A Letter from Robert Taylor


Death Valley Days, ca. 1968

gghhttcThis is a letter written by Robert Taylor in February 1969.  It is part of a correspondence with Gabrielle Skinner, a fan who became a friend, and her husband Ken.  The correspondence went on for at least 17 years.

It is for sale on eBay, along with 2 other letters, for $300. I am not the seller and I have no financial interest in this.

In the first paragraph Mr. Taylor thanks Mr. and Mrs. Skinner for a Christmas present.  He doesn’t say what the gift is, only that it will be useful to him now that he has stopped smoking.

Robert Taylor then comments on his health, which is “running hot and cold.”  The last two lines are poignant. “One day I think I’m winning, the next I’m not as sure.  I guess that’s the way it goes when you’re up against the ‘Big C.'”  These are the words of a man who is putting up a gallant fight when he  knows he’ll probably lose.

In the last paragraph Mr. Taylor comments that he no longer feels like writing letters. He closes by wishing the Skinners “the best of everything.” I suspect that this was his last letter to them.

Ursula Thiess said of Robert Taylor’s battle against lung cancer “My husband is giving a performance–the greatest of his lifetime.”  (The Pittsburgh Press, Dec. 8, 1968.)  Mr. Taylor had never let his fans down, and he didn’t in his last role.


Waving goodbye in England, 1937.

Complete text of the letter:

Please forgive me for taking so long in thanking you for your Christmas gift.  Since I’ve quit smoking, your choice was extremely welcome and useful.

In so far as my health is concerned, things have been running hot and cold since I was operated on in October.  One day I think I’m winning—the next I’m not so sure.  I guess that’s the way it goes when you’re up against the “Big C.”

Writing letters seems to be about the last thing I’m interested in doing these days so please excuse me for making this a brief one.  We certainly wish you and your family the best of everything in this new year and hope, belatedly, that you all had a fine Christmas.

As ever, Bob

About giraffe44

I became a Robert Taylor fan at the age of 15 when his TV show, "The Detectives" premiered. My mother wanted to watch it because she remembered Mr. Taylor from the thirties. I took one look and that was it. I spent the rest of my high school career watching Robert Taylor movies on late night TV, buying photos of him, making scrapbooks and being a typical teenager. College, marriage and career intervened. I remember being sad when Mr. Taylor died. I mailed two huge scrapbooks to Ursula Thiess. I hope she got them. Time passed, retirement, moving to Florida. Then in 2012 my husband Fred pointed that there were two Robert Taylor movies that evening on Turner Classic Movies--"Ivanhoe" and "Quentin Durward." I watched both and it happened all over again. I started this blog both for fans and for people who didn't know about Robert Taylor. As the blog passes 200,000 views I'm delighted that so many people have come by and hope it will help preserve the legacy of this fine actor and equally good man.
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9 Responses to A Letter from Robert Taylor

  1. SusanaG. says:

    “Writing letters seems to be about the last thing I’m interested in doing these days so please excuse me for making this a brief one.”
    The ultimate statement that sums up how he must have felt those days. Knowing he had been an avid letter writer for such a long time, and his very long, descriptive, informative, definitely colorful letters were like a trademark, his words in this one sound like those of a defeated man. How sad!


  2. giraffe44 says:

    It is a sad letter but also, to me, a brave one. I just think he sounds absolutely exhausted. I do wish someone would collect his letters and publish them.


  3. June says:

    I too am sad at reading his letter and Su’s comments are so true. I cannot help but feel how much it effected Ursula watching him fight such a losing battle. To see the effect the illness had on him in private and how he most likely tried to be so different when in the public eye, and probably to his friends, would have stretched her strength of resolve to the limit. The depth of their love for each other must have made this period ever so painful. The letter is so poignant and so much is revealed without the words being written.
    Judith, I can’t find this on eBay, couldn’t find Ursula’s letter either.
    The Bribe was on TCN last night. Will watch it (again) tonight.
    Thanks again Judith for sharing.


  4. SusanaG. says:

    Judith and June, I think this blog might be a great site to put together all of the letters written by Robert Taylor that many of us have been getting hold of through the web or books. Maybe an especial page (WordPress allows you to create separate pages or sections within blogs) entirely devoted to his letters could start a first-hand mini-autobiography, don’t you think?


    • giraffe44 says:

      Hi, June. The time limit may have expired for the letters on eBay. The last time I looked they didn’t have any bids but people often wait until the last minute. If they didn’t sell, they’ll be back. The third letter is from the early fifties and is much longer. I like Susana’s idea very much and would be happy to contribute letter I either have or know about. I love the one to MGM about his expense account. There’s also one he write to HUAC about not wanting to appear. You’re right about Ursula and her love. To lose her son and the husband she adored within two weeks must have been a body blow. And yet she survived, cared for her children, eventually remarried and spent her later years caring for babies in a hospital. Quite a woman.


    • giraffe44 says:

      I love this idea. I will find out how to make a separate page within the blog for letters. I think Linda Alexander would probably let us quote from her book, with proper attribution. Maybe even share some she didn’t publish. I don’t think we should bother Tessa, though. Thanks so much Susana.


  5. lizlemon says:

    Have any of his letters to Barbara Stanwyck ever been published or vice versa?


    • giraffe44 says:

      I’ve never seen any. Stanwyck’s house burned down sometime in, I think, the 1980s and she was distraught about the loss of Mr. Taylor’s letters and gifts.


    • giraffe44 says:

      I just realized that a new 800 page biography of Stanwyck up to 1940 just came out late last year. I haven’t seen it but it seems if there are letters, you might find them here. Look up Stanwyck on Amazon under books and you’ll find it there.


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