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.)