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Inside The Wildings’ Mountain Hideaway—Elizabeth Taylor & Mike Wilding

Morning, in the Liz Taylor-Mike Wilding household, is at 6. That’s when Mike wakes up, stretches, climbs out of the “acre of bed” he and Liz sleep in and bounds to the window. He gazes happily at the dank, foggy California morning and says brightly, “Just the day for a swim!”

From under the electric blanket comes a muffled groan.

“What’s that, dear?” inquires Mike. “Care to join me?”

The blanket gives a convulsive shudder and subsides.

Mike tours the room, banging closet doors, opening drawers, overturning boxes. “Bathing trunks,” he mutters under his breath. “Towel . . . where?”

The blanket heaves despairingly and the enchanting nose of Elizabeth Taylor emerges from it. “Bathroom,” she says. “Goodbye, honey . . . please, honey . . . goodbye?”

Mike disappears into the bathroom, and emerges a minute later clad in swimming trunks. He tiptoes to the door, elaborately quiet, leaves. The nose retreats under the blanket. Five minutes later, faintly, comes the sound of a colossal splash. Mike Wilding is having his early-morning swim, but no one hears him. Liz Taylor has gone back to sleep.

For an hour and a half, the room is quiet.. Then the door bursts open. Two small figures in rumpled pajamas hurtle across the room and land on the electric blanket in a manner designed to short-circuit the current. “Mommy!” shouts Mike, Jr., aged three. “Mah!” echoes Chris, one-and-a-half.

This time both head and shoulders untangle themselves and Liz sits up. “ ’Morning,” she says, gives one last wistful glance at her pillow, and then suddenly tickles her older child. Mike, Sr. returns (shivering slightly), to add to the mayhem. For half an hour you can’t tell the room from a circus. Then Mike glances at a clock, swings his sons down from the bed. “Breakfast, kiddies.”

And because in the Wilding household freedom is tempered with discipline, the kids kiss their parents damply, and trot off without argument to get dressed.

Oh my Papa

At the breakfast table they are joined by Mike’s father, Henry Wilding. He’s been with them for a while, recuperating from an illness. If what was prescribed was peace and quiet, he may not be getting it entirely, which suits him fine. In many another movie star home he would get too much of it, since the guest quarters would no doubt be in a-wing far removed from the main house—even further than the children’s wing. In Liz and Mike’s home, there ain’t no such thing. The kids are right across the hall from Mom and Dad, and the guests next to them. If their guests don’t like the Wildings, they’ve got no business visiting, they figure.

The minute breakfast is done, Henry Wilding reaches for his cane and draws himself up to his impressive stature. “Where are you going?” Liz asks.

“Out,” says her father-in-law, “for a walk in the hills.”

“Hills!” Mike teases. “A month ago you called them mountains!”

“A month ago,” says his father’s clipped British voice, “I was not a Californian.” He bestows a kiss upon his daughter-in-law’s dark curls and stalks out. Mike sits back and sighs contentedly.

“You must admit, Liz, that it’s the Wilding side that has contributed a certain sturdy quality to your sons.”

“Your father, maybe,” Liz admits. “You look as if you wouldn’t wear well in a strong breeze!”

Mike flexes his excellent muscles. “It is a good thing that I am by nature phlegmatic. Otherwise . . .”

Liz giggles. “And equally good that I am—shall we say—less phlegmatic?”

Over the bacon and eggs, the Wildings grin at each other.

It is true that Liz is less phlegmatic. On the other hand, she is obviously more sleepy. By mid-morning she is curled up on the couch, snoozing. “I have a virus,” she tells Mike, by way of excuse, “and it’s all your fault. You turned down the temperature in the swimming pool. You put it down to freezing.”

“I did not,” Mike protests. “The heater thing isn’t working right. And besides, the pool isn’t meant to be a hot bath.”

The phone rings and Liz stretches out a languid arm to pick up the receiver. A moment later she holds it out to Mike. “For you. New York.”

Her curiosity gets the better of her and she manages to stay awake, until Mike gets off.


“It was a producer,” he says slowly. “They might want me to play F. Scott Fitzgerald when they do The Disenchanted on Broadway next season.”

“Honey! How marvelous!”

“Type casting, of course,” her husband says, straightfaced. “I’m just right for it. Dissipated, unhappily married . . .” He adds, “Just think. If I do the play all those plans we haven’t made will have to be completely discarded.”

Liz sits up. “That reminds me. We have to cancel our reservations in Sweden.”

“Right!” Mike agrees. He and Liz had planned a vacation for the whole family in Sweden before Mike has to report there for King’s Return. But then came Montgomery Clift’s terrible accident on the road down from their home, and now neither of them would dream of leaving until he was fully recovered.

That terrible evening

For a few minutes they sit silently, thinking about that terrible evening. It had started out so well. They’d had a buffet dinner for just close friends. The Rock Hudsons, Monty, a few others. After dinner they’d sat around on the floor of the living room, lights dimmed, talking and dreaming and watching the. flickering blue light of the pool outside. Mike had been talking Monty into joining them in Mexico City as soon as Raintree County, on which Monty and Liz were working, was finished. It was practically settled, too. Then around midnight the party broke up, and because the Wildings knew how treacherous the road down their hill was, they urged Monty to follow Kevin McCarthy’s car—Kevin had taken the drive pretty often. “Not that that’s any guarantee,” Mike had said. “I’ve been over that road thousands of times, and I still just barely miss half a dozen trees every time. The road’s not banked properly.”

And then they had said good night and shut the door behind Kevin and Monty—and fifteen minutes later Kevin was back, pounding on the door to tell them Monty had crashed into a pole and he couldn’t get him out of the car!

Rock and Mike had rushed out of the house and down the road, and found the car smashed, and Monty bleeding and barely alive. Back at the house Liz phoned for an ambulance, and then ran down the road to sit with Monty until help came. She was wonderful. She cried, but she made him as comfortable as she could, and then rode to the hospital with him in the ambulance. It wasn’t until she got home again, with dawn breaking over the mountains, that she broke down. Mike gave her a sedative and put her to sleep.

Now, a week later, Mike asks, “How is he today?”

“Better,” Liz says. “We can see him from two to five this afternoon.”

“Good. We’ll go right after lunch.”

Here come the cats!

Out of nowhere, a furry bundle lands in Liz’s lap. Her cat.

“Mention food,” Mike grins, “and every animal in the house appears. I swear the livestock think they own this place and we’re just around for their amusement.”

Liz has her face buried in the cat’s fur. “Trilby’s changed,” she remarks. “Haughtier, somehow.”

“It’s ever since we had her picture painted. I told you to hold one of the dogs instead. They don’t go Hollywood on us.”

“Now, honey, I told you! I kept getting these letters saying we hated cats because we were always being photographed with the dogs. So I thought—Anyway, it’s a nice picture.”

They both look up at the oil painting of Liz and Trilby that Phillipe Nover did for them.

“You like it better than the one I did,” Mike accuses her.

Liz shifts her glance to the smaller painting propped underneath the big one. She giggles. “I never said it didn’t look like me . . . sort of. Especially since you did it when I wasn’t there.”

“Never mind. I know what you think of it. If we had an attic, you’d put it there.”

“Look who’s talking,” Liz scoffs. “What did you do with that sketch of Michael in his diapers? There it was, traveling all over the country with all kinds of famous paintings, and you dragged it back and stuck it in the den. You’re the one who hides your paintings, not me.”

“Not true. I merely didn’t want our son to be embarrased in later years by utter strangers having seen him in a state of undress.”

“Then why don’t you paint any more? Paint Michael with his clothes on.”

“No time. Why, do you realize how many pages of Tv script we shot last week in one day? Thirteen! Thirteen pages!”


“So? So how many pages of Raintree County do you get done in one day?”

“About one,” Liz admits. “But that’s good for a movie.”


“And besides that, you have plenty of time for non-existent helicopter rides.”

“Liz,” Mike says, slowly and sternly, “as I have explained to you, that ride was real, not imaginary. We were using the helicopter in the script and I got the pilot to fly me over here to surprise you.”

“Some surprise!”

“Is it my fault you took the children shopping that particular day? Is it my fault the cook wasn’t here? Is it my fault—”

“No, honey, of course not. Is it my fault you dreamed the whole thing?”


Criff and Mike

Mike, Jr. appears in the doorway. “Criff,” he announces, gesturing towards his little brother, who as usual is one step behind him, “says it’s time for lunch.”

“Criff is a very observant young man,” says their father, shouldering him for the march to the dining room. “And how have you been this morning?”

“Dood,” says Criff—er, Chris. Which is probably a slight exaggeration, since he has a lovable disposition, but an explosive temper which is liable to blow up without warning—and disappear just as quickly. (“He’s a throwback to some fiery ancestor of ours,” Mike says.)

“Michael,” Liz says, “throw your gum away, dear.”

Mike, Jr., a gentleman of the first water, does so, albeit reluctantly.

“You’ll never get him to stop chewing,” Mike, Sr. remarks. “If those horrified looks in England couldn’t do it, nothing will.”

“Wasn’t that something?” Liz agrees. “And the way they talked about his haircut—just because it’s a butch. I think it’s cute, and it doesn’t fall in his eyes.”

“Practical, yes,” Mike says. “Respectable—no. At least not in England.”

They sit down to lunch. As Liz picks up her soup spoon, a soft sound is heard from somewhere in the house. It doesn’t sound like a doorbell, but it is.

“Oh, dear,” says Liz. “See who it is, would you?”

A minute later, having “seen” in some mysterious way the Wildings refuse to reveal, Mike is back. “I don’t know who it is, but he’s carrying a pad and pencil. Are you supposed to have an interview?”

“No. Are you?”


“It must be that man who’s been calling ever since we stopped work on Raintree. I keep telling him we spend our spare time with Monty, but he doesn’t believe me. I think he regards the shut-down as his own personal blessing. Well, let him in; I’ll make an appointment with him.”

Off in a corner, Mike presses a button. Mysteriously, the Wildings’ front door, which has no doorknob and no keyhole, slides open. The reporter walks in. “Say—how do you people get in when there isn’t anyone at home?”

“Our secret.”

He has a cup of coffee, gets his appointment, and leaves.

“Come on,” says Liz to her husband. “We’ll have to eat in a hurry if we want to be at the hospital at two.”

And that’s the way a day goes in the life of Liz and Mike. Not much in the line of scandal, you might say, not enough to start even the smallest legitimate rumor. Rather, the sort of life you might expect from two people who love each other and are raising a family very nicely, thank you. The sort of life two can lead in a mountain hideaway or a city apartment or anywhere else in the world. It’s a pretty good life.





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