Hollywood’s Most Passionate Loves—Elizabeth Taylor & Michael Wilding
The time has come to bury the lies about Elizabeth Taylor and her love for Michael Wilding.
Ever since she flew to London to marry him, Elizabeth has been subjected to a near blizzard of untruthful stories.
She has been pictured as the bride of an octogenarian—a somewhat decrepit albeit charming gentleman of the old British school who never wanders too far from his bottle and wheel chair. Or, in other flights of fancy, Mr. Wilding has been pictured as a somewhat rakish gent bent on pursuing Grandma Marlene Dietrich across several continents.
There was even the hint, while reports were still coming through about the wedding, that Liz was expecting a baby. How this could be reconciled with the suggestion that this marriage was a passionless union, the result of Elizabeth’s boredom with Hollywood wolves, I’ll never know.
I’ll get to some of the other lies later, but now we’ll tell the actual facts.
There is no doubt that Elizabeth Taylor and her mother had bitter words at the time of her breakup with Nicky Hilton and the new romance with Stanley Donen. Elizabeth was momentarily thrown for a complete loss over the tragic blow to her heart. She left her family’s Beverly Hills home without warming in the middle of the night and went to stay with her good friend, Helen Rose, the studio dress designer who, incidentally, created both her wedding ensembles. A few days later she went to the hospital, and when she came out, she refused to see her mother.
But now, for the past several months, Elizabeth has been closer to her mother than ever, and it has not interfered in the slightest with the depth of her love for Mike Wilding, her honeymoon, or her career.
“While she was in England with Michael,” Mrs. Taylor told me, “Elizabeth called me at least once a week, and they both sent me telegrams almost every other day to tell me how happy they were.”
These transatlantic communiques were partially business, of course. To indicate how long Elizabeth has been in love with Mike, last summer when she was in England for Ivanhoe, she and Mike planned their wedding for when she would be free from Nicky. At that time, Elizabeth was prepared even to give up her Hollywood career and take a little hat shop in London to give her something to do without taking her away from Mike for months at a time. To prove the point, Elizabeth later would not sign a new contract unless Mike signed, one too at Metro. And she didn’t have much trouble putting over her point, because Mike Wilding happens to be one of the best actors in England.
This brings up another erroneous belief to the effect that young (and, at 41, isn’t he according to American standards?) Mr. Wilding is broke. He isn’t. Unless you call earning from $40,000 to $60,000 a year in England being broke. True, he had to make a handsome settlement on his ex-wife but he was able to keep his beautiful apartment on Bruton Street in London, along with his Rolls Royce convertible which few American millionaires feel they can afford.
In addition, Mike, who was once a professional painter, had a collection of paintings that is worth a small fortune. This tact brings up another salient point.
Elizabeth has always been looked upon in Hollywood as a sensationally beautiful ignoramus. This isn’t so. Even Mike was surprised to discover the depth of her knowledge of art. Most people have overlooked the fact that Elizabeth, close as she has been to her father, has absorbed a vast knowledge about paintings. Her father once had the Hatfield-Taylor Art Gallery at the Beverly Hills Hotel. Unlike many another actress, Elizabeth never paraded her intelligence, but to prove the fineness of her taste, she gave Mike six in a series of Augustus John drawings for Christmas, and he gave her a Huldah painting of a young girl. (Huldah, by the way, did a portrait of Elizabeth for her parents).
When I last talked with Elizabeth, she told me the hitherto untold story of the struggle she and Mike had to find a house in Hollywood. Long before the trip to London, Elizabeth and Mike took long rides around Bel-Air, the beach and Beverly Hills, searching for the type of home they wanted to settle down in. At long last, in the Riviera district, not far from the old Will Rogers ranch, they found what they wanted—an extremely modern home with a view, which could be seen from practically any direction through huge glass windows.
Then, a few days after the marriage, Elizabeth called her mother, gave her the address and asked her to start negotiations. Cleverly, she told her mother not to divulge the name of the purchaser, and the deal had almost gone through when the prospective seller noted the name of the party on Elizabeth’s check. Something went wrong then, and by the time the minor detail was straightened out, the price had jumped by $15,000.
But there was another house, almost equally attractive. It had a swimming pool, which is almost a necessity for both Elizabeth and Mike who are expert swimmers. At press-time, it was a toss-up between the two places. And here again, another lie about Elizabeth can be destroyed once and for all.
Mrs. Wilding has been pictured as an extravagant girl who has no sense about money. If this were so, how does it happen that even though her studio was prepared to advance her the down payment against her salary, she refused to complete the deal because it was too much money. Unlike some of her friends who have gone into hock for show palace homes, Elizabeth has insisted that her marriage be solvent from the beginning.
Girls with the dollar complex, of which Elizabeth has also been accused, are notoriously selfish and neurotic. On one occasion, Elizabeth said to me, “You know, it is a fact that Michael once seriously considered giving up pictures entirely to go back to painting, and he may do just that one day. When he does, I’ll retire with him, you may be sure of that.”
And, on the same subject, let me assure you that I have never heard Elizabeth complain about how much money was taken out of her check for taxes, which is a familiar theme with many an actress.
I recall that not too long ago, Elizabeth was publicly spanked in the press for dancing cheek to cheek in a Hollywood night club with Stanley Donen, but she won’t be doing that with Mike. The fact of the matter is that Elizabeth, like a lot of other Hollywood stars, went night-clubbing because she was unhappy. Most people who go to night clubs do so because they are not happy at home. In London, Liz and Mike are seldom seen in the gay places.
Her routine is sleeping late in the morning, reaching the studio in time for lunch and spending the whole afternoon on the set. They rarely go out, except to the homes of intimate friends. They have been horseback riding at least two days during their weekends in the country, staying with friends. If, in a way, Liz was a doormat for her first husband’s desire to show her off, she certainly isn’t for Mike. She has a new maturity now, though she won’t be 21 until next February.
It is odd that the moment you apply a microscope to the simple facts of Elizabeth’s new life, you discover another old lie that deserves to be denied. During her first courtship and marriage, she learned to smoke, and she smoked too much, nervously. Today, she likes an occasional cigarette for enjoyment, not to prove that she is sophisticated.
Elizabeth has always loved dogs, and she and Mike have been spending many hours romping with a mongrel wire-haired dachshund which he brought home, unexpectedly, as a present for her. This is the first pet that Elizabeth has had since her return from her first turbulent honeymoon when she learned the news that her dog had died of convulsions at the vet’s.
Remember how fashion designers nearly reached a knock down drag out stage in creating a voluminous wardrobe for Elizabeth for her first honeymoon? At that time, she was extremely clothes conscious, but that’s all changed now. Mike, who frequently shows up in one of those sport shirts, with no buttons at all, has brought a casual attitude into her feeling about fashions. Today she ignores mink capes for an omnipresent polo coat until one bystander at a cocktail party was heard to comment, “Good Heavens, doesn’t that girl ever dress?” Perhaps that’s where some of the stories started that she and Mike weren’t too well off, financially.
I am afraid that the interest in our Elizabeth is so great that she and Mike will constantly be followed by the hounds of falsehood. As, for instance, the story about Liz’ paying for the honeymoon. She did. But I learned that the rest of the story is that Mike could only take $70 out of England, and he insisted on spending every last cent of it on a big dinner in Paris, their honeymoon night. Naturally he had to draw on Elizabeth’s dollars.
Elizabeth feels very strongly that it’s idiotic to question anyone about whose money pays for what. On her new contract she earns $4,000 a week for five years without options. Mike earns perhaps half that amount here, but he has continuing properties in London; in fact, he has a percentage of the pictures he does with Herbert Wilcox, and it is entirely possible that in a year or so his total earnings could be more than Elizabeth’s straight salary arrangement.
The contrast between . Elizabeth’s first marriage and her second will be forever inevitable so long as she is a star, but there is no genuine comparison. The child-bride marriage is almost completely forgotten in her life, now. Whereas Elizabeth lost many pounds of weight due to worry and sadness when she was Mrs. Nicky Hilton, she gains weight with ease now that she is Mrs. Michael Wilding—and this set off another widely circulated rumor concerning expected motherhood.
Recently, Elizabeth laughing heartily, said to her mother, “Look, Mother, I have a double chin,” to which Mrs. Taylor replied, “I don’t care if you have three double chins—just stay as happy as you are.”
And what are the chances of this?
The girl who once said, “I thought I was grown up enough to handle marriage—but I wasn’t. I found out two weeks after the wedding that I’d made a mistake—but it was a beautiful wedding, wasn’t it?” now says, “I want to know my husband and like him as well as love him!”
Personally, I think that this marriage, full of youth, excitement and—yes, let’s use the word—passion—is a wonderful continuing story of perfect romance, so long as Liz and Mike can keep it from following Hollywood tradition. And my personal wager is that they will!
P.S. About those baby rumors. They’re planning a family—but not for another year. Although, nature has a way of ignoring brides and grooms and budgets.
—BY SHEILAH GRAHAM
It is a quote. MODERN SCREEN MAGAZINE JULY 1952