Taylor and Stanwyck–The Long Goodbye

The marriage of Robert Taylor and Barbara Stanwyck was an odd one from the start.  They met in 1936 on a blind date just before working together in “His Brother’s Wife.”  There seemed to be a mutual attraction from the start but at this point MGM did not want Mr. Taylor to marry.  They had already scuttled his engagement to Irene Hervey.  Nevertheless the two became close and lived on adjoining ranches.  They were considered a couple.  In January of 1939 Photoplay magazine published a lengthy article about “Hollywood’s unmarried couples,” naming Taylor and Stanwyck, Gable and Lombard and others.

This changed MGM’s mind and the couples were encouraged to marry.  In fact, the Taylor-Stanwyck union was essentially an arranged marriage. The arrangements for their May 1939 wedding were made by the studio and the only say Mr. Taylor had in it all was “I do.”  Whether they would have married on their own is doubtful, although possible. From all reports, Stanwyck’s emotional commitment was far greater than Taylor’s.

Nonetheless, the marriage lasted for nearly twelve years.  It wasn’t a marriage of equals–Stanwyck considered herself Taylor’s teacher and called him Junior.  He called her the Queen.  Given his tremendous dislike of confrontation, she was able to have things her way.

Within two years of the marriage, he had begun to stray with a fling of some sort with Lana Turner.  Stanwyck was devastated and some reports say she cut her wrists to hold onto him.  Robert Taylor continued to see other women during his marriage, included having affairs with Ava Gardner and Eleanor Parker  The fact that the Taylors were separated so much–including his three year stint in the Navy–probably prolonged the marriage.

In 1950 Mr. Taylor spent most of the year in Rome making “Quo Vadis.”  He indulged in an active social life, including a very public dalliance with Italian starlet Lia de Leo.  Stanwyck flew to Rome to confront him and ask for a divorce.  This is widely thought to have been a ruse to hold on to him rather than an actual desire to separate.  In any case, to her horror, he accepted.  Stanwyck stayed in Italy for six weeks, during which they apparently negotiated their future.  The pictures below are from those six weeks, taken in Rome and Venice. Note the Italian couple marching by them as they pose in one shot.

On February 21, 1951 Barbara Stanwyck divorced Robert Taylor.  The divorce became final a year later.  As part of the settlement, she was granted 15% of his gross earnings until she remarried or died.  No one expected him to die first.  The two remained friends despite everything and Stanwyck never remarried.  She did collect her money religiously and by some reports, tried to get more from Mr. Taylor’s estate.  Despite this, she always claimed that he was her one true love.

(This material comes from too many sources to name, but I’ve tried to be accurate.)

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About giraffe44

I'm a long time Robert Taylor fan and I now have time to do his so I am.
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10 Responses to Taylor and Stanwyck–The Long Goodbye

  1. ralphm1999 says:

    This is very interesting. May I add a bit of trivia. I was standing in for Robert Taylor on The Detectives early 1960s. Both his show and The Big Valley were in production at the same time on the Four Star lot (the former Republic Studios and now called the CBS Studio Center). The Big Valley’s permanent stage was 3 stages away from The Detectives permanent stage in the same row. Often as I entered or left the stage I would see Robert Taylor standing just outside the stage door and Barbara Stanwyck as well standing just outside the door of her stage staring at each other but never getting closer to each other than that (at least while in my view). The stares were so intense I wondered what was going through their minds.

    • giraffe44 says:

      <td style="text-align: left;" align="left"; width="350" height="178" colspan="1" background="cid:top@ed31458861a4fe35efe2882a299a324e"Ralph, this is fascinating.  For them to be so close must have been difficult for both. According to Ursula Thiess’ book, Mr. Taylor was really angry with Stanwyck. She found him one day yelling at the TV when Stanwyck was flogging a young man saying things like, “That’s it, that’s what you like to do.”Do you mind if I pass this on to a couple of friends?Judith Evans Hanhisalo

      • ralphm1999 says:

        Sure pass it on. I should read Ursula’s book. That’s so interesting what you said. That was probably a complicated dynamic in all three of their lives especially considering Bob and Barabara working on the same lot with frequent visits by Ursula to his set and doing occasional parts in the series. I wonder if Ursula mentions any of this in her book.

      • giraffe44 says:

        <td style="text-align: left;" align="left"; width="350" height="178" colspan="1" background="cid:top@26158f89f7f3d2917c17fdba1866690f"Ursula mentions being on “The Detectives.”  She also talks about wanted to establish contact with Stanwyck, invite her to their home etc.  Taylor would never allow it.  She didn’t come there until he was dying when she made one visit.  She also made a fuss at his funeral. As you say, a very complicated relationship.Judith Evans Hanhisalo

  2. ralphm1999 says:

    I’m now thinking my memory is a bit faulty. Looking at IMDB the dates don’t seem to match. Most likely these events occurred during the filming of the Robert Taylor Show a few years later which could overlap with the beginning of The Big Valley. I stood in for him also on that short lived series and the stages were the same.

    • giraffe44 says:

      <td style="text-align: left;" align="left"; width="350" height="178" colspan="1" background="cid:top@45fe70b1852c3bf0124f5699707c0b2f"Whatever happened to that show?Judith Evans Hanhisalo

      • ralphm1999 says:

        According to IMDB:

        Four episodes were filmed but the series was canceled before an episode aired. The series was to be based on official files from the U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare. When NBC realized that the producers had not gotten permission to use the department’s files, the network canceled the series.

      • giraffe44 says:

        <td style="text-align: left;" align="left"; width="350" height="178" colspan="1" background="cid:top@1def7ed27f74c9b95b776b6871745bf2"Careless of them. It sounds like it would have been interesting and different.Judith Evans Hanhisalo

  3. Sheree says:

    I always read that Taylor was a major Mama’s boy, big time Mama’s at that and that his mother lived with he and Stanwyck most of their married life. Can’t you just imagine the stress his doting mother living with them must have caused in their marriage? And of course, Mama always came first with Robert no matter who the lady was in his life. Must have been an awful strain for Barbara trying to compete with his mother for his love, attention, well anything really. Mama always getting in your business and of course on always on Robert’s side even if he is in the wrong! Barbara must have felt like an outsider in her own home. Shame on Robert for putting Barbara in that situation and not giving her the love she needed and deserved. Mama should have been moved out of the home!!! To the guest house or better yet off the property but definitely out of the house so they couldn’t double team Barbara. She must have stayed on pins and needles constantly. I also don’t agree with the comment that this was a one sided relationship. Robert pursued Barbara relentlessly not her him!!!

    • giraffe44 says:

      Robert Taylor’s mother never lived with him and Ms. Stanwyck. Her “uncle” Buck Mack did live with them for several years. Mr. Taylor provided his mother with her own home and had to move in with her after the divorce. I just think that they were very different people, even more different when Mr. Taylor returned from the war. Ms. Stanwyck was an amazing actress but she doesn’t seem to have been especially interested in domestic life. Thanks for writing.

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