Taylor was born in Richmond, Virginia. The name Walter was shortened to “W” (double-u) by his friends and then “Dub.” His family moved to Augusta, Georgia, when he was five years old and lived in that city until he was thirteen. During that time he befriended Ty Cobb’s son and namesake, Ty Cobb, Jr. He had four siblings: Minnie Margret Taylor, Maud Clare Taylor, George Taylor and Edna Fay Taylor. Taylor was particularly close to a grandson, Walter Tac Tharp. A vaudeville performer, Taylor made his film debut in 1938, as the cheerful ex-football captain Ed Carmichael in Frank Capra’s You Can’t Take It With You. The following year, Taylor appeared in The Taming of the West, in which he originated the character of “Cannonball,” a role he continued to play for the next ten years, in over fifty films. “Cannonball” was a comic sidekick to “Wild Bill” Saunders (played by Bill Elliott), a pairing that continued through thirteen features, during which Elliott’s character became Wild Bill Hickok. During this period, a productive relationship with Tex Ritter as Elliott’s co-hero began with King of Dodge City. That partnership lasted through ten films, but Taylor left after the first one, carrying his “Cannonball” character over to a new series with Russell “Lucky” Hayden. (“Wild Bill” brought in Frank Mitchell to play a very different character, also named “Cannonball,” in the remainder of his shows with Ritter.)
Taylor moved again to a series of films starring Charles Starrett, who eventually became “The Durango Kid”, once again, playing his sidekick, Cannonball. These films had been produced at Columbia Pictures, Capra’s studio, and had a certain quality of production that seemed to be lacking at the Monogram lot, where Taylor brought his “Cannonball” character in 1947. There he joined up with Jimmy Wakely for a concluding run of 16 films (in two years). These final episodes may have been unpleasant experiences for Taylor, as he never wanted to talk about them thereafter. After 1949, Taylor turned away from Cannonball, and went on to a busy and varied career. His acting roles, even during his Cannonball period, were not confined to these films. He had bit parts in a number of classic films, including Mr. Smith Goes to Washington with James Stewart, A Star Is Born, and Them!, along with dozens of television roles. Taylor was cast regularly alongside Alan Hale, Jr., in the syndicated Casey Jones television series, in the role of Jones’ fireman, Wally. Taylor can also be seen in a brief role in No Time for Sergeants as the Callville representative of the draft board who summons Andy Griffith from his rural home to the United States Air Force. In A Hole in the Head (1959) directed by Frank Capra, Taylor plays the Garden of Eden Hotel clerk for hotel owner Frank Sinatra. He has scenes with Edward G. Robinson, Carolyn Jones, Ruby Dandridge and Eddie Hodges. Observant fans who saw the 1954 feature film Dragnet watched him in an uncredited role at the start of the movie; his character, gangster Miller Starkie, is killed in the opening scene. He had a small role in the 1958 Walt Disney film Tonka as a rustler of stray horses for sale. He joined Sam Peckinpah’s stock company in 1965’s Major Dundee as a professional horse thief, and appeared subsequently in that director’s The Wild Bunch (as a prohibitionist minister who gets his flock shot up by the title outlaws in the film’s infamous opening scene), Junior Bonner, The Getaway, and Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, as an aging, eccentric outlaw friend of Billy’s. He also appeared in Michael Cimino’s crime film Thunderbolt and Lightfoot.
Despite his extensive career as a character actor in a wide array of varying roles, Taylor’s niche was in westerns, of which he appeared in literally dozens of films. He was in The Undefeated with John Wayne and Rock Hudson, in which he played an ill-tempered chuckwagon cook with a cat. Arguably, his most memorable role was playing the father of Michael J. Pollard’s C.W. Moss in Bonnie and Clyde. Taylor also co-starred in the 1971 movie, Support Your Local Gunfighter, as the drunken Doc Shultz, who removes star James Garner’s chest tattoo, which reads “I Love Goldie.” He is also remembered for his trademark bowler hat, which he wore in most of his appearances. He was also known for his wild gray hair, an unshaven bristly face, squinty eyes, and his raspy voice and cackle. He put that voice to use, alongside fellow western veterans like Jeanette Nolan and Pat Buttram, in the Disney animated feature The Rescuers, as Digger the mole. In the early 1980s, Taylor appeared as the cartoonish sidekick of a John Wayne-like cowboy called “The Gumfighter”, exclaiming “Hubba Bubba wins again!” in a series of Western-themed Hubba Bubba bubble gum commercials. He wore it too when he played Mr. Tucker, a political party chairman, in Used Cars. In 1967, Taylor played the Colorado silver miner “Chicken Bill” Lovell in the episode “Chicken Bill” of the syndicated series Death Valley Days, hosted by Robert Taylor. Don Haggerty played Horace Tabor. In the story line, Lovell salts his mine to get Tabor to pay off Lovell’s lingering debt and to fund his continued operation.
On television, Taylor appeared often in such roles as a talkative hotel or postal clerk or a court bailiff. He guest starred in “The Outlander”, the fifth episode of the ABC/Warner Bros. western series, Cheyenne, starring Clint Walker, the first hour-long western on the networks. Taylor guest starred three times in the syndicated western series The Range Rider, starring Jock Mahoney and Dick Jones, and in the episode “The Last Rebellion” of another syndicated western series 26 Men, true stories of the Arizona Rangers starring Tris Coffin. Taylor guest starred in two episodes of CBS’s anthology series, The Lloyd Bridges Show (1962–1963) in episodes entitled “My Child Is Yet a Stranger” and “The Tyrees of Capital Hill”. In 1965, he portrayed Marshal Denny Moran in “Yahoo” of NBC’s western series, Laredo. In 1966, he was cast as Dude Meeker on the same series in the unusually-titled episode “Limit of the Law Larkin.” In 1967, he appeared on the short-lived ABC military-western Custer, starring Wayne Maunder in the title role. He guest starred on NBC’s The High Chaparral western series. Taylor also appeared on CBS’s The Andy Griffith Show as the preacher who married Charlene Darling to Dud Wash, as postmaster Talbert, and as the brother-in-law of town handyman Emmett Clark, who convinced Emmett to give up his shop and sell insurance for a living. Taylor also appeared in sitcoms, including NBC’s Hazel, with Shirley Booth. His character Mitch Brady, owner of a local cab company and a frequent boyfriend of Hazel’s. He was cast with Lucille Ball in an episode of CBS’s I Love Lucy and also guest-starred on The Brian Keith Show and in a fourth-season episode of The Cosby Show, both on NBC. Taylor played a recurring character, Houston Lamb, over the course of four episodes of Little House On The Prairie in seasons six and seven (1979 to 1981). His character worked and lived at the school for the blind in Sleepy Eye.
Taylor’s later years on television were consumed by his weekly appearances on the long-running country music/comedy show Hee Haw. Taylor’s participation lasted six seasons, 1985–1991, where he was mostly seen as a regular in the Lulu’s Truck Stop skit featuring Lulu Roman and Gailard Sartain. Taylor’s routine was to complain about the food being served. And, in a classic portrayal of his comic abilities, Taylor appeared in several episodes of CBS’s Designing Women as a somewhat off-the-beam rustic who becomes enamored of the women from Sugarbaker’s during a camping expedition. Dub Taylor made at least two film cameos in the early 1990s. In Back to the Future Part III, he appeared alongside veteran Western actors Pat Buttram and Harry Carey, Jr.. His last appearance was in the film Maverick, as a hotel room clerk. In 1994, he appeared in a commercial for Pace Foods, where he portrays one of four participants in a fair’s “Dip-Off” contest, where he and two other competitors use their “secret ingredient” of Pace Picante Sauce in their dips. When the fourth participant holds up a jar of “Mexican Sauce” as a “secret ingredient”, Taylor shouts, “That stuff’s made in New York City!”, causing his competitors to shout “NEW YORK CITY?!” and all three give the “Mexican Sauce” user the rough treatment. Dub loved field sports and was seen often with his much-loved 28 gauge Parker shotguns. He was a common fixture at many of the popular Southern California trap and skeet ranges about Los Angeles. Taylor died of heart failure on October 3, 1994 in Los Angeles. He was cremated, with his ashes scattered near Westlake Village, California. In addition to son, Buck Taylor, he had a daughter, Faydean Taylor Tharp (born c. 1931) of the Greater Los Angeles Area.
- February, 26, 1907
- Richmond, Virginia
- October, 03, 1994
- Los Angeles, California
Cause of Death
- heart failure