"Independent is the word for Robert Walker -- and almost the only
word you can use for him without changing your mind the next minute. For he is a thousand contradictions; and only the fact of his
independence shines out sharp and clear. Perhaps in this lay the
curious bond of sympathy between Bob and Private Hargrove that
enabled him to portray so memorably the gentle individualist in 'See
Here, Private Hargrove.'"
shy and quiet,' say Bob's friends, who are the Keenan Wynns,
the Gene Kellys, Van Johnson and Mickey Rooney. 'He never talks
much; he sits in a corner by himself or he sits in a movie by
himself. Guess he's the home-body type.'"
all over town, talking and friendly,' say the headwaiters of
Hollywood, who watch life in their night clubs and restaurants. 'He's like mercury -- rushing around our places, table- hopping, in several spots in one night. Guess he's the night-club type!'"
Completely! And then, of course, if you want to go
back a few months to his arrival in Hollywood, there were those other opposite statements:"
the happiest husband and father in the West,' said all the
columnists and magazine writers. Then: 'He's a bachelor again!'
shrieked the newsboys. For presto! Robert Walker and Jennifer Jones had separated, without a word of warning or, in fact, a word of any kind. One minute they were living under one roof; the next Jennifer and the two babies were under that roof, but Bob was in a three-room apartment a few miles away -- in Beverly Hills. They were going to get a divorce."
his appearance is contradictory to his independent record in
life -- he looks like a quiet, skinny, bashful six-footer, with blue
eyes behind spectacles in a bony face...the face that has become
famous in 'Bataan,' 'Madame Curie,' 'See Here, Private Hargrove,' and now 'Since You Went Away' and 'Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo.' He has brown hair above a wide forehead, slim and active hands, and a grin as engaging as a friendly dog's tail. Behind the trailing smoke of his pipe he looks like anything but a man who lives entirely by his own rules; and yet he is that man. His life has been a struggle,
too -- the first sixteen years for attention, and the last few years,
but one, in the aching need for food. Yet always he's been
independent -- and contradictory. Just look and see:"
born in Salt Lake City, Utah, of a Mormon family. His father
was editor of the Deseret News at the time Bob put in an appearance, and three sons had arrived before him -- Wayne, Walter and Richard, who were admittedly the most attractive boys in town. Bob was immediately stamped as the only insignificant member of the family. He was hardly walking before adults were saying in his
presence, 'Isn't it a shame he's not handsome like his brothers? So
skinny and nervous -- and wearing glasses too. What a pity!'"
Bob didn't like pity -- nor insignificance. So he began
rebelling in his crib and by the time he was out of it he was the
problem child of Salt Lake City. At school the only way he could get
attention was by fighting, breaking windows and pulling hair -- and
he did all of these with such tenacious energy that he was expelled
at the age of six from school. Then his family moved to Ogden, with
his worried parents hoping aloud that in a new city Bob would become a new character. But he didn't. Again he was the terror of the school; and added to that he formed the habit of running away to
another town -- where he supported himself by selling papers until he was yanked home again."
Walkers were finally desperate. They scraped together enough
money to send him to a really disciplinary school -- the San Diego
Military Academy in California. But discipline was perfume to Bob's
nostrils and he was fast becoming the hoodlum of San Diego -- when he was stopped in midstream by the first woman who influenced his life, Mrs. Virginia Atkinson. She was the drama coach of the school and in this proudly arrogant, sensitive boy she was sure there was acting talent, if she could induce him to show it. Bob belligerently tried out for a play under her persuasion -- and for the first time in his life found solid ground under his feet. He was a superb actor. The realization that he could excel in something changed his personality overnight -- and by the time he graduated he was the most popular boy in school, the leading actor and scholar and president of his class. The stage had solved his problems of adjusting himself to life."
worse problems were only a few months away. Again they were
tied up with a woman -- and they were to create memories which he
could hardly escape, a few years later. She was Jennifer Jones
(though her name was then Phylis Isley), and she was a warm,
friendly, graceful girl whom he met the very first day he attended
the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City, where a
wealthy aunt had sent him after hearing his acting record at the San
Diego Military Academy. Above his tuition she'd given him nothing --
so Bob's courtship was conducted on a financial shoestring."
they were married, a year after they met, it was in her home
town of Tulsa, Oklahoma, on the vast sum of $200 which he'd saved
from a contract with a local radio station. Their one other asset
was a blue convertible, which was a wedding present from her
parents. But neither of them cared: They were in love, they were
young, and no doubt the world would soon awaken to their joint acting talents. They drove off toward Hollywood, where they thought the studios would probably fight for them."
months went by in Hollywood, with their larder getting emptier
every day. Then one evening after Bob had driven them both back to
their ramshackle cottage after another fruitless day of job-hunting,
he sat down in the living-bedroom and told himself bluntly that they
had only ten dollars left. He was still digesting this fact when he
became aware that Jennifer (who'd been acting mysteriously all day,
anyway) was standing in the kitchen doorway staring at him -- and
managing to look mysterious even now, with a frying pan in one hand. She finally revealed her mystery, 'Bob,' she said gently, 'we're
going to have a baby.'"
galvanized Bob into terrified action. The next morning he went
quietly out and sold their beloved car -- and that very afternoon
they left on the cheapest train available for the City of New York
he could say to Jennifer was, 'I'm sorry, dear,' when they stood
in the New York quarters they'd rented until he could find a job.
They had two small, dark rooms in Greenwich Village, for which they
were paying $16 a month."
dragged by, while their small capital got lower and lower.
Bob had long since given up his adored habit of smoking and every
morning he hurried past newsstands so he wouldn't be tempted to buy a paper."
one wonderful day, he got a four-line part in a radio show.
For it he received twenty dollars -- and he rushed home that evening,
tore up the three flights of stairs, and banged open the door to the
dark little rooms. 'Jennifer!' he shouted. 'I just made my first
acting money since we've been married -- and it inspired me. Our
luck's going to change, I know it! So, I've already done a few
her wrist and dragged her down three flights of stairs
with him again. At the curb before their rickety dwelling was a
dilapidated old coupe. Bob pointed it out proudly. 'I put a down-
payment on it -- it'll cost $75 altogether!' he was shouting. 'And I
also put a down payment on a miserable little cottage out on Long
Island. If we're going to be parents, we should be in the country.
Let's pack, right now!'"
did, and they left that night for 'the country,' which was Long
Beach. Jennifer bumped and rattled all the way out to their new home in their very old new car and winced involuntarily when she saw it. Bob winced too. It was a ramshackle little clapboard house and cold winds blew through every crack, and outside the wet fog sat over their roof. About four in the morning Jennifer prodded him awake. Even before she spoke he knew by her face that she was going to say. The baby was on its way -- brought on before schedule by that wild ride out there."
was another wild ride to the Forest Hills Hospital. Bob
watched the nurses take Jennifer into a doorway with his face working
and his stomach suddenly gone. He found himself silently making her
wild promises of success and security while he stalked alone up and
down the hospital corridors -- for exactly ten minutes. Then a
nurse, grinning widely, appeared and told him, 'Mr. Walker, you have
just had a son. Your wife is resting nicely. You can see her this
afternoon -- and you can go away now.'"
didn't leave the hospital on his feet -- he flew. By some
miracle of gravity he landed in his rattley car and by some miracle
of machinery he raced it into New York City -- singing boisterously
and uproariously the while. There he blew aggressively into two
radio stations...and to his compelte amazement landed two radio jobs
with two serials -- which meant steady money for months and big
money. This shock collapsed his wild spirits and by the time he saw
Jennifer he could only whisper feebly, 'Darling, I think we're going
to be a success after all.'"
it all the time,' said she softly, and fell asleep clutching
then on money came in bigger and bigger allotments. No fame
came with it, of course, since Bob was just playing younger brother
roles in a string of radio soap-operas."
Jennifer unexpectedly got her Hollywood contract after one
visit to David O. Selznick's private office in New York City. And
two weeks after she'd left for Hollywood with small Michael and
Bobby, Bob arrived breathlessly at one of his soap-operas and heard
magic words. They were spoken by a very ordinary fellow actor and
they were as follows: 'Say, Bob, why don't you go over to Metro-
Goldwyn-Mayer's office and test for some part in a picture
called 'Bataan'? If you got it you could be out in Hollywood with
went the minute the program was finished. There an official
told him, 'We're looking for an actor for a sailor role. He's
supposed to be very young, very intense and not so hot-
looking.' 'I,' said Bob positively, 'am your man.'"
test proved him out. Since then M-G-M has been steadily gaping
at its fine new actor and so has the public. Bob, the skinny six-
footer with problems ever since his birth one Friday the thirteenth,
had reached the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Bob had
in Hollywood, Bob and Jennifer continued to be the same people
they'd always been -- they didn't disturb the social surface of
Hollywood by so much as a ripple. They lived in seven comfortable
but simple rooms in the Bel-Air Estates (where Jennifer still lives
with the boys). Every morning they went in different directions to
work -- Bob on his motorcycle (because of gas rationing) headed for M-
G-M; and Jennifer in her small coupe went to David O. Selznick's
they were both home again and eating a quiet dinner
with no cocktails beforehand. After dinner you could never have
found them -- unless you drove slowly along the tree-lined roads near
their home, where they went for a nightly stroll. Back home again,
they read the papers, cued each other on the next day's lines -- and
went to bed. The last light was out at 9:30 each night."
of that, of course, was finished a few months ago. A few months
ago, Bob packed his bags and walked out of that house and away from
his dreams -- as completely as if he'd never been there at all. Or
was it completely? Not when there are two small Walkers left
behind...not when his wife was to be before his eyes every time he
opened a magazine or newspaper -- especially since her winning of the
Academy Award...not when five of the most important years of his life
are tied up in them and in her, and only six months are his alone..."
whoever at this point attempts to predict anything for the
Walker future comes strictly under the fools-rush-in department. All
that can be said with confidence is that Bob's future life should be
as interesting as his past."
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