1930’s Movie Magazines
During the 1930’s, Robert Taylor’s face was everywhere. He beamed from every newsstand in black and white and living color. Most of the images were romantic and emphasized his good looks but a few differed. The one from Yugoslavia showing Mr. Taylor drinking coffee, for instance, or the one with his battered face from The Crowd Roars are unusual. He is often featured with his co-stars, most often Jean Harlow in Personal Property or Barbara Stanwyck in This Is My Affair.
These covers remind us of how different the world was then. Paper and print were cheap and movie magazines flourished by the dozens. The average price was between 5 and 10 cents in the United States. Everyone went to the movies, not just adolescent males who like to watch things blow up. For a nickel a young couple could buy an evening in the comfort of a movie theater, with maybe another nickel for ice cream later.
Movies weren’t supposed to be real and hard hitting they way they became in the fifties and sixties. The country was in a deep and lasting Depression and films provided a welcome relief from it all.
These magazines were meant for women and girls. They were read and discussed by the working women of the thirties and by the stay at home mothers. Every facet of a star’s life, whether real or imagined, would turn up on the pages of Photoplay, True Romances, or Movie Mirror.
The studios, like MGM, worked with the magazines to make their stars available for interviews and photographs, and to intervene if a star got off track and started to talk about anything too real. There are also some serious magazines like Films in Review for those who insist on analyzing movies rather than just enjoying them.
I am especially intrigued by a magazine called The Gentlewoman. Perhaps gentlewomen preferred Robert Taylor.
Nor were Mr. Taylor’s appearances on covers limited to American magazines. You could find him on newsstands in countries from Spain to Turkey to Israel and points beyond.
Many of the stories in these magazines were entirely fictional. The studios generally didn’t complain unless there was something that would damage one of their stars. This illustrates the old saying that “any publicity is good publicity.”
The movie magazines were influential. An article in Photoplay in December, 1938 about Hollywood’s “unmarried couples” resulted in a number of marriages including that of Robert Taylor and Barbara Stanwyck and Clark Gable and Carole Lombard.