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Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Poor Old Henpecked Bob

That war couldn’t have come soon enough for some guys. Check out Bob Taylor acting all sad and wistful for the fan photographers on the eve of his departure for Naval service. I’m betting the guy never gave a better performance in his life. First off, note the nightclub still taken the week before Bob checked out on civilian life. No caption needed here. "Yes, dear", "No, dear", "Certainly… I’ll write every day, honey…" He probably had that palm print on his chin for the next two days after all the hectoring he got. So is he going to talk back to this woman he referred to as "the Queen"? Not likely. Look what happened to Fred MacMurray when he tried to talk back! And remember what she did to all those other guys --- Kirk Douglas in The Strange Love Of Martha Ivers, Tony Quinn in Blowing Wild, Eddie Robinson in The Violent Men --- men defied Barbara Stanwyck at their peril! So Bob’s no doubt sitting there quietly and thinking about how cool it’s going to be to get into one of those snappy uniforms (not to mention the bitchin’ leather jacket and scarf shown here) and head into that Wild Blue Yonder.

First things first. We gotta make this separation look good for the saps buying into the "perfect marriage" scenario dished out by the Metro flacks. These two stayed together twelve years, but it was turbulent. Bob was the outdoor type. Not Babs. She didn’t like his buddies hanging around the house, drinking beer, and gabbing about the fish they just caught. Bob was forever blowing the domestic sphere for hunting and camping ventures, a thing that nettled Stanwyck to no end, but after all, how could she and her rolling pin out-pace that wicked motorcycle? I like the shot with the telephone. It’s authentic in that Bob always refused to answer the thing when it rang, causing the wife to make a mad dash across the house for the receiver, even though he was sitting within an arm’s length. Bob always explained that Babs handled calls more efficiently because she "lies better" (it’s those intimate flatteries that make marriages work). This pose with the framed pictures baffles me a little. I mean, if they’ve been hanging there all along, why would Barbara pick this late date to conduct a gallery tour? And it’s just a horse. Bob’s got live ones out in the barn. Why fuss over this?

"The luxury of having his cigarette lighted for him will be but a memory for Bob when he begins training for the stiff routine of the Navy. He’s just another fighting American!" That’s the original caption, but Bob’s big Naval letdown lay in the fact that, being thirty-one, he was considered "too old" for combat, and besides, that civilian pilot’s license made him too valuable as an instructor (one of his plebes was a youthful Roy Fitzgerald, a.k.a. Rock Hudson!). His distaff fan following was a source of ongoing vexation for Bob --- one pair tag-teamed him in a hotel lobby and snipped off his Navy tie. As things turned out, it wasn’t the enemy that inspired battle fatigue --- it was fear of the wife back home. Seems Bob and another pilot were out doing some rolls in a training craft one day when he suddenly got the vapors. It wasn’t the upside-down flying that turned Bob’s stomach, but the fact that his cigarette lighter, a $300 gift from Babs, had fallen out of his shirt pocket and into the river below. The pilot friend laughed it off, but his mirth was leavened as a distraught Bob considered the punishment that would await him at home --- "You don’t know Barbara", said he with grim anticipation.

The flowering of Bad Bob took place after the war (see our previous Robert Taylor story about that) when cracks in the marriage awakened a wandering eye that fastened upon nubile co-stars like Ava Gardner and Eleanor Parker. Bob was even beginning to squawk about his film roles, again maintaining he was no actor. Louis Mayer got tired of that mantra one night at dinner and promptly dragged him into a projection room for a screening of Waterloo Bridge (Bob had never seen it!). Emerging from the show, Bob had to admit that maybe he was an okay actor after all. Well, we could have told you that, big guy! Stanwyck finally brought the connubial kettle to a boil when she showed up unexpectedly at the Italian location for 1951’s Quo Vadis, interrupting another of Bob’s casual assignations (he liked dining at the Italian girl buffets). When Barbara threatened divorce this time, Bob called her bluff. By the end of the year, they were split.


Blogger Kevin K. said...

I don't know how you do it. You write an essay about a couple I have no interest in, yet make it both fascinating and hysterically funny.

10:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think part of what makes this site so great is that you admire and/or love most of your subjects without claiming that they're saints, and that you have such comic flair while writing about them. That's much more likely to attract people to them.

And the marvelous photos and other images. You must have been collecting for years...

3:39 PM  
Blogger John McElwee said...

Here's an interesting story from corresspondent Don White that I received yesterday --

John: I was going to post this to the subject site, but
I am so computer illiterate I couldn't figure out how to
get to the "blog" to do so. Consequently, I am sending
this to you. One of my old Navy shipmates was stationed
with the Naval Attache Office in Rome in 1951. When
ex-Navy man Robert Taylor wanted someone to show him
around Rome from time-to-time my friend was assigned
to do so. He went out several times during the time
Stanwynck showed up in Rome during the "Quo Vadis"
filming. When a Rome newspaper picked up the fact
that Stanwynck was filing for divorce the paper published
a photo of the couple and my friend at a Rome nightclub.
Somehow the caption indicated that my friend played a
part in the separation. The following day friend's commanding officer called him in to explain what was going
on. He had to explain he was not a part of the breakup.
I never saw the newspaper clip, but my friend always
carried a silver cigarette lighter with him inscribed
from Bob and Barbara, Rome, 1951.

Thanks, Don!

3:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love Barbara Stanwyck. And I don't claim she was a saint, but, my goodness, you make her out to be a tyrant! I'm a little shocked 'cause I'd heard nothing but positive stories about her well she got along with crews on her movie sets, how tolerant she was of Marilyn Monroe's flubs, etc. I'm sure you know ('cause you seem to be an encyclopedia of movie/star lore!) Barbara had a tough childhood, orphaned young and forced to take care of her siblings. Crummy relationships. You've *gotta* be tough to survive, eh?

But there's also vulnerability there, in her performances, and I'm sure, in real life. If she expected a lot from Bob, I'm guessing her early losses and hardships had something to do with it. The more you lose, the tighter you cling. I don't think it's so unreasonable of her to expect fidelity from her husband - call me crazy!

I like Robert Taylor as an actor (when he was into the material), but he was a jerk to cheat, and the old "my wife's a nagging battle-axe" excuse doesn't cut it (pardon the pun). If he wasn't happy with her he should've been upfront and split before sleeping around. I'm totally on Barbara's side here. If that wasn't clear already. :)

In any case, they have amazing chemistry in "His Brother's Wife" - when I first saw the film I had no idea they fell in love in real life during the making of it. But it makes perfect sense. You just can't take your eyes off them, on screen together...

Thanks very very VERY much for the photos - I'm so happy to see them, I guess I can forgive you for your pro-Bob/anti-Barbara bias. ;)


10:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Barbara wasn't a "battle-ax." She & Bob may never have actually married -- if not for the edict from LBM that they do so. She had it bad for Bob & he cared for her, but when The Boss said they would marry . . . they married.

They were such different souls. And they tried. He as much as she. He could have left her many times before he did. He TRIED to leave her many times before. She pulled a few stunts that scared him into staying.

Relationships are complicated. We weren't there. She made it difficult, berating him, ridiculing him, building an image for him that was untrue. Got to a point whereby he couldn't take it anymore. He didn't hate her, he just finally couldn't live w/another version of his mother anymore.

After all, his mother was alive & he DID have to keep her around.

10:35 PM  
Blogger classicmoviemaniac said...

Linda Alexander doesn't know the real story about the Stanwyck/Taylor relationship, any more than you or I do. No one knows except those two people, and they are both deceased. It appears that Linda Alexander gets her opinion from the Ursula Thiess/Robert Taylor family. Taylor was a real jerk for cheating on his wife, as any spouse is. There is never any reason, in my opinion, to cheat on one's spouse, but there are a lot of EXCUSES. It speaks volumes about Taylor's character that he cheated on Stanwyck. Real men or real women tell their spouses that they are unhappy and divorce, etc., instead of cheating. Just as all of you, we all have a right to our opinion; and that is all these comments are - opinions, as NONE of us know the TRUE facts.

7:18 PM  
Blogger classicmoviemaniac said...

Classicmoviemaniac, you are absolutely correct. Cheating is not a positive characteristic. Don't cheat, get a divorce or separate. So tired of hearing what a saint Robert Taylor was.

9:58 PM  

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