"A year ago, Bob Walker
was a sick, frightened and desperately
unhappy man, apparently bent on his own destruction."
"Driven and tortured
by a sense of guilt that he didn't understand
and by an anger that he refused to admit, he sought escape in
drinking, only to find himself in deeper trouble. He was off the
deep end, doomed, it seemed, to the living death of an alcoholic; as
he himself says, "really off my rocker."
"That Bob today is healthy
and happy, ready to face the realities,
both good and bad, of his life is a modern miracle. And the story of
Bob's experiences is a story of hope for driven, unhappy, failing
"Bob's deliverance came
about through the newest, and undoubtedly
most misunderstood, of the healing arts, psychiatry. For he spent
six-and-a-half months as a patient at the famous Menninger Clinic in
Topeka, Kansas. And during the last four of those months, he
underwent deep level psychoanalysis."
"His treatment laid
bare the roots of his illness, the forgotten
fears and hurts and angers of his earliest childhood."
"It would be impossible
-- except in a medical journal -- to record
the actual early experiences unearthed in Bob's psychoanalysis. That
would be true of any psychoanalysis."
"The medical terminology
necessary to give such an account, Bob
believes, would only further confuse people already frightened by
the "mysteries" of psychiatric treatment."
he says, "as much as I would like to help others who
may be as desperately unhappy as I was, I cannot do so. What I have
learned of myself is a highly personal and private knowledge and
could not be communicated. Not only would I have trouble verbalizing
it, but few people outside the professionals would understand."
"So I can't here plead
the cause for psychiatry for the other fellow -
- for who am I to say that psychiatry will help the other fellow?
That, he will have to discover in a personal and private knowledge
introspection of his own."
"But I do plead for
an understanding of emotional disturbances as
"If people would only
realize -- and I certainly didn't before I went
to the clinic -- that mental illness is an illness, and that
treatment is available, a lot of other men and women, as sick and
desperate as I was, could find help before it is too late."
"Bob, of course, rode
out his torment to the bitter end, made his
headlines, endured his self-contempt. For, like so many other
people, he was afraid of psychiatry."
"It was, finally, those
headines that made him quit deceiving himself
and realize he must have help."
"I went into that clinic a beaten guy," he says."
"But he was released
a whole man, able to work, eager to live. Above
all, he wants to spend more time than he ever did before at being a
buddy to Bob and Michael. His nine and eight-year-old sons are
living with him, presently, in his new home in Pacific Palisades,
which they have fondly named "Rancho de Tres Haricots" (the "Ranch of
the Three String Beans")."
"The boys have spent
summers with Bob since his divorce from their
mother, Jennifer Jones, and this year, they will stay on with him
during the fall and winter, since Jennifer will be in Europe."
"Ultimately -- and there
is a certain wistfulness in the way Bob says
this -- he wants to "find the right girl, and have a real and healthy
"But there is lots of
time for that. In the meantime, he is devoting
his newly abundant energies to examining the world around him. He's
looking forward to becoming active in Actors' Guild and in the
problems of his community."
"The "bad little
boy" he was -- at as early an age as five -- is only
a fading memory."
"Bob, born in Salt Lake
City, where he went to school sometimes, was
the youngest of four sons in an average, middle class, middling
prosperous family. His father was a newspaperman."
"I hated school from
the start," he says. He was kicked out of
kindergarden for teasing the little girls, when he got into grade
school he just got by, and then only on the basis of threats and
"I was an aggressive
little character," he says, "but what nobody
knew but me was that my 'badness' was only a cover up for a basic
lack of self-confidence, that I really was more afraid than
"By the time Bob reached
junior high, he was admittedly a "problem
"He wouldn't go to school
on the days report cards were to be issued,
because he knew what his marks were going to be, and when the report
cards were sent home anyway, he refused to go home."
"Help came to his frantic
parents in the guise of an offer from Bob's
wealthy aunt, Mrs. Hortense Odlum, to send Bob away to military
school, to the Army and Navy Academy in San Diego, California."
"He would get discipline
there. What he got there was something a
lot better than discipline. He won the friendship of Mrs. Virginia
Atkinson, a warm and understanding woman who was the dramatics
teacher at the Academy."
"She sensed the sensitivity
which lay under the rebellion of this
high-strung boy, and used his tremendous interest in dramatics to
bring it out into the open."
"In his first part in
a school play, Bob -- who was fifteen then --
played the role of a rebellious adolescent and, playing it for all it
was worth, acted out all of his own pent-up rage and indignation."
"It was a magic release for him."
"His grades, which had
previously been all D's -- failing -- suddenly
were all A's."
"Bob worked like a demon
at his dramatics and everything else. When
the school sent a group to participate in the Pasadena Playhouse
annual high school dramatics competition, he won the best actor's
award. The next year, he won it again, and the offer of a
scholarship at the Playhouse School of the Theatre."
"At this point, Mrs.
Odlum entered the picture again, with an offer
to send her talented nephew to the Academy of Dramatic Art in New
"New York sounded more
glamorous than Pasadena to Bob, and he hurried
east, took up bachelor quarters with two of his brothers and a friend
in Forest Hills, and plunged into his studies at the Academy."
"It was there, of course,
that he met a young actress named Phylis
Isley, since grown famous under the name of Jennifer Jones."
"We were both in love
with acting," Bob recalls, "and we were
"So the next fall, they married and proceeded to build a family."
"We were happy,"
Bob says. And then he adds, with his new
realism, "or at least I thought we were."
"They came to Hollywood,
as everyone knows, Phylis to become the
brightest star on the roster of Producer David O. Selznick (and, as
everyone also knows, ultimately his wife), and Bob to reach
comparative eminence on his own, first as the star of "See Here,
Private Hargrove," and a long list of later pictures, at another
"It was when their "perfect"
marriage crashed with a resounding thud
that Bob, reeling from the suddenness of the blow, found himself torn
by old emotional conflicts which he had happily forgotten in the
years since he had begun to "act them out" as a boy actor."
"He was angry, but he
couldn't be angry. It was "bad" to be
angry, "bad" to hate."
"So he trampled down
the rage, turned the hatred and the anger
"It was all his fault.
He was insufficient. He was no good. He
couldn't hold her."
"Angry and hurt and
afraid, he escaped in the only way he knew how to
escape then, with results that became evident to every newspaper
"Bob thought then that
his erratic behavior was only one more sign
that he was fundamentally "bad, no good." He didn't know that he was
torn by fierce inner struggles which found expression through these
"Bob would "escape"
and get in a jam, hate himself when he faced up
to himself in the sober light of morning, "escape" again to wipe out
"I was always aware
of the stupidity, the waste of living like that,"
"He tried "straighten out."
"He would settle down,
he told himself, get married and live a decent
family life. He tried, but it was too late."
"His abortive two-day
marriage to Barbara Ford, his last tragic
plunge downhill, is something Bob would rather not talk about. Other
people are involved, people he wants not to be hurt."
"He went on working, or tried to."
"Oh, he would come late
to work, and some days not show up at all and
the director would have to shoot around him."
"He did his last picture,
the light, gay "One Touch of Venus," in
that stage of desperation."
"It was soon after the
finish of "One Touch of Venus" that Bob went,
as he says, "completely off the rocker."
"He landed in jail,
booked as a common drunk. "Were you drunk?" the
reporters asked him."
"Sure," he cried
out from the bottom of his rebellious heart, "I've
been drunk all my life."
"At this point -- or
there would be a vastly different ending to the
Bob Walker story -- a helping hand was extended, the friendly hand of
Dore Schary, the production head of Bob's studio."
"Schary told him about
the Menninger Clinic, suggested that Bob
should commit himself there, at least for a week of examination and
"Bob had heard about
psychiatry before, but he had all the usual
misconceptions about the science."
"And now -- with this
word "commit" -- there was another ugly
connotation to the word "psychiatry." To accept psychiatry's help,
Bob had to admit, at last, that he was a mentally sick man."
"If there had been any
fight left in him he would have fought. But
he was a beaten guy. He went to Topeka with his father, was "signed
in" as a patient."
"He submitted to observation
and examinations with a sort of
rebellious contempt. There was nothing wrong with him. "It was the
doctors who were crazy, not me."
"He finagled permission
to go into town to buy books and records, and
wound up in a bar."
"This time, he had only
a drink or two, but blanked out completely.
By the time he was safely back at the clinic, he had taken pokes at a
couple of policemen and landed -- for the last time -- in jail."
"He didn't remember
any of this, and the clinic carefully kept
newspaper and radio reports of the incidents away from him. A week
later, however, he read about his escapade in a news magazine."
"He raged. He wasn't
crazy, but he would be if he stuck around. He
wired to his father to come and sign him out."
"He was told that the clinic was ready to assign him to an analyst."
"Don't bother," he said. "I'm leaving."
"The analyst came to
visit with him. He liked the doctor
immediately, but he couldn't weaken. The analyst listened
sympathetically. But since Bob was "getting out," he didn't come
"Only then did Bob realize
he was throwing away the thing he wanted
most -- his last chance for a healthy, happy life."
"He made excuses to
see the analyst again and told him that he had
decided to stay."
"For four and a half
months, Bob spent one hour a day, six days a
week, working in deepest concentration, living through his past life
with the analyst's guidance."
"It all came out, all
the old wounds, and the anger for the wounds,
and the guilt for the anger. For the first few arduous weeks, he
found the process exhausting."
"He grew thin, and felt
shaken. He felt he was making no progress at
just the time, of course, when he was progressing fastest."
"He was beginning to
know his deepest self, and the understanding of
self that comes out of that kind of deep introspection, he says,
brought such freedom and relief as he had never known before."
"Now he has been restored
to his place in society, where the day-to-
day problems he meets are no longer threats but an interesting
"With his sons, a houseboy,
and the boys' nurse, he is living in a
nearly empty house near the Pacific. He and the boys are having the
fun of furnishing it, piece by piece."
"For his treatment in
a psychiatric clinic, and to the science of
psyciatry itself, Bob will be eternally grateful."
"He has no desire to
dwell on the miseries of the past, and backs
away from any opportunity to pat himself on the back with a "Look at
me now" satisfaction."
"He had the breaks,
he figures. He could take the time, he could
scrape up the money, he could get treatment in one of the really
great psychiatric clinics."
"He is taking no bows.
And he is concerned for the guy as sick as he
was who is tied to a job on a small salary. To that kind of guy, he
would like to say, "Take it easy."
"We should stop setting
up impossible goals. We accept other
people's faults. Let's be a little more forgiving of our own."
"You can't psychoanalyze
yourself. It's much better to talk to an
understanding friend. Don't be ashamed to put your fears into
words. Spill it."
"Bob Walker knows he
is not the only person in America, liberated
through psychoanalysis, who wants to tell the world that help exists
for emotional illnesses."
"But if his being a
movie star will move more people than usual to
listen to his story, he'll be glad."
"People are beginning
to accept psychiatry," he says. "And look what
happened to medicine in the early days. Time was when the study of
anatomy was looked upon as tampering with God's work to investigate
"But medicine perservered and survived."
"And psychiatry will
survive, and do its work. And then what a people we will be."