"Time for Robert Walker" by Thornton Delehanty
Photoplay - October 1945
"Robert Walker wears a
perpetually quizzical look, as if something were
always bothering him. He reminds you of the other half of Danny Kaye in
'Wonder Man,' Danny's twin brother who wears glasses, shrinks from the
crowd and likes to bury himself in a book.
This resemblance, however, is only superficial. Bob Walker has things
on his mind but he also knows how to handle his feet on a night club
dance floor. In other words, he is an intelligent fellow, a pretty
smart fellow, a lad who is neither all out for a good time nor all in
from having it.
He doesn't wallow in his popularity. He has too much sense for that.
In fact his increasing acclaim is one of the things he has on his mind,
it is one of the reasons for that perplexed and irresolute look.
First impressions don't mean much without second and third impressions.
If I had not seen Bob again after our first meeting, I would still be
thinking of him in terms of the non-goofy Danny Kaye. We met on the
set of 'The Clock.' I had gone there to see Judy Garland who was
working before the cameras. Bob Walker was sitting in a camp chair, off
in a dim corner, his head buried in a book. He didn't seem to be
interested in what was going on around him.
The publicity man said, 'Would you like to meet Bob Walker?' He didn't
wait for an answer. He called to Bob and Bob came over to us, book in
hand. We spoke a few words, something about the book he was reading.
He was very polite. I remember he made me feel a million years old when
he said 'Yes, sir' to some question I asked. I tried to console myself
afterward by thinking it was his extreme youth rather than my extreme
age which made him so respectful.
I know better, though. There is nothing extreme about Bob's youth.
This I discovered quickly enough on our second meeting. We had dinner
together at Romanoffs. Afterward we went back to my house and sat
around until midnight. It was a long evening but it passed quickly
enough and one of the reasons it passed quickly was that there was
plenty to talk about -- and plenty of variety in the talk.
Bob was excited because the night before he had had his first session
with a ouija board. He said he didn't go for that sort of thing, he's
not superstitious or gullible. But the ouija board had told him some
remarkable things. He and Judy Garland and Vincente Minnelli and one or
two others had started it as a game and someone in the group turned out
to be a good medium because the 'spirits' started rapping and banging
and pretty soon they were getting messages from departed relatives and
friends and then an old schoolmate of Bob's from Salt Lake City days got
into communication and told Bob about one of their acquaintances who had
met a violent death. Bob, just for the fun of it, asked, 'Was he
murdered?' and the spirit, with great rapping and excitement answered
Bob said that the ouija stuff was just an amusing game but nevertheless
he was going to write to his parents in Salt Lake to find out if they
knew any details of his acquaintance's demise.
That was the way our evening started. It was a slant on Bob's
personality, his enthusiasms, intensity and skepticism. He carries
these qualities over into his attitude toward himself and his career.
He feels the time has come for him to vary the roles he plays. He is
pretty sick of playing the naive kid. 'After all,' he said, 'I'm
With 'The Clock' it was different. His characterization of the soldier
in that picture was a more naturally written part than any he had had
before. 'It's the situations that make the difference rather than the
story,' he said. 'The kind of stuff I'm sick of doing is the 'Since You
Went Away' type, the gawky kid stuff. Now in 'The Clock' the soldier
was just as young in age but the dialogue was more sensitive and the
scenes more mature. He was a boy with a poetical sense or he could
never have played that scene in Central Park the way it was written.'
Bob Walker is a good example of the growing tendency among the younger
Hollywood actors to think in terms of their work and their careers
rather than in being movie stars. He is the younger counterpart of the
Bob Montgomerys, the James Cagneys and one or two others who fought for
the things they believed they could do rather than accept the easier way
of doing what they were told.
Bob is fussing around with an idea of starting some sort of producing
group that would give the younger actors a chance to play different
types of roles, an organization something on the lines of the Group
Theatre in New York where there was no star system and where the actors
would take turns, playing leading roles in one show and doing minor
characterizations in another.
He admits that the competition is tough and it's going to get tougher.
'Why not?' he said. 'Those of us who couldn't get into the war had our
chance and we're still having it. But fellows like Van Heflin -- and
he's a swell actor -- are back. And Jimmy Stewart, he'll be coming
back, too. That shouldn't hurt us because if we're any good at all
we're established by now.'
Bob doesn't look on himself as a raw youngster, and there is no reason
why he should. After all he is an ex-husband and the father of two
children, and you don't go through that without gaining experience. He
has rented a comfortable house in Mandeville Canyon, a secluded section
near Pacific Palisades, and a stone's throw from the home of Frederic
March. Bob has a tennis court and a colored man named Harry who cooks,
waits on the table when Bob brings a friend home to dinner, drives the
car and washes an occasional shirt. 'One of the best things about
Harry,' Bob says, 'is that he's too big to wear my clothes.'
Bob goes out to dinner two or three times a week. Until recently his
companion might have been Diana Lynn, or a Pasadena debutante, or any of
several popular girls around town. Now he is rarely seen except in the
company of Florence Pritchett, whom he met when he was in New York last
winter. They were together much of the time in the big city and when
Bob returned to Hollywood he was plainly at loose ends. Then Florence
came out on a newspaper assignment which was supposed to have kept her
in the film capital for a few days, but the visit stretched into weeks.
Bob's friends say that Florence is the only girl to whom he has been
consistently attentive since his break-up with Jennifer Jones.
He has great admiration for Vincente Minnelli, who directed him in 'The
Clock,' and for Vincente's wife, Judy Garland. Bob and Judy's
friendship dates from shortly after the time Bob separated from his
wife. Bob was lonely then and so was Judy and the two of them used to
sneak off together and explore the lesser-known jitterbug spots in Los
Angeles, places where they could mingle with the kids around town
without attracting attention.
Judy tells the story of one of these excursions when they started home
after a night of dancing. Judy says that Bob is a terrible driver and
that on this night he was worse than ever. Apparently he sensed that
she was nervous. They stopped at a drive-in for a sandwich and when
they went back to the car he asked her is she would like to drive.
'I didn't want to hurt his feelings,' Judy said, 'but I jumped at the
wheel, I was so relieved. We hadn't gone a couple of blocks when I
turned a corner too short. The wheel hit the curb and a tire blew out.
There we were at two o'clock in the morning and nobody in sight. Bob
walked back to the drive-in and started phoning. He finally got hold of
a garage man and told him where we were. Bob came back and we sat in
the car for an hour. The man arrived at last. It was broad daylight
when we got home.'
Dwight Taylor, the well-known screen writer son of Laurette Taylor,
tells a story which shows Bob's lack of conceit.
Taylor put on a show in New York in 1938 called 'Where Do We Go From
Here?' -- a play about high-school-fraternity life. One day an agent
came to the theater with a serious-looking youth wearing horn-rimmed
glasses. Taylor was struck by the boy's earnestness and he engaged him
for a small part. Shortly after the show opened, Taylor returned to
Hollywood. The show was not much of a success and Taylor never gave it,
or the boy whom he had engaged, another thought.
Last year Taylor dropped into a lunch-counter restaurant in Hollywood.
Over in the corner sat a boy with horn-rimmed glasses. The boy looked
familiar but Taylor couldn't place him. In telling this story Dwight
Taylor said, 'You must remember I hardly ever go to pictures except the
ones I am connected with. On my way out of the restaurant I stopped and
spoke to this kid -- and then I remembered him vaguely from my show.
'I asked him what he was doing in Hollywood. He said he was under
contract to M-G-M. I said, 'Gosh, that's swell. I'm there, too, and
I'll be glad to do anything I can to help you. I'm writing a screen
play with a part in it you might do. It's a small part but it's better
'There was a peculiar look on his face as he thanked me, but I didn't
pay any attention to it at the time. Later, when I was back at the
studio I described this guy to a producer. The producer said, 'Is his
name Bob Walker by any chance?' Even then the name didn't mean
anything to me, but that afternoon the producer sent to my office a huge
batch of clippings and photographs all about Bob Walker. You can
imagine how I felt when I saw the reviews and fan stories.
'Well, I rushed right over to Walker's dressing room and told him what a
dope I was. I started to explain that I had been out of touch with
movies, but he cut me off with a laugh.
'What difference does it make?' he said, "I'm trying to be an actor, not
That's the truth about Bob Walker.