Hollywood and politics -- we think the mix is new, but it's happened since the first "movie star" hit the silver screen.
Photos: On left -- Robert Taylor. On right -- my dad. In my child's mind, somehow they intermingled.
Copyright, revised, Linda Alexander, 2007. No use without permission of the author.
The power of dreams. . . .
Sometimes dreams make no sense. Theyíre a mishmash of crazy scenes. Some are entertaining; some frightening. Not often are they inspiring or even prophetic. There are a precious few, though, that make the dreamer wonder if there wasn't something very real at the core.
I had such a dream. I'm writing a book titled RELUCTANT WITNESS: ROBERT TAYLOR, FAME, AND COMMUNISM. Robert Taylor was an actor who reigned as the "Man With the Perfect Profile" during Hollywood's Golden Era, throughout the 1930s and into the 1960s. He was so breathtakingly beautiful all his life, darned near physically perfect, that his looks hampered his genuinely good acting skills.
That's the background . . . now a return to the dream. I was with Taylor's daughter, Tessa. She, like her father and her mother, ex-model and Hollywood starlet, Ursula Thiess, is pretty. She's kind and soft-spoken. In doing research for my book, I spent time with Tessa over the phone and in person. She, along with her equally-as-beautiful brother, Terry, has been helpful in my quest to find out about her father, helping me to write an honest, dig-in-deep account of his life.
For me, it's crucial to be accountable to what I put in the public eye when writing about another person's existence. Even if that person is deceased, he or she still walked this earth. They had relationships, emotions, and opinions important to them. Many still have living relatives. It's of utmost importance to make sure their world, as it was when they lived, is accurately depicted, enough so they'd be happy if they were to read the account of their world.
So what happened in my dream? I was at Tessa's house sitting in front of a large, open window - like a sliding glass door. Tessa had stepped out as I looked at her father's picture on a postcard. Before she left, she said her dad and mother were walking toward me. I glanced out to see Ursula and Bob standing across the street in the distance. There were many trees, some flowering, all very green, and my view was obscured, but I sensed them there. Even in the dream, I felt them coming toward me.
I looked back down again at the postcard, self-conscious, worried that Bob might walk right up to me. How would I react if he talked to me? I deliberated over that postcard as if it held the meaning of life, even while, with every single moment, I was fully aware that Bob Taylor had indeed come to stand right next to me. Ursula had faded into the distance, and the moment was between only Bob and me.
You know how it is when someone's physically near? You can't see them but you feel them? You're certain they're right there, so close you could touch them if you reached out, even if you donít look up to guide the movement of your hand?
That sensation was startlingly real. I was certain Bob was physically at my side, close, close, breath-on-the-neck close, right next to me, looking down at me as I kept my sights trained on that postcard. My nerves jumped, tingled, gave me chills. It was as if this was the moment I would finally meet someone who'd become important in my life. I remember trying to regulate my breathing, telling myself to stay calm . . . but, no matter what, I didnít want to look at him.
I felt his eyes trained on the sight of me - a lady peering intently at a postcard with his picture on it. I sensed that he knew exactly who I was and why I was at his daughter's home, which, in the dream, was a new house built on the property that had been Taylor's 1940s California ranch land.
And even though I wouldn't meet his eyes, I felt his acceptance. It seeped into me, touched the core of my being. While that may sound corny to some, to others who've at some point finally met face-to-face with someone they admired from afar for a long time - it may make perfect sense. I knew without doubt that Bob Taylor was at peace with my efforts to publish his life story.
He and I never did stare into each other's eyes. I intuitively knew it was imperative I did not. I had this sense. It was clear to me that I couldn't, shouldn't look at him. No direct words were spoken, not by me, not by Bob . . . not even any of those nonsensical, out-of-the-blue words that come into dreams from who-knows-where.
There was communication, though, very direct communication. His acceptance of me, of what I was writing about his life, was given without question, and my admiration for his life-well-lived was understood.
That's what I've always felt about Bob Taylor. His was a life-well-lived, a moment in time that, all these years later, still has impact. For nearly 15 years, I've had this mysterious drive to write the story of his life as I've come to understand it.
"Why?," people forever ask. "Why Robert Taylor?" I always answer, "Iím not sure."
Bob is dead. He's been dead since 1969, when I was only 13. I don't have any clear awareness of him before deciding I had to write this book, but I've always been aware of the sense of him in my periphery. When or why it started, I'm not certain. I watched "Death Valley Days" in the 1960s, when he was the show's announcer. That's the only recollection I have of him in any sort of real-time.
Sixties-era photos of Taylor always reminded me of my dad. To me, there was a clear physical resemblance in those days. When I learned more about Taylor through research and interviews I learned that, emotionally, personality-wise, Bob and my dad were eerily similar. Seems it wasn't just a skin-deep similarity.
Memories are strange and there may be little sense to many of them, except to the person who remembers. Maybe my Robert Taylor fascination has had a lot to do with "Daddy-memory."
Back to my dream. . . . It made one point starkly clear to me. As human beings, we communicate in many ways. Not all direct, or vocal, or even on the day-to-day living plane with which we are most accustomed and aware. I believe there is an other-worldly plane that comes to us when we least expect it, a place where we can "talk" with folks whose paths we'd otherwise never cross.
That's where Bob Taylor and I met the morning of my dream. On that strange but comforting plane.
My "meeting" with Bob reinforced my determination to not write anything I can't truthfully reference. Just as important, I refuse to not write something because it's negative - if it can be sourced, and when it shows the maturation of the personality . . . these are the qualifications and personal rules I write by. I am tied to the heavy responsibility put on me when I write about someone's life, and I never treat that with anything less than the depth of respect it deserves.
This morning, in this dream, I felt as if Robert Taylor personally gave me his go-ahead. When I did finally look up in my dream, he was gone. He realized it was time for him to go. We finally had our time together, and there was nothing left to say.
As I awoke, it all made perfect sense and I was awash in a soft, enveloping, tranquil feeling of well-being.
Robert Taylor didn't physically talk to me in my dream because, here, today, he can't. Heís dead. The only way I can hear his voice is to watch a movie. The only way we can communicate is for me to study his life and work through the facts that present to me.
But as Bob Taylor stood beside me, in my dream state as real as any man could be, as he smilingly, intently watched while I looked at a postcard with his picture on it - what I understood to translate into a reference to my research - he most definitely spoke to me . . . with no need for words.
It wasn't really a dream. Crazy as it may sound, it felt like a visitation, perfect in its design.
Site: Life, Love, Entertainment - Linda Alexander
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"Reluctant Witness: Robert Taylor, Hollywood, and Communism"
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|Reviewed by Elizabeth Anon (Reader)
|Your article sparked my interest to seek out more information, so I visited imdb to check out Robert Taylor's films and I can't remember if I've ever seen any (I'm sure I have, but just forgotten). But I certainly have always liked the actress Barbara Stanwyck, his first wife.
"The power of dreams ..." was a great opening line. Whether one is thinking of nocturnal dreaming or daydreaming, or even Oprah's wildest dreams, it captured my imagination straight away.
Your article was read like a private journal entry. Thank you for sharing not just your nocturnal dream, but also your interpretation of it, and your hopes and dreams for your book.
When my father died, 13 years ago, I dreamt about him nearly every night for about 2 years. These dreams were of great comfort to me. I too believe in the power of dreams :-)
Great article, thank you very much.