Robert Taylor on “The Actresses I Can’t Forget”

The Actresses I Can’t Forget!
Chicago Daily Tribune Nov. 24, 1956

by Robert Taylor
as told to Freida Zylstra

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Garbo, “Camille,” 1936.

A scant dozen names are on the starry roster of motion picture actresses who work unfailing magic year after year at the world’s box offices. Why do they last, when others, younger and far more beautiful, fade away after sparkling in the movie sky only briefly?

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Katharine Hepburn, “Undercurrent,” 1946.

The feminine stars who have stayed at the peak of their profession while a parade of comets streaked up and down, share several attributes.

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Vivien Leigh, “Waterloo Bridge,” 1940.

Each has distinctive individuality. All have impact. Presence. When any one of them walks into a room you know it. They have temperament. Not old-fashioned temper. None of that going into tantrums over every minor annoyance. They have great vitality and the physical and mental stamina essential to achievement. They scorn the too-easily-come-by-the next best thing. Their enduring careers are not accidents.

Aside from the fact that all the great stars of today have talent and work incessantly to keep themselves on top, I think each one of them has her own specific appeal.

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Irene Dunne, “Magnificent Obsession,” 1935.

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Myrna Loy, “Lucky Night,” 1939.

Greta Garbo, alone, personifies the ages-old mystery of the eternal female—will o’ the wisp—tantalizing. Her performances had the smoldering quality, the flow and warmth, of banked fires. Whenever you thought you’d caught the secret of her art, she was off again, leaving you with a handful of shadow. You could never feel you knew Garbo. You did know you had been touched by greatness.

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Lana Turner, “Johnny Eager,” 1941.

Irene Dunne, a big star, gave me my first real break when she OK’s my playing opposite her in “Magnificent Obsession.” At that time she had (and still has) a gentility that set her apart. Irene is the epitome of poise and refinement: quiet, gentle. She projects these qualities on he screen. Too see her and to know her is an uplifting experience.

To explain the phrase “movie star,” just look at Joan Crawford. She’s it! She treats her fans with respect and honestly appreciates their loyalty. The fact that she never runs down to the corner market in blue jeans is part of that respect—not vanity. Joan is, in my estimation, the perfect and complete exponent of glamor.

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Joan Crawford, “Gorgeous Hussy,” 1936.

Lana Turner, as feminine as a pink parasol, is a glamor type too. She’s flexible and convincing in any role.

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Ginger Rogers, ca. 1939.

Soap and water and sunshine make me think of Ginger Rogers. Ginger’s tremendous capacity for enjoyment, her infectious enthusiasm and her vitality are like a fresh salt breeze. She glows with health, has the grin of a happy, well-adjusted teen-ager, and there’s a kind of radiance about her.

Katharine Hepburn is no pastel copy of anything. She comes thru on the screen as a worldly sophisticate. Vivien Leigh, fragile and feminine, is an exciting personality.

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Barbara Stanwyck, 1937.

Loretta Young, a motion picture star since she was fourteen is an avowed, unapologetic perfectionist. She’s meticulous about every detail. When we worked together she would step to a mirror, just before each scene, for that last self-analytical inspection. Many’s the time I was tempted to howl like a coyote.

Then, seeing the finished picture, I had to admit, “The lady was right.” She reminds me of the quote–”Genius is the infinite capacity for taking pains.”

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Carole Lombard, ca. 1938.

I belong to that considerable company which recognizes Barbara Stanwyck as one of the greatest actresses. She submerges herself in each role without compromise, with humility. Off the set she has the real Celtic gift for the droll remark; the deep black moods of the Irish; a child’s wide-eyed faith in the leprechauns.

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Loretta Young, 1950’s.

She has played murderesses and tender, yearning mothers with equal perfection. “The Queen” they call her. The queen is both a woman and a child.

I think Jane Wyman’s perennial popularity can be attributed, partly, to her wonderful sense of humor. (And Myrna Loy’s, too.) And in that department, I salute, with great affection, that great lady of great humor, Carole Lombard. If a plane hadn’t crashed, Carole’s name would be brightening this list. When nostalgia holds you quiet you can almost hear her gay, full-throated laughter. A beauty and an artist, Carole was a woman who took only her love seriously.

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Jane Wyman, 1940s.

The perennial stars are by no means flawless beauties. I can recall some beauts I’ve worked with, in the earlier days of my career, who have long since fallen out of the picture. Beauty, period!

Above all else I think every of the great stars is feminine. Female in the true sense of the word. You feel they like to love and be loved too. They’re all wonderful, these indestructible ladies.

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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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