Actress Joan Taylor Dies: Movie Monsters and Flying Saucers

Joan Taylor actressJoan Taylor dead at 82: Actress featured in '20 Million Miles to Earth,' 'Earth vs. the Flying Saucers'

Actress Joan Taylor, best remembered for two sci-fi / horror B movies of the late 1950s, 20 Million Miles to Earth and Earth vs. the Flying Saucers, died on March 4, 2012, in Santa Monica, in Los Angeles County. Taylor was 82. (Image: Joan Taylor ca. 1955.)

According to various sources, Joan Taylor was born Rose Marie Emma in Geneva, Illinois, on August 18, 1929. She was the daughter of Austrian vaudeville player Amelia Berky and an Italian-born immigrant who later became a Hollywood prop man.

Curiously, last Friday night I watched for the first time the 1957 Columbia release 20 Million Miles to Earth. Though wasted in a non-role in this King Kong rip-off with stop-motion animation by Ray Harryhausen, Joan Taylor looked quite pretty (as an Italian) whether angry at leading man William Hopper (son of gossip columnist Hedda Hopper) or screaming in horror at the movie's ballooning Martian creature. I guess it says something about her screen presence that I was rooting for the Martian monster to gobble up the film's director (Nathan Juran), writers (Robert Creighton Williams [as Bob Williams] and Christopher Knopf), and the entire cast (including the extras) – except for her.

And a couple of months ago, I ardently rooted for the nasty alien invaders in Fred F. Sears' Earth vs. the Flying Saucers (1956). Taylor is also wasted in that one, though her role is considerably larger and she has better chemistry with leading man Hugh Marlowe.

Joan Taylor movies

Among Joan Taylor's other handful of big-screen roles were those in B Westerns such as Lesley Selander's War Paint (1955), opposite Robert Stack, and Roger Corman's Apache Woman (1953), with Lloyd Bridges. Her A-feature film work was basically restricted to a supporting appearance in Mervyn LeRoy's 1954 remake of Rose Marie, starring Ann Blyth, Fernando Lamas, and Howard Keel. Perhaps one could also include another such supporting role, in William Dieterle's Omar Khayyam (1957), starring Cornel Wilde as the Persian poet. Debra Paget had the female lead in that one.

One Joan Taylor movie that I've never watched, but that sounds like a must-see is Edward L. Cahn's Girls in Prison (1956), which boasted the tagline: “What happens to girls without men?” Besides Taylor, Richard Denning and Adele Jergens are two who presumably find out.

Taylor's movie career came to an abrupt halt in 1957. As per the IMDb, she'd return only one more time, in a cameo in the 1989 sci-fier Split. But she did continue working on television until 1963. She had a recurring role in The Rifleman, and had guest parts in dozens of TV series, including My Three Sons, The Dick Powell Show, Rawhide, Philip Marlowe, 77 Sunset Strip, and Gunsmoke.

Marriage to Leonard Freeman, Walter Grauman

From 1953 on, Joan Taylor was married to writer-producer Leonard Freeman, among whose credits was the television series Hawaii Five-O and the TV drama Cry Rape. Following Freeman's death in 1974, Taylor reportedly managed his business affairs.

In 1976, she married television writer-director-producer Walter Grauman (Murder, She Wrote, Barnaby Jones, The Streets of San Francisco), who also directed a handful of movies in the early '60s including the Olivia de Havilland / James Caan cult classic Lady in a Cage. The couple were divorced in 1980. Grauman turns 90 next March 17.

Curious Joan Taylor IMDb credits

Curiously, the IMDb has Joan Taylor credited for writing and directing a 1990 short film, Redlands, featuring Lisa Louise Christensen and Pamela Reed. Besides Redlands, the IMDB also lists her co-writing the story for the Matthew Perry / Salma Hayek movie Fools Rush In (1997); the TV movie Heart of a Stranger (2002), starring Jane Seymour; an episode from the '70s series Family; and the novel Asking for It, which was the basis for the 1983 TV movie An Invasion of Privacy, featuring Jeff Daniels, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Valerie Harper, Carol Kane, and others.

I couldn't confirm that the 20 Million Miles to Earth Joan Taylor is the same person who wrote Asking for It – though in all probability that's an IMDb glitch. (Update: See comments section below.) Anyhow, Kirkus Reviews wrote the following about the book: “Rape and its aftermath – in a predictable, touching-all-feminist-bases scenario that's sometimes enlivened by the personality and particulars of the narrator-heroine.” The Kirkus review also features several quotes from the book that would have made even the 20 Million Miles to Earth monster blush.

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1 Comment to Actress Joan Taylor Dies: Movie Monsters and Flying Saucers

  1. rtaylor

    Hi: The screenwriter and author Joan Taylor, responsible for Asking For It, Redlands, and those other screenplays listed in the same paragraph, is a different Joan Taylor, not the actress. IMDB continues to neglect separating the two despite complaints! Just wanted to clarify.