110th birthday event celebrates Hollywood star Robert Taylor’s Beatrice roots

BEATRICE, NE — Beatrice is celebrating its hometown star.

Hollywood leading man Robert Taylor was among the biggest names in entertainment for several decades starting the late 1930s. He was born Spangler Arlington Brugh in Filley, Nebraska in 1911 and grew up mostly in Beatrice where he graduated from high school.

“It’s a big deal for most smaller towns when you have someone who goes away and makes it big in Hollywood," local historian Laureen Riedesel said. "But to have them not only make it big in the sense that they were in a movie, but to be in movie after movie after movie… and MGM, the greatest studio of them all - wow. That was a big deal.”

And it’s still a big deal for his hometown. The Gage County Classic Film Institute is hosting a weekend of events honoring Taylor’s 110th birthday. Local historian Laureen Riedesel will show the Gage County Historical Society’s photos from Taylor’s youth and some from his family’s personal collection. Riedesel says his Nebraska upbringing helped him in Hollywood.

“The thing that people really recognized about Taylor are things that we would really value as Nebraska values," Riedesel said. "He was nice, he did his job, he wasn’t pretentious.”

Those traits paired with his handsome looks landed Taylor 79 acting credits ranging from films like A Yank at Oxford, to Waterloo Bridge, to Billy the Kid. Back in Beatrice, his story was used as inspiration.

“(Students) would be told, you are sitting in the desk where Robert Taylor sat," Riedesel said. "If Robert Taylor could live in Beatrice, go to this school, and he could grow up and be a star like that, think about what you could do.”

Riedesel says Taylor valued his upbringing. He made several trips back to Beatrice, including an important one in 1953 with his mom and German actress Ursula Thiess.

“He brought her back here and he wanted her to see his hometown," Riedesel said.
"It was on that visit that they became formally engaged. I love the fact that the rest of his life was the idea that she was going to see where he came from.”

In addition to Riedesel’s presentation, three authors will discuss their books about Taylor and the film institute will screen multiple Taylor movies. Tickets for Saturday’s main event are $20.

Click here for more details on the event.