Kent Taylor, a former awning salesman whose acting career included the lead role in the 1950s television series "Boston Blackie," died in his sleep early Saturday morning at the Motion Picture and Television Hospital.
"He was tired out," said Augusta Taylor, his wife of 57 years. She said the 80-year-old actor had had several heart operations and was being tended by a nurse in their North Hollywood home until he was admitted to the hospital Thursday.
Best known for his role as Boston Blackie, a one-time master thief with a pencil-thin mustache who turned detective, Taylor appeared in 63 films, including "Ramona" (1936), "The Daltons Ride Again" (1945) and "Girls for Rent" (1974).
His film career began after his family moved to Los Angeles from Iowa, where he had played the saxophone in a small dance band and appeared in school plays. Taylor worked as a salesman in his family's awning business and appeared as a movie extra until Paramount took an interest in the tall, dark-haired aspiring actor and gave him a screen test.
Although he often played a handsome ladies' man, Taylor was a loner whose life centered around his family, his wife said. Born on May 11, 1906, in Nashua, Iowa, as Louis Weiss, he never forgot his small-town roots, she said.
"He was a very giving person--too giving," she said. "He could never say no to people who asked him for money, and there were a lot of unemployed actors around who knew that. It got to the point where I wouldn't let him leave the house with money in his pocket or it would be all gone when he got back."
Taylor was known to be generous with his time as well as his money. A recovered alcoholic, he received recognition for his work in starting the Beginner's Group of Alcoholics Anonymous in North Hollywood in 1954. He also received a certificate of esteem from the U.S. Department of Defense for his services in providing entertainment for the armed forces in North Africa during World War II. He was also recognized for his volunteer work for the United Jewish Welfare Fund.