I was deeply saddened to learn of the recent passing of Rose Freeman aka Joan Taylor who was a featured actress in movies and television from 1949 until her retirement in 1963. Rose was a special lady and we had a rather unusual relationship that began over five years ago.
I was wrapping up my Charles McGraw biography manuscript but wanted to learn more about one of his movies, Warpaint, an interesting Western that he appeared in 1952 after leaving the contractual confines of RKO studios.
Rose, or I should say Joan, played an Indian woman who helped make life extremely difficult for a thirst-crazed Army cavalry detachment led by Robert Stack and a pipe-smoking McGraw with Peter Graves, Robert J. Wilke, Walter Reed, Douglas Kennedy, and Paul Richards lending able support.
I briefly wondered how the sole woman in the cast managed to cope with such a robust ensemble of character actors in the withering heat of Death Valley where the entire film was shot.
Finding Joan took some doing. My tried and true sources for locating older movie people came up empty. Joan Taylor had disappeared without a trace. I kept looking. Eventually the trail led to a former husband, director Walter Grauman and finally to a contact that informed me that Joan Taylor didn’t exist anymore. However, if I wanted to speak to Rose Freeman, the widow of Leonard Freeman, creator and producer of Hawaii Five-O, formerly known as Joan Taylor, she would send her my contact information.
Rose subsequently emailed me and we talked on the telephone. She had left Joan Taylor and the movies behind years ago when she married Leonard Freeman and raised a family that she was devoted to. We spoke of Warpaint and Charles McGraw (“Charlie was very protective of me on that location. A man’s man and always a gentleman.”) The Rifleman TV series she co-starred in – I knew the director/producer Arnold Laven – and her other movies. Although initially a bit reluctant to revisit her past as Joan Taylor, she gradually became more comfortable with it and I sensed that it became fun for her to reminisce.
She decided to become accessible to other people as Joan Taylor. When I asked Rose if my friend Tom Weaver could interview her, she agreed with alacrity. Likewise when Arnold Kunert inquired if he could contact her about a DVD commentary for 20 Million Miles to Earth, it resulted in Rose being reunited with Ray Harryhausen, which meant a great deal to her.
All this time, Rose and I never met in person. I invited her to numerous screenings, but the evening drive from Santa Monica to Hollywood proved onerous. We talked of meeting for lunch and so forth, but I always was busy. In retrospect, it is personally painful to me that we never met. I should have made more of an effort.
We continued to exchange emails until the end of last year. I loved her email handle: “Rambling Rose”. After we conversed several times, she sent me this signed still from her first movie, Fighting Man of the Plains (1949) It hangs on the wall by my desk.
Rest in Peace Joan Taylor and Rose Freeman. You are no longer lost and I will miss you.