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Judy Nugent           Aug 22, 1940

The Country Girl

Well, not originally. Judy was born a suburban lass, was already an accomplished actress by age eight, but at twenty-one simply walked away from an active career to spend her life on a Montana ranch. She had probably the most extensive film and television background of any juvenile actor employed in the Disney serials.

Background

Judy Ann Nugent was born in Los Angeles, the daughter of property master Carl Nugent and his wife Lucille, a sometime talent agent. She has one sister, Carol, who is three years older and was also a child actor. Their father Carl had started in show business at MGM around 1938, where his first job was to sit up in the catwalks of a soundstage with a fishing pole, holding up the Cowardly Lion's tail for The Wizard of Oz. Judy made her movie debut in 1947; her sister Carol, appearing in the same picture, was already a five-film veteran by that time. The sisters doubled for star Ginger Roger's character at ages five and six respectively in It Had To Be You.

Judy's career moved slowly at first. She had to wait a year before getting her next role, a tiny uncredited bit in The Big Clock (1948), in which future Disney serial actor B. G. Norman had a feature part. Another year passed, and Judy got her third role, again as an uncredited extra, for City Across the River (1949). But Judy's so far lackluster film experience would prove no handicap in a burgeoning new medium. Television, then in it's infancy, presented a level playing ground for an aspiring young actress. Nobody could claim prior experience in it, and established film stars often froze before the then-live cameras. For a little girl with sangfroid it was a career-maker. Judy landed the role of younger daughter Donna on The Ruggles, a role she would play live, every week and on occasional holidays, for three seasons.

Her commitment to The Ruggles didn't prevent Judy from continuing to act in films. She appeared in uncredited bit parts for Here Comes the Groom (1951), Angels in the Outfield (1951), and The Greatest Show on Earth (1952). With a Gene Autry picture, Night Stage to Galveston (1952), she received her first screen credit. After her TV series ended, Judy did episodes of The Lone Ranger and Annie Oakley, then another credited supporting part in Down Laredo Way (1953). Westerns were proving very good to Judy, who despite her suburban background, could convincingly play a down-home country girl.

Judy's last uncredited role was in Ma and Pa Kettle at Home (1954). Director Charles Lamont gave both Judy and another future MMC serial actress, Pat Morrow, more scenes and lines than some of the credited actors in this rural comedy. This was also the only movie in which Judy appeared on camera at the same time as her sister Carol. Guest appearances on The Adventures of Superman, The Life of Riley, and Ford Television Theatre followed. Judy's film career reached it's apex with her portrayal of a wise-cracking tomboy who snaps Jane Wyman's character out of despair in Magnificent Obsession (1954).

A rare disagreeable role as an ungrateful daughter in There's Always Tomorrow (filmed in late 1954 but not released until January 1956), third-billing in the light comedy Navy Wife (1956), and appearances on Celebrity Playhouse and Matinee Theatre were followed by a temporary slowdown in Judy's career. For the first time in many years she wasn't in and out of studio schools and Hamilton High in Los Angeles. Instead, she attended the Mar-Ken School for professional children in Sherman Oaks, where the yearbook listed her hobby as clothes and her ambition to go to Hawaii. In early 1957 she made what would turn out to be her last film for a major studio, The Girl Most Likely, a weak musical comedy with Jane Powell.

Performance

Just why the serial originally announced as Annette and Darlene came to be re-titled as Annette, with Darlene Gillespie dropped from the cast, is a mystery unlikely to ever be resolved. It would be interesting to know the circumstances under which Judy was recruited to replace Darlene's character. One possibility is that director Charles Lamont remembered working with her on the Kettle series and suggested her to the Disney producers. However it came about, Judy was an inspired choice for the Jet Maypen character. She was versatile enough to underplay her scenes with quiet Annette, and to overawe Roberta Shore's character with her own.


For Judy herself, the serial marked a watershed in her career. She had never had an on-screen romance before, and for the past year had been on the tipping point between adolescent and ingenue roles. Though the romance in this serial was slight, it did put her firmly in the latter category. Also new for Judy the actress was musical variety. Though she had played in a musical before, her voice was not really suitable for singing, and so was dubbed over for this serial. Dancing on-camera was also new to her, and a skill that plainly did not come naturally to her.

Aftermath

In the two years following her Disney job, Judy appeared in episodes of six different television series, including Playhouse 90, The Thin Man, Sugarfoot, 77 Sunset Strip, and Rawhide, but had no film work. Like many child actors, the qualities that worked in her favor while young, worked against her as an adult. She was slender and short, in an age that favored tall buxom starlets, and while pretty, lacked the glamorous beauty sought by casting directors.

Towards the end of 1959, Judy was hired to play the female lead for an independent Grade B flick called High School Caesar (1960). When the producer, O' Dale Ireland, told fellow cast member Steve Stevens that he'd be working with Judy again and asked his opinion of her, Steve replied:

"Great sense of humor, kind of a tomboy, and she has a laugh that would tame a lion."

This shoestring production, filmed on location in Missouri, had Judy standing up to the local bully and his goons. Though not a real stinker, it wasn't going to cover it's featured performers with laurels, and it in fact turned out to be Judy's last film for fourteen years.

Judy continued to do television shows, playing an occasional recurring character on The Tall Man, doing a bit part on The Brothers Brannagan, and guest starring on her brother-in-law Nick Adams' show, Saints and Sinners. But in 1962 she called it quits, leaving Hollywood behind. She had just married actor Buck Taylor, whom she may have met through Nick Adams, and the couple eventually relocated to Ennis, Montana, from where Buck would commute to Southern California for television and film projects. Judy came out of retirement briefly in 1974, for an independent low-budget film called Summer Run.

Eighteen years after marrying Buck Taylor, Judy also did a two-minute cameo in a film called Beartooth (1978), with him and her father-in-law Dub Taylor. Billed as Judy Nugent Taylor in what was little more than a Dub Taylor home movie, this was her last credited film role. According to online sources, Judy and Buck parted ways in 1983, after raising three children together. Her parents joined her in Montana when they retired, and she apparently continues to live there today. Her eldest son, Adam Taylor died in an auto accident in 1994, but her other two sons, Matthew and Cooper Taylor, work as stuntmen and actors, as do a grandson and granddaughter.

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