless. The famous producer, Sam Zimbalist, gave the first party at the Coconut Grove and Bob, in a tux, was never more handsome sitting at our table of twelve making pleasant conversation—except for frequent noticeable lapses into silence.
Gorgeous movie stars surrounded him. Beauties, whose dazzling figures and flawless pink and white skins enhanced in fabulous Schiaparelli and Christian Dior gowns would devastate the senses of any man, plied him with their smiles. There was open invitation in their eyes. Seemingly oblivious to such enticements, Bob remained courteous, but that was all.
Whether Bob and Barbara Stanwyck will ever resume more than a cordial friendship is unpredictable.
Bob and I sat out a couple of dances and reminisced as people do who’ve known each other for a good long time. I knew Bob never cared much for dancing It was well known that on a dancing date years ago at the Coconut Grove or the Palladium, Bob would take a mutual friend along—a fellow who liked to dance—so his date wouldn’t be disappointed.
During dinner Zsa Zsa Gabor, the irrepressible wife of George Sanders, stopped John Lee Mahin (the film scenarist) on the dance floor and rushed over to Bob. “I just can’t resist you asking me to dance—!” Than she was off to finish her Samba with Mr. Mahin and Bob and I were back to our conversation.
“No—I’m not buying a ranch. Haven’t even thought of it. Truth is, when I went to England to make Ivanhoe, I sublet my apartment and when I got back—I had no place to go. I can’t stand living alone, so when Ralph Couser, my pilot, invited me to move to the back bedroom of his two bedroom house in Inglewood—which is conveniently close to the airport—I very happily accepted for the time being.”
I can well imagine the excitement of that neighborhood—a family one heavily populated with rows on modest, small lots closely knit into square blocks. And loads of children. Bob Taylor, the movie star, who has long dwelled on the heights of Olympus—in a fabulous estate in Bel-Air in a house with twenty rooms—was their next door neighbor. Unbelievable! Fantastic!
Yet Bob doesn’t consider himself fantastic. According to him, the neighborhood kids take him quite for granted. Recently, he saw large bunch of balloons in a friend’s business office. Bob wound up taking them out to the kids. It’s become a habit for them to drift into the house after a game of ball. Bob makes them sandwiches. When a neighbor’s child came running to Bob and asked him to get her ball out of a twenty foot tree, he complied, although it took him a good two hours to perform the feat which merited the skill of the fire department and its long ladders.
Anyone around Bob for long will tell you they’re constantly tripping over his duffle bag—a leftover from the Navy. He has a passion for flying so he always keeps it packed, ready-to-go and standing by the front door. Next to flying, he likes hunting. “Any time I get a call that the ducks or quail are flying—I can make it to the airport and be up and off—in nothing flat.”
Perhaps the late Wally Beery had something to do with Bob’s first interest in hunting and flying. They made a picture together—and Wally kept telling Bob how he and Gable flew to Utah, Colorado, Arizona, Northern California and Oregon—depending on the months and the seasons—and the great—really great—sport it is. Bob now has a four seater plane and full hunting equipment.
Morgan Maree, his business manager; Ralph Couser, his pilot; have spent considerable
time training their pointers. Bob’s, a champion ribbon winner, and Morgan’s are considered the best dogs at our kennels. They gave Ralph, skeptical of pointers, a dog named Jack. They flew, all three of them, to Texas for quail. Wax, Bob’s dog, was the best pointer, but on the first day out he cut his leg on a barbed wire fence. It took twenty-two stitches to fix him up. Morgan’s dog went through a fence and wound up with a bleeding swollen paw and Ralph’s didn’t work at all. “You should have seen us getting out of the plane at the airport—our two best dogs limping and obviously sick while Ralph’s was in the pink and prancing along like a champ. We rushed directly to the Vet’s and found that, besides their sore legs, the dogs were just plain air sick!”
“After seeing the Waggonor ranch in Texas, which is as big as Rhode Island, any ideas I ever had about owning a small ranch went out the window. What a wonderful life! Big chuck wagon dinners every night after the hunt with all the neighbors—there were never less than 40—joining us. These are the kind of parties for me,” Bob said. “I feel at home and relaxed. Guess I just like to sleep a lot and eat a lot. On the ranch we’d be up before daybreak and to bed soon after sundown. And I loved it.”
Morgan Maree, who accompanied Bob on this trip, later told me Bob had caused quite a stir in Texas. There were a lot of beautiful daughters—with a lot of anxious mothers and, when the word got around that Bob liked a certain cheese dip and a dessert called “whiskey balls”–a couple of jars of each were sent down to his plane. Everyone who had cameras took group pictures with Bob.
When I asked Bob what else he had been doing, he said, “I’ve been looking for a new horse to ride in pictures. My buckskin quarter horse, Buck, is about ready to be put out to pasture. In Texas, I saw some beauties. I also a nice big ranch, but Morgan keeps his weather eye on me to see I don’t go overboard.”
Morgan has known Bob for fifteen years and they are great pals. Morgan says that when Bob sees something he’d like, he immediately wants to buy another for his friends. “I even talk myself out of gifts because Bob’s inclined to be a little too generous.” According to Morgan, Bob’s major weakness is suits, but he limits himself. In Italy, he had several made by Angelo Di Pippo—and that was his limit for a year or more to come.
As for hunting, Morgan says Bob always get his limit—always prepares his game and has dishpan hands because he’s the one who cleans up. But he doesn’t try to cook. “Bob’s a man who knows what he wants—makes his own decisions and is forceful in doing what he believes he should do. He’s definitely a man’s man.”
Since Bob’s return to Hollywood from London—he has taken Barbara out to dinner a couple of times. Apparently no other girls seem to interest him. Perhaps he doesn’t want to get involved at the present time—preferring to let his heart be fancy free. When a combination cocktail party-baby shower was given for Deborah Kerr—there was some conjecture as to whether Bob would come to a shower. But he did. He had shopped himself for a tiny gold St. Christopher medal on a little gold chain that he brought Deborah.
Bob seemed thoroughly excited about his European jaunt. “I’ve always wanted to travel,”
he said, “but never before had the time. First, I’m going back to England, then I want to see Spain and Switzerland. I’ve mapped out quite a trip for myself,” he added. “Every time I’ve been in Europe I’ve been making a picture so I’ve never had a chance to go sightseeing”
Bob expressed his pleasure in working with Dore Schary, executive producer at MGM. He is to be co-starred with Stewart Granger in “All the Brothers Were Valiant,” one of the greatest romantic adventures of 1852 based on the Ben Ames Williams novel, after he finishes “Eagle on His Cap.”
So perhaps all this travel isn’t so mysterious after all. Bob’s finding himself with some time off to relax.
“I’ve always wanted to go to a little island called Malta which I am told is very beautiful. I think I’ll go on this trip. There are inexpensive ways of traveling and I hope to slip about quietly and see the world. Then I’ll probably wind up right back here in Hollywood saying, “Lord, I’m glad to be home.”
Quo Vadis, the stupendous spectacle in which he starred and which was made in Italy, is so applicable to Bob Taylor. “Whither Goest Thou?”
Fun to read – thanks for posting.
Great reading! Good to know also that RT was pleased to be working with Dore Schary, as there’s never been any detailed info on how he really took the Mayer-Schary switch, except for a line or two on Ursula’s book if I remember correctly. Others followed Clark Gable’s steps and left MGM in disagreement. Surely, Schary didn’t play that father figure to RT as Mayer did, but nobody can deny that he brought out the best in him as an actor, with “The Last Hunt” on the very top of the list.
Susana, Mr. Taylor found it easy to get along with people, as many of his peers have remarked. He wouldn’t find it difficult to get along with Schary. I totally agree with you about his performance in “The Last Hunt.” It is one of several films he should have received an Oscar for. Thanks for writing. Judith
Martha, I’m glad you enjoyed it. Imagine Mr. Taylor fending off bevies of beauties! He probably just wanted to go home and go to bed. Judith
I really don’t think Bob was aware of the tremendous emotional impact he had on his followers or the ladies. He did not know what the word ego meant. What a dear person he was.
Martha, I’m glad you mentioned Mr. Taylor’s lack of ego. It makes him so different from most movie stars and certainly the so-called “celebrities” today. Judith
I think Bob Taylor was always Spangler Arlington Brugh. He in his own mind was not Robert Taylor. When I and my boy friend were invited to his house for dinner, he took us right away to their library where there was a lovely bar set up. We propped ourselves on a stool and the first thing he said to us was, “my name is really Spangler Arlington Brugh. What can I get for you.”
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Martha, what a wonderful story! I think that is how he kept his sanity. So many actors and actresses have become drunks, druggies, serial marriages and other unhealthy stuff. He coped by being centered, by knowing who he really was. Thank you for this. Judith
“My name is really Spangler Arlington Brugh. What can I get for you.” That’s very kind of you to note this, Martha Crawford Cantarini. I think this says it all about him, doesn’t it?
Stumble upon this site just now . Great stuff – so interesting. Would anyone on here know if his dad went to the Osteopathic School in Kirksville Missouri and if so when and what years did Mr. Taylor (Spangler Arlington Brugh) live in Kirksville? Thanks all!
Mr. Hurley, it would have been 1918/19 to however long the course took. Robert Taylor was a victim of the flu epidemic of 1918 and his father postponed school until his son was able to travel. This comes from information in Linda Alexander’s bio of Mr. Taylor: Reluctant Witness. I’m glad you like the blog. Thanks for writing. Judith
P.S. This is from Tranberg’s bio . . . it also says Mr. Brugh returned to Filley after a year and resumed work there. Spangler was then born in 1911. I find this book quite accurate except for one episode where Tranberg was totally mislead with information from another book that was wrong.
It says in his book that they moved to Kirksville in 1909 where Mr. Brugh enrolled in the American School of Osteopathy. Hope this helps!
Martha, You’re probably right except that Linda’s book talk about Mr. Taylor going to class with his father, which he couldn’t have done in 1909. Maybe we’re probably talking about 2 different things. Judith
Oh you must be right J. I just read when they moved to Kirksville the first time and then returned to Filley a year later. I will do more research. Fascinating study.
Tranberg says that after returning to Filley, after only a year in the Kirksville 1909 move, Brugh had not given up on his determination to be a doctor and the family returned to Kirksville in 1914 to resume his studies. He occasionally allowed young Spangler to accompany him to his classes where he developed a stammer trying to pronounce the difficult medical terminology. Brugh completed his studies in 1916 and received his doctorate in Osteopathic medicine. Shortly after they moved to Freemont, NB where Bob entered kindergarten.
Hi, Martha. Good to know. Judith
Thank you all for the really good info. I appreciate you looking/digging to find it. Good site!!
It was our pleasure!
Many thanks. Judith