• Tue, Jan 29 2013

Shelved Dolls: Rachel Roberts – About That Time She Masturbated A Dog

The couple’s fights escalated until the two eventually separated, at which point Rachel began drinking more, and, bizarrely, calling seemingly everyone she came into contact with a “little Jew.”

By 1979 her diary entries stop being so strange and funny and start being terribly sad. She was introduced to an AA chapter, of which she claimed:

The AA meetings I attended filled me with despair. I found myself jotting down the first names of the people I met, putting them into dramatic order like characters in a stage play or a TV series. Title: The Address Book. OPENING SHOT; Camera CLOSES IN on book with this week’s number. CUT TO close-up of phone. Over the phone is SUPERIMPOSED a number… then a name… then this week’s dilemma. JOY, a frightened alcoholic… JANET, just divorced, two children…JAY, a balding, frightened man…

I can’t help but feel that this was one of Rachel’s problems – that she saw her life only as it might play out onscreen. I don’t know if she ever had the chance to relax and stop performing for people. Despite her insecurities, she could only relate to people whom she thought of as stars. Pamela Mason said:

“Part of the trouble, I suspect, was that Rachel was a very ‘fast’ character, and the AA meetings she’d go to in New York were probably ill chosen ones; the people at them were not of her set, or out of her world, or moving at her pace. She’d have done better to stick to the AA meetings in Hollywood – instead of those New York folk who can be like “the poor, the huddled masses” no stars among them.”

And then there’s a moment in Rachel’s diaries when she says:

I heard someone say ‘She’s a dead ringer for Rita.’ Remember the last time I saw Rita Hayworth in the supermarket, utterly lost, letting her companion do the shopping for her.

That seems so awfully sad. I mean, for her and for Rita Hayworth.

Then the diary entries just get really, really dark, really quickly. I think her life became increasingly difficult as, after her separation from Rex, she had an extremely hard time finding work. For all that bit about how she wanted only to be a wife, she seemed to be most in her element when she was acting. As her depression worsened, she began taking medication, like Lithium, but never seemed able to find the right chemical balance. Anthony Page, towards the end of Rachel’s life (in 1980) said, “Rachel looked terrible . . . she had hardly any contact with things, now. She reminded me of the doomed hero at the end of Evelyn Waugh’s novel, A Handful of Dust, who’s come to an impossible odyssey from the highlights of Mayfair society and the Bright Young Things to be held captive for the term of his natural life in the jungles of darkest Africa where he is condemned to read the cannibal chief from the works of Charles Dickens.”

Well, that sounds like a very good book by Waugh, and one we should definitely read, but no part of that description would have been kind to Rachel.

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  • mel

    I heard she took barbiturates and drank something caustic and it propelled her through a glass divider. Pretty sad way to go.

    • http://twitter.com/JenAshleyWright Jennifer Wright

      She actually took pills, and, because she was worried about throwing them up, then ate an English muffin. But yes, it was very sad.

  • Candace

    “Rex was known as “Sexy Rexy” as a result of his many love affairs, marriages and divorces”
    Wait, really? I’ve always thought he was called that because he was dreamy. Am I the only one?

    • http://twitter.com/JenAshleyWright Jennifer Wright

      I remember as a little girl thinking that I wanted a man just like Henry Higgins, and it is a relief to know I am not the only one who felt that.

  • Fabel

    After that headline, I’m glad to see you put the dog masturbation story on page 1. I thought I was going to have to wait!

  • http://twitter.com/WorldOfRandi randinewton

    AMAZING.

  • Sabrina

    That picture.

  • sbsn

    Not your best article. I stopped reading half way through.

    • http://www.facebook.com/naomi.kashinsky Naomi Kashinsky

      Wow. How incredibly constructive.

  • robinrd

    Actually, Rachel Roberts has been friends, especially with Sybil, since 1951 when she, Sybil, and Richard were acting in a Shakespeare Festival in Stratford-opon-Avon. Rachel also appeared with Richard in two BBC plays before Cleopatra.

  • JJJ

    Jennifer, Though her life certainly seems a tragedy, her own making, of course… I fail to see any connection between her and the other “Shelved Dolls” you have chosen to write about. Other women have contributed somehow to society, historically…somehow, perhaps just being an infamous iconic, cult like figure….however, I cannot seem to find one ounce how this tragic washed up “actress” contributed to anything? Her journals seem the “feel sorry for myself” sort. Other than being Rex Harrison’s eccentric, alcoholic ex-wife (and a brief menial actress)…is there something that I missed? The juicer story would be that of Rex Harrison, as he was really the star, and makes one wonder what frame of mind he was really in when he chose to marry such a pathetic woman. She really wasn’t even beautiful, compared even to Burton’s ex Sybil.

    Sad that so many of the celebrity men of that era chose to marry such narcissistic selfish women…..makes one wonder about the men themselves.

    I have enjoyed reading your articles and hope there are more in the works, thank you for sharing!

  • PSG

    Reading the accounts of her behavior, are we -sure- there wasn’t an ample supply of drugs being ingested along with the alcohol?

  • Hunkel

    That’s Elizabeth and Mike Todd. You know that right?