"Film Work Resumed by Walker " by Hedda Hopper
Los Angeles Times (and Chicago Tribune) - August 2,1949
Robert Walker entered my home, the change in him was immediately apparent.
No longer the shy harassed individual of a year ago, he talked eagerly,
calmly of the future. Having shunned interviews he often paused to grope for
words that would express his exact thoughts. There was about him a searching
quality. He seemed to me like a man who'd broken from a dark forest to
find his goal shining across the distant plains. He now knew the road,
but many miles still lay before him.
Stretching himself on a sun chair, he sipped a coca-cola as he talked. "In the past," said he, "I was constantly trying to get away from myself; so I found time on my hands. Now there are not enough hours in the day for me to do all that I wish."
"Just what are you doing, Bob?" I asked.
"Right now," he grinned, "I'm home-making. I bought a house near Santa Monica more than a year ago; and it's been closed all that time. But I and my two sons have moved in, and we've been working like beavers getting the place in order. The boys have been scraping paint off the fences two hours a day, and earn fifty cents daily at the job."
"How long will the boys be with you?"
"Until next March at least," he replied. "Their mother won't be home until then. But I've got a wonderful nurse for them. She's Emily Buck. She was with Margaret Sullivan for five years. She is just like one of the family. We're fixing up the place gradually so we can get just what we want."
"Right now the furniture consists of two single beds for the boys, another for me, and a folding bed for Em. A dining room table and four chairs. The table is the center of our social life. After dinner I sit there and read to the kids. Right now we're going through 'Swiss Family Robinson'.
"I'm so contented with being at home that I get the creeps when I think of having to put on a necktie and come to town. Once a week, I take the boys to a show. Usually we go to a drive-in theater because it is more informal. But ordinarily, we simply like sitting and working around the house. The boys are getting to the age at which they don't want to go to bed early. I solved that problem by telling them, "You must work harder tomorrow. Then you'll be tired so you can sleep. They soon decided that going to bed was easier."
"Who does the cooking?" I asked.
Well, I have Pete, an excellent Fillipino boy, who takes care of that," he said. "On his day off, Em whips up our meals."
"What are you new interests? I asked.
"Lots of things," he said. "I'm reading a great deal and discovering some fascinating authors. I got hold of "The Brothers Karamozov" recently. Just started reading it and got caught up in its spell. I've been through it twice. Also, I'm doing considerable reading on psychiatry."
"When I get my life organized, I want to help with community projects. Also, I'm interested in the Screen Actors Guild. I've been a member of that organization for a long time, but, I suppose, I just took it for granted. Now I feel that I should help with its work, if it needs me."
"How about pictures?" I asked.
"Well, he replied, "I'm glad I'm having a few weeks off to be with my sons. But, I'm really anxious to get back to work. I haven't made a film in over a year."
"Dore Schary tells me he's got great plans for you, Bob."
"Oh," he said, "that makes me very happy. Dore's been a great friend. He's lent a sympathetic ear to all my problems. When I got the script of "Please Believe Me", I saw that I'd been penciled in for the lead. There was a smaller part that intrigued me. The character a sort of college gigolo. So I thought there's something that would be different for me. A gigolo doesn't necessarily have to be tall, dark, and handsome; he could be somebody like me. So I took the matter up with Dore and he said, "Bob, you may have something there." So I got the part. I told Dore billing wasn't important - that it's up to him."
"After that one, I'd like to do another, maybe two, immediately. If I can get a backlog of pictures, I intend on going back to the clinic in Kansas to do some work there next spring. I feel that's very important to my future."
"Incidentally," I asked, "how do you feel about discussing your experiences with the clinic? You certainly seem to have returned to the world a healthier, happier man."
"Well, Hedda," he replied, "there are many things I'd like to say regarding my work there. In fact, I'd like to reveal my whole case history in the sense of presenting a word picture of cause and effect in a neurotic. I said I would 'like to'; but I'm sorry that I can't, and for many reasons."
"I'll try explaining this by telling you the story of something that happened just the other day. A reporter called and asked me for an interview. I said that I'd be glad to cooperate and added that I had many things to say which might be of interest. We met and within the interview I tried to show, using myself as an example, how so many of us carry round completely needless burdens of self-doubt, hidden feelings of shame and guilt, and so forth.
My motives and intents in these disclosures were sincere, Hedda, for I had just returned from Topeka, and I was grateful for what I'd learned in a 'mental clinic'. In a sense, I wanted to share my knowledge with others, mainly for the purpose of enlightenment, however small it might be."
"I had, in my own experience, felt a strong sense of shame and fear as I entered the psychiatric clinic for treatment; so I know and appreciate the stigma the great majority of people attach to emotional disturbances and their treatment. I had thus thought that of the thousands I could reach through this reporter, some of them must be as desperately unhappy as I had been; and I had hoped that a few of them would gain by reading about someone who had been in the same boat and had found of measure of happiness through psychiatry."
"To make a long story short, I earnestly but foolishly attempted to trace within the space of one newspaper column the step by step development of my own problems from my earliest childhood. I'll never forget the look on that reporter's face as he attempted to make sense out of the two-hour bombardment of rapid fire, disconnected mumbo-jumbo that went whistling by his head. When I read what he had somehow managed to piece together, I hastily prevailed upon his sense of fair play not to print it. You know, that reporter was really a very remarkable fellow. He did not call the clinic and ask them to get me back again post haste."
"Well, after all, Hedda, I spent six and half months of exhausting, albeit exciting, introspective research. Most of what I learned of myself and our mental processes was in the nature of an emotional appreciation, not an intellectual knowledge."
"Besides this, Hedda, I have neither the capacity nor the strength to become a 'teacher. I'm strictly a layman; nor am I selfless enough at this point in my life to crusade for truth. I'm too darn busy making my own mistakes and then trying to understand them. And anyway, who am I to say that psychiatry will help the next fellow. I don't know, I only know that with the help of psychiatry and psycho-analysis, I am now to a certain extent the driver instead of the driven."
"And now, if you don't mind. "I'll move off. My kids and I have to get a haircut."
Copyright Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune