The always fragile Taylor-Stanwyck marriage began to crumble after Taylor returned from World War II. Robert Taylor had matured and become a much stronger man with a new sense of self. Stanwyck no longer attracted him sexually as she reminded him more and more of his manipulative, domineering mother. She retaliated by undermining him both privately and publicly, going so far as to demand that he see a psychiatrist. If Taylor didn’t want her, she was convinced he was gay. As always, Robert Taylor’s response was to withdraw further and further.
Both Taylor and Stanwyck, however, had a lot invested in their marriage and they did attempt to save it. In February 1947 they sailed to England for a trip that was (among other things) designed to draw them closer. Three weeks in England and France had the potential to be a time of healing.
Transcript of Interview given by Robert Taylor and Barbara Stanwyck, Southampton, England, February 10, 1947
At Southampton our reporter went aboard the Queen Elizabeth to meet Barbara Stanwyck and husband Bob Taylor. (The reporter is John Parsons of Pathe) On day one of their three week tour of Britain, they had this to say:
JP: Well, Bob, we’re very pleased to see you back again. What are some of your plans? Tell us something about it.
RT: Well, Bob, we’re very pleased to be here in England this trip. It’s my first trip in ten years and Barbara’s first–
BS: And my very, very first trip.
JP: Your first trip to England?
BS: Yes, and I’m very excited about it.
JP: Well, welcome.
BS: Thank you.
JP: Well, now, what are your plans?
RT: Well, we have a few little matters of business to take care of pursuant to the possibility of doing some pictures over here later in the year and other than that we hope to see England and see possibly to see a little of France. We haven’t made definite plans in that respect yet.
JP: Barbara, we’ve all been told that is a second honeymoon for you both. What do you say about it?
BS: Well, it really is the first. We didn’t have one at all you know. We were working when we were married and didn’t get away and then we wanted to come to England in 1939 on our honeymoon but the war stopped us and Bob went in the Navy and that was that.
JP: Now you’ve really come to enjoy yourselves.
BS: (Pauses) Well, yes. We hope so.
JP: I suppose making pictures out in Hollywood you don’t get very much time together.
BS: No, as a matter of fact this is our first vacation together in eight years.
JP: Are you excited about it, Bob?
RT: Yes, very much.
The following is from Charles Tranberg-Robert Taylor, a Biography. 2011, Bear Manor Media, p. 178-179.
In early 1947 Bob and Barbara went on vacation to Europe….within days of arriving [in Paris], on February 24th, it was announced that Barbara had been staying at the American hospital in Neuilly virtually since their arrival while Bob had been situated in their suite at the Hotel George V. The strange explanation given was that Barbara had found the suite in one of Paris’ best hotels too cold, and chose instead to be put up at the hospital–while her husband, with whom she was supposed to be vacationing, stayed at the hotel. The Taylors denied that Barbara was ill, except for a minor cold, and that the couple had met several times for dinner. In retrospect, given their increasing estrangement, it seems likely that something unpleasant happened between the couple…..which cast a pall over the entire trip. Such a pall that they decided it would be best if they spent more time separated than together.
These are some photographs from that trip:
Aboard the Queen Elizabeth.
At the Ideal Home Show.
The Ideal Home Show is an annual event in London. The show was devised by the Daily Mail newspaper in 1908 and continued to be run by the Daily Mail up until 2009. It was then sold to events and publishing company Media 10. Its goal is to bring together everything associated with having an “ideal home”, such as the latest inventions for the modern house, and to showcase the latest housing designs. A regular feature of the show for many years was the Ideal House Competition where designs were invited and the winning schemes erected at the exhibition the following year. In 1947 the first microwave oven was launched. (The Ideal home information is from Wikipedia.)
Arriving in Paris by train at the Gare du Nord, February 20th..
Hi Judith, I feel that trip was ill-fated right from the start and full of hard-to-explain attitudes. Based on the interview they gave aboard the Queen Elizabeth, they don’t appear overly enthusiastic about their “honeymoon” either. Question: “Now you’ve really come to enjoy yourselves.” – Barbara: (Pauses) Well, yes. **We hope so**.” She wasn’t even able to hide her frankness, was she? This reminds me of Barbara’s trip to Rome, 3 years later during the shooting of Quo Vadis, in a last-ditch attempt to save their marriage…
It was written somewhere, I think, that for the sake of Bob’s ultimate joy and happiness, things had to happen that way, though. And I’m glad for that.
What an original, thought-provoking subject for a post! And great photos also!
Thanks Su. I had a lot of fun putting it together. Tessa shared it on Facebook, which is lovely. I do think that the collapse of their marriage was ultimately good for RT. He couldn’t have met Ursula otherwise. They (T & S) probably shouldn’t have married, but there was so much pressure. In the long run, Stanwyck was the one who was hurt the most, even though she played a big part in the marital failure.
BTW, has my package come? I’m becoming a bit concerned because I can’t track it.
Hello Judith ~ I was just browsing on Google to try and find similar photos of the ones I talked about the other day on a different thread on here that shows Bob and Barbara Stanwyck together and I now realize that I may have been mistaken about the time frame in which those photographs were taken. It appears now that what I have in the way of all the negatives I previously talked about were indeed taken in 1947 and not 1939 which I previously thought. I didn’t know the whole story about it beforehand and that these images were taken during their 2nd try at a honeymoon and reading further also the “reason” for it as well. But what surprises me even further is what you said about Tessa initially posting these photographs on her Facebook page.
What I now think may have happened is that at one point her Father (or the studio) must have had prints made from some of the negatives for them and sometime after his death, Tessa may have found these same prints and then eventually just decided to scan and post some of them on her FB page. For some reason though, I never thought that Tessa would even be interested in seeing her Father together with Stanwyck which is the reason why I never sent her the original black and white negatives that I still have. Instead, as I wrote about it earlier, I only sent all of the other color prints and negatives that showed just her and her family together. Quite an interesting turn of events which I would never have uncovered were it not for your dedication to the memory of Robert Taylor on this blog. Thank you.
You’re very welcome. I don’t think Tessa currently has any photos of Mr. Taylor & Ms. Stanwyck on Facebook. She has a number with her father and mother. I’m sorry if I confused the issue. Thanks so much for all of your invaluable comments. Judith
Hi Judith, I fully endorse Su’s comments. A refreshing insight with such rare photos of the prelude to their eventual divorce. The war changed a lot of people and Bob was one whose character was strengthened by the experience. Without this intervention, their marriage may have drifted along indefinately, with both of them becoming increasingly unhappy. With Bob forcing the issue with Stanwyck in getting his freedom, he eventually found his true happiness with Ursula. Thanks again for a lovely well thought out post on our favourite actor.
Thanks, June. The interview I transcribed is kind of odd. Stanwyck keeps butting in when the reporter is talking to Taylor. He just shuts up and lets her go.
“He just shuts up and lets her go.” As he usually did!
Great to see you here, June! I think, Judith, that Bob was terribly hurt also for the failure of his first marriage. For quite some time (3+ years) he refused to remarry fearing a new failure and perhaps questioning himself, again and again… “why did I do this to Barbara?” Anyway, his move proved to be right in the long run.
I didn’t get your package yet, but I know these things take a bit long to arrive–sometimes even 40-50 days, as it happened once… with Linda’s or Charles’s book (can’t remember which one was). I’ll let you know. Thanks again!
Yes, poor poor Bob thankfully finally got our from under the thumb of the evil harpy Stanwyck *exaggerated eye roll*
They probably shouldn’t have gotten married in the first place–they were deeply incompatible. She was devoted to her career above all and he wanted to build a home life of the kind he had with Ursula. There were faults on each side and the divorce was probably the best thing for them. Thanks for writing.
Big fan of Barbara Stanwyck. I enjoyed your article and photos. Bob Taylor was a terrible cheat and, although Barbara loved him very much, she was better off without him.
I think they just weren’t made for each other. Ms. Stanwyck, however, made more than Mr. Taylor. Nevertheless, she took 15% of his gross earnings until his death and then tried to get money from Ms. Thiess, his widow. This is an odd kind of love. Thanks for writing. Judith
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