October 1, 2014

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Robert Taylor too pretty to play The Kid
Written by Bill Baird   
Wednesday, January 30, 2013 12:36 AM

On Sunday afternoon, I attended my grandson Tanner Dole’s community basketball game. Tanner and his best friend Alex Anderson played on the pink jersey team. They defeated the red jersey team by 10 points 29 to 19.

Unlike school teams on which players are about the same age and size, these community teams have members from age 14 to 18. They range in looks from little boys to adults over 6 feet tall. I saw several of my favorite St. John the Baptist parents at this game. I also saw Shedna “Cookie” Slayback who I hadn’t seen in years.

She hasn’t aged at all through the years. I first met Cookie when she was a young girl and I was an EMT on the Miamitown Volunteer Life Squad.

She injured  her leg playing softball and I did my duty, and if my memory is correct we transported her to the hospital. Cookie was a long-time school bus driver for the Southwest Local School District. My daughter Risa rode her bus and I never had to worry.

Cookie was the most beautiful and absolutely the very best. That is my first time of ever using the word absolutely which is used by idiots on talk TV shows who don’t know the meaning of the word.

Bernie Bowman told me about a movie he saw and remembered at the movie theater in Cleves many years ago with Robert Taylor (1911-1969) playing western outlaw Billy the Kid.

He saw the film once in later years on TV. Since Robert Taylor was the leading-man type, I can’t imagine in my wildest dreams him playing the young killer Billy the Kid.

I was never a Robert Taylor fan. He was handsome to the ladies and had a deep manly voice, but his acting seem stiff to me. The only film I remember seeing Taylor in during the old days was Johnny Eager (1941).

Taylor played a smalltime gangster who framed Lana Turner (1921-1995) for murder to get to her father, who was a D.A. or judge played by Edward Arnold (1890-1956).

The only reason I liked this film was that Turner was at her most beautiful during the 1940s. The film that Bernie saw was Billy the Kid (1941), which was a busy year for Taylor.

This film has Taylor playing a hot-headed gunslinger Billy Bonney who narrowly skirts a life of crime by being befriended and hired by a peaceful rancher played by Ian Hunter (1900-1975).

Brian Donlevy (1901-1972) plays the marshal in this untrue Hollywood account of Billy the Kid. The real Billy the Kid was born Henry McCarty in New York City.

He also was known as William H. Bonney. The only picture of the real Billy I have seen was of an extremely ugly young man not resembling the handsome Robert Taylor, who was born Spangler Arlington Brugh on Aug. 5, 1911 in Filley, Neb.

He died from lung cancer on June 8, 1969, in Santa Monica, Calif.    
•••
Encore Western Channel features Gene Autry western gems at noon on Sunday. Gene was born in New Tioga, Texas, in 1907 and passed away in LA in 1998 at 91.

He acted in 97 roles from 1934 to 1985 and there wasn’t a bad film in the bunch. To say that he was my all-time favorite cowboy star is a gross understatement.

The film I saw last Sunday was Springtime in the Rockies (1937). Gene’s ranch owner boss dies and his daughter Polly Rowles (1914-2001) who has never seen the ranch and her friends Ula Love (1905-2000), Ruth Bacon and Jan Hunt come after taking a course in animal husbandry in school.
Bad guys in the film are the old faithful George Chesebro (1888-1959) and Al Bridge (1891-1957).
Bridge was in 288 films from1931 to 1954. He was the sheriff in It’s a Wonderful Life (1946).

I love Gene Autry films because they featuretrains, planes, trucks, buses and motorcycles of the period, in addition to Old West horses, stagecoaches and the like.

This film featured a fast passenger train, trucks and a couple of fast early 1930s phaeton automobiles that couldn’t outrun Gene riding Champion. A phaeton is a four-door convertible.

Bill Baird is a Whitewater Township resident who writes a weekly column about old movies and Hollywood trivia.