Elizabeth Taylor And Mike Wilding’s Ranch House
Liz Taylor’s voice, softly muted by the deep pink carpet and the yards of pink chintz in her bedroom, wafted through the open glass doors to where Mike Wilding was seated on their small private patio.
“Darling,” the voice cooed, “you want to know the two most delicious smells in the world?”
Mike Wilding grinned. “Tell me,” he shouted.
Liz shuffled up behind her husband and ever so lightly pressed her lips against his cheek. “Babies and bacon,” she mumbled. Then she pulled back. “Let’s eat some breakfast.”
Each morning before she eats, Liz always runs into the nursery and supervises the splashing bath of her only child. While she does this, husband Mike relaxes on the patio, usually reading the papers and drinking in the California sun he loves. In about 15 minutes, Liz joins him with the early morning report on their heir. Sometimes it’s about little Mike’s eyes, sometimes it’s about his funny cackling. On this particular morning the report concerned itself with their baby’s clean, fresh smell.
“Tell you what,” Mike, senior, suggested, “if he smells so darn good this morning, why don’t you get Chanel to bottle him? We could call it Attar of Baby Porker or Chanel Number Five Months.”
Liz giggled. “Why, that’s a marvelous idea!” She sank her gleaming teeth into a crunchy slice of bacon just as the phone rang.
Mike Wilding answered it. He spoke a few pleasantries into the mouthpiece, then handed the phone to Liz. “It’s your agent, the illustrious Mr. Goldstone.”
Liz shook her head and tightened her robe: “Oh, nuts!” But she got up and hurried to the phone, and in Jess than a minute her face was wreathed in smiles. She put down the phone and her violet eyes glistened. “They’ve offered me Vivien Leigh’s role in Elephant Walk. The studio’s agreed to loan me out. Aren’t you surprised?”
Liz laughed and whirled herself around the white wrought-iron porch furniture, landing finally in her husband’s lap and kissing him twice.
“I’ve never know you to be so enthusiastic about work,” he said.
Mike Wilding was being truthful, because ever since he and Liz bought their mountain-top lovenest, and a baby son came along to round things out, Mrs. Michael Wilding hasn’t cared a fig for screen work. She’s been quite content to fill her life with pure domestic bliss, keeping house, taking care of little Mike, swimming in her pool, riding around with her husband in their low-slung Jaguar.
Compared to this paradise-like existence, no movie script seemed quite tempting enough so that in the weeks following the birth of her baby, Liz returned to MGM as unsuitable all the scripts sent to her. The studio, in turn, suspended their number-one beauty, stopping her weekly salary check of $3,500. Not even this made Liz change her mind about returning to work. She was happy at home and at home she was determined to stay until she got the right part.
You all know what happened. Vivien Leigh suffered a nervous breakdown on the Paramount lot while doing Elephant Walk. Paramount had already sunk a cool million into the production. A new leading lady was a must. So as it does to all movie mothers, the moment came when Liz had to leave her idyllic laziness and incorporate the new role of mother-wife into the old familiar framework of acting, the only occupation she has ever known.
“It hasn’t been too easy going back to work,” she admits with resignation. “But now that Michael is working again, well, it isn’t too terrible.”
“She hated to think of me,” Mike explains, “lounging around the house, doing absolutely nothing while she had to get up at seven in the morning.”
“Why shouldn’t I be jealous?” Liz asks. “Imagine his having this whole beautiful house all to himself, and playing with the baby, too. But seriously, now that we’re both working, we spend all our free time right here at home. We rarely go to parties. The Academy Awards night was the first evening affair for us in months. We hardly ever dine in restaurants, and only a little while ago when Michael suggested that a weekend in San Francisco might be a good change for us, we both forgot the idea before it even developed. It may sound stuffy, but honestly, we’ve completely stuck on the Wilding brand of homelife.”
The Wilding lovenest is every bit as attractive as the lady of the house.
Elizabeth Taylor, because she’s worked for the past decade, is one of the few fortunate young actresses who can afford a $100,000 house.
Luckily, she also has the taste, breeding, and background to furnish it with care and discrimination. The house is as fine an example of contemporary design and decorating as can be found anywhere in the country today.
Of course, a good many experts helped Liz make her house what it is today, but it was Mrs. Elizabeth Taylor Hilton Wilding who started the ball rolling, and in every furnishing detail it was she who made the final decision.
Expert number one was her efficient, golf-playing secretary, Peggy Rutledge. After her marriage to Mike Wilding in London, Liz wrote Peg and said, “Please start looking around for a house you think Michael and I would go for.” She then explained that what she had in mind was a small place, two bedrooms and maybe a swimming pool, but something away from neighbors, something with clean modern lines, and a house with a view.
Really good houses are not easy to buy. They have to be built according to plans and specifications. You need a good architect and intelligent owners, everyone working in close cooperation, The Wildings were excessively lucky. They had Peg to do the spadework. She eliminated dozens of modern monstrosities offered by the local real estate agents.
Finally last August, Liz and Mike decided upon a rambling modern California ranch house. It is really three separate units joined together by a covered walk.
The first section consists of the service wing including the parking area, a three-car garage, the laundry, the maid’s room, machinery for heating the house and the swimming pool, storage for the freezer, and living space for the Wildings’ four dogs and four cats. (Liz Taylor has always been pet-wacky).
The second unit comprises a complete guest apartment with kitchen, living room, bedroom and bath. At the moment these quarters are being occupied by Liz’ brother, Howard, and his wife, Mara.
The best part of the house, however, is where Liz and Michael spend most of their time. This is the third unit and boasts two bedrooms, one for the baby, of course, an over-sized living and dining room area, two baths, and a large airy kitchen. Surrounded by a diachondra lawn, flowering shrubs, and a well-planned rock garden, this butter-yellow house perches on the brow of a hill overlooking Beverly Hills, the Pacific Ocean, and practically all of Los Angeles.
Originally the owner of this house was a Mr. Ted McClennan. Ted is a successful California contractor, and when he erected the house for himself he made certain to use the latest and best building materials. For example, all the wooden finish in the house is solid mahogony including the paneling in the living room, the wardrobe closets in the bedroom, and even the bathroom cabinets.
The fireplace wall and the rock wall, the structural center of the living room, is made of especially selected fieldstone. The enormous window walls in each room consist of expensive plate glass, while the kitchen is basically a housekeeper’s dream, a harmonizing blend of white oak, formica, and stainless steel, all functional and efficient.
Lottie, the cook and housekeeper, loves to point out to visitors how every drawer in the kitchen operates on ball bearings. Each kitchen cabinet was designed for a specific use—a narrow file for trays, a deep closet for pots, a felt-lined drawer for silverware, and a series of narrow shelves for spices. Lottie says, “I’ve worked in many kitchens, but never in one so functional. And what a view you get from the kitchen. Honest, it’s like being in heaven.”
Even though they had all these architectural advantages to begin with, the Wildings made a few improvements of their own. Liz, for example, who has a good sense of design and a perceptive appreciation of art—after all, it’s only natural since she’s an art dealer’s daughter—thought that the living room as it was when they first bought the house had an uninteresting shape and too little seating space.
She and Mike discussed the problem, gave it some of their thinking, and then decided to extend the structural-stone wall and add a glassed-in lanai thereby turning the room into an L-shape.
They also bleached the mahogany paneling a lighter shade and converted a small bar into a music cabinet and record-player. Liz also stood watch over the house painters until they had changed the earthy brown exterior to the color she wanted, a cool yellow.
When it came to furnishing their lovenest, Liz and Mike looked around for an interior decorator with considerable talent and a reasonable money sense. They decided on Jim Favour. Jim had done homes for a few of their friends, Stanley Donen, one of Liz’ ex-boy friends, was one of these, and his work is widely admired. Unlike some Hollywood decorators whose bills would frighten even the Aga Khan, Jim’s fees are fair, and he insists upon giving his clients a voice in their décor.
Favour says, “The Wildings were helpful and easy to please, a pretty rare combination. They had two requests to start with. Liz told me she wanted a pink bedroom and the dominant note in the living room to be perrywinkle blue.
“We dyed a 20-by-30 carpet a delicate pink. Then we covered a chaise in pink mohair, and painted all the wooden surfaces in the master bedroom a darker shade of pink. Even now we’re changing the bathroom fixtures to pink.
“In the living room we decided to cover a contoured couch in Liz’ blue. With this color we’ve used contrasting and blending shades of purple, green, and gold on the chairs and pillows. The matchstick shades, which are the only curtains in the place, are held together by bands of blue, purple, green, and gold wool. The total effect is one of cleanliness, modernity, and comfort.”
When Jim Favour says “We,” he means of course, Liz, Mike, and himself. “The Wildings,” he explains, “played the major role in selecting things. My office merely made up floor plans and furniture sketches, but Liz and Mike did all the choosing.”
Except for the dining room chairs and the bleached cork coffee table, all the furniture pieces in the house were made to order. The teakwood dining table, the tall breakfront, the ingenious bar with built-in television, all of these are the handiwork of a California craftsman named Dave Edberg.
As you well know, without paintings, books, and art objects all homes lack personality. Liz’ lovenest figuratively reeks with it. This is understandable. Her father, Francis Taylor, is an eminent art dealer, a close friend of such great British artists as Augustus John and Jacob Epstein. Her uncle Howard owns the Young Art Galleries in New York. Her kid brother is a student artist on the G.I. Bill, and her husband Michael once made his living as a painter.
With that sort of background, you simply know that the Wilding house is going to offer the tops in art.
Liz parents, for example, gave the newlyweds the colorful Masson painting that hangs over the living room couch as well as the Benton Scott clowns in the dining room. Her father also helped them select the Augustus John oils and the Epstein bronze of an Hawaiian girl which they keep on the stone ledge by the fireplace. It was Liz herself, however, who fell in love with and bought the sixth century Tang horse that occupies such a vital location between the living and dining areas. Then for the light artistic touch the Wildings have a comic impression of Liz as a mother-to-be. It was painted and gifted to them by director Jean Negulesco. It bears the inscription, “There’s never enough of Liz.”
The Wilding house with furnishings is worth a minimum of $150,000, but this fact does not prevent Liz from giving all her pets free run of the place. What the dogs and cats do to the rugs may drive some of the help crazy, but Liz doesn’t care. “A house,” she says, “is meant to be lived in, not to be shown.”
Mary, the Scotch nana who looks after little Michael, agrees with the mistress of the house but insists that a line has to be drawn somewhere. Liz likes to plunk her baby down in the middle of her tremendous bed for a romp with her four cats.
“I don’t think the cats will hurt the baby,” Mary says, “but you should see what they do to the bedspread. Shockin’ it tis. Real shockin’.”
—BY MARVA PETERSON
(Liz Taylor’s latest MGM film is Rhapsody. Mike Wilding is in The Scarlet Coat.)
It is a quote. MODERN SCREEN MAGAZINE JULY 1953