Linda J. Alexander http://www.lindajalexander.net
In doing research on Bob Taylor for my new book, FRIENDLY WITNESS: ROBERT TAYLOR, HOLLYWOOD & COMMUNISM, I found myself buried, sometimes almost literally, under so much information on the man's life that just to get out from under it was an accomplishment. Ultimately I put together enough to create a fair & cohesive picture of the kind of Hollywood that, in my opinion, just doesn't exist anymore.
The romance, the glamour, the hazy almost milk-glass mystique . . . instead, Tinseltown is too real, too obvious these days. I thought I'd pass on a tidbit that didn't make it into the book but which I found to be fun, nonethless.
Bob Taylor was an avid pilot. He LOVED being in the air, almost more than he ever cared to be on the ground. It was his sense of freedom from a life that often constricted him into being someone other than his true self.
Barbara Stanwyck, his 1st wife, to whom he was married for 11 years, HATED flying. It petrified her, & this division ultimately became the "termite" that ate away at their relationship. One Stanwyck quote: "He's likely to stay up in his plane and never come down. He can do anything a bird does but sit on a barbed-wire fence!"
Bob took a few friends & went off on a trip, which he often did when he had a few days to himself. It was always him and a few guys -- it wasn't unusual for him & Clark Gable, or someone else, to fly off on a hunting trip.
This time, flying at 15,000 feet in heavy ice conditions, suddenly one of the propellers stalled. The plane spun to the right. He & his co-pilot, Tom Purvis, recovered from that near-spill only to have the other propeller stall. The plane spun left. You can imagine the hectic atmosphere in the cockpit. The plane continued to weave, bump, weave, spin. It was losing altitude. The actor, Wallace Beery, was asleep in the back seat & he fell to the floor. The plane dropped another several thousand feet. The guys were sure they were in for it.
Finally, at 10,000 feet, Bob & Tom managed to level off and made an emergency landing at the nearest airport. It was snowing. Conditions on the ground were as bad as they were in the air. Wallace Beery had had enough and refused to get back on the plane the next day, despite the better conditions and the fact that the plane's issues had been corrected well enough to fly it home to California.
Bob shrugged, called Tom to get in, and announced, "Hey, we're going to New York!" The flight ended not in California, but in New York city with a delicious dinner at the Waldorf Towers. Ultimately, they flew back to L.A. without further incident.
Blessings -- Linda
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