Honeymoon With Baby
Liz Taylor says there are a lot of things in life she isn’t sure about. But of one thing she’s, positive: Wherever she goes, baby goes too. She learned—the hard way—that she needs little Mike, as well as his father, with her all the time.
In July, when the Wildings decided on impulse to close up their California house and dash over to London to show off their young son to Mike’s parents, they intended to enjoy a continental trip—that honeymoon they hadn’t hat—without him. But it didn’t work out that way. Liz couldn’t stand it. A few babyless weeks in Spain and Scandinavia were all it took to convince her.
“When we were in Copenhagen, we heard that he had cut a tooth,” Liz says unhappily. “We hated to think we’d missed that tooth. And when the doctor advised me to rest for a couple of weeks, we had nightmares thinking what else we might miss. So we sent for him.”
“He’s got four vicious fangs now,” his father says proudly.
In mid-November, after the family swing around Europe, Liz started work on “Beau Brummell” at M-G-M’s Elstree Studios, a few miles outside London. She has reduced her working life to a rigid routine so she can spend as much time as possible with the baby. Thanks to him she can get up these days without an alarm clock. For Mike Junior wakes up at six and lets everyone within earshot know it.
Work was the last thing the Wildings were thinking about last summer when they decided to go to London. “I thought it was time my parents had a look at little Mike,” said big Mike. “And Liz and I had made up our minds long ago to have him baptized in England. This seemed like the time to do it. At the moment, we were both free.”
Negotiations to make “Beau Brummell” were completed after the Wildings arrived in London. And so the doting grandparents got a bigger treat than they had counted on. They were on hand for baby Michael’s first Christmas. “The most wonderful Christmas in years,” says Mrs. Wilding.
On his first trip across the Atlantic, Michael, Junior behaved like a perfect little English gentleman until about an hour before the aircraft touched down at London airport. Then he set up a howl that could be heard all the way back to New York. “I felt sorry for the other passengers on the ’plane,” his father reports shamefacedly. “Michael is usually very good, but when he gets tired you can’t stop him crying.” Later, in his mother’s arms and facing a battery of cameramen, young Michael’s disgruntled cries shook the customs hall.
Then up rushed Yvonne Lang, a pretty young nurse, took the baby and soothed him in a minute. “It’s the professional touch,” says Liz. “How, is a mystery to me, but she can always quiet him.” Young Michael now adores Miss Lang, who was hired by the studio to care for him while Liz is working. “She is simply wonderful with him,” Liz says. Miss Lang returns the compliment by declaring that Michael is “a model baby in every respect.”
But her enthusiasm is only a pallid copy of his grandmother’s. “He’s the sweetest baby in the whole world,” Mrs. Wilding declares categorically. “He’s friendly and good-tempered and he’s got eyes just like his mother’s. He’s very intelligent, too.”
For the first few weeks after their arrival in London, the Wildings lived in a sub-let furnished apartment near the U. S. Embassy, on Grosvenor Square, later moving to the nearby Dorchester Hotel. Liz prepared the baby’s formula and cooked.
It was in September, after giving Mike, Junior a chance to get acquainted with his grandparents, that the Wildings left the baby in London and set off on what they thought of as their “real” honeymoon.
“When we were married,” says Liz, “we had exactly eight days of skiing in the French Alps. That was all! Then Michael returned to London for a film and I flew back to Hollywood for ‘The Girl Who Had Everything.’ Without Michael, I didn’t feel much like the girl in the title.”
And without little Mike, as it turned out on this trip, she felt even less so. Her loneliness added no extra joy to her reaction to her first bull fight.
“After three minutes I fled,” admits Elizabeth. “We had just arrived in Madrid, and Michael was anxious to see his first fight. He didn’t want me to go, but I insisted. I was so excited about Spain, I wanted to see everything possible. As soon as we sat down, the Matador came to our box, bowed, and threw his cape over the railing. I was pleased and flattered. But a few minutes after the fight started, I fled!”
Liz both looked and felt fine until they reached Copenhagen. “That’s when I really came down with the flu,” she says, “and the newspapers made such a to-do about me having a nervous breakdown.
“Nervous breakdown! Nonsense! I’m too happy to be having a nervous breakdown. Of course I was tired after ‘Rhapsody,’ and then the excitement of traveling, change of climate, and whoops—I caught a cold.”
“When the doctor told her to rest,” Wilding added, “we decided it was a shame to be away from the baby so long. So we sent for him.”
After the prescribed rest of a couple of weeks, the Wildings returned to England for four furious days of fitting and makeup tests and for one very important event. On the afternoon of October 13, baby Mike was christened in Grosvenor Chapel, Mayfair, the favorite church of American Troops in Britain during the war.
Grandfather Henry Wilding was delighted with the act put on by his grandson. “In the middle of the ceremony,” he chuckles, “Mike reached up and grabbed the clergyman’s spectacles.” The dignified cleric managed to retrieve them and continue the service. But Michael, Junior, was in a good mood and had no intention of allowing his fun to be spoiled. So he tried to pat the reverend’s nose. Just as the ceremony ended, he decided he didn’t think much of it after all and began to cry.
At the end of four days in London, the Wildings continued their European tour, this time accompanied by Miss Lang, the baby, the baby’s cot and a folding perambulator. It was their intention to fly by jet airliner from London to Rome, but they missed the ’plane. “Usually when we’re late, it’s Liz’s fault,” says Michael. “But this time it was a mixup with cars. I wanted very much to fly that Comet, too.”
They were enchanted by Rome with its mixture of modern sophistication and old world greatness. And the Italians loved them—Liz in particular. They wouldn’t let her alone. Every morning, a black-eyed mother and her two little black-eyed boys strolled past the hotel singing and strumming a trio of mandolins. The affection, according to the star, is mutual.
“Yes, we love Rome,” she says. “And we were extremely lucky because Vittorio Gassman was there when we were. He and I had just finished working together in Rhapsody when Michael and I left for our vacation.
“With Vittorio, we saw parts of Rome not on the regular tourist route. Of course, we covered that too—St. Peter’s, Vatican City, The Forum, the Colosseum. But when he took us into the tiny cafes in the old part of Rome across the Tiber, that was really exciting. One place, the Cisterna, in Trastevere was built centuries ago over part of the catacombs and over an old well which is still used now.”
And that’s Elizabeth Taylor talking today—a more mature youngster than the laughing-eyed minx of “National Velvet” and a happier young woman than the troubled teenager of a few years back. Prettier than ever, her eyes sparkle with happiness in her romance with Michael.
Shopping has been an exciting part of the trip for Liz, especially for clothes, in Rome. “I’m right back to my normal weight and this was the first big shopping expedition since the baby came,” she says. She bought several new dresses—“I couldn’t resist the silks”—some “beautiful, hand-made Italian shoes” and got herself a new haircut—short, shaggy and straight. “Cute, too,” adds her husband.
Liz is wildly extravagant and she admits it. “I shouldn’t be let out alone,” she says. Michael, Senior agrees with her. One day she came in loaded with expensive-looking parcels and, bubbling with enthusiasm, began to show her husband one exquisite baby garment after another.
“Lizzie,” Mike said sternly. “Where did you get these things?” Liz timidly mentioned an exclusive London shop. Then she added hastily: “They’re only on approval, darling. But just look at that smocking! All done by hand!”
One thing is sure, she’ll be combing the shops for Paris fashions for tots. But gifts or no, she has no intention of spoiling her son. “I haven’t any great theories on child raising,” she says amiably, “but Mike and I think the baby should be with us as much as possible.”
She admits that in the beginning they “thought it unfair to the baby to drag him all over Europe,” but after one attempt to be without him, they decided it was unfair to parents to leave him behind. Miss Lang and Liz have a firm understanding about the position his mother occupies in his life. It’s simply this: Mother has prior rights and doesn’t propose to be shoved around by a nurse. “I was scared first that a nurse might come between me and the baby,” Liz admits. “So when I hired one before Michael was born, I told her: ‘It will be my baby and I don’t want to have to make appointments to see him.’ ”
Big Mike’s mother and father are both impressed and enchanted with Liz’s maternal devotion. “Those parents just adore that little thing,” Mrs. Wilding says. “I wish all babies could get that kind of welcome when they arrive. When Michael and Elizabeth are away from him, they can hardly wait to get back.”
And Liz herself has never known more pure happiness than that she reaps from her two Mikes. Her career, today, she says, takes second place, “It’s just a job that I enjoy very much while I have it. I could give it up tomorrow. But try to imagine life without Michael and the baby—that,” she says, “is quite impossible.”
It is a quote. PHOTOPLAY MAGAZINE FEBRUARY 1954