Robert Taylor was one of Hollywood's leading actors of his time who gained fame for his role in the '30s comedy film "Handy Andy." He married twice in the course of his acting career and had two children of his own. Here’s a peek at his family life.
Robert Taylor was born Spangler Arlington Brugh, the only child born to Spangler Andrew Brugh and Ruth Adaline. During his childhood, his family moved frequently, but they finally set their root in Nebraska.
After graduating high school, Taylor joined Pomona college, and it was while studying there that he started attending theater groups. In 1932, a talent scout from Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer spotted him and thus began his journey into the world of film.
American actor Robert Taylor Insets: His first wife Barbara Stanwyck and his second wife Ursula Theiss │ Source: Getty Images - Shutterstock
THE MAN WITH THE PERFECT PROFILE
Determined to make it big in the industry, Taylor put his heart into acting, and a year after he was signed to MGM, he landed his first leading role in the film "Magnificent Obsession."
He would go on to appear in other hit films such as the 1938 "A Yank at Oxford," "Waterloo Bridge," and "Bataan" in 1940. His first-ever leading role came as an accident when Taylor, who was to be cast as "the test boy," filled in for the lead actor when he fell ill.
His popularity continued to grow and Taylor, who was still relatively fresh in the industry, earned himself the nickname "The Man with the Perfect Profile."
American actors Robert Taylor (1911 - 1969) and his wife Barbara Stanwyck (1907 - 1990), circa 1945. Taylor is wearing the uniform of the United States Naval Air Corps. | Source: Getty Images
MEETING HIS FIRST WIFE
In 1936, when doing the musical "Broadway Melody of 1936," Taylor met the lovely Barbara Stanwyck, and soon after, the two started dating.
Taylor was still not ready to commit to marriage, perhaps for fear of a recap of what happened with Stanwyck.
Stanwyck, who was born Ruby Catherine Stevens in Brooklyn, New York, had moved to Hollywood, like everyone else did, to pursue a career in acting. She was adaptable and played many roles.
American film stars Barbara Stanwyck and Robert Taylor who were married in 1939 and divorced in 1951 at a press party to mark the start of production of their new film 'The Night Walker'. May 1964. | Source: Getty Images
She would fit perfectly in any genre, including comedies such as "The Lady Eve" and "Remember the Night," thrillers such as "Double Indemnity," and even melodramas such as "Stella Dallas" and "Forbidden."
After three years of dating, the lovebirds eloped to San Diego and were married by "justice of the peace" a little while after midnight. Superstitious of the 13th, the two had to wait until after midnight to say their vows.
Their nuptials were concluded quickly, and Taylor gave his new bride a gold wedding ring encircled with rubies. As a rule of thumb, Taylor adopted Stanwyck's son, Anthony "Tony" Dion, from her previous marriage to Frank Fay.
American actor Robert Taylor (1911 - 1969) in US military uniform, circa 1944. | Source: Getty Images
Eleven years of marital bliss were cut short in 1951 when Stanwyck stood before a judge and sadly disclosed that her husband of over a decade had asked for a divorce. Taylor spent a lot of time in Italy filming "Quo Vadis," and the happy couple had drifted apart. She said:
"He said he had enjoyed his freedom in the months that he was in Italy. He wanted to be able to continue his life without restrictions."
After the divorce was finalized, Stanwyck retained custody of her son, and the two went their separate ways. However, love would once again find Taylor just a year after his divorce.
Actor Robert Taylor and wife Ursula Thiess attend the premiere of "King and I" in Los Angeles,CA. June 1956. | Source: Getty Images
A SECOND CHANCE AT LOVE
In 1952, Taylor met his second wife-to-be, actress Ursula Thiess. Even though her living legacy remained the second wife and widow of the most handsome actor of their time, Thiess was, in her own right, a talented actress.
Born Ursula Schmidt in Germany, Thiess embarked on her stage career in 1940, dubbing female voices in American films. In 1942, she got married to producer Georg Thiess, and the two had two kids, a daughter and a son.
Their marriage was short-lived, however, and they got divorced within just four years. She, however, kept his last name. Thiess then started a career in modeling, adorning German magazine covers such as Der Spiegel.
Actor Robert Taylor and his wife Ursula Thiess eating cheesecake and drinking coffee after dinner together in Hollywood, March 12th 1954. | Source: Getty Images
However, her career was not limited to Germany, and by the time 1951 was coming around, she had spread out her wings and was gracing US magazine covers. She debuted the US grounds when she featured on the cover of Life Magazine.
Thiess and Taylor met on a blind date planned by the studio, and after two years of dating, Taylor was still not ready to commit to marriage, perhaps for fear of a repetition of what happened with Stanwyck. Thiess recalls:
"I had to virtually break up our relationship to get him to realize he really loved me."
American actor Robert Taylor (1911 - 1969), circa 1955. | Source: Getty Images
The couple married in 1954 in the picturesque Jackson Lake, Wyoming. He automatically took over the role of step-father to Thiess' children, Michael and Manuela, from her previous marriage.
Soon after they exchanged their nuptials, Thiess fell pregnant, and the couple moved to San Fernando Valley where they lived on a large ranch while raising their babies.
Actor Chad Everett, the couple's friend, often described the two as a "hand-holding" couple, and later on, their children would come to disclose how much of a loving home they grew up in.
The US-american actor Robert Taylor at his arrival in the harbour of Southampton. On the ship BERENGARIA. August 27th 1937. Photograph. | Source: Getty Images
Their son, Terrance, was born in 1955, followed four years later by a daughter, Tessa. Thiess would later return to acting, albeit briefly, and appeared on Taylor's TV series "The Detectives." She also appeared in the 1963 "77 Sunset Strip."
Taylor continued to work on his ever-rising career and appeared in the 1964 "The Night Walker" alongside his ex-wife, Stanwyck, then the 1966 "Savage Pampas," the 1967 "The Glass Sphinx," and "The Day the Hot Line Got Hot" in 1968.
TAYLOR PASSES ON
Towards the end of 1968, Taylor checked into a hospital to undergo surgery to remove a part of his right lung, which the doctors had found out to have been infected with "valley fever."
American actor Robert Taylor (1911 - 1969) sitting in an armchair and reading a magazine, circa 1940. | Source: Getty Images
While in surgery, the doctors discovered that Taylor had an even more severe ailment — lung cancer. He had been a chain smoker all his life, and the vice had finally caught up with him.
The end was near, and in the months that followed, he was hospitalized several times from infections caused by the condition, and he finally succumbed to lung cancer and passed on at Saint John's Health Center in June of 1969.
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