This is a very strange letter from Barbara Stanwyck. She is obviously answering questions from someone named John, presumably a journalist. The tone starts out matter-of-fact but becomes very angry towards the end. There is no date but it has to be after 1969, when “Big Valley” ended.
It is not true that I attempted suicide upon learning of the affair between Robert and Lana Turner. The media tends to blow things way out of proportion. I did find out about this and filed for divorce immediately.
My favorite television program(s) to act in were of course “The Big Valley,” where I won my second Emmy.
William Holden was perhaps my greatest “Male” friend in Hollywood. We shared many wonderful times together.
It is true Robert Wagner and I dated for nearly four years. I found him to be a smart, charming, handsome young man and met him on the set of “Titanic.”
Of all the movies I was allowed to participate in as an actress I would have to say my favorite was probably “The Lady Eve,” which co-starred Henry Fonda.
I have heard that I was considered for the role of Scarlett O’Hara in; “Gone with the Wind,” but I was never given a screen test for the film so it could also be another one of those stories but I was quiet (quite) active at the time so it would only make sense. They must have liked that whore, Vivien Leigh instead. I don’t really give a damn anymore.
Best of Luck and wishes to you and your family.
Barbara Stanwyck (signature)
Robert Taylor and Lana Turner starred together in Johnny Eager, released in 1941. They were rumored to be attracted to one another and they certainly had on-screen chemistry. There are a number of versions of the “affair.”
Jane Ellen Wayne puts it this way:
“In 1941 Lana Turner entered Robert Taylor’s life. She was his co-star in Johnny Eager, the story of a gangster who destroys himself when he falls in love with the girl he framed.
Taylor was physically attracted to Miss Turner instantly……[He] remarked that Miss Turner was perfectly proportioned and not as ‘busty’ as her pin-up pictures. ‘Her face was delicate and beautiful. I have never seen lips like hers, and though I was never known to run after blondes, Lana was the exception. I couldn’t take my eyes off her and here were times during the filming of Johnny Eager that I thought I would explode!
‘Her voice was that of a breathless little girl. I don’t think she knew how to talk without being sexy. When she said a simple thing like ‘Good Morning,’ I melted. She was the type of woman a guy would risk five years in jail for rape.”
Acting daily with Miss Turner fascinated Taylor. He took it as long as he could and when he discovered she was making no effort to ignore his attentions and in fact, was physically drawn to him, he knew he had to be with her alone.
“She became an obsession. I HAD to have her, if only for one night…..” (Robert Taylor: The Man wih the Perfect Face, NY, St. Martin’s Press, pages 107-108).
“Many of Bob’s extramarital romances could be traced to his film credits. Movie making was an intense way to get to know somebody, a day-in, day-out world of make-believe. When a man and a woman were put in a situation where they were supposed to be in love…they were supposed to be in love…….and if the chemistry was there, truth became make-believe and make-believe became truth.
[Lana Turner] knew that Bob was a married man. At first she didn’t seem to care. She aggressively went after him and he responded. He really responded. Lana was only twenty, and already in the process of a divorce. Bob was ten years older. Their relationship was the kind of stuff fan magazines panted over. In her autobiography, Lana said blatantly that Bob was exactly the sort of guy that attracted her.
[She didn’t, however, want to be in the middle of his domestic troubles.] Bob didn’t listen to her. He went home and told Barbara right out that he was leaving her. He wanted a divorce. He wasn’t happy.
Barbara ran away from home and stayed for days with her maid, Harriet Corey…..There were reports of Barbara being taken to Cedars of Lebanon Hospital with a severed wrist. Official
comment said ‘a window fell on her hand and, necessitating many stitches.’ She was seen in public with her forearm and hand heavily bandaged and her arm in a sling.”
The following is from Charles Tranberg, Robert Taylor, a Biography, Bear Manor Media, 2011, page 153).
“The filming of Johnny Eager ….coincided with a trip to the hospital by Barbara on October 7, 1941, suffering from gashes to her arms and wrists. Bob later explained to reporters that the injuries occurred when Barbara tried to open a sealed window at their Beverly Hills home and broke her hand and arm through the glass. [Some accounts say it was a suicide attempt after being told by her husband about his passion for Ms.Turner]. From that point forward Turner contends she cooled it with Bob, until he finally understood that they would not have a future together. There are those who dispute that Taylor and Turner were never lovers and believe that while Taylor was sexually attracted to Turner he wasn’t going to leave Barbara for her. Whatever the story, according to Turner, Barbara was not the forgive-and-forget type.”
Robert Taylor was never a man to kiss and tell. The truth will probably never be known, but it’s likely that he and Ms. Turner were, however briefly, lovers. I believe that Barbara Stanwyck found out, either from Mr. Taylor or someone else and made a symbolic “suicide attempt.” She was an extremely insecure woman who had already been divorced once and was determined to hang on to Robert Taylor. I should note, however, that there are those who say that the whole broken glass incident happened earlier and could have not been related to Ms.Turner. What is certain, however, is that the first paragraph of the letter above isn’t true. Ms.Stanwyck didn’t sue for divorce until ten years later.
Robert Taylor had a facility for staying friends with his former lovers. The fact that he never gossiped probably contributed to this. He and Lana Turner were friends for decades.
In the last paragraph of the letter, Ms. Stanwyck refers to Vivien Leigh as a “whore.” It is true that Ms. Leigh was living with Laurence Olivier while he was still married, but I can’t imagine why would this concern Barbara Stanwyck. Robert Taylor and Vivien Leigh worked together in two films, A Yank at Oxford and Waterloo Bridge. Ms. Leigh had wanted Mr. Olivier for Waterloo Bridge but the studio disagreed. Mr. Taylor and Ms. Leigh were friendly but there was no gossip about them. Mr. Olivier was a frequent visitor to the set.
“[One day] Bob was working late and asked Barbara to visit him on the set. She had never been on one of Bob’s sets. She hesitated and said,”Miss Leigh might not like it.” Bob assured her that Vivien wasn’t like that, that it would be fine. Barbara agreed to have Bob drive her onto the Metro lot. She had Bob park his car a short distance from the soundstage where he was shooting. At the last minute, Barbara thought it better for her to stay in the car and read a book while Bob worked.” (Victoria Wilson, A Simon & Schuster, 2013, page 847.)
Perhaps Barbara Stanwyck couldn’t bear watching her husband making love to another woman, if only on a soundstage.