At the age of 27, Robert Taylor had never been outside of the United States. In August of 1937 he traveled to England aboard the liner Berengaria to make MGM’s first British feature, A Yank at Oxford. (Some accounts say the Queen Mary.) MGM publicists preceded him, arranging for a huge welcome in London. Before that, however, two teenage girls were found under the bed in Mr. Taylor’s stateroom. He didn’t know, until years later, that they had been hired by the studio.
In London, roughly 5,000 people awaited him as the ship docked. Robert Taylor was escorted off the ship by security, accompanied by BBC publicity people who had conducted a brief interview on the ship.
“A crowd gathered outside and they caught a glimpse of him [Mr. Taylor] standing on his balcony. Casually he flicked a cigarette butt to the ground below and the mad scramble for it injured several people.” (Jane Ellen Wayne, Robert Taylor: the Man with the Perfect Face, NY, St. Martin’s Press, 1987, page 79).
From London the company moved on to the village of High Wycombe where Mr. Taylor stayed at a country estate with horses and plenty of room to ride and shoot.
“He loved England and England loved Robert Taylor, and for many years after, he was remembered there. They respected him for coming in the first place, for no other American movie star had crossed the Atlantic to do a movie in their country.” (Ibid.)
Bored by frequent rain delays, Mr. Taylor flew to Amsterdam for a break.
“The plane circled the field several times and finally landed. By the time he caught sight of the gate, he found hundreds of women waiting for him.
“‘I couldn’t figure out,” [said Mr. Taylor,] “how they knew I was coming. The same thing happened time and again–everywhere I flew in Europe. Sightseeing was impossible and once I told the pilot to turn back and go back to London.
“I was flaunting my own arrival. I discovered that on the belly of the plane was a huge picture of the MGM lion and my name in bold letters. The pilot confessed he had been told to fly over each city two or three times before landing.
“By the time I reached the ground the whole city was at the airport. I never did get to see Europe.'” (Wayne, page 82).
Robert Taylor arrived back in America on December 14, 1937 aboard the Queen Mary early in the morning, preventing the huge crowds that had met him before.
The following are frame grabs from a video of Robert Taylor landing in Southampton, England on August 30, 1937. He was met by representatives of the BBC who interviewed him. You can watch the film at http://www.britishpathe.com/video/arrival-of-famous-film-star-robert-taylor.
This is the commentary accompanying the video:
Full title reads: “ARRIVAL OF FAMOUS FILM STAR”.
Cunard Liner ‘Berengaria’ arriving to a harbour – presumably Southampton but not sure. Famous American film star Robert Taylor walking along the deck with a man and a woman (probably publicists – SL) and another woman with windswept hair – see note below. Close up shot of Robert Taylor as he waves to the crowds on dock. ‘Berengaria’ nearing the dock, two tugs next to her. Robert Taylor leaving the ship through the back. Close up shot of Mr Taylor as he leaves the ship. He is interviewed by a woman the moment he walks off the gangplank – natural sound. He likes the reception, it is bigger than New York send off. He signs a few autographs – item abruptly stops there.
Taylor was probably in England for the filming of ‘A Yank At Oxford’ – SL.
Note: woman with windswept hair could be a dressed-down Barbara Stanwyck, who married Taylor in 1939 (they started dating in 1936), but it is unlikely since she was a pretty big star at this time and is not mentioned by commentator. However, her presence could have passed without comment if the press / studio were trying to keep the affair quiet – SL.
The weather in England was cold and rainy (as usual), To prepare himself for a dip in the Thames Robert Taylor is said to have bathed in ice water. This is the famous dip (I wonder how many times they had to do it?)