Secrets Behind Hollywood Heartbreaks—Barbara Stanwyck & Robert Taylor
What happens to a marriage in Hollywood? Is it destined for failure? In this exclusive report we bring you the intimate and personal stories of three of Hollywood’s once-happy pairs.
Bitterness and bewilderment—these were the emotions that keynoted Barbara Stanwyck’s life in the months. following her divorce from Robert Taylor. But she had wiped out the bitterness. And now, looking back on the subtle steps that led—one by one—to the separation, she has come to understand.
“At first, I could think only of me—my hurt, my ego, my problem,” she says. ‘But gradually, I came to realize that I was by no means unique.”
Barbara knows, however, that the end of bitterness does not necessarily mean the end of loneliness, as well.
But loneliness is one subject that Barbara Stanwyck chooses not to dwell on long. Because she has been working so hard to overcome it.
She is much less reluctant, surprisingly, to reveal her most introspective thoughts on what happened to her marriage and why—as she sees it now—the divorce from Bob was inevitable.
For one thing, she admits in retrospect, that she may have been too career-minded, too concerned about maintaining her status as one of Hollywood’s most successful actresses—and not concerned nearly enough with being a truly successful wife.
She never took her marriage for granted—no woman married to Robert Taylor could ever do that. But she didn’t work at it quite conscientiously enough. While she was busily building an admirable reputation for diligence at the studios, Bob was filling the gaps in his life with interests of his own.
“It’s easy to see now,” Barbara said, “what I should have known then. When Bob got his own plane—and began flying about, I should have realized that it was an important symbol—a sign that he was needing me less. But I didn’t.”
And she didn’t realize that it was a mistake not to accompany Bob to Italy, as he wanted her to, when he went there in 1950 to shoot “Quo Vadis.” She stayed in Hollywood on the off-chance that a picture, in which she was tentatively scheduled to star, would go into production. Ironically, nothing came of that. And by the time she flew to Rome—remorseful at not having gone in the first place, and alarmed at rumors about Bob’s alleged romance with an Italian beauty—it was too late.
“I had been an ostrich until then,” Barbara muses. “By the time I pulled my head out of the sand and looked around me, there was nothing to see but a wall of stark, irrefutable facts.”
It was almost a year after the Taylors had agreed to disagree that Barbara actually went ahead with the suit for divorce. In the meantime, Bob had gone to England for “Ivanhoe,” giving them time to think things over.
“When Bob came back,” Barbara said, “the reconciliation rumors went into full swing. And the only truth in any of them is that we did behave like ‘friends.’ ”
Barbara would have given marriage another try at that point. But Bob did not feel they could achieve anything except a temporary re-patching. And neither of them wanted that.
They talked it through, reasonably, sanely, maturely.
“That was just a few days before Christmas,” Barbara recalls. “And I had a lot of hysterical, sentimental plans for the holidays. But after the hours and hours Bob and I spent reviewing our errors, dissecting our souls, I knew there was only one thing I could possibly do about Christmas. Give him his freedom as my gift.
“Getting through the holidays wasn’t easy. As soon as they were over, I went ahead with the divorce.”
Hurt as she was, Barbara knew that the only salvation lay in trying to build a new life, as quickly as possible. She began by selling the house in which she and Bob had shared eleven years of happiness.
“I believe that the wisest decision a woman facing divorce can make is to separate herself from the tangibles of her marriage. It’s good sense to start clean.
“Probably all about-to-be-divorced women have experienced this—and even though it was my decision—the day our things went to the auctioneers was certainly brutal for me. I know it sounds trite, but it’s true: a little bit of my heart went along with every piece that was sold.”
That was the lowest ebb in Barbara’s life—the moment when the bitterness wi: most vividly etched. “I moved into new little house—holed in is a better phrase —like an automaton. I never answered my phone. I accepted no invitations.”
Her dearest friends were upset and alarmed. But Barbara wouldn’t allow them to break through her emotional coat of armor—until a time, she says, “when I couldn’t defend myself.
“It was last December—just a year after my separation from Bob. I suddenly became ill. The external symptoms were real enough—but I’m sure now that I induced them.
“It was almost like singing a dirge O the anniversary of my unhappiness. Everyone around me was in that childlike glow that precedes Christmas. But not me! wasn’t going to be happy. I had suffered—and I was going to keep on suffering.
“The doctors diagnosed it as pneumonia and rushed me to the hospital. No one was permitted to see me.
“But there was one person who knew that what was really wrong with me was way down deep inside. That was Van Johnson.
“The day before Christmas, Van broke through the vanguard of doctors and nurses. He was carrying a big bottle of champagne in an ice bucket all done up with bows. He towered over my bed and said firmly, ‘Evie and I are going to be drinking a toast to you tonight. We want you to be in on the partying too. It’s Christmas—and by God, the Johnsons say you are going to be merry!’
“And suddenly, right then, I realized that I had been deliberately nursing my grief—getting a perverse pleasure out of it. I had been refusing to try to be happy.
“With Van clowning like crazy there in the room, I discovered how good it was to laugh again. He didn’t stay long, but his visit was gay while it lasted. It unfroze the bitterness. And it gave me the courage to be humble. I vowed right then that I was through being a bum sport.
“I began to get better almost at once—and in less than a week, I was home. It was too late to do anything about Christmas—but the New Year was right at hand So I gave my first dinner party.”
The invitation list to that “coming out” party—and to dozens Barbara has giver since—reflected one vital conclusion: “It’s society we dames are afraid of when we’re alone, because it turns us into a social problem, We’re ‘extra women’—the exact reverse of ‘extra men.’ We’re considered liabilities—not assets—to any hostess.”
Barbara has been doing a lot of con centrating on other people ever since. And her own happiness has reached a new high.
Today she smiles the smile of the girl she used to be, long before anybody thought of casting her as a murderess. as M “Double Indemnity.” or an adulteress. in “Clash by Night.” Ironically, she’s playing the “perfect wife” in M-G-M’s forthcoming “Jeopardy.”
“This coming Christmas,” she says, I’m going to be the Christmas-iest thing you ever heard about. I’m going to have the biggest tree and the most wreaths—and I’m going to give a party that will include every ‘extra woman’ I know. What’s more. I’ll have the best time of anybody there.”
Barbara wants friendship now. Love, to.
“I believe in love,” she says, “I can look back on the eleven and a half wonderful years that Bob and I had together—and know that it was love that it possible. I haven’t turned my back on it.
Just because I do believe in love again, I can afford to wait. And those romance rumors notwithstanding, I am waiting.
“I know that somewhere there must be a man who feels about love the way I do—and who wants to share it equally. But there’s no hurry. Now that I have the courage to want love again, I have the courage to wait for a love that’s right.”
“I doubt that there’s a marriage in he offing for me. At least, there isn’t one in the foreseeable future. If there were to be, I’d be the happiest guy in the world. I’m not cut out to be alone. But every time I go out with a girl, I begin to make comparisons. And that’s always the beginning of the end.”
That is Robert Taylor’s frank and honest answer to questions about his marrying again. There have been repeated rumors of new romances for him—flurries of newspaper stories—linking his name with charmers here and abroad. Tall tales! Fantastic deductions!
“Marriage now is the last thing in my mind,” Bob says. “You see, I figure I hit the jackpot the first time, and it would be asking too much of life to expect to hit it again.
“I’m sorry things turned out the way they did. And I feel that I’m responsible—completely responsible. I accept the facts for what they are—but it makes a guy lose confidence in himself as a husband.
“And after Barbara, who could I possibly marry? Barbara is a great girl—intelligent and understanding—and full of love. Real love, I mean.”
Being the kind of man who never dreamed of divorce, he’s finding the return to singleness anything but blessed. “I’m not very gregarious,” he puts it. “I don’t like parties and big crowds. My choice is to be pretty much alone, but I don’t want to sit home and mope. I get restless. That’s why I rattle around town as much as I do.”
And that’s why the romance rumors flourish. Bob is a charming escort, gracious, amusing and attentive. And because he is certainly one of moviedom’s most eligible bachelors, would-be matchmakers do a lot of vicarious romancing for him.
But the ever-present fictitious romance is only one of the problems that face a handsome talented man who, after almost twelve years of marriage, suddenly finds himself without a wife.
Problem most ponderous: where does he live?
Some years ago, Bob bought a home for his mother in Westwood. (His father died just before Bob made his big success.) His mother has a companion living with her—a woman near her own age. It seemed logical for Bob to go back home again.
But the house is Sa Bob couldn’t see himself inconveniencing two elderly ladies by sharing the bath with them. So he took the tiny servant’s room, because it has a bath of its own.
And that’s where he lives. At least it isn’t lonely.
And he travels for the same reason.
“Travel is an escape from boredom,” he says, “but I no sooner get away than I want to come home. I wish I were the kind of guy who’s interested in art. You know, the type who likes to sit around and discuss it. I like to see all the big galleries, like the Louvre. But I just like to look and go. Same way I wish I could sit on some balcony in Europe reading a book. But I can’t sit still.”
Besides his work, he has three great enthusiasms—flying, hunting and fishing. And these add complications to the complex life of this divorced man.
His closest friend has said, “It’s funny about dames. You know, Barbara disliked flying and hunting and fishing. And Barbara wouldn’t go up in Bob’s plane with him. Oh, maybe once or twice, but she didn’t enjoy it. Well, this didn’t worry Bob. Lots of married couples have different interests and it’s okay.
“But those advice to the lovelorn columns—they’re always telling the girls how they should be interested in whatever the guy is interested in. So all of a sudden there are dozens of dames in this town who are just crazy about flying and hunting and fishing.”
It’s best for Bob when he’s working, and he has taken a new attitude toward his work—a more mature attitude. He is delighted with “Ivanhoe” and has high hopes for “Vaquero.”
The future? What does the future hold for the man who never even contemplated divorce—never dreamed it could happen?
He’s going to Europe again. He’ll get a small car in Paris and drive through France and, he laughs, “I’ll probably get lost and the gendarmes will think I’m a shady character.”
Beyond that—no plans.
About one thing he is sure at the moment. “I don’t really believe in love at first sight. You know that thing a lot of guys say, ‘I just looked at her and knew.’ I ask you: how can anybody know? But I do know this—at least for me. Going around with a girl for a couple of years and finally deciding to get married is no good either. If you see a girl for five or six months and don’t know whether or not you’re in love—then you’re not!”
Is he happy? Ask him that question and he counters, “Who is?”
Bob has his problems. But he is facing them honestly and intelligently. And if anybody deserves happiness, this guy does. He is just so darn nice.
For example, after he had finished telling what not many people have bothered to ask him—the truth about his present situation, he said, “Gee, I hope nothing I’ve said sounds rough on Barbara.”
“Rough on Barbara?” What he had said about her was, “They broke the mold after they made her.” What he had said was, “She’s a great girl—the greatest.” What he “Everything was all my fault.” What he had said was, “Barbara’s the most intelligent and understanding person I’ve ever known.”
And that, you see, is the biggest problem for this newly-divorced man. He makes comparisons. He’s looking for a woman to measure up to Barbara.
“And where?” he asks, “am I going to find her?”
It is a quote. PHOTOPLAY MAGAZINE NOVEMBER 1952