"Second Chance" by Maxine Block - "Motion
Picture" - November 1949

"Robert Walker is getting his biggest break...a chance to start life over."

"After six and a half months of intensive psychiatric treatment at the
Menninger Foundation at Topeka, Kansas, Robert Walker is back making pictures
in Hollywood. And after talking with him it's easy to see that the best thing
that ever happened to him was his decision, last fall, to seek that treatment."

"Bob doesn't mind being the first Hollywood problem star to admit he's gone to
psychiatry for help. Last year, after the shocking series of newspaper
photographs and headlines about his escapades, he was a lost and desperate man.
Then his good friend and boss, Dore Schary of MGM, urged him to give
psychiatry a try."

"Schary told me," said Bob, "that if you slip and fracture an ankle, you
immediately call a doctor. In the same way, if you break down temporarily
under personality disorders which make it impossible for you to live at peace
with yourself and your fellow man, you go to a psychiatrist. And there is no
need for any hush-hush about it. Enlightened people know that illness can
strike anywhere in the body, and mental conflicts are no more shameful than
stomach ulcers."

"It's easy for an interviewer to talk to him now, which it wasn't before.
Lanky, curly-haired, near-sighted Bob has a new look of serenity and peace."

"I don't mind talking about the clinic," he said. "There are many things I'd
like to say. In fact, I'd like to reveal my whole case history in the sense of
presenting a word picture of cause and effect in a neurotic. But there are
many reasons why I'm unable to do so."

"Let me explain by telling you a story of something that happened recently. A
columnist came to see me and expressed a desire to do an article on psychiatry
from the viewpoint of a layman. He pointed out that if the layman were myself,
an actor, the article would have added interest. I had just returned from
Topeka, and was grateful for what I'd learned and sincerely anxious to share my
knowledge with others. I attempted to show, using myself as an example, how so
many of us carry around completely needless burdens of hidden doubts, feelings
of shame, inferiority and anxiety, all of which make us feel inadequate."

"And I hoped that of the thousands and thousands of people who would read the
story (and some of them desperately unhappy even as I was) perhaps a few would
gain something from learning of someone else who had been in the same boat and
had found a measure of happiness through psychiatry. In a general way, of
course, I revealed some of my own discoveries about basic problems that I've
had since childhood."

"I hoped the author would understand. But when I saw his manuscript I hastily
prevailed upon his sense of fair play not to print it, because it read like a
sensational sob story. So here's a curious thing. You just can't explain
something like a personal psychoanalysis. I really would like to discuss the
subject honestly and fairly, but the taboos of our society and the hush-hush
attitudes of all of us forbid such revelations, except, of course, in medical

"Frankly, I don't see any sense in rehashing my past troubles, which were
evident to anybody reading the newspapers. One thing, though, I'd like to say.
There are always reasons for such demonstrations. It is not that we are just
no good. It has been proved that our inner struggles are finding expression
through such outbursts."

"Bob is not sorry for those outbursts. Because the shame and shock, the utter
desperation of his situation, forced him to seek treatment. 'Psychiatry,' he
says, 'helped me in my own problems and anxieties so that now I can reasonably
face realities and find happiness in my life.'"

"Columnists have said that all of Robert Walker's troubles stemmed from the
mile-high torch he was carrying for Jennifer Jones after their divorce a few
years back. Bob admits he was carrying that torch, but it wasn't his only
difficulty. And he knows now that the way he reacted to the divorce reflected
his emotional immaturity. Like a baby from whom a beloved possession is taken
away, he felt everyone should pity him. Unconsciously he was trying to get
sympathy and attention. But there was never any question about whether
Jennifer and he would remarry."

"'Life,' he said, 'had taken us on different paths, and you can't recapture the
past. I hope her recent marriage to David Selznick will bring her happiness.
There is warm understanding, real friendship between us, and the bond of our
two sons.'"

"For their sake Bob is anxious to get back to his career. Dore Schary ('to
whom,' says Bob, 'I can never fully show my gratitude,') hasn't lost faith in
the star he discovered. Schary telephoned Bob in Topeka and asked him to play
the lead opposite Deborah Kerr in 'Please Believe Me.'"

"'Naturally,' Bob said, 'after being out of films for so long, I felt a bit
shaky about carrying the male lead. When I read the script I was immensely
taken with another role, a gay, light-hearted and likable gigolo, and Schary
gave it to me.'"

"When that movie is finished there will be a second film (unscheduled so far)
and then Bob will head back to Topeka for some more analytical work."

"How do you find acting in films now?" I asked him."

"'It's much easier for me,' he explained. 'I have a mature, realistic
viewpoint on acting which I hope will show in my future work. And my attitude
toward my co-workers now is different, too. Before I gained understanding of
myself there were strained relations with people at the studio. But not any

"'Most of all, I want to be a real father to Jennifer's and my two sons, Bobby,
now 8, and Michael, 7.'"

"When Robert Walker speaks of his two sturdy, handsome sons, an engaging grin
lights up his puckish face. For Bob adores his sons. And their feeling for
him is evident in the easy, comfortable relationship among the three. When Bob
first came back he lived with the boys in Jennifer's home while she was in
Europe. Michael and Bobby are students at Black-Foxe Military Academy."

"'Every day I took them to school and called for them in the afternoon,' said
Bob. 'I met their teachers. I watched the parades and drills. Children of
film people sometimes get exaggerated ideas of their importance. But I'm
trying to bring them up as normal, wholesome boys. Fortunately Black-Foxe has
many students whose parents are in films so there was no particular interest in
me. I realize that boys with divorced parents and two separate homes have a
heavy load to carry. I want to show them that they're truly loved. I see now
that's the most important thing in a child's life. It gives him security. I
used to take the boys for granted, give them expensive gifts, but now I know
that being with them as much as possible is the most important thing.'"

"Before Bob left for Topeka he bought an unpretentious but very comfortable
farmhouse set in a lovely wooded hollow out in Pacific Palisades, not far from
the ocean. The approach is over a footbridge and the house is very secluded.
It was unfurnished -- and still is, except for bare essentials.'"

"'I want to go slowly,' he said. 'I haven't worked for some time and I haven't
the money to call in a decorator and have him wave a magic wand. Besides, it's
more fun to do it myself. The boys love the place. Emily, the governess,
attends to their wants, and Pedro, the houseboy, takes care of the house.'"

"The dining room boasts a huge, beautiful, round maple table with a lazy Susan.
There the boys and their father play games after dinner every evening.
Periodically Bob says to them: "Let's write to Mommy now. She's far away in
Europe making pictures and she's lonely for you boys."

"Jennifer needn't be worried about them, though, for they are in excellent

"With understandable pride Walker's eyes light up as he tells of a big moment
in his life. 'It happened last week,' he says, 'when the boys came to me to
ask questions about the facts of life. Can you imagine? I was so happy that
they felt no embarrassment in asking me. I told them, simply, as much as they
could assimilate. Now they needn't get the information, all garbled, from

"Around the house and grounds both Michael and Bobby have their appointed
chores. And they must be done at the time specified every day. For their work
they each receive $3.00 a week. And there are many tasks they can help with."

"One task, though, that's a little beyond them is house painting. That Bob is
attending to himself -- both the exterior and interior. So far in the huge,
square living room, pine paneled, he has only a piano and double rows of
unbleached muslin curtains edged with mulberry on two whole walls of windows.
And on the floor there is a forest green serviceable cotton rug, wall to wall."

"The room has space for lots of books and a fireplace large enough to walk

"'Now,' the proud owner explained, 'I'm working on the problem of furniture,
but it will come slowly and be comfortable, colorful and simple. I don't want
the boys ever to be afraid of walking from the grounds into the living room.
Nothing will have a hands off sign for them. It's their home -- and I want
them to feel that.'"

"Life looks good to Bobby and Michael. And it does to their father, too."

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