The Most Exciting Girl In Hollywood
Returning on the Queen Mary from a long holiday in France, I was invited to a shipboard party. The others present, not motion picture people, wanted, above all, to hear about Hollywood. It’s always like that.
“Who is the most exciting girl there, would you say?” they asked.
I didn’t have to search for my answer. “Elizabeth Taylor!”
“Really! The British press takes another view of Miss Taylor.” The woman who spoke was, after two weeks in London, more Oxonian than Oxford’s dean. “They abominate the way in which she becomes engaged to one young man after another. They insist her actions are the direct result of her being in films.”
“Bosh and tommyrot!” I forgot my manners. “I know the newspapers you mean. Either their editors are so ancient they have forgotten how it feels to have blood flow fast through the veins, hearts to pound and spirits soar, or they deliberately forget these things to turn the columns of their papers into public whipping posts for charmers like Elizabeth and Princess Margaret Rose.”
It always is futile, of course, to argue with those who condemn for the sheer pleasure they take in sitting back in vicarious virtue.
“Tell us, Elsa,” said my shipboard host, trying to avert a feminine tussle, no doubt, “why you rate Miss Taylor the most exciting girl in Hollywood.”
“Because she is one star who isn’t afraid to act her age,” I announced, and the subject ended in general laughter.
Actually, there are many reasons why Elizabeth is exciting. She is a great, authentic beauty. It must be intoxicating to awaken in the morning and have her face look back at you from the mirror. And I do not mean to forget her beautifully curved body. That’s not all. Neither empty-headed nor lackadaisical, Elizabeth has not, even for a moment, coasted on her looks. She has vitality. She has imagination and she has humor.
Because of all this, I doubt even Hollywood will be equal to forcing Elizabeth into any cautious, fearful mold. She may well have before her such a life and such a career as great beauties used to know. What if, in those days, too, a few suspicious souls, who put the worst possible interpretation on everything, used to cluck disapprovingly? The rest of the world enjoyed these glamorous existences mightily.
In many ways, Elizabeth remains a child. Before she broke her engagement to Bill Pawley Jr., her studio schoolteacher used to shake her head over the idea of Elizabeth getting married. “She’s too immature,” she would say. “She’s still a little girl in many ways. Already, she’s missing going to the beach for the day with her gang, having the same freedom that other girls her age know.”
Liz, these days, never seems to have time to get herself together properly. She’s addicted to pin trouble; likely to come apart at the seams. At a party at Tommy Breen’s, Tommy’s mother had to pin Liz together before she could go downstairs and join the fun.
Roddy MacDowall loves to tell about the first time he met Elizabeth. It was on the set of her first picture, “Lassie Come Home.” When she came on the set, the cameraman took one look at her long, thick black lashes and said, “Would you mind going back to the make-up man and have him remove part of your make-up. You have on too much mascara and eye pencil.” Elizabeth, in a small voice, answered, “It isn’t make-up. It’s me!”
Jerome Courtland’s known Liz for years, of course. Like the others, he insists the wacky things she does and her habit of definitely forgetting to remember, are part of her charm. On last New Year’s Day, Jerome asked Liz to the big game at the Rose Bowl. He had some errands to do ’ in the morning, so he left the precious tickets with her. The minute he parked in front of her house and honked she came running out. They had arranged an early start because of the terrific traffic jam. During the last five miles, creeping along a foot at a time, they consumed the sandwiches and soft drinks Jerome had brought along. Finally, they got the car parked and started towards the stadium. “You’d better give the tickets to me, Liz,” Jerome said. She gasped. “Oh dear, I forgot them.” They telephoned the Taylor house and Mr. Taylor offered to drive over with them. Jerome and Liz reached the stands in time for the middle of the second quarter.
However, for all her gaiety and vitality and slight wackiness, Liz is also given to flights of imagination. There are within her, still, the same facets of personality that caused her to fall passionately in love with the chipmunk, “Nibbles,” whom she immortalized between book covers with her tender story and illustrations. She possesses, too, the same facets of personality that caused her to go home and wish and pray that she might grow inches quickly enough to capture the role of Velvet in “National Velvet.” And either by a miracle, or through a natural spurt of growth, she accomplished this. She grew three inches in three months’ time.
It is her imagination, of course, that causes her to fall in love. Any girl might be excused for thinking herself in love with a hero like Glenn Davis. Any girl might have worn his gold football with dreamy pride. Any girl might have thrilled to and talked about the West Point engagement ring he had ordered for her. But Elizabeth’s imagination went further. She dreamed, all the time he was away in the Orient, of the life they would have together. There would be brass and copper all about, she said, to reflect the firelight. There would be curtains to pull across the windows when darkness covered the hills and the sea below.
When Elizabeth and her mother returned from a sojourn in England, the press talked more about her engagement to Glenn than she did. By this time, it may be her imagination was moving far ahead of her. She even protested the publicity about Glenn and herself. “The people at West Point don’t like it,” she used to say, over and over. “They disapprove of Glenn’s name and picture appearing in magazines and newspapers with an actress. Glenn writes me about it.” But the publicity increased, in spite of her.
While she was in New York, she went on a clothes-buying spree. It must be sheer heaven to go on a clothes-buying spree when you look like Liz Taylor.
She was excited about the dresses she had selected when she went down to her car with her mother. Then, at a crossing, she spied a Seeing Eye dog. The dresses were forgotten. She was the little girl of a handful of years ago, who lived in her own world peopled with chipmunks, dogs and horses.
In Florida, she met Bill Pawley Jr. He took her swimming. He took her dancing at the big homes of his friends on the islands. He took her sailing under the most incredible moon. He, possessing all the advantages of wealth, ease and leisure, introduced Elizabeth to these things. Again, her imagination ran away with her. By the time Glenn Davis arrived, unexpectedly, she had another dream. She would be Mrs. William Pawley Jr. She would have a lovely house on a lovely island. How could a mere motion picture career compare with being a leisured wife, a famous hostess, swimming every day in that bright sea? It couldn’t, until she returned to Hollywood, and her career claimed her thoughts again.
It was then the big diamond on her finger began to look less glamorous. It was then she began to be irked by the restrictions of being engaged. She had asked for it, yes, but she became less and less sure she wanted it when she watched her young group pair off without her, when, if she did go along, she was a “spare.” Even her imagination could conjure up no glamorous picture for a “spare.”
Elizabeth will be eighteen in February. Other girls her age are in the romantic throes of collecting frat pins and school letters and of propounding over hot fudge sundaes and marshmallow floats, their deathless love for the first youth to have physical attraction for them. For these girls and their young gentlemen, there is no harm in all this. It is, at once, an exciting and heartbreaking part of growing up. But, when you’re Elizabeth Taylor of Hollywood, and football heroes and scions of famous houses fall in love with you, the presses roll. And the consequences are different.
Glenn Davis is back at West Point. His life is a full one. And he is such a truly attractive young man that, now that the ribbing he undoubtedly took for a time is over, I have no doubt he faces his brilliant future with equanimity and another pretty girl on his arm.
Bill Pawley Jr. is a sophisticate. I doubt Elizabeth was his first love. I am certain she will not be his last. If he wishes, he can sail around the world to forget his hurt, if any hurt remains.
Elizabeth is in Hollywood, at work in “A Place in the Sun,” creating a role which entrances her. At the moment, she has set her course on becoming a great actress. She still has her imagination. She still has her vitality. She still has her sense of fun. She still forgets to remember. I doubt, therefore, that either the experiences of the past, or the future exigencies of Hollywood ever will change her. I think she will continue to live in the tradition of the great beauties who lived lives more colorful and romantic and exciting than any role they ever essayed on screen or stage..
Which explains why I rate Liz the most exciting girl in Hollywood today.
It is a quote. PHOTOPLAY MAGAZINE JANUARY 1950