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    The Sons In Her Heaven—Elizabeth Taylor

    “Everything is easier the second time around,” confided beautiful Elizabeth Rosemond Taylor Wilding.

    “It’s natural, since one learns the hard way—by experience. Everything about a first pregnancy is new, a little strange and to some—though luckily it wasn’t to me—a little frightening. When a second baby comes along a mother takes things in stride. She doesn’t make the mistakes she made the first time.”

    To give you one for instance: When Dr. Aaberg first told Elizabeth she could expect a baby, she flew home to tell Mike and together they rushed forth to Magnin’s exclusive Beverly Hills emporium and bought two huge and very expensive Teddy bears—just what a newborn baby needs! The second time around, the Wilding were far more practical. At an ordinary department store, they rushed to buy dozens of diapers.

    Elizabeth’s newest son, Christopher Edward, is a mere six weeks old. And already Elizabeth is more beautiful, if possible, than ever. She leaned against the pillows of the couch in her living room and talked with a serene maturity of motherhood—a subject close to her heart. Her weight is back to a normal 115 pounds. A shimmering pink Italian silk tailored blouse nicely accentuated her lovely figure; her tiny waist was belted in snug and small; slim black toreador pants outlined her legs. Except for lipstick, Liz wore no make-up, and no jewelry but her plain gold wedding band.

    “I’m not, by nature, one to have a real athletic pregnancy; I guess I’m more the sedentary type,” Elizabeth declared. “I know some women are tense at that time, but I never have trouble relaxing; my favorite hobby is sleeping.

    “Because I’m indolent by nature—really lazy, I guess—I usually had to take things easy,” Liz continued, as relaxed as her white French poodle, Gigi, at her feet. “I’ve never been one for doing exercises, you know. And I didn’t play tennis or golf. I’ve always done a lot of horseback riding, but in recent years I can’t even seem to find time for that. When I was pregnant with Michael nearly three years ago, I just sat and sat. I did play croquet—in my fashion. Personally it’s a game I can take or leave, but real croquet aficianados like our friend, director Jean Negulesco, or Darryl Zanuck play for blood. Michael and I played with Jean when my tummy was out to here and I couldn’t see the ball. Jean would get so upset with my lackadaisical game that I thought occasionally he looked as though he wanted to hit me over the head with his mallet.

    “Anyway, it was new and so wonderful to indulge myself. And having a husband who treated me like fragile glass made me less inclined to be up and doing.”

    Naturally the pounds raced her way like homing pigeons. And it appears that our Liz was a difficult girl to handle in those month—dietwise. Filled with a consuming sense of inner peace and fulfillment, she became more and more lethargic. And the calmer lovely Elizabeth became the more the pounds appeared.

    It didn’t worry her, though. She was certain that excess poundage would melt like snow in April after the birth of the baby. Nor, a few days before that event, did she worry when her doctor told her a breech birth threatened and she’d have to undergo a Caesarean section. “I picked one of my prettiest pre-pregnancy dresses to wear home from the hospital,” Liz recalled. “As it happened I wore a robe home and I couldn’t get into that dress until three months later! A Caesarean doesn’t take very long and you are spared labor pains, but it is a major operation and recovery is slow. At least it was for me. I used it as an excuse to keep from taking those dull post-pregnancy exercises which the doctor recommended. My added weight made me more lethargic than ever.

    “What annoyed me most of all was that I had a whole closet full of clothes I couldn’t get into. I put my foot down firmly over buying any new size fourteen dresses because I couldn’t wear my normal size ten or twelve. And I kept right on wearing my maternity tops, slacks and skirts. I’d never expected that to happen.”

    A natural-born mother, Elizabeth was content to spend long, happy hours becoming acquainted with her baby, to swim languidly in the pool with her husband, to indulge in sessions of baby-care talk with her good friends Jane Powell and Barbara Thompson, wife of actor Marshall Thompson.

    With so many pleasant diversions, Elizabeth didn’t feel too unhappy when she missed out on.a scheduled role in a film because she couldn’t get her weight down fast enough. But when she was offered the role in “Elephant Walk,” she accepted with alacrity and airily promised to lose fifteen pounds in three weeks. The days became a jumble of strenuous dieting, deep massage, enervating steam baths and pills.

    “I wouldn’t recommend such rigid dieting to anyone,” Elizabeth sighed. “It was dreadfully difficult and right there and then I made up my mind Id follow doctor’s orders in my second pregnancy.” From time to time during that period, the unhappy young beauty would glance at the amusing painting Jean Negulesco did of her when she was eight months pregnant. It portrayed her in black slacks, a full purple smock and a tousled head of hair, and was captioned by Jean “There’s Never Too Much of Liz.” “Oh, yes, there is,” Liz would moan, studying her dinner of broiled lamb chop, stewed celery, tomato, skimmed milk and a half grapefruit.

    “After that session, which weakened me and made me susceptible to every flu bug in my immediate neighborhood, I began to watch my weight carefully, never letting it rise more than three or four pounds before I’d begin taking steps. And when I became pregnant again, I followed my doctor’s instructions. Dr. Aaberg said that not many women these days believe the old wives’ fable of eating for two while awaiting a baby. An eating binge overloads the system just when it should be at peak efficiency. It plays havoc with the doctor’s job of limiting weight gain from fifteen to twenty pounds, depending on what the scales show at the start of pregnancy. And he told me that many of the complications and most of the discomforts preceding a birth stem from overweight, which interferes with delivery and prevents a fast recovery afterward.”

    It was easy for Elizabeth to keep her weight down during the second pregnancy because she found when she was eating properly she wasn’t excessively hungry. She gained less than twelve pounds and had lost it all after the second Caesarean section. And while she was pregnant, she had made two trips to England and one flight to New York for the opening of “The Last Time I Saw Paris.”

    One thing which Elizabeth did not have to change during her second pregnancy was her mental state. For it was perfect both times. She was, by her own admission, divinely happy while infanticipating; by the testimony of others, never more beautiful. “I simply cannot understand the attitude of some actresses who dread pregnancy because they will be what they call ‘ugly,’” said Elizabeth, in a tone of wonder. “It’s true you can’t look like a Powers model; it’s equally true that for some women there are those early days characterized by a bit of daily ‘tossing’ and later months of disquieting sensations around your middle. Discomforts are to be expected, but worth the rewards! The day you come home from the hospital with your new baby, for me, is reward beyond compare. I’ve read that in Victorian days ladies-in-waiting took their airings after dark so their bulging figures would not cause them, or the public, embarrassment. We’ve come a long way since those days and can easily continue to circulate in public up to the drive to the hospital.”

    To make circulating a pleasure, Elizabeth concentrated on pretty clothes. And she found that one mistake she made while awaiting Michael was to buy too many of them, especially matching suits and complete outfits. She found herself relying on a simple slim black skirt with a variety of toppers or on slim toreador pants or slacks topped with a version of the loose flowing Capri shirt. And she discovered a wonderful way to utilize pre-pregnancy back-zippered skirts. Naturally the zipper won’t close so you merely thread ribbons (milk- maid fashion) to hold it together; or if you’re lazy, use large safety pins. The toppers come down well over the camouflage. But you can’t do this with side-closing skirts because they grow out of balance.

    Another rule she broke with her first pregnancy was rushing into her maternity clothes. Liz loved her new clothes so much that she began wearing them long before her Precious Secret was apparent; even Michael commented that she looked charming in the perky outfits. But in her second pregnancy, Elizabeth didn’t wear them until the fifth month. And that was because she gained so little weight. She was also able to keep a secret of her date with the stork until that time. “The first time,” she laughs, “I blurted it out as soon as I knew, because I just wasn’t able to keep a secret. But this time with Chris I didn’t say anything until my condition was self-evident and it was time to haul out the telltale costumes. I found it easy to keep secret. When Mike and I would go to a dinner party and I’d get that familiar sickish feeling, everybody would start raising eyebrows. Then I’d turn to him and say in a voice everybody could hear—‘Oh, dear, Michael,” you shouldn’t have let me eat that shrimp at lunch; I just knew it wasn’t quite fresh. You’ll have to take me home.’ ”

    At this time, Mrs. Wilding, one of the world’s authentic beauties, was even more careful of her beauty routines and meticulous grooming. Three showers a day kept her feeling fresh, and frequent shampoos kept her lovely black curls in perfect condition. (In fact, friends complained that they never could get Liz on the phone at this time because she was constantly in the shower.)

    Today there is a radiance about Elizabeth that is almost dazzling. Gone is the nervous, tense, ill young actress. Her appearance attests to the happiness given her by Big Mikie, Little Mike (two years and three months old and variously referred to as Mikie, Sport, Britches, Jughead) and the baby, Christopher (called “Criffy” by his brother). Young Chris is, according to his mother, a fine baby who sleeps and eats and seldom cries. A few weeks premature, he weighed five pounds, twelve ounces, but today he’s a strapping nine pounds, and the exact image of Michael at the same age.

    Before Chris’ birth, the question of jealousy was carefully taken up. “Mike and I,” says Liz, “thought all the child psychology books pretty dreary, but we did pay attention to the inevitable childish jealousy a youngster feels when a new baby enters the home. Months beforehand, a big doll was placed in the bassinet near Michael’s bed and he was briefed about the new baby. He played with the doll and it seemed perfectly natural when Chris came home to see the baby in place of the doll. Mikie loves the baby; begs to hold him and studies him with deep interest.

    And fatherhood has wrought a change, too, in Michael, Sr—an unbelievable change. Those who knew the handsome Englishman before his marriage to Liz, find it hard to reconcile the suave, sophisticated man he portrayed on the screen with the eager-beaver father he is today. When sturdy little Michael came into the living room he looked at the strangers as do all two-year-olds with a solemn searching stare—his huge blue eyes so like his mother’s. Mike, Sr., hastened to explain, “He’s always quiet when he first meets strangers. But give him a little while and he opens up. Right now he’s either pulling out light plugs or dialing on the telephone. And surprisingly enough, sometimes he actually gets a number and carries on some sort of conversation. But we frown on these activities—also on the closet investigating routine and detective work on the contents of every bureau drawer.”

    Of the new baby, Mike says, “He’s a very good little boy even if he wets his drawers constantly. As a matter of fact, before I became a man of experience, very tiny babies frightened me.” But his expression as he smiles down at the chubby, pink, sleeping baby in his bassinet is “How I love this little boy!”

    And of another object, but this time an inanimate one—their glass and stone fairy tale castle—Mike and Liz speak with deep affection. Set high in the hills but on acres of level ground, the house of field stone, off-white brick and weathered, driftwood-color oak is considered by experts to be one of the finest moderns, both in architecture and interior decoration, in a town dedicated to splendid contemporary houses. Floor to ceiling plate glass brings the pool and plantings almost into the living room on one side. On the other, there is a dazzling view of the city and ocean. The living room boasts of a whole tree in a massive modern floor planter; a wall of bark in which ferns, mosses and exotic foliage plants grow; a huge fireplace with no chimney—the smoke obligingly departs via pipes set in the walls. At night, dramatic lighting silhouettes the Hawaiian tree ferns, the exotic tropical blooms as well as the tranquil Chinese goddess holding court amid the greenery.

    Elizabeth’s flair for interior decoration is well known. With the help of a decorator, she has achieved an effect of great style and serenity by using off-whites, beiges, the gray of stone and weathered oak beams, the warm browns of wood bark. The only colors are the greens of the plantings, the cushion and an oil painting of Elizabeth. A 16th century Tang horse in soft tones of beige stone adds a rich note.

    Already Elizabeth is lamenting the weeks on location for her new picture “Giant” with Rock Hudson, in Marfa, Texas, when she must leave her two little sons and her beautiful home behind. In a town where the ulcer is a badge of the frenzied pace, Elizabeth and Michael Wilding have found a quiet haven, high above the crowd, warmed by the sun which seeks out their hilltop first of all. Even the four dogs and four cats (part of Liz’s perpetual menagerie) are as relaxed and uncomplicated by neuroses as their master and mistress.

    “We talk,” says Liz slowly and meditatively, “about going up to see San Francisco or out to the desert. But it always remains just a thought. We can’t bear to tear ourselves away from home. So we just sit and let the world go by.



    It is a quote. PHOTOPLAY MAGAZINE AUGUST 1955

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