A World Apart

by Marsha Saunders

From the movie magazine Modern Screen.

For I1 years Bob and Barbara had set an example by their “perfect marriage.” The statement issued by Barbara and Bob says: “In the last few years, because of our professional requirements, we have been separated just too often and too long. Our sincere and continued efforts to maintain our marriage have failed. We are deeply disappointed that we could not solve our problems. We really tried. We unhappily and reluctantly admit what we have denied to even our closest friends, because we wanted to work things out together in as much privacy as possible. There will be a California divorce. Neither of us have any other romantic interest
whatsoever.” That’s the official statement—and for what it’s worth, it was handed out to the
press by Barbara’s press agent, Helen Ferguson.

Barbara Stanwyck married Robert Taylor and for eleven years set an example of mature devotion .

After eleven years of a marriage that supposedly was one of the most idyllic in Hollywood history, Barbara Stanwyck and Robert Taylor agreed to divorce.

Screen Guild Ball, 1937.

The Stanwyck-Taylor admission that, oddly enough, they decided to dissolve their marriage was a genuine shocker. They were two mature people—not kids like Liz Taylor and Nicky Hilton. The Taylors knew the score. They went around with each other for two years before they eloped to San Diego in 1939. Each of them had ample time to learn everything they needed to know about the other. Divorce court, came as a shock to the entire screen colony.

What went wrong with this “perfect” marriage?

Barbara wouldn’t talk to any reporters about her divorce, and Taylor, when the news was made public, was flying around Palm Springs in his private plane.

Two weeks previously he had been operated on in San Francisco for a double hernia. Barbara had gone up there to be with him. Bob’s operation lasted three hours. “Those three hours,” Barbara later said, “were the longest hours in my life.” The operation proved successful. When
it was over, Barbara confided to a reporter that she had bought her husband a new Cadillac convertible for Christmas and that she was going to act as his chauffeur.

Barbara was so solicitous, so genuinely interested in Bob’s health that no one expected a divorce announcement two weeks later. Actually and truthfully, it had been forthcoming since the end of World War II.

The story that professional requirements were responsible for the split-up may in part be true. But actually, Stanwyck and Taylor are big enough stars to make any picture where and when they want. Barbara is in demand by so many film companies that she never has to go on
location if she doesn’t want to. Moreover, if she felt that geography were ruining her marriage, she could have quit anywhere along the line.

Academy Awards, 1949

She’s been in the big-time for more than twenty years. She has plenty of money. Taylor’s salary hits $3,000 a week, certainly enough to support any wife.

Not only that, but Barbara and Bob just finished touring Italy together. The January issue of MODERN SCREEN ran a large story, profusely illustrated, on these two stars enjoying the sights of Rome.

This excuse of being separated “too often and too long” is just not good enough. What happened to Barbara and Bob happens to many couples who have no children. (Barbara had one by her former husband, Frank Fay.) They find after a decade of marriage when the sex attraction has subsided, that there is no common bond to hold the marriage together. One of the few things Bob and Barbara had in common was the motion picture industry, and to this common profession, this mutual avocation is ascribed the cause of their divorce. It just doesn’t ring true.

ca. 1936

What does ring true is that Bob Taylor is an aviation sportsman. He loves to fly. He flies all the time. Stanwyck detests planes. She died a -thousand deaths this past Summer when she flew to Rome to be with Bob.

In Rome the Italian newspapers carried the story that Bob and a young Italian actress were quite the thing. It was a ridiculous story. Members of the Quo Vadis cast said later that the girl in question was a publicity-seeking extra, who meant nothing to Taylor.


The Stanwyck-Taylor marriage did not go on the rocks because of any third parties. It went on the rocks because Barbara and Bob could find nothing mutual to do in their spare time.

To say that they had no spare time is to hedge the point, because Barbara has enough money and position to obtain as much spare time as she desires. The fact she constantly chose to work was an indication to a handful of shrewd insiders that all was not well at the Taylor menage.

One reporter, tired of the constant publicity drivel about how beautifully two major stars could get along, once asked Barbara if she and her husband ever quarreled. “Sure” Barbara said, “we have disagreements but I like it that way. Sometimes we get so mad at each other we don’t speak for days. That’s better than these lovey-dovey things.”

Venice, 1950.

A friend of Barbara’s says: “If she would only learn to fly, if she would only learn to like planes, I think she and Bob might still make a go of it.” It’s not as simple as that,” says one of Taylor’s intimates. “Sometimes a marriage drags on when it should have ended several years previously. Something happens. The glamor is gone. The passion fades. A couple find they don’t care to do the same thing. They keep going together. Maybe the spark will light the
embers. Maybe the fire will flare up again. Such things rarely happen. The marriage begins to diminish in intensity. The excitement dies down. A husband and wife no longer enjoy each other.

“Taylor goes to London to do Conspirator. Stanwyck stays behind to work for Hal Wallis. There are loads of long distance calls, but these are born more out of consideration than love.

“My own analysis is that Bob and Barbara got tired of each other. It’s as simple as that. If they enjoyed each other’s -hobbies, it might’ve different. But as grown-up folks, each went his own way. Barbara has a 17-year-old son, Dion, by Frank Fay. Maybe if she and Bob had adopted some kids it would have been different.


“All I can say is that they’re wonderful people who have no recriminations. Bob, you know, was a flying instructor for three years in the Navy. I don’t think the war changed him appreciably, but it heightened his love of aviation. Barbara suffers from a constitutional fear of planes, and there’s nothing anyone can do about it. She never begrudged Bob his hobby, but she never
shared it, either.”

No one would be foolish enough to say that Barbara Stanwyck and Bob Taylor are divorcing because he likes to fly, and she doesn’t. Disagreements, at least marital, are seldom that simple. It’s the annual increment of a million little things that eventually wrecks a marriage.

The most successful Hollywood marriages are those in which (1) the wife has abandoned her career in favor of becoming a housewife; (2) those in which the marriage is blessed by the quick arrival of children; (3) those in which the husband and wife do not partake in the same occupation; and (4) those in which the husband and wife share a number of major hobbies.
The Stanwyck-Taylor marriage failed to meet any of these requirements—and therein lies the answer to its dissolution.


Actress Barbara Stanwyck 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.”

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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