Elizabeth Taylor And Michael Wilding: Everything’s Okay!
A threatening cloud over the marriage of Liz Taylor and Michael Wilding was reported by a weather witch in America, while in London a magazine seer went so far as to finger The Other Man.
Liz was in London at the time, working in Beau Brummell at the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer studio. She and husband Michael I and son Michael II, were living in an apartment in the Dorchester hotel.
When this investigating committee of one knuckled their door he was received by Michael, looking debonair and carefree in old tweed jacket and flannels. Appearance, as we all know, is often treacherous. The Waistcoat of gay tartan may conceal a bleeding heart. Mike wore no waistcoat and his shirt was free of bloodstain.
At the far end of the large room on a davenport Liz was holding The Other Man in her arms. The amber light from a standard lamp made an aureole. Liz was smiling down upon the face of her baby. It was a Raphaelite study of Madonna and Child.
Intent in her rapture she did not seem to notice Michael and me until we had crossed the room; then she looked up with a smile.
Michael I presented me to his son, Michael II. The blue eyes of the baby looked straight into mine and his handclasp was firm. His smile reflected his mother’s. Little Mike is magnetic. He is more than a baby; he is a personality.
He is also a threat, according to the London writer who said Michael I felt Liz was absorbed in the baby to the exclusion of every other interest, such as papa.
Having known and adored Liz when her love was a scampering chipmunk and her chief interest in life outside the studio was roller-skating madly with chums along Elm Avenue in Beverly Hills, I exercised the paternal privilege of speaking freely. I asked her if the old German philosopher Schopenhauer was right in saying, “With woman, man is only the means; the end is always the child.”
“Rubbish,” said Liz.
With Schopenhauer smacked ie the floor, Liz looked across the baby to her husband, relaxed in a deep chair.
“Do you suppose Mike’s love of the baby makes me think he cares less. for me? How silly. It shows that he cares more.”
Baby Mike laughed and lifted a small fist of applause. He is a scene-stealer, little Mike. His eye was on the camera every minute when Cecil Beaton, the London photographer, made pictures of him. Beaton declared Mike knows all the angles.
“A real hambone,” said Mummy Liz, smiling over him.
“A born actor?” I asked.
“I hope not,” said his father. “There are more important vocations.”
“A doctor,” replied Michael pere.
Liz murmured, “Doctors are most important.”
Michael got up and crossed the room to a desk. He came back with a sheet of letter paper.
“This is Michael’s first letter,” he said with controlled pride. “He wrote it to me when I was in Ireland.”
The first two lines of the letter read: “dear daddy come home soon
“love from michael and mummy.”
Following these was a cryptic line, apparently code. Mummy said, “I guided his fingers on the typewriter for the first lines Then he took over and wrote the third.”
Sure sign that Mike is a writer, the kind of genius who is impatient with editorial guidance. As if to confirm the portent, little Mike nipped a bright red pencil from my pocket.
“A writer!” I said.
“A pickpocket,” said mummy.
Whatever profession Mike aches his precocity marks him a genius. At age three weeks he looked around and uttered his first observation. “Okay,” he said.
His philosophy, summed up in a word, is likewise his mother’s. Everything always has been “okay” with Liz. She never has been known to quarrel or complain.
At three months Mike was swimming.
At eleven months he walked twelve steps. His father counted each step aloud. At the sixth step Mike took a spill, got up quickly and said, “Seven!”
Liz chortled softly. “It sounded like seven.”
“He did say seven distinctly,” said Michael turning to Liz. “You could not mistake it.”
Liz continued to smile. She did not dispute.
The baby’s nurse, an Australian girl named Yvonne Lang, entered the room quietly. It was the young genius’ bed-time. Liz kissed him. Then he said goodnight to all with a smile and wave of his fist.
“He is very good,” Liz said. “He never protests when we put him to bed. He smiles and falls asleep at once. He is no trouble at all.”
She added, without tone of complaint or even of wistfulness, “We lead a regimented life. I get up at six in the morn ing to go to the studio. I don’t get back until seven-thirty at night. I have just forty-five minutes with the baby when I’m working.”
When she was not working, and during his first few months, Liz fed him. The first time she fed him the food smelled so good she ate half of it. Now the nurse prepares enough for two.
Mike has eaten like a man practically from the first. His real interest in life, says his mother, are his three square meals. His menu is typed each day and after it gets his okay it is presented to the hotel kitchen.
Mike had an angel food birthday cake with lighted candle in January. Mummy ate the cake, all but one slice. Mike settled for the lighted candle but got sold down the river. Mummy blew out the light just as he reached for it. Mike was mystified.
Liz shares Mike’s love of food. She eats everything.
“I never worry about my weight. I gained forty pounds,” she said, then added, “That was when I was pregnant.”
She lost it all in two months, she observed, a bit wistfully. She also lost, during pregnancy, the wave in her hair. But it is returning now.
Liz and Michael had a big wedding in London. When they got to their apartment in the Berkeley Hotel at eleven o’clock that night they had a nuptial feast of pea soup and bacon and eggs. Michael is a pea soup fiend.
“I can’t cook,” said Liz, “but I open a nice can of pea soup.”
The most striking thing about Liz, to one who has not seen her since her racing girlhood, is her composure, a serene stillness. But the subject of food quickly animates the calm queenliness and the enchanting child comes through.
“My favorite dish is brownabona,” she Said warmly. “I don’t know how it is spelled. It is a Dutch peasant dish. My mother used to make it. You cook dark kidney beans and crisp bacon. Over them you pour the boiling fat from the bacon. You cover with diced dill pickles and diced Spanish onions, and drop a big blob of French mustard in the center.
Liz was all but overcome with the fragrant memory. Turning to Mike she said, “Do you think the hotel could prepare it tonight?”
Another delirious recollection was the hot garlic toast with raw tomatoes she had on the island of Capri. Liz ate two platters. They threw her.
“I never was so ill in my life,” she said happily.
A favorite dessert is zabaglione, the nourishing Italian dolce made of eggs, cream and Marsala wine.
“And Gaelic coffee. Have you had Gaelic coffee?”
In the bottom of a tall glass you pour Irish whiskey, add coffee, top with cream. It’s heartening after a hard day at the office—or at the studio.
The dignity of her twenty-three years slips again at the sight of beautiful clothes. Liz loves clothes. Again she favors the Italians. Her two favorite outfits were designed in Rome. From the celebrated couturier Fontana she got a black velvet coat trimmed with fur and lined with white satin to wear with a white satin off-shoulder gown he designed. Her other favorite is a ball gown from Antonelli—pink chiffon trimmed with straw lace, pearl and sequin diamante. With this she wears six petticoats to give flare and bounce. While bouncing—but not in the ball gown—over the hills of Capri she bought fisherman’s jerseys, cardigans and night trousers.
Her favorite flowers go well with her complexion and eyes, and her husband keeps her supplied. They are lilies of the valley and violets. Though her eyes actually are a deep cornflower blue they appear to be violet in the shadow of the thick black lashes fringing them.
Press reports of her great jewel robbery’ amuse her.
“My jewels!” she chortles.
Somewhere between the Rome airport and her hotel in London a pair of earrings, a bracelet and clips vanished from the bottom of the vanity case. Total value, $1200.
Her treasured pieces, of great value, are gifts from Michael—two antique diamond and ruby brooches, designed in the nineteenth century by the famous Parisian jeweler Faberge. They come from the household of Nicholas II, the last of the Russian czars.
Liz was born in England of an English father and an American mother, but she went to America when she was eight and she thinks of herself as American. Still, London is home, too. She has visited England every summer since she was a child and she has countless relatives and friends there.
“Every place is home if you are happy there,” she says.
Liz is happy everywhere. Rome is one of her happiest homes. Mike said he might do a picture in Rome. Liz was elated at the thought of spending a month there with him.
“I might make enough to buy you a Roman villa,” he added.
Liz tossed him an indulgent smile.
“We haven’t paid for our house in Beverly,” she said.
Their house in Beverly is situated in the hills above Pickfair and Fred Astaire’s mansion.
“We bought it for Mike,” Liz said.
Mike was not yet born but he was on his way and already making friends and winning property. The people who sold the house to the Wildings presented Mike II with a pre-natal gift of one and a half acres.
The house is composed of two bedrooms, a livingroom and kitchen.
“A huge kitchen,” said Liz. “Kitchens are so important.” There is also a guest house with a kitchen and two rooms of less importance.
Mike’s domain comprises playground, gardens and swimming pool. Besides this he has his own private property. Four dogs and four cats form an entourage for the young Wilding heir.
Liz said she wants to retire before age takes its toll. She has no ambition to die in harness.
“Career is interesting but anyone who thinks it’s more important than home is plain silly,” said Liz.
Husband Mike would retire with her. Their aim, she said, was to loaf.
“We are the laziest people, Mike and I. We are content just to sit.”
When someone asked her to make a wish she said, “I would like another baby.”
Mike nodded: “Boy or girl, doesn’t matter.”
“Then you have everything,” I said.
“I have everything,” Liz repeated, looking at me with steady, beautiful eyes.
As for Mike: “I only wish that everything continues as it is,” he said.
Liz looked child-size, without shoes, standing with her tall, charming husband at the door, bidding me goodnight.
Congratulating them, I quoted the first word of a certain genius: “Okay. Everything is okay.”
“Okay,” they said together.
—BY HERB HOWE
(Elizabeth Taylor can be seen in MGM’s Rhapsody).
It is a quote. MODERN SCREEN MAGAZINE APRIL 1954