Before Justin Bieber, before the Beatles, before Elvis Presley, there was Robert Taylor. In the 1930s and 40s young women mobbed him everywhere he went, even pulling off his clothes. When he was in full uniform during World War II two girls ran up to him in a hotel lobby and cut off his tie. In England the police had to carry him and Babara Stanwyck on their shoulders to rescue them from an overenthusiastic crowd. This article from The Pittsburgh Press June 11, 1937: Robert Taylor flees School-Girl “Army” by the United Press is a good example of the situation.
San Francisco. Twelve hundred high school girls gave one delighted shriek yesterday when Robert Taylor, handsome film star, was introduced to them as a “graduation present” and then they rushed forward to collect.
The startled heart throb of a million women was on the stage of Girls High School to speak at a graduation day assembly.
Columns of girls poured up the steps to the stage. Others scrambled over the footlights. Scores more struggled backstage among the drops and other paraphernalia, snagging their hosiery and screaming.
Taylor dodged back through the scenery. Girls pursued him through the halls, waving textbooks and demanding his autograph. He sped down a fire-escape. Girls pattered after him. Cornered in his taxicab, he signed a history book, a chemistry notebook and a piece of newspaper while the driver was getting under way.
Women regularly fainted. Once Mr. Taylor was presenting flowers to a beauty contest winner and she passed out at his feet. Even many years later ladies were susceptible. In the 1950s Robert Taylor was working with horse trainer Don Burt to sell horses. Mr. Burt would bring potential customers to the Taylor ranch for dinner to soften them up.
“One time, though, we almost had to call the paramedics because a lady became so excited when Bob opened the door and reached for her hand that she fainted. We had to take her in , and lay her down to revive her. She never was able to speak, just gasped and broke out in a cold sweat every time Bob got near her. We ended up having to leave without dinner, conversation, or selling a horse. (Don Burt, Horses and Other Heroes, The Lyons Press 2002, page 110.}
In the movie Where Angels Go, Trouble Follows (1968) Robert Taylor has a cameo as a rancher who helps a bus full of nuns and students. When the girls see Mr. Taylor one of them passes out cold, a tribute to the actor.
From left: The first two are from a visit to a school–the boys are hanging back while the girls surge forward; The second two of pictures were taken in 1937 when Robert Taylor went to England to film MGM’s first picture to be made there, A Yank at Oxford; fans mobbed Mr. Taylor in New York before he set sail.
From left: English bobbies trying to hold off adoring fans in London; meeting some English nurses; signing autographs for fans. Robert Taylor was very careful about autographs, only signing “Best Wishes.” He thought that anytime else would seem too intimate. Mr. Taylor also checked underneath the paper he was signing to make sure that there wasn’t something underneath–for instance a piece of carbon paper and a check made out to the fan.
Although it was a nuisance at times to be mobbed by fans and to be asked for autographs, Robert Taylor was fully aware that without fans there were no stars. He always obliged fans to the fullest extent possible. From left: Disembarking from a plane; young lady fans; chatting with fans.
From left: Talking with two fans as Billy the Kid; meeting old friends at the Nebraska Broadcasters Association in 1964; sitting with the usherettes (as they were called) at the Empire Theatre in London at the Premiere of Ivanhoe, 1952;
From left: Meeting future President Lyndon Johnson during World War II; Prime Minister Levi Eshkol of Israel and Mrs. Elisheva Eshkol, on the set of The Night Walker, 1964; with a group of men in the mid fifties.
From left: Sitting down for a cold drink in Venice,1950,with an audience of fans; visiting his hometown of Beatrice, Nebraska where The Great Ziegfeld was showing–the marquee shows Robert Taylor’s real name of Arlington Brugh. Some of his most loyal fans came from Nebraska; signing autographs with Eleanor Parker on the set of Above and Beyond; meeting fans in Washington D.C., 1947. Note the expression on the face of the older lady in the middle.
From left: Robert Taylor and Ava Gardner meeting King Faisal II, 17 year old King of Iraq on the set of Ride Vaquero; signing an autograph for a little girl in Washington D.C. in October 1947. She refused Mr. Taylor a kiss; with Mervyn LeRoy and a delighted fan on the set of Quo Vadis, 1950; meeting a young boy on the set of Quo Vadis.