"That New Boy Bob Walker" by Rachele Randall. Screenland - October 1943
"Bob Taylor was having a shine in the M-G-M barbershop.
we're going to sneak 'Bataan' at Huntingdon Park tonight,' a producer
said from beneath a coat of shaving lather in the next chair."
"'Swell, thanks,' said Bob, jumping up. 'I've got to get to a
telephone right away. Promised young Bob Walker I'd let him know.'"
"Two hours later Bob Taylor was at the studio auto gate to meet
Walker, who has done the unheard of by starting his film career 'on
top of the heap.' A real Horatio Alger, if Hollywood ever saw one."
"'Come along in my car,' said Bob T. to Bob W."
"'I think you'd better come along with us,' Bob Walker replied,
you don't mind.'"
"Bob T. opened the door. To his surprise, sitting low in the seat
was Mrs. Walker -- who is, as you know, Jennifer Jones."
"'Phil (Bob wooed and won her and married her when her name was
and he still calls her Phil) isn't supposed to be going to previews
until her picture, 'The Song of Bernadette,' is finished. But she
couldn't resist. She had to come along,' Bob W. explained to Bob T."
"So it was the three of them sat in the Huntington Park theater
saw 'Bataan'. Bob Taylor's name flashed on the screen. There was a
hearty round of applause. Bob W. glanced over at Bob T., half-
wondering to himself if Hollywood wasn't still a dream. He knocked
on the wood of the arm rest of his seat. Here he was! Bob Taylor,
Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz on his left. The newly acclaimed Miss
Jennifer Jones, his very own Phil, on his right. He was about to see
what kind of a movie actor this Bob Walker would prove to be."
"'Phil squeezed my hand when I came on the screen. Personally
a very uncanny feeling,' Bob W. said. 'She kept pinching my hand
excitedly. She was rooting for me, as she always has. Even when the
going was toughest -- when Hollywood turned us down flat and we had
to return to New York and live in a one-room apartment and share the
bath with four families -- Phil never for a moment let me down. She
was always there -- encouraging, believing in me. A fellow can't be
a complete bust with a wife like that.'"
"Needless to say the sneak preview of 'Bataan' only confirmed
opinion of the executives of the studio, who had run it earlier in a
projection room of M-G-M. When young Bob Walker came on the screen,
one producer nudged another -- and the nudges went right down the
row, with elation at the discovery of a new star. Louis B. Mayer had
done it again! Bob Walker was a natural. As for the preview cards,
they were ninety percent raves for Bob W."
"The next day Bob was put into 'Madame Curie' as the juvenile
interest of Academy Award Winner Greer Garson, to share third billing
in another of the studio's most important pictures of the year. And
then, as if Lady Luck hadn't sufficiently indulged him already, young
Bob W. was announced for the title role in 'See Here, Private
Hargrove' -- and slated in advance for the lead in the next Judy
"Not even Bob Taylor or Clark Gable ever had such phenomenal luck.
What actor ever has so quickly zoomed to stardom?"
"'It's just a fluke, my being in pictures at all,' Bob said. Bob
24, six feet tall, lean and broad-shouldered, with a mop of light
brown, unruly curly hair. His eyes are light blue, and dimples flash
on his bronzed cheeks when he smiles -- reminding you of Dennis
Morgan. It is with particular pride that we write this introduction
of Bob -- for he is from our own home town, Ogden, Utah. We went to
the same school, Central Junior High. For the past four years, when
Bob summer-vacationed at home with his parents, the Ogden Standard
Examiner gave him a glowing write-up. A write-up that said the usual
thing: The home-town boy who was on the radio in New York, who had a
"'It was sort of embarrassing for a while,' Bob admitted. 'Each
summer when I came home, the paper would call and ask the same
questions. I could only give the same answers. Nothing new or
spectacular. I think they were just being very polite.'"
"'I never thought all of this could happen, myself,' he went
on. 'Four years ago we came out here to Hollywood, Phil and I, and
we got the royal brush-off. This time, I was before the cameras the
second day after I arrived.'"
"'I had given up all thought of motion pictures for myself,' Bob
admitted frankly. It was late afternoon. Bob had been called into
the publicity department. Five magazine interviews were lined up
with dozens of requests for Bob Walker art and material. Our
conversation was very informal -- for we had mutual interests to
discuss. Without any flossy questions or anticipated replies with
chosen words, I wanted to know all about Bob. At the same time, it
so happens that this is his first interview."
"'Phil had been signed for 'Song of Bernadette' and she was expecting
to leave for Hollywood momentarily. I had a good number of radio
shows in New York. In fact, I was doing all right. But I didn't
want us to be separated. Phil in Hollywood and me in New York, 3000
miles between us. We've always been together.'"
"'I was thrilled, more thrilled perhaps when Phil got her chance
first, than when mine came. I was eager for her to continue her
career. Please understand, we didn't want to be separated. Rather
than be apart, I decided to chuck my radio shows and come with her.
I felt reasonably sure I could get radio work in Hollywood.'"
"'However, my agent in New York suggested, 'Why don't you take
fling in pictures too, Bob? They need new leading men.' It was on
his persuasion that we went over to New York's M-G-M office,' Bob
continued. 'It so happened that Mr. Mayer was in New York. I was
taken in for an interview. The next day I was making a test. And by
the fifth day I was told to leave immediately for Hollywood!'"
"'In one day Phil and I stored our furniture. She took the children,
Bobby and Michael, and went west. I followed as soon as possible.
Before we could unpack in Hollywood, there I was before the camera
with Bob Taylor, Thomas Mitchell, George Murphy, Lloyd Nolan, Lee
Bowman and Desi Arnaz. Sounds like fiction, doesn't it?' Bob smiled
that engaging grin that's going to captivate college co-eds and loyal
little Rosie-the-Riveters from coast to coast."
"'Gas rationing was scaring everyone from renting big houses in
Hollywood,' he added. 'Everyone was taking small apartments close
in. We couldn't find a small house or a small apartment anywhere.
Here's another amazing thing that happened. A real estate agent
offered us the former home of Tyrone Power (where he lived before he
married Annabella) for much less money than a small house. So here
we are in Hollywood a few short weeks -- Phil playing the lead in a
best-seller, and me starting the lead in a best-seller, and living in
Tyrone Power's house in Bel Air! And having Bob Taylor, such a swell
fellow, for a friend -- and me making cinema love to Greer Garson!'"
"Bob shook his head -- and laughed right out loud. 'Just doesn't
"But this in only part of the most amazing story to come out of
Hollywood in a decade. To start it all, we must start right back at
the beginning. Back in Ogden, Utah, when I knew Bob -- when!"
"Bob was born in Salt Lake City. His father was a newspaper editor.
Then the family moved to Ogden. At Central Junior High School, Bob
was the despair of his teachers. Bright, intelligent, but too active
to pore over books. 'At math I was terrible.' D. H. Adams, our
principal, was a kindly man, seasoned through forty-five years of
handling young people in school. 'If young Walker ever hits his
stride, he'll do all right,' he used to say. 'He's an energetic
youngster. Just needs to get himself set.'"
"But Bob cut one shenanigan too many. His family despaired of
poor grades. And when his aunt, Hortense Oldum of New York, who owns
and runs Bonwit Teller, came to Ogden for a summer visit, she was
Lady Bountiful personified, as far as her young nephew was
concerned. She offered to send Bob to the San Diego Army and Navy
Academy. A bit of military discipline, no doubt, would straighten
out all his youthful perplexities. It did."
"'I took dramatic art at school, because I thought it would be
the easiest courses to get through,' Bob admits. 'Instead, for the
first time in my life, I found something I liked to do.'"
"The dramatic teacher was elated with Bob. She encouraged him
make it a life job. In fact, he stayed at the Military Academy five
years -- just to work with this drama coach. His talent won two
scholarships to the Pasadena Community Playhouse. But Aunt Hortense
again stepped in as Lady Bountiful, and offered to send him through
the American Academy of Dramatic Art in New York."
"This was in 1937. Bob stopped off in Ogden on the way East. And
the paper published his picture: Home-town boy going to Broadway,
was the caption. Gifted young actor for whom big things were
predicted by genial editor Glen Perrins."
"Two summers later, Bob came home again. This time with one of
prettiest girls Ogden had ever seen tucked under his arm. Bob's
bride, said the society item that announced the young couple were on
"Miss Jones professionally, she was. To Bob -- Phil. She also
an aspiring young actress. They had attended classes together at the
American Academy in New York. They had rehearsed together -- played
scenes, read plays, and dreamed of a future in the vacillating
fortunes of the theater -- together."
"Bob had a cycloramic story to tell. About Broadway. Starving
art's sake. How he had lived in a cooperative lodge where he worked
for his bed. How his brother had finally staked him to ten dollars a
week -- every cent of which went for food and clothing. An actor,
even an aspiring one, must eat, and must have satorial appeal.
Front -- that's it. Good clothes for front to attract a producer.
To make Broadway visualize him as a young matinee idol. But in spite
of daily pounding the pavement, Bob had to admit that Broadway wanted
none of him."
"It was a case of real love between Bob and Miss Jones. There
money for a dashing courtship. Just walks in Central Park, strolls
along Broadway, hunting books and poring over plays in the public
library. Sometimes a sandwich at the Automat."
"Their first acting job was the occasion of jubliant rejoicing:
spot in a play at the Cherry Lane Theater in Greenwich Village at
fifty cents a performance."
"Of course Ogden heard the news. Bob might as well have been leading
man to Katharine Cornell, the way the notice in the home-town paper
went, with its glowing account of Bob's performance."
"Then Miss Jones' home town, Tulsa, Oklahoma, offered her the
leading lady in a radio stock company. Of course she suggested Bob
as the leading man. For fourteen weeks of their radio engagement,
Bob scrimped and saved his $25 per -- and gathered the courage to
propose to Miss Jones, to share his very uncertain future."
"So they were married. Miss Jones' parents gifted the bridal pair
with a sleek, big, high-powered black convertible Packard. And they
drove in splendor to Hollywood -- stopping off, as I've said, in
Ogden. The future seemed glorious. Besides their press clippings
from the radio stint, they were armed to the teeth with letters.
Letters to very important agents in Hollywood -- from very important
people in New York. How could they possibly miss? Aunt Hortense,
whose firm owned heavy stock in RKO, sent a letter -- not only of
introduction, but asking for a screen test."
"'Our letters didn't mean a thing,' Bob said. 'They were all from
relatives. The addressees took them politely enough and said, 'We'll
see what we can do.' At RKO we were hastily ushered in -- and out.
That's all, brother! We never did see our test. And we wondered if
actually there had been any film in the cameras. The worst way to
try to crash Hollywood is to come as the protegees of relatives. I
guess the studios are run ragged with letters of introduction from
their relatives of relatives of relatives!'"
"'Phil and I began auditioning for agents -- anyone. Seeing how
were graduate actors of accredited schools, we would audition with
heavy stuff. Like Ibsen's 'Ghosts.' Stuff that was too heavy and
actually not our type. If we'd picked something like 'Our Town' --
or just been ourselves -- we might have clicked.'"
"'I landed a job reading scripts at $35 a week for a literary
We couldn't get Hollywood to give us a tumble. Finally we sold our
car and returned to New York.'"
"This time the Bob Walkers didn't stop off in Ogden. It would
been a bit embarrassing, after those glowing write-ups, predicting
movie stardom that had preceded their Hollywood endeavor."
"'It may be the vogue to live in Greenwich Village when you're
actor, but not the way we lived,' Bob laughed. 'We lived in a
tenement house and shared the bath. We had the kind of sink that is
covered by a drain board and is the major part of the kitchen. It
was hot and stuffy in summer, cold in the winter. But as Phil said,
Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt, the wife of the President of the United
States, had a Village apartment down the street. We had atmosphere!
Phil had Tinker, her puppy, and Polly the parrot -- and she had a way
of making even that little room look homey and inviting. It was a
wonderful place to come home to every night. When our resources were
very low I got another job reading scripts at $35 a week.'"
"'Bobby came along. That was three years ago. And Phil decided
quit her career for the time being and have our family all together.'"
"'Being a father gave me a full sense of responsibility. I had
make more money. I had to get something steady. I attended a weekly
audition for unknowns and seemed to go over pretty well. I landed a
part on the radio in 'Yesterday's Children' at twenty dollars.'"
"'At Christmas time we'd go to dinner at the home of our rich
relatives -- and we'd feel very poor and very unimportant,' Bob
said. 'I know my family often must have thought that acting was a
poor profession, that I should get into business, something more
stable. Instead, I kept getting more and more radio skits -- until
finally I was doing five shows a day on the air. Including 'March of
Time' and 'Aldrich Family.'"
"'In fact, by the time our second son, Michael, who is now two,
born, we were very comfortable. We had a very nice apartment, and
money we might have spent on night clubs we invested on good
furniture of our own. We had bought a car again to take the kids to
the beach in the summer. It was a little flivver, but it looked
almost better to us than our original wedding present, which we had
so hated to sell in Hollywood.'"
"'Life was pretty wonderful. Phil and the two babies were well
contented. I had plenty of work. We had a good trusty woman to care
for our children. So I was happy when Phil said she wanted to return
to her career. I wasn't unmindful of those dreams we'd dreamed
together in the beginning. Her interest was the theater, too.'"
"'Selznick signed Phil -- and later she was cast for 'Bernadette,'
you know. Then I went to the M-G-M office. The salary they offered
didn't awe me. Playing several shows a day in radio was all right.
Some of my friends in New York now are making around a couple of
thousand a week. But I signed at a comparatively small firgure to
come to Hollywood with Phil.'"
"'Everything's worked out wonderfully now,' Bob
said. 'After 'Bataan' the studio tore up my original contract and
gave me a swell one at good money.'"
"Of course the news flashed to Ogden and the paper. 'I felt really
good this time to see that the editor could honestly be justified in
what he printed about me,' Bob said. 'Living up to home-town
predictions is pretty terrific. They ran my picture with Bob
Taylor. Some break!'"
"The Walkers have been kept so busy at work since their Hollywood
advent they have not had time to go to Hollywood parties or night
spots with the young movie set. Bob says they are the 'home-type.'"
"'Phil and I read scripts to each other. We study every night.
there's the two little fellows. They had a real thrill the other
day. Made their first news break in Louella Parson's column. They
went to a party and were mentioned as the sons of the Bob Walkers.'"
"'Had to send that home to Mother for her scrap book!' Bob said