Good To Be Back? Ask Bob

From a movie magazine ca. 1946. The magazine seems to have been wet at some time. By FREDDA DUDLEY

ROBERT TAYLOR, erstwhile Naval Lieutenant, became a civilian at 2 p.m. one November day. At 2: 30 of the same afternoon (the thirty minutes elapsed time represents the period necessary to drive from the separation center to the Taylor
home in Beverly Hills), Bob was out of blues and into the loudest pair of tweeds he owned. Then he was out of the tweeds and into gray flannels. Then out of flannels and into dinner clothes. Out of dinner clothes into a brown business suit. Nearly three years had elapsed since he had worn the garments and packed them carefully away in mothballs. Now, to his intense satisfaction, he discovered he had not gained or lost
weight, and neither had any of the always hungry neighborhood moths.

When Bob entered service, they decided to sell their rambling property on Beverly Drive; it was so commodius that Barbara felt that she would rattle around, even after reviewing the space-using activities of her son Dion and her Uncle Buck. That property disposed of, Barbara bought a three bedroom house in another section of Beverly Hills. Bob’s clothing had been stored in a huge cedar-lined wardrobe, so Barbara had that moved into her dressing room.

When Bob came home, the family was slightly crowded. You know, wherever anyone stepped he put a foot through a tennis racket, or into a whirligig or golf clubs, or kicked someone’s shoes the length of the house.

We’ll have to start building at once,” said the Taylors, blissful in their Ignorance of the construction situation. For several years they had drawn pictures on the backs of envelopes, cut clippings from home journals, and had behaved in general like two people who are going to build the Connecticut Farm House to end Connecticut Farm Houses. Or to be annexed, long distance, to Darien.

Happily they collected their notes, their frayed envelopes, their magazine
tear-sheets, and descended upon an architect and builder. This gentleman
was overjoyed. He studied their plans and found that the Taylor ideas were
sensible, simple, and without chi-chi. No marble fireplaces or hand-carved
balustrades complicated matters. “This will cost you only about fifteen dollars
per square foot to build,” he announced.

That swooshing sound you hear now is the Taylors leaving the room.
In flight they have also dropped all plans for building, at least in the immediate future.

Since Bob was discharged in November and his picture, You Were There, wasn’t to roll until February, he had almost three months in which to get civilian life adjusted to him.
He decided, first of all, that he needed exercise.

Now, to digress a bit, Bob’s job in the Navy was hazardous at times. He was teaching cadets to fly, a responsibility likely to bring gray hair ten years prematurely and to instigate ulcers even worse than those of Dick Tracy’s client, Diet Smith.

Not only does a flight instructor stand to win a one-way ticket to eternity through the auspices of a nervous student, he runs constant risk of falling victim—and the word “falling” is used advisedly—to his own preoccupation with aircraft technique.
Bob had his quota of near-misses, but his favorite escape has to do with the execution of a split-S, an aerial acrobatic which is part of the cadet’s training in evasive maneuvers. It consists of a half-snap roll and a half loop. Ask anybody in the Air Corps to explain this if it baffles you (it did the enemy).

Luckily, Bob’s student believed in doing a thing promptly. He gained the necessary altitude, flopped over, swooped out of his loop fast. Lt. Taylor, having bumped around during the early part of the maneuver, glanced down to find that his seat belt was not fastened. If the pilot had followed the technique of some students and remained upside down for a few seconds longer, one instructor would have, taken an awful ribbing
that night for unintentionally hitting the silk.

Publicity Photo for Undercurrent, as the film became known.

But it didn’t happen, which is the important fact, and after that Bob triple-checked his seat belt before undertaking acrobatic maneuvers. Having come through several such
experiences without a scratch, Bob—the reconverted civilian—met Fate when he trotted out on a tennis court one morning. Donald Woods, Warner actor, was also looking for a singles opponent, so they squared away across the net. Bob executed half a dozen forehand shots, then put everything he had into a backhand smash and tipped over several important vertebrae.

He would have yipped with pain if he hadn’t been so mad, and he would have boiled with wrath if the whole thing hadn’t struck him as being utterly ridiculous. He went through a course of osteopaths, chiropractors, steam baths, lamps, massage, and gen-
tie exercise. Then, early one morning, he returned to the tennis court.

He didn’t win, but he didn’t dislocate anything, either. He didn’t win the following morning, or for weeks. The word went around, according to Bob, that Mr. Taylor was practically anyone’s pigeon. He had more partners than he knew how to dodge. But
one morning, he found a returned service man on the courts, and won in love sets. That restored his confidence, and his gloating opponents began to settle down in conntemplation of getting licked—which they did. Bob also got out his golf clubs and limbered them up a bit, but his disappointment was great even when he shot an 88. “That just isn’t good enough around here,” he opined.

Katharine Hepburn and Robert Taylor on the set of Undercurrent. He is spoofing her habit of wearing a towel on her head between takes.

Having scanned the muscle situation, Bob felt the usual out-of-uni-
form urge to go shopping. Knowledge of what’ Bob bought will bring
an understanding grin to any man who has spent over two years in Navy gear: he selected four of the loudest, plaidest, most exclamatory sport shirts he could find. Currently he is wearing one of them every moment he’s away from the studio.

Somewhat later in the year Bob wants to make another purchase: something a little more ambitious than shirts. He wants to buy a small plane, a four-passenger job, with
which he can hop to Ensenada for hunting trips. Before he started his picture, Bob and a friend made two trips via station wagon to Ensenada for the local hunting. They packed in so much provision and equipment that, according to Bob, “I didn’t think we were going to be able to drag over the border.”

When Bob gets his plane, this heavy provisioning won’t be necessary because Ensenada is only about forty- five flying miles from San Diego, where supplies can be obtained. Of
course, in order to get his wife to accompany him on these jaunts Bob is going to have to do the “snow job” of his career. In civilian parlance, this means he’s going to have
to use all his forensic zeal to convince Barbara of the convenience of such hops, because she’s not enthusiastic about flying.

On the set with Director Vincente Minelli

Bob’s leather flight jacket will come in handy on these jaunts. The jacket is, with one additional item, the only tangible thing he brought out of service. He purchased it from the Navy. The other memento from Bob’s NAF days is as sentimental a reminder as a man of Bob’s mocking realism would allow himself. Seems that when he went into service he was loaded down with good-luck trophies. On his dog-tag chain he wore a St. Christopher and a MiracuIous Medal; his currency clip included a St. Christopher, his identification bracelet was supposed to have been witched with luck, someone had given him a lucky penny, someone else had contributed a rabbit’s foot, another
well-wisher had supplied a four-leaf clover in appropriate frame. “I’m so loaded down that sometimes I don’t see how the plane can stagger off the ground,” he told Barbara when she visited him at the base.

Some of the boys in the parachute loft, watching Bob morning after morning racing out to the flight line while stuffng emblems, talismen, charms, and mementoes into the many pockets of his flying clothes, decided that it was time assembly took place.
They made a neat, compact suede carrying case for Bob. It accommodated all the essential (and obviously powerful) amulets, and it allowed Bob about five spare minutes over coffee each morning. A boon. (He’s still carrying it.)

Promo for Undercurrent

Not that he’s going to need any special witchcraft for his first postservice picture. Remember the Bob Taylor characterization in Johnny Eager? Well, this new movie gives
Bob an equally meaty role, though not so sinister. As a suave attorney who marries Katharine Hepburn (she comes into his life as a dowdy, frightened drab and is given the Pygmalion treatment), Bob is entrusted with an exciting part. Not until the final se-
quence will the audience know whether Bob is a villain or hero.

The instant You Were There is finished, Bob starts another picture. Reason: to finish it by August. Barbara is to have her vacation during September, October and November.
And for those three months, the Taylors have great plans.

If possible, they will fly to South America. Since neither likes nightclubs, they’ll visit the large cities only to see points of tourist interest. Then Bob wants to visit some of the vast
ranches. One of the best riders in Hollywood, he’d like to ride with the gauchos, to live for three months as ordinary South American citizens live. He and Barbara are learning their Buenos Noches and Hasta Mananas.

Meanwhile, Barbara is gathering atmosphere by reading novels about the South American scene. Bob and Barbara have a system: she reads the books, reports the plot and delineates the characters in detail to Bob. Currently she has been taking
a brief vacation from the Latin scene in order to read Written On The Wind. Each evening, Bob has been getting a chapter by chapter report. “It’s almost as exciting as Dick Tracy,” is the way he endorses the system.

So you may make a note of the fact that Bob is pretty well shaken down into civilian life again. His arm no longer twitches when he sees three or four gold stripes on an approaching sleeve, and he can sleep until eleven on Sunday mornings without
awakening just before six in expectation of reveille.

Further, you may make a note to the effect that, with two new pictures, plans for plane ownership, and plans for a trip to South America, Bob Taylor is beaming upon the civilian world.

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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4 Responses to Good To Be Back? Ask Bob

  1. Martha Clark says:

    How funny! In that one photo it says the picture includes ‘director Vincente Minnelli’, but that isn’t Vincente Minnelli! Hmmm. Will have to look up, see who directed “Undercurrent”.

    Great post, as usual. LOVE Robert Taylor – and Barbara Stanwyck!


  2. giraffe44 says:

    If you find out who that is, Martha, please let me know. I wasn’t sure. Judith


    • Melva Ray says:

      My father was the foreman on RT’s ranch in the late 1930’s, until the ranch was sold. He married my mother in October 1939. They both lived & worked on his ranch until it sold. I heard lots of amazing stories growing up. I have a great picture of RT with a couple of his horses. This is a great blog…..Melva Ray


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