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STANLEY Baxter came out as a gay man, revealing that his marriage was just a facade for the first time. Brian Beacom, his biographer, discusses why the brilliant Scottish entertainer with a thousand faces declined to reveal his true colours to the world.
26-year-old Stanley Baxter, deemed the Citizens’ Theatre Company’s brightest young star, made a decision in MARCH 1952 that would stun his parents, baffle his close friend Kenneth Williams, and even surprise himself.
“Stanley slowly and carefully whispered the words “I do” in the anteroom of Moira Robertson’s parents’ home in Dumbarton. He failed to persuade him. “Eager Young Husband”Eager Young Husband. For the rest of his life, Stanley had to regret this.
And the decision may have played a part in his wife’s untimely death.
Why did Stanley consent to get Moira married? The bleak, sometimes highly dramatic script of their life together began when, shortly after his discharge, he joined the Citz in 1948.
Stanley, enjoying this avant-garde world inhabited by the likes of Sybil Thorndyke and Duncan Macrae, stepped through the doors of the Gorbals Theater into theater heaven. “It was everything I had ever dreamed of.”
There was no unrestrained overstatement. In reality, since he was seven years old, he had dreamed of being a professional actor, performing at local talent contests on stage. He knew where his destiny was when he became a radio star at age 14.
And when, during his military service, the then-teenager landed a spot in the entertainment corps, Stanley was persuaded that acting was his fate. But the young actor discovered that his sexuality could be his undoing when he entered the Citz and aspired to the stars (as tiny as his first positions as assistant stage manager were).
“The Citz was a heterosexual theater company. It wasn’t like the theaters of today, which are heavily populated by gay people. I felt vulnerable. I felt like I had to be very careful not to give anyone a glimpse of my preference.”
And then he met Moira, this chic, soft-spoken young woman with the eyes of Bette Davis. She was a smart and beautiful, if somewhat ethereal, young woman who was the daughter of a building contractor and a graduate of an art school. Stanley saw more of the woman with the hooded eyes as spring approached and even took her to his childhood home at 5 Wilton Mansions in Glasgow’s Kelvinside.
The two developed a familiarity that led them when they weren’t working to enjoy going to the movies or having dinner together. But it was Moira who was eager to move the partnership to the next level. Alice, Stanley’s girlfriend, says, “Moira was after Stanley,” “There’s no doubt about it. She was constantly calling out to him, and my mother wasn’t very happy about it. In fact, Mom showed her disapproval of Moira from the beginning.”
Agrees with Stanley. My mother thought that no woman was good enough for me [the main goal of Bessie Baxter in life was to develop a showbiz star], but her criticism of Moira went even further. Early on, she said, “My mother felt that no woman was good enough for me [Bessie Baxter’s main goal in life was to grow a showbiz star], but her criticism of Moira went even further. Early on, she said, ‘That woman runs after you like a little douche!’ And she was right. There was a kind of obsession.” And she was right. There was a kind of obsession.
Stanley and Moira worked together at the Citz for a variety of productions, but the troupe transferred to Ayr for the summer season in the spring of 1949 and Stanley and Moira had a lot of fun together. Whether the bracing sea air, or simply timing, contributed to Moira’s announcement is difficult to say, but she declared that she wanted a full-fledged sexual relationship with her chief.
For the challenge, Stanley was up. Yet it was a different experience entirely. Yes, as a 14-year-old he had indulged in maid service (despite living in a West End tenement, Bessie Baxter insisted on domestic help), but this was a whole new adventure. “I think I had really grown to love Moira. The more I learned about her, the more I realized she was a lovely person, a woman with a big heart.”
But the relationship was doomed from the start. Stanley knew he was gay. Experiences in the Far East during his time at concert parties confirmed to the Scotsman where his heart was.
Early on, Stanley had hinted at his preference for Moira. But she ignored the signs. Stanley weighed what it all meant. Should he brush aside the attentions of this attractive, stylish young woman?
“I had misgivings about getting involved, out of the