Forum: the Taylor-Stanwyck Marriage

Beata, from Poland, sent this essay as a response to an earlier post called “Robert Taylor, Barbara Stanwyck and Lana Turner.”  I think she has some interesting points to make and hope that some other people will respond in the comments section.

From Beata in Poland on 7/8/2015
I decided to take part in this discussion about Barbara Stanwyck and Robert Taylor. Recently I have spent some time on reading about their lives and relationship. That brought me to some conclusions I would like to share.


The Taylors on their wedding day, May 13, 199.

1. There is no way in hell that they have a ” lavender” marriage or ” white” marriage, or anything even close to that. Their relationship was all about the love, a very difficult love perhaps, but there is no doubt in my mind that these people truly , madly, crazy loved one another. Yes, one another. They had something very special, some kind of passion that only very few can understand.
In order to feel so much even years after divorce in a sense of being bitter or angry, one really had to care for someone who still has an impact like this. These two could never stay indifferent towards each other. That says it all. Barbara loved him so much, we all agree on that. But I believe that he loved her very dearly too. He had this very deep conviction that he wasn’t good enough, talented enough. It had to be very hard on him. On a contrary to Ursula Thiess, Stanwyck never visited his sets, [She did now and then] didn’t share his passion for hunting and flying….She gave him here a freedom , he might partly enjoy, but she also invited him to form a life away from her. I read that she was too bossy…..Nonsense. She gave him so much space to do his own thing…that eventually she might have lost him because of this. His infidelities were also perhaps some cry for attention, his longing to have his woman close by. Ursula Thiess understood it very well, Barbara did not, because all things aside she was his equal, she had her career too. He did not think of her even this much. He thought she was way better than him and to ease his pay and suit his broken , insecure male pride,

Actress BS poses in office out of court here following her divorce from actor RT.  The 43-year-old actress told the judge that Taylor had asked for a divorce and added, "I'm giving Bob the freedom he wants."

Actress BS poses in office out of court here following her divorce from actor RT. The 43-year-old actress told the judge that Taylor had asked for a divorce and added, “I’m giving Bob the freedom he wants.”

He slept around with women that were around , were willing and proved time and time again ,that he was a big star and exceptionally beautiful looking man. And he was, yes he was.
I get upset when I read that their sexual relationship ceased to exist years before they split up. What a nonsense ! Would any of You suffer so much from breaking relationship which in fact was dead for years? And did we all not read time after time that they were a very private couple and never discuss their personal life with anybody really ? I know for myself that if I was in a relationship without sex, I would not go crazy about infidelity of my partner. After all they were hardly 40 years old…, they were still young. How can You mourn a relationship that denies You this very valid part of being together? How can You also stay this way for the rest of your life, like Barbara did. Nonsense. There is so much nonsense, so little intelligence in the way most of these books are written. Common , we should really just use our brains….


Newlyweds Robert Taylor and Ursula Thiess, 1954.

2. I do believe that Robert Taylor was truly happy in his second marriage. This relationship brought him children that he really longed for. He also had a wife in very traditional meaning of this word. She did not compete with him. She did not let him live his life. She rather stood by his side. So when he was kissing some beautiful actress on the set, in between takes he was his wife watching him. And at the end of the day, he could lay down next to her, he wasn’t alone. But to say that he loved Ursula more than Barbara is like saying what is better apples or pears….
I do believe that his relationship to Barbara was more crazy, was about becoming Mr. Robert Taylor….or as he often said Mr. Barbara Stanwyck. I think he admired her , he has learned a lot from her and last but not least he has never forgotten her. She and he never really got over each other. Not really.
I would never get angry at my ex on tv doing anything if I didn’t still care. I would never stare at my ex seeing him anywhere at all. I would never try to be in touch. I would not have a need to say good bye in what I must have known were the last weeks of my life. What for? If I did not care….
If Barbara Stanwyck would even attempt to be a mother and wife, give him a feeling he meant more, they would always be together. If she didn’t make this big fuss about an Italian starlet, it would most likely last longer. The key was not a lack of love. The key was wanting different things in life. And in that sense he found the happiness and she didn’t , because for her was no other man,not really. For him time healed lots of wounds….gave him a beautiful and loving wife. Gave him children he really loved.
Barbara lost him because she was too good actress and too bad mother and too untraditional wife. At some point of life he really needed it. But to say that these two people did not love each other, or to say that she loved him, but he did not feel the same way back is just plain wrong.


Ursula Thiess

3. I have a great respect for Robert Taylor second marriage. I have a very great respect for Ursula Thiess. She was a very smart cookie and she  chose love for her family as this was the most important thing in her life. And even though I value their relationship, I disagree that was by definition the greatest love in Robert Taylor’s life. I think aside from his second wife, and aside from his beloved children, the greatest love of his life was most definitely Barbara Stanwyck.
She said once about them ” I spoke with Bob yesterday and I know what I know. He knows what he knows. Other people don’t ”
All I know is that they loved each other. Didn’t make it, nevertheless , love each other.

PS Please excuse me for my simple and often broken English. I am Polish and my English has its limits. Thank You for reading. Best regards to all You Robert Taylor fans. I consider myself to be one of them as well.


About giraffe44

I became a Robert Taylor fan at the age of 15 when his TV show, "The Detectives" premiered. My mother wanted to watch it because she remembered Mr. Taylor from the thirties. I took one look and that was it. I spent the rest of my high school career watching Robert Taylor movies on late night TV, buying photos of him, making scrapbooks and being a typical teenager. College, marriage and career intervened. I remember being sad when Mr. Taylor died. I mailed two huge scrapbooks to Ursula Thiess. I hope she got them. Time passed, retirement, moving to Florida. Then in 2012 my husband Fred pointed that there were two Robert Taylor movies that evening on Turner Classic Movies--"Ivanhoe" and "Quentin Durward." I watched both and it happened all over again. I started this blog both for fans and for people who didn't know about Robert Taylor. As the blog passes 200,000 views I'm delighted that so many people have come by and hope it will help preserve the legacy of this fine actor and equally good man.
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24 Responses to Forum: the Taylor-Stanwyck Marriage

  1. therah14 says:

    I’m glad Beata wrote this because I agree with much of what she says. I think Bob still loved her but in a different way because he changed a great deal after the war. I also find it hard to believe that their physical relationship ceased to exist. Even if it wasn’t as frequent as in the early years, would sex just stop, particularly for two fairly young, healthy people? Also, if they dated after the divorce, there must have been some level of attraction there beyond mere friendship. Otherwise why would they be willing to risk being seen publicly together? That seems unlikely even today for people who have just gotten divorced unless there was some deep affection/attraction still there.
    After Helen Ferguson, both Bob and Barbara’s publicist, retired, she left most of her papers and files to Larry Kleno, the publicist who took over most of her clients. Among her papers, Kleno found letters that Bob had written to her over many years. I believe Bob had already died by this time and Kleno didn’t know what to do with the letters so he passed them on to Barbara. He had read them and commented on how funny and articulate Bob was. He also noted that Bob always asked Helen about Barbara, how she was doing, that sort of thing. He was nervous about giving the letters to Barbara, but the next day, she called him and thanked him. She admitted that they had been difficult to read but she was grateful to see that Bob still cared for her. She told Kleno, through tears, “I thought he had stopped loving me.”


  2. June says:

    An interesting opinion, but I guess everyone is entitled to have one.


  3. Lisa Alkana says:

    Beata, your English is excellent. I agree with every point you make. In fact, I’ve said almost the same things myself many times. You don’t discuss the part about “dating” after their divorce, but that’s all part of the narrative of Barbara and Bob not being able to really let go of each other.


  4. frank pratt says:

    Beata, I agree with you that there was an everlasting love and respect between Barbara Stanwyck and Robert Taylor. Barbara said that there would never be another man in her
    life after their divorce and there never was.


  5. giraffe44 says:

    My response to Beata:

    Robert Taylor and Barbara Stanwyck married in May 1939 because MGM wanted them to. Mr. Taylor said many times that all he had to say about it was “I do.” Did he love Ms. Stanwyck? I don’t know. Robert Taylor was a man who enjoyed the company of women. His ideal woman wasn’t a beautiful blonde with big breasts but someone who could be a pal. He wanted someone who would join him in his favorite pursuits of camping, hunting and fishing. Barbara Stanwyck didn’t like any of these. Her one camping trip was a disaster.

    What were her feelings? Again, who knows. We can only go by her statements. It is telling that she called him “junior,” and said she had a lot to teach him. Both statements suggest that she felt more motherly than wifely towards him.

    Another argument against this being a true marriage was suggested to me by someone who knew Mr. Taylor. She told me that he regarded his word as his bond. Keeping his word was extremely important to him. If he had taken the marriage seriously, he wouldn’t have been unfaithful. For Robert Taylor, his parents’ marriage was the ideal. They were happy and made a peaceful and supportive home for their son. Living with Barbara Stanwyck was far from peaceful.

    I do believe that Mr. Taylor was fond of Ms. Stanwyck. But he was also fond of Lana Turner, Ava Gardner and others. As time went on, Ms. Stanwyck’s feelings seemed to strengthen. His, on the other hand, did not survive the war. For three years he was a bachelor again for all practical purposes and he liked it. Barbara Stanwyck did not attend the ceremony where Robert Taylor received his wings and became a full fledged Navy pilot. She said she was sick.

    In 1947 the couple took a trip to Europe, a sort of belated honeymoon. When they got to Paris, Ms. Stanwyck stayed separately from her husband. They gave an interview to the BBC in which she wouldn’t let him get a word in. He didn’t complain because that wasn’t his way. Robert Taylor hated confrontation and would go a long way to avoid it. Letting Ms. Stanwyck have her way was better than fighting. When she got out of hand, he simply flew off in his plane.

    It had been obvious for years that the couple was ill-suited. He was country, she was city. He wanted a well rounded life, she was focused on her career. He was easy going, she was intense. Both of them were complete professionals but Mr. Taylor didn’t bring his career home. She did.

    When Robert Taylor went to Rome in 1950 to film “Quo Vadis,” he pushed Ms. Stanwyck so blatantly that she felt she had to respond. He was photographed coming out of a whorehouse, and even worse, openly dating a young Italian extra named Lia de Leo. His goading succeeded and Barbara Stanwyck flew to Rome. The two excellent actors put on a performance of marital harmony during her stay of several weeks. Looking at the photographs you would never think that the marriage was ending.

    Ms. Stanwyck offered her husband a divorce but was shocked and devastated when he accepted. Pride prevented her from commenting on this and she only said that Mr. Taylor wanted his freedom and she gave it to him.

    After his divorce, Robert Taylor was a lonely man. He was somewhat introverted and had low self-esteem, probably due to his treatment by his overbearing mother, his wife and MGM. An arranged date with beautiful actress and model Ursula Thiess changed everything. They dated for several years because he was reluctant to commit to marriage a second time. She finally gave him an ultimatum to commit or leave her alone. Their marriage in 1954 was the beginning of the happiest time of Mr. Taylor’s life. Ms. Thiess joined in his hobbies, hunting with him despite her distaste for killing animals.

    Ursula Thiess was smart and understood her husband well. She made a point to visit him on location and see that he was taken care of romantically. She cooked the meals he liked, while introducing him to healthier eating. Most importantly, Ms. Thiess gave her husband children and a complete family. She gave up acting to become a full time wife and mother. Ursula Thiess demonstrated her love for and commitment to Robert Taylor in many ways . I only wish she could have gotten him to stop smoking.

    To summarize, I believe that the Taylor-Stanwyck marriage was a business deal. MGM had been embarrassed by a Photoplay article about Hollywood’s unmarried couples. Marrying off Gable and Lombard and Taylor and Stanwyck helped sanitize their image as a family friendly studio. The Taylors lived apart for a good bit of their marriage. They slept in separate bedrooms at home. When they divorced Ms. Stanwyck sold their house and auctioned off the contents. Mr. Taylor ended up with a coffee table. Although wealthier than her former husband, Ms. Stanwyck bled him of 15% of his income for the rest of his life. Robert Taylor was able to remarry and find happiness. Barbara Stanwyck was not, which is a shame.


  6. therah14 says:

    Well, I am admittedly more of a Stanwyck fan than a Taylor fan. However, I do admire and enjoy a lot of his work. However, it bothers me that Taylor fans always have to tear down Stanwyck. Beata’s original essay was neither positive nor negative toward either party. And yet, once again, the response becomes about pointing out how petty and vile Stanwyck was and how smart and perfect and wonderful Theiss was and how poor Taylor was just a victim of Stanwyck/MGM/everybody. I have come here quite often in the past to read about Taylor but I think I’m going to refrain from now on.


  7. giraffe44 says:

    I would be sad to lose you but that is up to you. I don’t think I vilified Stanwyck. I admire her very much as an actress and as a person. That she and RT were not compatible is no one’s fault and I didn’t mean to blame her. I was quite clear that he maneuvered her into the divorce that she didn’t want. Neither of them were victims–it was incompatibility. Taylor and Stanwyck were incompatible and Taylor and Thiess were compatible. That’s not accusing anyone and I’m sorry you took it that way. I do appreciate your comments.


    • June says:

      Judith, I believe you make every effort not to compromise the truth in your blogs. The fact that you do such extensive research before writing makes them so enjoyable to read and far different from posts of many other Robert Taylor fans.
      Although I may not comment on each and every one, I always look forward to reading them.


  8. David Foe says:

    I read a story on Taylor’s death by former Photoplay editor Ruth Waterbury, written in MOTION PICTURE magazine, I think, in which she summed up the marriage thusly: “In love, yes. Compatible, no.” I think what they had passed for love, but they grew apart and while Barbara wanted to hold on to him, he wanted something else, and eventually found it with Ursula. I suspect there was bitterness on both sides long after the Taylor-Stanwyck divorce, but also affection as well.


    • giraffe44 says:

      Very nicely put. Robert Taylor always had the greatest respect for Barbara Stanwyck. Like many people who were young during the Depression, he was always afraid of running out of money and resented the financial burden she placed on him. Thanks for writing.


  9. I am a big fan of Robert Taylor and read all the blogs Judith,saw about 60 films with Robert Taylor and a lot of video about it including the movie BBC “The great Romances of the twentieth century. Barbara Stanwyck and Robert Taylor”. I will ekspress a personal opinion. Robert Taylor admired Barbara as a talented actress and is unlikely to have loved her as a woman. R.T. was a connoisseur of female beaty and all the woman with whom he had a romantic relationship were brunettes with brown eyes, except for one blonde -Lana Turner.But B.Stanwyck was not beatiful and brunette.Besides she’s older than Robert and more experieced and probably was his mentor and in acting and in personal relationships.


    • giraffe44 says:

      I agree with you Lina. I’m sure the two had a lot of affection for one another but not the kind of love that makes for a real marriage, at least on his part. Thanks for writing.


    • therah14 says:

      To say that Barbara wasn’t beautiful is not fair. She wasn’t conventionally beautiful in the way that Taylor’s other amours were but perhaps it takes a more nuanced eye to see it…maybe Taylor didn’t have that. And if he never loved her, it was pretty cruel of him to pretend that he did.


  10. Beata says:

    Dear Everyone.
    I read all Your comments and I thank You so very much for them all.
    It was so nice for me to see that my essay on Barbara’s and Robert’s marriage made some impression. I will try to respond to some of Your opinions.

    Judith : I am truly sorry if it will come across as hush, but with all respect You do nor have objectivity on Barbara Stanwyck and Ursula Thiess. Your preference for Ursula is actually upsetting to me, as I see it one sided and kind of unfair. I am sorry to let You down , as I can visibly see, how much You want to believe , that one true love in RT’ life was Your one and only Ursula. In my honest opinion this is rather short sided approach and if You call yourself his big fan, please , indulge his memory and give him credit for loving the woman, he also spent 15 years with . Do not please call it business deal, because it insult him for being this very calculated man and we all agree that he wasn’t this way.
    Opposites attracts for some people. They were 3 years together before they marry and he asked her to marry him on the phone calling from UK, right in 1937/8….while he was shooting ” A Yank at Oxford” It is in the very article on Your blog. I actually read it thanks to You. In his own words he said how sad she was that MGM did not allow to marry her, but then they stayed together married or not . Two years later, to avoid scandal after this famous article was published , they married with MGM persistence , but surely , also because they loved each other. If You feel that she felt more like a mother than wife , You are really wrong. This was very sexual woman and beyond all doubts intense sexual relatioship. She called him Junior, cause she assumed this teaching function in their relationship….: she helped out with acting, help him to become star, help him to actually be a good actor and introduced him to sex life on the level he never dreamed before about. You might say, she made him Robert Taylor….as we know it.
    You used his nickname ” Junior” to picture her motherly love for him rather than wifey…….so, how You please explain the fact , that he called her Queen? Is this not a proof that he admired her that he felt like he was her royal subject. Oh, potato/potato……sure, he loved Ursula Thiess and he was very happy with her, and his children ( I also wrote so before) , but again to say that he was not in love with Barbara Stanwyck is as wrong as it gets. Love is not always easy, and their love surely wasn’t, but I bet everything that it was as real as it gets.
    I think it is a shame that You look at things in such one plain dimension. For instance; You mentioned all the time how she bleed him with the divorce. He left the house, and she sold one, including every single piece of furniture………She said there were too many memories…Memories of what I ask, according to You? Of loveless marriage? Business deal, arrangement of MGM ? Or rather passionate relationship? A love that did not die, but was rather tragically killed in some unexpected crush.
    15 precent of his earnings….Yes, but You never mentioned that she gave them all to charity. And yes, You might have been upset and wanted to have some kind of link to him, the man You were never able to stop loving? You wrote a few times that Barbara tried to collect money from Ursula Thiess after Taylor’ passing. Well, that is just plain wrong. You don’t think that such an intelligent woman as Stanwyck could not read her legal paper providing a clear deadline when the payments ceased: Taylor’s death or Stanwyck’s new marriage. One thing You also forgot: She was utterly devastated by his death. She would not chase for a few bugs from his widow. I rather think she did all she could to avoid Ursula Thiess for as long as she lived.
    Lina : You wrote that he liked brunettes and beautiful women…..and Barbara wasn’t neither of them….Therefore he did not love her. I do not even want to comment of that. It is just silly, sorry. Just silly. I hope You heart once upon a time about something called personality? And about something about beauty itself? That it cannot be measured ? That is in the eyes of the beholder?

    Judith : The things You wrote to me about how they met, how they lived, how often he went hunting, fishing etc, how their trip was in 1947, I know it all. Read it from different sources, your blog as well. I just see it in a different way that You do.

    David, Lisa and June : Thank You very much !! My opinions are only mine….I cannot be sure of anything. However I am reading, studying story of their lives and come to these conclusions. I am a film critic by profession. Studied film in Lodz, my home town and in Amsterdam. Once upon time , when I was 13 years old I saw ” Quo Vadis” and felt in love with Robert Taylor. Ironically , this movie broke up finally my favourite film couple. Because although I do believe that Robert and Ursula were very happily married, that their children were the greatest joy for Robert, I do believe that one woman , he could never shook off was Barbara Stanwyck.
    Ursula married another man 4 years later, another accidentally very wealthy man that she cared for and moved on. Good for her, and I hope she still found love in her life. Barbara never got over loosing Taylor, and it wasn’t loosing about his 15 pre cent gross income. Perhaps she it was never about his money, his hunting trips, their separate bedroom and his or hers infidelities………Perhaps she would accept all, as long she could believe in their very secret. And the secret was : there was no other woman in the world he loved the way , he loved Barbara Stanwyck.


  11. Beata says:

    Therah, Frank Pratt….Everyone really. Thank You all very, very much. My best regards to all of You Robert Taylor fans !!


    • giraffe44 says:

      Beata, I respect your point of view although I do not agree with it. Since the only two people who really know are dead we can only base our opinions on secondary sources. I have done that but understand that opinions are only that. Thanks for writing.


  12. Beata says:

    Of course, this is indeed just an opinion, or a kind of feeling I have . Thank You for the blog. I enjoy reading it and find some new information on one of my favourite persons in the history of cinema. All the best. B


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