Log In

Robert Taylor


Robert Taylor was an american actor who was very popular in those years.


Spangler Arlington Brugh was born in Taylor in Filley, Nebraska, he was the only child of Ruth Adaline (née Stanhope) and Spangler Andrew Brugh, a farmer turned doctor.


As a teenager, Taylor was a track star and played the cello in his high school orchestra. Upon graduation, he enrolled at Doane College in Crete, Nebraska. While at Doane, he took cello lessons from Professor Herbert E. Gray, whom he admired and idolized. After Professor Gray announced he was accepting a new position at Pomona College in Los Angeles, Brugh moved to California and enrolled at Pomona. He joined the campus theater group and was eventually spotted by an MGM talent scout in 1932 after production of Journey's End.


There can be no argument that Tavlor was at best a journeyman player, and yet in the late 1930s he was immensely popular. Despite the publicity endorsement of the ideal romantic man, MGM actually emasculated all of its male stars except Gable and Tracy. Taylor was the handsome, inoffensive young smiler that an exceptionally solicitous studio could allow to take its daughters to the dance. Taylor’s history is like that of Tyrone Power: of hollow, gorgeous youth dwindling into anxiety. But in Taylors case, there is something touching in the decline. For he became not plainer, but harsher: churlish, peeved, disagreeable no more than that, never enough to make him an absorbing villain. Perhaps it was the slow inroad of the cancer that eventually killed him. Perhaps the petulant residue of a man who never quite recovered from being called Spangler Arlington Brugh.

He studied as a cellist, and then went to drama school. Goldwyn gave him a screen test but MGM contracted him and kept him for twenty-five years, long after he had outlived his usefulness. The studio loaned him out first, to Fox for Handy Andy (David Butler), but then cast him in George B. Seitzs Buried Loot. After a few small parts and B-picture leads Society Doctor (Seitz) and Times Scpiare Lady (Seitz) Taylor made his name dancing with Eleanor Powell in Broadway Melody of 1936 (Roy del Ruth) and at Universal opposite Irene Dunne in John Stahl’s classic weepie, Magnificent Obsession.

He was very popular as a romantic lead and played in Small Town Girl (William Wellman) and The Gorgeous Hussy (Clarence Brown), opposite Joan Crawford, and in His Brothers Wife (W. S. Van Dyke), opposite Barbara Stanwyck, before throbbing at Garbo’s cough in Camille (36, George Cukor) and gazing with inappropriate fondness at Jean Harlow in Personal Property (Van Dvke). Now' at his peak, he appeared again opposite his wife-to-be, Stanwyck, in This Is My Affair (William A. Seiter) and went to Britain to make A Yank at Oxford (Jack Comvay). He was in Frank Borzage’s Three Comrades; Lady of the Tropics (Comvay); Remember? (Norman Z. McLeod); Lucky Night (Norman Taurog); and made his first Western, Stand Up and Fight (Van Dvke).

He was working hard to establish a tougher image and after playing a boxer in The Crowd Roars (Richard Thorpe), a mustachioed serviceman in Waterloo Bridge (Mervyn Le Roy), and escorting MGM’s dowager duchess, Norma Shearer, in Escape (Le Roy), he plaved Billy the Kid (David Miller) the most innocuous attempt on that subject. Before navy service he made When Ladies Meet (Robert Z. Leonard); Johnny Eager (Le Roy); Her Cardboard Lover (Cukor), again with Norma Shearer; Stand by for Action (Leonard); and Bataan (Tay Garnett). During the war, Tavlor began to slide and he was cast as the mentally disturbed villain—without much insight in Minnelli’s Undercurrent. Compared with his former blandness, Tavlor was now playing flawed and even corrupt men: he was a neurotic in Curtis Bernhardts The Hieli Wall remarkably successful as the doomed Indian in Anthony Manns Devil's Doorway probably the best and most adventurous use of him throughout his career; the Hiroshima pilot in Above and Beyond (Melvin Frank and Norman Panama); as a Rogue Cop (Boy Rowland); the morose killer in Brooks’s The Last Hunt; a crooked lawyer, with a limp, in Party Girl (Nicholas Ray); and The Hangman (Michael Curtiz). Even in Westerns, he tended to nurse a past, to be ill-tempered or querulous thus Ambush (Sam Wood), Westward the Women (Wellman), and The Law and Jake Wade (58, John Sturges). In terms of popularity, his last years at MGM were justified by schoolboy heroics: Quo Vadis? (Le Rov); and Ivanhoe, Knights of the Round Table, and The Adventures of Quentin Durward, all for Richard Thoqre. Only two other MGM films were worthwhile: Farrows Ride, Vac/uero! and Parrish’s Saddle the Wind. Taylor left MGM in 1959 and passed quickly into cheap Westerns and films made in England and Spain: Killers of Kilimanjaro (Thorpe); Tay Garnett's Cattle King; The Night Walker (William Castle); Paul Wendkos’s Johnny Tiger.

In October 1968, Taylor underwent surgery to remove a portion of his right lung after doctors suspected that he had contracted coccidioidomycosis (known as "valley fever"). During the surgery, doctors discovered that he had lung cancer. Taylor, who had smoked three packs of cigarettes a day since he was a boy, quit smoking shortly before undergoing surgery. During the final months of his life, he was hospitalized seven times due to infections and complications related to the disease. He died of lung cancer on June 8, 1969, at Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica, California.



In February 1944, Taylor helped found the Motion Picture Alliance for the Preservation of American Ideals. In October 1947, Taylor was called to testify before the House Committee on Un-American Activities regarding Communism in Hollywood. He did this reluctantly, regarding the hearings as a "circus" and refusing to appear unless subpoenaed. In his testimony concerning the Screen Actors Guild (SAG), delivered on October 22, 1947, Taylor stated: "It seems to me that at meetings, especially meetings of the general membership of the Guild, there was always a certain group of actors and actresses whose every action would indicate to me that, if they are not Communists, they are working awfully hard to be Communists." Two people already under investigation by the FBI, Karen Morley and Howard Da Silva, were mentioned as troublemakers at SAG meetings. Taylor alleged that at meetings of the SAG, Da Silva "always had something to say at the wrong time." Da Silva was blacklisted on Broadway and New York radio, while Morley never worked again after her name surfaced at the hearings. Taylor went on to declare that he would refuse to work with anyone who was even suspected of being a Communist: "I'm afraid it would have to be him or me, because life is too short to be around people who annoy me as much as these fellow-travelers and Communists do". Taylor also labeled screenwriter Lester Cole "reputedly a Communist", while adding, "I would not know personally". After the hearings, Taylor's films were banned in Communist Hungary and in Czechoslovakia and Communists called for a boycott of his films in France.


After three years of dating, Taylor married Barbara Stanwyck on May 14, 1939 in San Diego, California. Zeppo Marx's wife, Marion, was Stanwyck's matron of honor and her godfather, actor Buck Mack, was Taylor's best man. Stanwyck divorced Taylor (reportedly at his request) in February 1951. The couple had no children.

Taylor met German actress Ursula Thiess in 1952. They married in Jackson Hole, Wyoming on May 23, 1954. They had two children together, son Terrance (born 1955) and daughter Tessa (born 1959). Taylor was also stepfather to Thiess' two children from her previous marriage, Manuela and Michael Thiess. On May 26, 1969, shortly before Taylor's death from lung cancer, Ursula Thiess found her son Michael's body in a West Los Angeles motel room. He died from what was later determined to be a drug overdose. One month before his death, Michael had been released from a mental hospital. In 1964, he spent a year in a reformatory for attempting to poison his natural father with insecticide.

Barbara Stanwyck
Barbara Stanwyck - spouse of Robert Taylor

Ursula Thiess