BOB TAYLOR’S Ten Years in Wonderland
Movie Stars Parade, 1943
This article is incomplete. If anyone could send me a copy of the last page, I would appreciate it very much. The photo captions are the originals.
I do enjoy the tone of this article despite the factual problems. Let me know what you think.
The tall man who strode up the ramp at Union Station wore the blues of the Naval Air Force. As he neared the gates he turned to look once more at the low Hollywood hills, the dimmed-out lights. This was farewell.
“Thanks, Hollywood. Thanks for the memories. Thank you for a grand life—and he most wonderful wife a man ever had. Thanks for the work and for teaching me what friendship really is. Yeh, and thanks for the pay checks, too. Thanks for ten swell years.”
For Lieut. (j.g.) Robert Taylor it was exit smiling. Curtain. Trains and the Navy wait for no man–
1933 was the year. Pomona’s campus biggies were gathered in Ye Old College Shoppe around malteds, talking over last night’s senior class play.
“Did ya see that talent scout giving our star the double-take?” piped up one.
“Yeh, looks he’s a sure thing for the movies. Can’t you just see it in light—Spangler Arlington Brugh, starring in Passions of a Cello Player! Yoicks!” jeered another.
The good looking guy in the corner smiled sheepishly, said nothing. What would they think if they knew of his phone call that morning to report at MGM for a real movie test? Young Brugh figured he must be a sure-nuff actor. It couldn’t be his good looks. They’d never been any help before. He’d been lonely through school. Mebbe the other guys resented those good looks, or were suspicious. And how could the girls who pursued because of his widow’s peak and classic profile realize he wasn’t a high hat? He was scared, scared he’d get tongue tied or not do the right think on a date. “Handsome hick from Nebraska,” they called him at Pomona. Pomona was small but snooty.
What he didn’t know was that a clean-cut freshness, a knight-in-armor quality was to reach out of that movie test and smack Metro right in the pocketbook. Because he looked like a gentleman he was good news from the tough gangster heroes of the day.
Those first months under contract were the most discouraging of all Bob Taylor’s ten years in Hollywood. Sure, he had a contract but what was he doing? Going to school, dramatic school at MGM. Weeks went by. He got nary a role. He was fed up and one day, red banners flying, burst into the inner sanctum of Louis B. Mayer. He wanted to work, or he wanted his release.
Mayer’s secretary, Ida Koverman (she who had pulled his new name, Robert Taylor, out of the hat) braced herself for the blast. But it never came. Louis B. Mayer only smiled. He had plans for Bob, but the time wasn’t ripe.
“Patience, my boy, patience,” he said. “And go to my tailor. Buy yourself a new wardrobe.” Bob went back to his studies.
Then tragedy struck. Dr. Brugh was dying. Bob reached Beatrice, Nebraska, just in time for his father’s last blessing. “Go back to Hollywood, son,” he said. “Perhaps you’ll be another Tom Mix.
Bob was all for staying right there in Nebraska. He could support his mother by working as a grease monkey in the local filling station. Hollywood seemed far away, like reaching for the moon. But his mother was wise woman. She knew that twenty-one could still stand a lot of mothering; she knew he was lonely. Quietly she packed his bags—and hers—and when Bob took the westbound train, Mrs. Brugh was with him. She is still Bob’s best friend.
It was early in 1934 that movie-goers settled themselves in theater seats to be bored by an education short called Buried Loot from the Crime Doesn’t Pay series. The film was part of Hollywood’s contribution to the nation’s effort to stop the depression crime wave. In the first reel, right in the middle of a yawn, the audience snapped to attention. A guy had walked into the picture who looked like the fella next door—well. Maybe better looking and with a voice that came right out and shook hands with you.
Who was he? Who was Robert Taylor? An encouraging number of fan letters began trickling into the MGM mail room.
Then came Society Doctor with Bob in the second lead. The New York papers didn’t exactly throw their hats in the air. They never did for Bob. They said then, “A young unknown named Robert Taylor gives a good account of himself.”
Metro was playing it smart. There was no terrific publicity pitch on Robert Taylor—they let the fans discover him. And it was strictly a labor of love. Robert Taylor fan clubs sprang up overnight and the MGM mail clerks got time and a half keeping up with his skyrocketing fan mail. But what the studio hadn’t counted on when they picked Bob for his wholesome “scrubbed behind the ears” look was that he would have all this and glamor, too.
1935 brought Bob stardom and in Magnificent Obsession, fans detected a new know-how in Bob’s lovemaking.
Because Bob was falling in love. He hardly knew it himself. For a guy who had nearly every chick in America sighing spaniel-eyed over his photograph, Robert Taylor had kept fancy free. He wasn’t a wolf and wasn’t a mamma’s boy. He was just a bit of a stuffed shirt—not because he thought he was important, but because, like back at Pomona, he still found it difficult to make casual friends. His money was salted away in gilt-edged bonds, and his Chatsworth ranch kept him too busy for lonely dreams.
One night he sat at a table in the Trocadero. Next to him was a gay party and in the center it it was a girl. A girl with a tender, laughing mouth and direct grey eyes that could spot a phony at twenty paces. They looked at Bob and liked what they saw. A friend introduced them—Barbara Stanwyck and Robert Taylor.
It started out just friendly-like. Brick by brick, Barbara tore down the wall around Bob. She taught him how to dance the Big Apple, how to play silly games, what fun it was to gather up a crowd and go to the races, or drop after a show for a bite in a Hamburger Heaven—and kid the shot order cook. She taught him to unbend, to really laugh.
1936 was a wonderful year for Bob. He starred opposite Barbara in His Brother’s Wife and, as a certain mark of the success he had become, he was picked, along with Jean Harlow, to attend the President’s Birthday Ball in Washington.
And then came Camille. Co-starring with Garbo, Bob gave his Armand something new—a freshness and fire and sweet romance; the stuff that dreams are made of. People were in a hand holding mood, anyway. Another great lover was throwing away a kingdom for the woman he loved—the Duke of Windsor and Wallis Simpson….and Bob couldn’t miss.
Swing was king in 1937. The hepcats jived in the aisles and up on the stage of the Paramount when Benny Goodman gave out for three thousand of them. Outside in the cold winter day several thousand more waited to get in.
But that was just the prelim. In Dallas Bob had drawn a crowd of 36,000 fans, a good 11,000 more than the President had himself. And when he reached New York en route to London and A Yank at Oxford, the big town really shook. The fans tipped over the taxi Bob was riding in; they tore his clothes to shreds for souvenirs; traffic was at a standstill. And when finally he climbed wearily aboard the ship it was to find two slap-happy girls concealed under his stateroom bunk. Rumor had it that this last stunt was cooked up by Metro publicity.
If so, the gag backfired right in Bob’s face. The menfolk, especially the newspaper
scribblers, didn’t like it. They murdered him. The headlines screamed “Pretty Boy” and “Glamor Boy Taylor.”
Back home from London Bob was bewildered and hurt. There was that little fracas at the dock when the camera boys tried to make him roll up his pants-lake to pose for cheesecake. Bob wanted to sock somebody—but what was the use. They were playing tag and he was it.
All through 1938 the game was on. But Bob Taylor wasn’t sunk—he had loyal fans and Metro was backing his play. Louis B. Mayer stood pat. Bob was his creation—even if he had apparently turned into a Frankenstein at the box office. Desperately, MGM put him in rough and tumble pictures: The Crowd Roars and Stand Up and Fight. But even they didn’t stop the great American game of bopping Bob Taylor.
With the coming of 1939 and war in Europe, the newspapers had other things to think about, and you can’t whisper around any more that a guy is a sissy when he’s just married one of Hollywood’s oomphiest gals.
“Stany” and Bob had gone together for three years. For a long time Barbara had been up to her cute little ears in lawsuits with ex-husband Frank Fay over their adopted tot, Dion. Now it was settled and on August 14th [May 14th], two people terribly in love slipped away to San Diego for a simple little wedding. The ring Bob gave her was one he had dreamed up himself—a stunning deal in plain gold and rubies….rubies for Ruby, Barbara’s real name.
The Taylors settled down to the good life on her Reseda ranch. Dion was crazy about his new stepfather, “Gentleman Bob,” and that went double. It was a nice life for Bob Taylor—a swell wife, a youngster, horses and dogs, overalls and getting up with the chickens. And there were cronies like the Jack Bennys, the Zeppo Marxes, Clark Gable and Carole Lombard.
With Flight Command in 1940, Bob discovered the thrill of flying. It started out to be a hobby, but when the draft came and his friend Jimmy Stewart went, Bob buckled on his fling togs in earnest. His number wasn’t up—yet—but he might as well get ready. He doubled his time at the airport and burned the midnight oil boning up on math.
Pearl Harbor! Like everyone else, Bob ached to get into action. The Navy told him to be a
good boy—and wait. In the meantime he still made pictures. Billy the Kid was a bang-up job, chiefly because Bob played a Western villain who was too busy to shave—even once—in the whole picture. And after his smash hit in Johnny Eager, there was no doubting Taylor the actor.
On February 10, 1943, nearly ten years to the day since Bob first faced a movie camera—Robert Taylor was sworn into the Naval Air Corps.
….Something to warm the big guy’s heart when he’s ferrying a plane across a military secret, a broom to sweep away the worries after a tough………….[Here ends my copy of the article.]