"The Mystery of Bob Walker" by Florabel Muir - Modern Screen June 1948

"Consider the mystery of Robert Walker, one of the strangest men in
Hollywood. He's a guy with a million romances, but they say he's
still in love with his ex-wife. He's a man who wants to act, but
he's turned down parts any other actor would have hocked his soul
for. (A lead in 'State of the Union', for instance.)"

"He's disappeared for long stretches at a time, and neither family,
friends nor studio could track him down, or lure him back."

"He's behaved at all times the way he's felt like behaving; he's
never conformed, he's never tried to."

"He went straight to the top, stayed there a while, and then very
calmly walked out. Nobody in Hollywood understood Walker but that
wasn't strange, because Walker didn't understand himself."

"A few months ago, he went to the head men at Metro-Goldwyn-
Mayer. "Take me off the payroll," he said. "I'm through with movies
for good."

"Listen, Bob," one of them said, "take some time and think it over.
Go to New York, do a play -- but quit talking nonsense. Hollywood is
where you belong."

"Walker shook his head stubbornly. "Take me off the payroll. I'm
not working, and I'm not going to work."

"You can't work for any other outfit," he was warned. "Your contract
belongs to Metro."

"I understand that. I'm not asking you to tear up my contract. I
just want it clearly understood that as far as pictures are concerned
I'm all washed up. Through."

"It was shortly thereafter that Frank Capra sent for Bob and offered
him the part of the young newspaperman in 'State of the Union'. He
wasn't interested. That was a break for Van Johnson who was tickled
to get the role. Then the studio wanted Bob for a top part in its
massive Technicolor production of 'The Three Musketeers'. He said no

"Now Bob has one very close pal in Hollywood. He's Jimmy Henaghan, a
bright young man with a bubbling sense of humor, who works at
Paramount breathing life into dead scripts. I doubt if anyone
(outside of Bob's father and mother and aunt) shares Bob's confidence
to the extent that Jimmy does. When it looked as though Bob's career
was about to crack up, Jimmy felt terrible."

"Listen, fella, what's eating you?" he asked."

"I'm just sick and tired of playing Private Hargrove," Bob
said. "I'm sick of playing a callow and eager young man."

"I think you're crazy," Jimmy said. "You're a great actor. Makes no
difference what role you play. Look, I've got a suggestion. Try
comedy. You can be the new Harold Lloyd!"

"Bob listened, but turned away."

"Guess I'll take a trip back home to Utah," he said, and that's what
he did. For weeks he just visited around with relatives at Ogden,
Utah, seeing boys and girls he'd grown up with, renewing the scenes
of his youth. Bob is very sensitive; he began to realize that he was
one of the most fortunate of mortals. He saw struggle, and made up
his mind to ease it. He saw talent that was destined to lie fallow,
and determined to do something constructive about it. There is no
balm so gracious to the groping, discontented soul as the sudden
knowledge that there is blessedness in helping others. Bob began
edging away from the egocentric orbit that was threatening him."

"Here I am making more money that I know how to use," he said to
himself, "and here is a chance to bring happiness and opportunity to
kids who are just like I was a few years ago."

"He came back to Hollywood with a completely new philosophy of
living. Whatever it was that had almost got him down, he was
determined to lick it!"

"He went to live in his beach house in Malibu, he spent hours
chinning with the deputies at the sheriff's Malibu office. Any
weekday night a dancehall patron might have seen a slender young man
with thick horn-rimmed glasses playing the drums up in the orchestra
stand. That was Bob, anonymous, getting to meet the people."

"About that time Hollywood, which always has an ear to the ground for
romance, began to bandy the rumor that Walker and Lee Marshall,
Herbert Marshall's ex, were a serious item. It was not the case, and
I suspect that Bob resented being made the subject of gossip. It's a
long time now since he's been seen with Lee."

"Jennifer Jones had to obtain Bob's permission before she could take
their two boys on a vacation to Switzerland, and Bob gave permission
readily enough but their departure left another yawning emptiness in
his life."

"When the boys went away, and a black moroseness was threatening
again to overtake Bob, his father and mother came from Ogden to make
their home in Hollywood. Walker pere has been an active newspaperman
and editor all his career, but recently his heart began to show
indications of weakness and the physician prescribed retirement and
rest. Their coming was a lifesaver for Bob."

"Professionally, Walker was still at loose ends. Then he was handed
the script of 'One Touch of Venus' and that may prove eventually to
have been the turning point."

"Lester Cowan took the property to the head man of Universal-
International and said, "There's only one actor who really should
play the male lead, and that's Robert Walker. There's no hope of
getting him from M-G-M, but we can dream."

"Bob read the script and he was immediately sold. The role of the
bewildered young window-dresser appealed to him immensely. The deal
was made."

"As this story is written, Bob is well along in his new role and
there isn't a more contented young star in Hollywood. A great
friendship has sprung up between him and the director, veteran
William Seiter. He's on terms of easy camaraderie with Ava Gardner,
who is enjoying the finest opportunity of her career as Venus."

"Ava Gardner's relationship with Bob as of today is just about the
pleasantest of her career. They're pals. They love working together
and each is constantly trying to inspire the other. I don't believe
there's been a night since they started working together that they
haven't gone somewhere to dine -- often to Ava's house. Both deny
there's a romance, but I wouldn't sell 'em too short."

"But turning away from romance to some more facts about Bob -- did
you know he had an amazing wardrobe, more extensive, his friends say,
than any other star's, including Adolphe Menjou? At least fifty
suits, and everything made to his specific order. No price is too
high for him to pay for anything he particularly wants, but he's no
spendthrift. Bob is mightly careful with a buck, haggles like a
horse trader with people trying to sell him things, especially
automobiles. He doesn't gamble much but hates to lose and is a
reluctant payer."

"Bob will confess to you naively that he once had exceedingly slender
hopes of accomplishing anything in the theater or the movies. His
eyes are very weak, and he can scarcely see without the aid of
powerful lenses, certainly a handicap before the camera. In an
outdoor sequence of 'Bataan', I once watched him running pellmell
down the side of a hill with a lot of other players and extras and I
give you my word he crashed into every tree on the way down."

"Nobody works harder on a script than Bob. When he goes in front of
the camera, he's always letter perfect. I've found out while
observing the Hollywood scene that set workers are among our smartest
critics of acting. That's because they work in pictures all the time
and have seen the best. Praise from juicers, gaffers and grips is
praise indeed, and these hardboiled observers agree that Bob is tops."

"Hollywood had the axes and hammers out for Bob Walker, and not so
long ago. Hollywood doesn't understand and often doesn't try to
understand. Hollywood is a worshipper of success and a despiser of
failure, and takes no account of a sensitive individual's fight to do
the things he knows he must do. Let's face it -- Bob was hard hit
when he lost Jennifer. I really believe that until not long ago he
cherished the hope that one day he and Jennifer might get back
together again."

"The other night I saw Bob at a party and talked with him. The
subject that had him brooding at the moment was Hollywood party
girls. He has a vast pity for them -- pretty moths of the night
mostly without too much character or backbone, they come to Hollywood
to make their careers and soon succumb to the lure of the flame."

"Girls arrive here," Bob said, "fresh and unspoiled and soon they
become hard and disillusioned. The town really gives them a bad time
and they think they're getting a great break. It's pathetic, and I've
seen so many of them fall by the wayside."

"Injustice stirs the Walker temper to heights. A newspaperman came
to Hollywood not long ago, and Bob and I were talking together about
him. "There's a guy I don't like," he said. "When I was eleven
years old I made a deal to mow his lawn one summer. I worked like
the dickens and he never paid me. That guy still owes me two dollars
and a half."

"And a word to the wise: don't make the mistake of opposing Bob
Walker in a fistic or rough and tumble encounter. He carries a
righthand punch like the kick of an army mule and his left is chain
lightning. Also because he's so terribly nearsighted, he gets in
close to get a bead on his target. Jimmy Henaghan assures me that as
an infighter he is deadly."

"He has put on the gloves for a finish bout with Life now, and maybe
Bob will solve his own mystery."

Copyright Modern Screen

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