She Calls Him Baby—Gene Tierney & Aly Khan
The playboy of the eastern world went to Mexico to join his fiancée, American movie actress Gene Tierney.
For a couple of years the world press has been wondering aloud if the love of Gene and Aly Khan would come to marriage. Now the formal answer has come from an obscure, sun-drenched little resort about twenty miles below the Mexican border, in Baja California.
The Rosarito Beach Hotel has a reputation for being the most deserted hotel in the world—even when it’s full. People go there not to be seen. Although all facilities of a busy resort hotel are encompassed in the attractive, sprawling white buildings, most of the guests don’t use the swimming pool, the tennis courts, the bar or dancing salons.
Word of the discretion of the management and the anonymity to be found there, has spread among people who want to disappear a little while.
A group of such people drove to the doors of this remote little spot on the afternoon of March 28. Two Cadillac limousines (rented previously from a San Diego taxicab company by telephone from Mexico City) and a black Jaguar two-seater sports car had waited at the Tijuana airport. The Jag was so new it had no license, only a windshield sticker. At two-twenty that afternoon a couple alighted from the Pan American plane from Mexico City, on which they were registered as “Mr. and Mrs. Melvin Taylor, independent worker and housewife.”
As they stepped from the plane, attendants whispered excitedly among themselves in Spanish, recognizing actress Gene Tierney and the fabulous Prince Aly Khan. With them were her mother, Belle Tierney, and Aly’s valet-bodyguard, William, who has attended the Prince for twenty-four years.
The luggage, Mrs. Tierney and William were put into the Cadillacs. Aly and Gene got into her Jaguar (a present from him) and the caravan started south. Half an hour later, the Cadillacs—now with Aly—drove up to the Rosarito Beach Hotel.
Manager Roberto Bravo came out to greet the newcomers, and was astonished to recognize the prince, who had made no reservations. His hostelry was unaccustomed to serving royalty and he suffered a moment of panic before assigning the party to the Presidential suite—actually three connecting living room-bedroom suites at $54 a day each, one for Aly, one for Mrs. Tierney and one for William.
All Bravo could think of in those first hectic moments was how sportily the prince dressed—a sweater, a sports coat, a scarf and tight-fitting black pants like Mexican charros, but without the usual bright braid down the sides of the legs.
About-an hour later, the black Jaguar drove up, and Manager Bravo recognized Gene Tierney. She wore black slacks, a heavy black coat and big black glasses. But the familiar and unusual beauty of the famous redhead wasn’t really hidden by the superficial disguise. Gene was taken to her mother’s section of the suite.
She remained until midnight when she and her mother drove to the international border to meet a car which drove them to the 20th Century-Fox Studio in Hollywood. Arriving at six A.M. Gene went to work on her new picture, The Egyptian. But by four the next morning she had rejoined Aly in Rosarito.
Meanwhile, Gene’s studio was rounding up a confused press conference. Fox publicist Peggy McNaught flew south Tuesday afternoon to try to organize it.
The famous pair appeared early in the afternoon to “meet the press.” Gene wore a pale green flannel skirt with a matching cardigan sweater. Aly wore casual slacks and a sports shirt. They posed freely for photographers, although Aly requested, “No corny shots, please,” as he once refused to pose with Gene when she sat on a playground swing. He put his hands into his pockets, but Gene put her arm through his as they posed.
Gene was more aggressive and informative than Aly. She displayed the enormous square-cut diamond, set in platinum (about $25,000) which Aly had given her.
“I knew I loved Aly a year and a half ago,” she said. “He told me he loved me long before that. He proposed a year ago May, and I told him I thought it would be a good idea. It is untrue that Aly’s father ever objected to our marriage. And I see no conflict in our religions. I certainly consider myself engaged, and,” looking toward Aly, “we’re very much in love, Baby and I—
“We probably will be married within six months, I imagine in Europe.” She added she would take her two children, Daria and Christina, with them and would give up her career when she married.
Gene refused to allow her statements to be recorded on the sound film of newsreel cameras. “I get paid for doing that at the studios, so why should I do it for nothing?” she said.
A photographer asked Aly whether to call him “prince” or “mister.”
“Anything you like.” Aly grinned. “I’ve already been called everything, anyway. Usually, they refer to me as the ‘dashing playboy.’ I don’t really give a damn what they call me. I race horses and I travel. My suitcase is my home. But I wish you could come along on the tours I make for my people to see the work I do. I’ve visited many countries as an emissary for the world’s ten to eighteen million Moslems.
“I wish more of your people could come to the Middle East, and more of my people could come here. I’m a believer in getting together for a better understanding.”
Aly said he hoped to stay in Mexico a week or so and then return to “my domicile in France” after a trip to Venezuela. In August he plans to be in Saratoga for the horse sales, and he’ll see his two sons, one at Harvard and one at prep school.
He refused to speak of their romance or marriage plans. “No, I won’t talk about that. This is an extremely personal thing. I’m entitled to some privacy. That’s why I sought out this place, particularly.”
When Gene refused to speak for the sound film of the newsreels and they declined to take pictures of her without sound, she hurried off to her new Jaguar with Aly following. She got in behind the wheel, said, “Jump in, Baby,” posed for one photo, and then headed north.
There was speculation as to whether the couple would marry while they were in Baja, California. But although they made inquiries about the possibilities of marriage there, they learned that for the marriage to be legal in the States, a six months’ residence was required. Gene’s mother echoed her opinion that they would be married on the Riviera within six months.
After the first twenty-four hours of excitement, with the press, photographers, and curiosity seekers swarming about the usually quiet resort, with Aly angrily phoning periodically to demand privacy, they got the peace they wanted. They had all their meals in their suite. They only came out for one walk on the beach each day. Completely absorbed in their talk, they walked hand-in-hand or with their arms around each other. It was a week of just being together.
Manager Bravo had no complaints about his royal guest and party. The only thing Aly complained about, he said, was that there were too many phone calls. Six of these were person-to-person from Dick Haymes in New York, the husband of Aly’s former wife, Rita Hayworth. Aly would not accept the calls. Speculation was that this was in regard to a proposed meeting with Rita over a final financial settlement on their daughter Yasmin. But apparently Aly didn’t intend to let anything interfere with his vacation. (Of course he did go to New York later to help Rita when she was accused of neglecting her children and to straighten out the terms of the settlement.)
Manager Bravo pointed out, “We don’t have the kind of service these people are used to. They have put up with our facilities very graciously. They are wonderfully understanding, nice people. Naturally, when someone like the prince visits us, expenses go up. We have to hire extra people to expedite service. We must have a wider selection of foods. But they presented no real problem. It was a pleasure to have been host to them.”
When Manager Bravo offered Aly horses to ride, Aly said he would let Bravo know, but that he liked only fine horses. After looking over the stable, he suggested he would prefer to walk. And did.
As a reporter remarked one day, when Gene had to go to Hollywood for shots on The Egyptian, “That guy almost walks you to death. Three miles down the beach, three miles back, at full speed. Then jumping up all those steps. He’s in excellent physical shape. Not the usual ‘international set’ type. Quite a wonderful guy. He likes races, gambling, horses, travel—but he has a deeper side, too.”
Aly also has a keen grasp of world affairs and politics. Most interesting was his report of traveling for his father through the Middle East and India, on hospital projects, school programs and general improvement for their people. The famed birthday donation for his father’s weight in platinum—except for a small token acceptance by the Aga Khan—was put into a fund to back small business enterprises. On Aly’s travels, he had to be a bystander officially, but behind the scenes he worked actively, feeling that the Moslem world must find an alliance with the West.
One of his hardest tasks, he said, is to find names for every one of the children born each year to the people of the ruling house—no matter how remote the ties of family blood. It amounts to about 2000 names a year. Another chore is to sign all licenses to marry and okay all divorces.
On Wednesday night the couple drove down to Ensenada to put some miles on Gene’s Jaguar, to look around the picturesque Mexican town, sixty-four miles south of their resort hotel, and to listen to Mexicans shout tequila-flavored love songs at the sky. They didn’t return until nearly midnight. They shopped, saw all the little bars and hotels, and wandered almost unnoticed along the streets.
On Friday, Gene reluctantly flew to the Mojave Desert for some final location shots on her picture. But she returned as quickly as she could. Saturday the couple drove to Ensenada again, and despite Aly’s avowed aversion to fishing, went fishing.
“If you want something on me no one else has,” she laughed, “you can say I came down here and had more fun than I’ve ever had in my life. I went out on a boat and went fishing. I threw my line overboard and pulled in a fish, threw it again and pulled in another. Six times—and I pulled in six fish!”
They were expected in Tijuana for the races at Caliente Sunday, but they didn’t return in time. They slept late and spent the afternoon wandering in the shops.
They returned to Rosarito Sunday night and had another day together before Aly checked out Tuesday morning, April 6. Gene had checked out the night before. Aly left the hotel with his man William and the chauffeur of the hired limousine.
Somewhere along the lonely stretch of highway, Gene met the prince in her Jaguar, for when they reached the border, Aly was driving the sports car behind the sedan. It took only a few minutes for border officials to wave them across the line.
The limousine went on, and Aly drove the sports car north. Close beside him was the woman he loved, the woman who calls him “Baby.” It might be a while before they could be alone together again. Gene would have to return to work and Aly would have to continue his trip.
But their ten days had reaffirmed their faith in happiness ahead. And the world finally had been admited to the secret of their love and their plans for marriage, as Gene said, “perhaps within six months, probably in Europe.”
—BY ALICE CRAIG GREENE
It is a quote. MODERN SCREEN MAGAZINE JULY 1954