Robert Walker’s Last Love – Kay Scott - What might have been?
Bob Walker met a new girl: a quiet, gentle divorcee named Kay Scott Nerney.
Not surprisingly, it was Jim Henaghan, by now emotionally involved with a woman of his own, who again played matchmaker.
Jim recalled, “I met Kay, a former starlet, through her mother, who was the switchboard operator at Paramount . She was a pretty young thing, quite affable and soft-spoken. I thought Bob might like her, so I set up an introduction. The two were suddenly inseparable. I know Kay wanted to marry him and that Bob wanted to remarry eventually. But before committing himself, he needed to be convinced of the wisdom of his choice. On the surface, Kay seemed happy with the relationship the way it was going.”
Coincidentally, producer Sam Marx who also knew Kay very well, says, “Kay was a rather delicate girl, charming too, they made a very lovely couple. She was devoted to Bob and I know that he must have been to her. According to Kay, however, Bob was still in need of psychiatric help, and certainly she was in a position to know."
“Kay was a talented writer, and she also wanted to try her hand at composing. I got her a job at Universal scoring a movie, but unfortunately the film never went into production."
“She was very knowledgeable about composers, and damned intelligent. She reminded me and others of a young Margaret Sullavan type: she had a mop of brownish blond hair, pert looks, and was a tiny five feet tall. I don’t think any man she knew failed to think highly of her. Everything about her slim figure and beauty reflected class. Bobby Walker’s feelings toward her were very, very strong.”
“Bob and Kay avoided nightclubs. He preferred spending intimate evenings at her house, listening as she played Chopin and Debussy on her piano. I’m surprised in a way that, when she and Bob came together, it wasn’t enough to set his life straight. I could tell how strongly she felt for him and I can only believe that he shared those feelings.”
Bob was already dating Kay exclusively when he received word that Paramount wanted him to play John Jefferson, the male lead in Oscar-winner Leo McCarey’s production of the controversial anti-Communist melodrama My Son John.
Kay Scott visited the set whenever she could and one Saturday afternoon, when he was filming a sympathetic scene, Bob brought Bobby and Michael, decked out in their spiffy academy uniforms, to Paramount . They had been dying to watch their dad making a movie, and he was so pleased by their approval that he encouraged the picture’s still photographer to take some shots of the three of them together as a memento of the afternoon.
As spring drew to a close, he looked forward to having Bobby and Michael with him for the entire summer. When he wasn’t on call for the picture, Kay and he would drive north in search of a suitable vacation retreat. To be suitable, such a retreat could be nothing less than a full-fledged ranch with ample stables. Ever since their stay in Colorado , the boys had talked endlessly about having their own horses.
Both Bob and Kay were a bit jaded by Hollywood and spent a lot of time together trying to escape from all the negative effects it had on them. Would this have been the “one” Robert was searching for? Would they have married?
On August 25, 1951 , Bob’s last weekend, after spending time with his boys, he took off to Kay’s, where they had a quiet dinner together, now a regular Saturday night ritual.
The next Tuesday, with Jim Henaghan present, Bob Walker was given an injection of sodium amytal by one of his doctors in order to quiet an emotional upset. He stopped breathing and no amount of resuscitation could bring him back. He was pronounced dead at age 32 on August 28, 1951 in his Sunset Drive home.
Kay Scott was left devastated by this loss.
In a final tribute, Jim Henaghan wrote about the people Robert Walker loved most at the time of his death and Kay Scott was mentioned, "I think that when he died he was in love with Kay Scott Nerney an actress and dark-eyed, sensitive beauty, who loved him and was always kind to him. They spent a good deal of time together and never tired of one another’s company. Ida Lupino was one of his dearest friends. He loved Lee Russell. She was his only date for two years, and, with me, she witnessed much of his misery before he went to Topeka. He had a great personal affection for Dore Schary and felt he owed him much. He worshiped Emily Buck, his housekeeper, a woman who was truly a part of his little family. And, he truly loved Pete, the houseboy and cook in his home. But most of all he loved his sons."
Who was Kay Scott? What became of her?
Kay Beverly Scott was born in Hollywood, California on August 12, 1927 .
Her mother, Simmone Scott, was a switchboard operator and receptionist in the writers’ building at Paramount Pictures for many years. Simmone was of French-Canadian ancestry born in Maine. She and her sister, Evelyn, came to Hollywood in the early 1920’s on a search for adventure. Both girls found jobs at Paramount as switchboard operators. Simmone met Ray Scott while working at the studio. Ray was of Scotch-Irish descent – born in Missouri , spent his boyhood in Chicago and moved to Los Angeles with his family when he was seventeen to work in motion pictures. Scott, was a scenario or “gag”writer and musician.
An event occurred in April 1929 that would frame Kay’s whole life. She was only 20 months old when her father, Ray, was killed in an airplane crash. One might say he was a daredevil and this time it proved deadly.
According to friends and witnesses, Ray Scott (25 years old), Mack Fluker (25 year old motion picture actor), and William H. Oviatt, Jr. (22 year old owner, pilot of the plane and nephew of silent film star Charles Murray) attended a Hollywood party at the apartment of actor Sayre Dearing on Saturday, April 27, 1929. Sayre later reported that the three talked of an airplane picture written by Scott, concerning the death of three aviators similar to that which was to take their own lives a few hours later.
No one will ever know if they were actually doing research for a movie about aviators or they were on an early morning joy ride. Oviatt did not hold a transport pilot’s license and his plane was not licensed. His aunt, Mrs. Charles Murray said, “He flew the ship to California from Falmouth Mass. last September and intended to fly back home within the next two weeks”.
A night watchman at Rogers Airport said they had been drinking and he pleaded with them to stay on the ground. “I didn’t want to let them have the plane, but Oviatt insisted,” Loftus declared. The three men borrowed goggles at the airport, wheeled the plane out onto the runway and flew away into the fog before 6 a.m. Sunday morning. Less than two hours later a group of Japanese gardeners near Mines Field, in Inglewood, heard a plane in the fog overhead. The Japanese told the police officers that the open three-place biplane (a Travelair Monoplane) suddenly appeared out of the fog, the motor sputtering, and the three men shouting and laughing.
The ship evidently had come down in a spin with the motor off but, Oviatt leveled off and gave it full throttle. Then, the Japanese said, one of the men leaned out of the cockpit and waved just before the ship nosed over and struck the ground with the motor roaring full on. The plane crashed in an oat field near Culver City near the site of Loyola College .
Flames immediately enveloped the wreckage and it was several hours before the charred bodies of the three men could be removed. Police were able to identify the bodies only after piecing together some charred cards found near the plane and by tracing the expensive roadster belonging to Scott’s father, in which the trio rode to Rogers Airport .
Ray’s mother (Mrs. E. W. Scott) said that Simmone had consulted a psychic two weeks before who warned her that Ray should not fly in Oviatt’s plane. Mrs. Scott said that they told Ray about this, but, “he just laughed and told us it was safe as walking.”
Ray’s remains were buried in Hollywood Cemetery .
Although Kay’s mother had help from her sister and Ray’s family - she basically raised Kay as a single mother and without a “father figure" in the home.
Kay’s life passion was music and the arts.
Her first grammar school training was in Hollywood . When her family moved to Beverly Hills she went to Beverly Vista grammar school and then Beverly Hills High School . Shortly after she entered the latter place of learning, she enrolled in the Bliss-Haydon Little Theater for dramatic schooling and began to appear in plays there. She also did some radio work, appearing in several teen-age roles in Columbia Broadcasting company’s “Corliss Archer” series.
Kay was practically raised on the Paramount lot. She visited almost daily on her way home from school. It was this closeness to studio life that influenced her to become an actress.
When Kay was offered a screen test, she decided to keep this from her mother and surprise her later. Mrs. Scott thought she was going to witness a Technicolor short when she was invited to the projection room one afternoon. Instead she witnessed her daughter doing a scene from a picture and doing it very well indeed. The next day, 16 year old Kay was given a term contract (April 1944).
Because of her familiarity with the lot and the people, she didn’t have to go through the period of readjustment, introductions, or getting used to the studio routine that most screen youngsters go through.
Her only credited acting role was in the motion picture, “Fear in the Night” ( Paramount 1947) where she played the small but significant role of Betty Winters.
On April 27, 1946, 18 year old Kay married Los Angeles automobile dealer, John Nerney. He was 10 years her senior. The marriage took place in the Church of the Good Shepherd in Beverly Hills. Nerney was the son of Mr. and Mrs. Hamlin Nerney at whose home a postnuptial reception was held. The couple left for a two-week honeymoon at Palm Springs. (Los Angeles Times – April 28, 1946)
The Los Angeles Examiner reported that when John’s brother Pat Nerney married Mona Freeman – Mona’s close friend, Kay Scott caught the bridal bouquet.
“Romance and spring are busting out all over for Kay Scott, pretty Paramount starlet, and John Nerney, brother of Pat Nerney. As his brother’s Best Man, John Nerney was standing right next to her as the bouquet fell into her arms. He reportedly asked, “What do you want to bet that you will be the next bride?” And what do you bet that John had a hunch the groom would be himself? ”Well, anyway, they’re getting married and, of course, with Mona and Pat standing up for them.”
John and Kay had two daughters together. In the fall of 1950 they separated. In a well publicized divorce that was granted in January 1951, Kay won a divorce on the grounds of mental cruelty. The headline read, “Piano-Playing vs TV Story Wins Divorce”.
“When Mrs. Kay Scott Nerney, 23 year old film actress, sat down at the piano, her husband, John Douglas Nerney, 34, automobile dealer, liked to turn on his television set.
That’s what she told Superior Judge Thurmond Clarke.”
“My husband objected to my playing classical music”, Mrs. Nerney testified. “He preferred television programs.” “Music has been a part of my life, but when I tried to play classics on the piano he turned on the television full force.”
“Mrs. Nerney also complained that her husband considered making money all important and often worked form 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. for weeks at a time, including Saturdays and Sundays. “
“She and Nerney, son of Hamlin W. Nerney, automobile distributor, were married in Beverly Hills, April 27, 1946, and parted last October 15.”
On Friday, May 1, 1959 Louella Parsons reported that Kay Scott had secretly married composer Leonard Rosenman on April 30th in Las Vegas.
Kay and Leonard lived abroad many years. She wrote the title music to the made-for-TV movie "Stranger on the Run" (Henry Fonda, Anne Baxter, 1967) and received an ASCAP award for it. She also collaborated with her husband on the score for "Beneath the Planet of the Apes" (1970). In 1970, she and Leonard were working together on a property - a remake of “Alice in Wonderland.” Kay worked on original songs and Leonard the score.
Tragically and unexpectedly Kay suffered a stroke and died after a short stay in the UCLA Medical Center on New Year’s Day, January 1, 1971 . She was only 43 years old and was survived by her husband Leonard Rosenman and two daughters from her marriage to John Nerney. Kay is buried in Westwood Memorial Park, Los Angeles.
A grief-sticken Rosenman wrote the music for a memorial to Kay performed by the Los Angeles Philharmonic.
Sam Marx (Hollywood writer and producer) recalls, “Years later, after she had married composer Leonard Rosenman, and was living in Italy , I ran into Kay on the Via Vento in Rome. We went to a charming café overlooking the Tiber and she reflected on Bobby (Walker), very sadly, admitting that although she was happy with Leonard, she had never forgotten that last night she had spent with Walker and often wondered about “what might have been.”