Robert Taylor: the Harried Chest

Mr. Taylor had to endure a tremendous amount of harassment from the media early in his career–especially on the matter of his chest.  This  tongue-in-cheek article from 1937 pokes fun at the whole fuss. I don’t know the original publication.

No matter what is revealed to the eyes of a waiting world, if and when Robert Taylor takes up the challenge of the inquiring reporters, this story springs to his defense by saying “so what?”

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by Alma Whitaker

When a bunch of reporters, jealous of Robert Taylor’s admiring feminine legions, taunted him into saying he would bare his bosom for public exhibition “of the hair that grows thereon,” screen idols began inspecting their chests anxiously.

Especially, don’t you know, as he-man authors Ernest Hemingway and Max Eastman had been indulging in a hairy-chest controversy.

All of Hollywood is involved in the argument. Because, you see such indubitably he-men as Errol Flynn, Victor McLaglen, Tyrone Power, Charles Boyer, Leslie Howard, Mischa Auer, Andy Devine, yes, and even Buck Jones, can boast the merest trace of down chest adornment.

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Still Gary Cooper, Joel McCrea, David Niven, Randolph Scott, Fred MacMurray, Clark Gable, Dick Powell, Pat O’Brien, Edward G. Robinson, John Boles and John Beal are prepared to match Robert Taylor’s hairy bosom any day.  Cary Grant has enough to pinch.

Peter Lorre seems to be tops in the field with a regular doormat, even superior to the Tarzans, Johnny Weismuller and Glenn Morris.  Both Laurel and Hardy play him a close second, and so does Woolsey; Don Ameche, Brian Donlevy and Tony Martin can make a pretty good showing.

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So far so good.  But hairy evidence can be pretty unreliable.  For instance, the famous Lou Gehrig, “iron man” of baseball, who has just come to Hollywood for immortalization on the screen, hasn’t a hair on his bosom.  Yet Roland Young, who rather specializes in masculine timidity on the screen, can boast a marvelous doggy array.  In fact, so evident is Roland Young’s that when he took that shower in Topper, the Hayes office* insisted upon the cameras being so arranged that no brush would be visible.  And wasn’t it Tony Moreno who had to shave his chest for Bohemian Girl?  Certainly Doug Fairbanks had to shave his for The Thief of Baghdad.  Other distinctly hairy guys are Eddie Cantor, Joe Penner, Parkyakarkus** and Eric Blore. (Eric, oh dear, who shines so conspicuously in cringing roles!)

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Voila, sisters, draw your own conclusions. Nevertheless, so firm is tradition, that you’ll be well-advised to assume that our gentleman friends have hairy chests.  There is even a firm in Hollywood that undertakes to supply chest toupees for such males as must play tough-guy roles.  The subject teems with interest, since there are blonde and brunette bosoms, curly and straight-haired bosoms, downy or wiry bosoms, spotty or carpeted bosoms.  And they all love to show them at the beach, which is why trunks in and bathing suits went out.

*The Hayes office was the official censor of Hollywood films, especially after 1934.

**Harry Einstein (May 6, 1904 – November 24, 1958) was an American comedian and writer, usually known by the name Harry Parke, but who was variously credited as Harry Einstein, Harold Einstein, Harry “Parkyarkarkus” Einstein, Parkyakarkus. He became famous as the character Parkyakarkus (or Parkyarkarkus) — park your carcass; that is, sit down — who garbled Greek on Eddie Cantor’s radio show and appeared in eleven films using this name from 1936 to 1945. (Wikipedia)

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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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4 Responses to Robert Taylor: the Harried Chest

  1. SusanaG. says:

    Oh my, Judith, Great post! I can only imagine what our beloved, absolutely no-nonsense RT must have gone through with all this nonsense about his chest. One has the impression that 70-80 years ago film critics & gossip columnists—as well as many of their followers—were a bit more mature, substantial or practical than their nowadays counterparts. But the “hairy chest contest” that took place in the late 30s shows how wrong we are! Then and now, there’s always been good food for tabloids, no matter who’s career and reputation is served in the menu!

    • giraffe44 says:

      Thanks,Su.  I just couldn’t resist.  The tabloid press did all kinds of nasty things to RT.  A woman journalist (so-called) boarded a plane with him just to kiss him while he was sleeping.  She reported that it wasn’t all that great and it was covered in the national newspapers.  So there have always been jerks.  It was quite an admirable chest, though. 🙂

  2. John Whitworth USMC Vietnam Helo Pilot says:

    Hairy chest or not Robert Taylor was the real deal. A man’s man, as well as a decent human being. He did his part for the WW ll war effort which was admirable. Good actor/ Good guy!!!!!

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