ROBERT TAYLOR (letterhead)
Jan. 10 ,
Dear Miss Skinner–
Just for the records, this letter is not being written by my secretary. Once in a great, great while the urge to answer a letter overcomes me and away I go. The typing isn’t the best, the grammar isn’t great, the punctuation would probably “flunk” me in any English Lit. course, and the contents of most letters are pretty dull, but the letter-writing instinct must be satisfied. This time the burden of being a recipient falls upon you. May I apologize?
Yep—we only missed Ft. Worth a short way a few weeks ago when we flew down to Wichita Falls for some quail shooting. It was a wonderful trip in every way. I took three friends with me—a pilot whom I knew in the Navy who now works for MGM, my business manager with whom I’m in the bird dog business, and our trainer (“dog trainer” that is). My plane was fairly well loaded down with equipment and personnel but we made it from here to Wichita Falls in exactly five hours.
The hunting was wonderful, the dogs worked beautifully, the weather was fine, and the hospitality was of the caliber which one always expects and finds in Texas. They’re the most wonderful people in Wichita Falls; I can’t remember ever having so great a time. By the time we were ready to leave I had just about talked myself into buying a ranch there and settling down for the rest of my life “Deep In The Heart Of”!
It was such a wonderful trip, in fact, that I’m flying down again on Saturday for three more days of hunting. The season there closes on the 15th and it will then be another year before we can do it again. I am not scheduled to go to work until February so the temptation is just too great—I gotta go! If you’re writing letters I’ll be at the Kemp Hotel.
Following the first trip to Texas I took off for England, intending to spend the Holidays there. However, bad luck overtook me two days after I got to London. I caught a cold which seemed to settle in my back and I was in bed for a week—including Xmas. It made me so damned mad and disgusted with myself that, as soon as I was able to get around without too much trouble, I got back on a plane and came home. New Years Eve was spent 20,000 feet above the Nebraska plains on the second successive night of flying. At that I guess I felt better next morning than had I gone to a party.
Your letters have been very nice. I was under the impression that I answered the one sent to Rome. However, perhaps that’s only my imagination. If I did answer it the chances of it’s having gone astray are very great; the Italians are not the most efficient people in the world and their Postal system is no exception to the rule.
In any case I did want you to know that it’s always a very gratifying discovery to find a “fan” who seems thoroughly sincere. Your letters have impressed me as being just that and I wanted to thank you. I can’t promise to answer all of them—even my mother doesn’t succeed in getting that kind of average out of me—but I shall always enjoy hearing from you and shall try to direct this letter-writing “urge”, when it happens, your way as often as possible.
The very best of everything to you, I hope your Xmas was a very Merry one, and that 1952 will be a happy year for you. And, one day if you hear of my being in Ft. Worth, please feel perfectly free to telephone. I shall enjoy saying “hello.”
Robert Taylor (signature)
The recipient of this letter was Gabrielle (Mrs. Kenneth) Skinner of Fort Worth, Texas. Mrs. Skinner apparently wrote Mr. Taylor a fan letter that caught his interest and he replied, beginning their long correspondence. She was in regular contact with Robert and Ursula Taylor until his death in 1969. One of his last letters was to her in February 1969 and has been published on this blog. Mrs. Skinner died in 2000 at the age of 79.
The tone of the letter is warm and friendly, although not personal. A letter to Mr. Taylor’s friend Virginia Grey from about the same time has a more informal, folksy tone. The first paragraph is quite odd with Mr. Taylor flagellating himself for poor typing, poor grammar and being dull. He then apologizes for writing to her. Unfortunately, throughout his career Robert Taylor was constantly running himself down. As Lawrence Quirk put it, he was “self-limiting.” (Lawrence J. Quirk, The Films of Robert Taylor, Citadel Press, 1975.) He never saw himself clearly as the talented individual he was. Perhaps his remarks here are tongue-in-cheek but they are all too frequent.
After discussing a successful hunting trip to Texas, Mr. Taylor describes a trip to England when he caught a cold that settled in his back. This was the period when Mr. Taylor was between marriages and seeing a lot of women. Prima Ballerina Ludmilla Tcherina was one of his love interests at the time, and it was even reported that they were engaged. The trip to England was apparently to see Ms. Tcherina and spend Christmas with her. The back problem, however, prevented the assignation. The romance continued for a few months but petered out eventually..
I can back up Mr. Taylor’s assertion about the Italian Postal Service. When my husband and I were in Italy, we were advised only to mail things from Vatican City.