"New Stars Over Hollywood"


 Robert Walker




At first glance, it’s easy to see why happy-go-lucky, friendly Robert Walker -- himself, in person, not a moving picture -- is one of the best-liked young men in all Hollywood. But, at second glance, it’s hard to see why this gangling, grinning, bespectacled six-footer should have had such a rapid rise to fame in the world outside. Obviously, however, a newcomer who could and did “steal” his very first film -- from no less than Robert Taylor -- is someone definitely to be reckoned with.

From the day his first “rushes” were viewed, less than two years ago, cinema seers have predicted that here was the most promising masculine discovery M-G-M had made since it unearthed Mr. Taylor himself. And Walker has done nothing to prove them wrong -- from his initial success in “ Bataan” (his first film), through his title-role performance in “See Here, Private Hargrove” (his third), to his formal elevation to M-G-M stardom last June.

All this has been the lot of a lad who, throughout his first 21 years of life, was virtually voted least-likely-to-succeed in any venture. As a child, Bob was dreamy, difficult to handle, showed little talent and less ambition. Later, when he developed a desire to act, he was turned down by stage producers for being too thin, by movie moguls for having too-irregular features.

It wasn’t as though the slim individualist’s family didn’t have the wherewithal to provide plenty of butter -- plus jam -- for his bread. His father, Horace Walker, was city editor of a large newspaper in Salt Lake City, where Bob made his bow. His aunt was chairman of the board for one of the big Fifth Avenue stores in New York City, where Bob later attended the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. If the boy wasn’t born with a golden spoon in his mouth, he at least had a full complement of family silver -- which he showed a dismaying tendency to handle without any regard for the rules of tradition!

Maybe it was because Bob was born on a Friday the thirteenth. Maybe it was because --as he himself has suggested -- he was the baby of four brothers and no sisters, and thus completely baffled when he was unleashed in a world of little women during his first days at school. He teased the girls and made them cry, was forever being expelled from classes and running away from home.

All this was an odd beginning for a chap whose later success has admittedly owed so much to women. It was his aunt who offered to send him to military school in San Diego, where Bob first found a focus for his exuberant energies, first proved there was something in which he could excel, when he captured a highly emotional role in a class play. It was his drama instructress there who encouraged him in the new field, gave him every opportunity to prove his talents, until he rewarded her by winning the top acting award in a state-wide tournament.

And it was a tall slim brunette -- now known to movie fans as Jennifer Jones -- who helped him get launched on a real career in the theatre. They met in drama classes in New York, rehearsed together, looked for jobs together. During this period, there was only one time Bob rebelled -- he shipped on a banana freighter, the summer Jennifer went home to play in her family’s stock company.

When both returned to New York, they got acting jobs at the noted Cherry Lane Theatre in Greenwich Village (for fifty cents a night), nearly starved until Jennifer received an offer to become leading lady of a new radio station, back in Tulsa, and solved the going-to-sea problem by taking Bob with her as her leading man. They were married in Oklahoma, January, 1939, received a fine automobile as a wedding present, soon drove it west for a try at Hollywood. Nothing came of that, so they headed back to New York -- where sale of the cherished car and Bob’s occasional roles in radio serials kept them going through the next lean years, while Jennifer took time out to produce two sons before resuming her own career.

The rest is movie history and reads like a fairy tale -- except for the traditional happy ending. Jennifer and Bob got their bids to go to Hollywood just two weeks apart, temporarily solving the problem of whether or not they would be separated by their careers. The actual separation came later, when both were progressing rapidly in the cinema capital. No one knows quite when or why the newcomers decided to move into separate homes. The film colony may never know the real reason for this O. Henry twist to its favorite double-feature success saga.

All that Hollywood knows for certain is that it has two remarkable boxoffice personalities on its willing hands, and that one of them turned his biggest liabilities into assets. The early problem child, the too-thin young actor, has proved to be just exactly the disarmingly different, wholly lovable fumbler that America wants to see on the screen.






For anyone to become a legend in today’s blasé Hollywood is no slight achievement. For a girl in her early twenties, it’s nothing short of a minor miracle. Yet Jennifer Jones -- tall, timid and none-too-beautiful by current glamour standard -- turned the trick in just two pictures. An unassuming actress, adoring mother of two husky little boys, the willowy brunette has become screenland’s Mademoiselle X without half trying.

The Jones legend started off with a terrific boost when Jennifer was cast as a saint in her first big role, starred in her first big picture, “The Song of Bernadette.” She was an unknown quantity then and, in Hollywood’s eyes, remains an unknown quantity still, even though her subsequent performance as a modern American miss in “Since You Went Away” proved that the one-time Phylis Isley of Tulsa, Oklahoma, was in the star ranks to stay. Jennifer is probably just being herself, but cinema citizens -- who have had plenty of experience watching Hepburns, Garbos and Dietrichs “being themselves” -- have found this youngster most unpredictable of all.

A newcomer in need of publicity, Jennifer proved difficult to interview, was seldom seen by the outside world. One of the first glimpses the public had of its new Cinemarella was at the “Bernadette” premiere -- where the brown-eyed, brown-haired actress herself first saw her performance on the screen. (The story goes that 20 th Century-Fox, who borrowed her from contract-owner David O. Selznick, had kept the novice star from viewing the daily “rushes,” for fear she might lose that luminous quality which later won her the Academy Award.)

And then the former student of the Sisters of St. Benedict at Monte Cassino Junior College (back in Tulsa) electrified everyone by quietly separating from husband Bob Walker, after some five years of marriage! No explanations were given. No romance rumors ensued. Hollywood gave up trying to figure it all out -- particularly when Jennifer and Bob gave glowing performances as sweethearts, opposite each other in “Since You Went Away.”

The few who know Jennifer well have also found her a paradox in private life. Decidedly a home-loving person, she still can’t cook, is a poor housewife -- and shows up at the night-clubs about once a month, as gay as anybody. Admittedly lazy, addicted to day-dreaming and sun-bathing, she has worked hard, has considerable stage experience behind her. Daughter of the owner-director of the Isley Stock Company, she has played with tent shows and road shows, studied dramatics in Chicago and New York, and even tried her luck (briefly) on Broadway.

More than five-and-a-half feet tall, she adores wearing high heels, plays with sons Bobby and Michael as though they were all the same age. And that’s probably the key to the Jones legend -- Jennifer’s just a “little girl,” with all the sunny dignity and self-respect of youth, who finds picture-making fun, just so long as she can continue to be herself.


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