Who Will Be Elizabeth Taylor’s Next Husband?
In October of this year, Elizabeth Taylor finally announced she was leaving for Reno, Nevada, where, after establishing the usual six weeks’ residence, she would file suit for a divorce from her second husband, Michael Wilding. Almost in the same breath, she announced that she would sell the beautiful big house in Benedict Canyon where she and Mike and her two sons, Christopher and Michael, Junior, have lived for the past two and a half years.
Close friends of Liz saw in this twin announcement a clear indication of her plans for the future. Then she would marry millionaire sportsman and producer Mike Todd, after all.
Close friends of Mike Todd’s, in New York, were dubious. They cited the difference in ages; they pointed out that until as recently as last September Mike was still using the long-distance telephone regularly to call actress Evelyn Keyes in Europe. But the wife of one of Todd’s closest friends said, ‘ On the other hand, when Mike and Liz were here for dinner, they certainly had eyes for no one but each other, and they held hands during the entire evening. If that isn’t love, what is it?”
Another friend recalled the fact that Liz bore a striking resemblance to Todd’s first wife, Bertha Freshman, from whom he was separated in 1945 after twenty years of marriage and by whom he has a twenty-six-year-old son. Mike, Junior. The entire last year of that marriage was marked by tragedy and quarrels that made the headlines. Bertha Todd died, under what the newspapers referred to as “mysterious circumstances,” after accidentally severing a tendon in her hand while peeling an orange. At the hospital to which she was taken three anesthetics were administered, the last one ether. She died under the anesthetic for reasons that were never made entirely clear.
Although they hadn’t lived together for years before their final separation, Mrs. Todd’s death, coming as it did under such strange circumstances, was a severe shock to Mike Todd. There was no other woman in his life until his marriage to Joan Blondell in 1947. This marriage ended in divorce in 1950. There were no children.
The next woman to figure importantly in Todd’s life was Evelyn Keyes, a very different type from either Todd’s first wife, Bertha, his second wife, Joan Blondell, or Elizabeth Taylor. Evelyn Keyes is sleek, chic, sophisticated. She is smart, both in speech and in appearance, whereas Joan Blondell, Bertha Todd and Elizabeth Taylor all represent the voluptuous, feminine type of woman.
Mike Todd, on his part, is a strange combination of Elizabeth’s first husband, Nicky Hilton, and her second husband, Michael Wilding. He is a protective, older man, as Mike was. He is also worldly, self-assured, knowledgeable, also like Mike. But—and this is an important difference—he has the wealth which Nicky Hilton has and which Elizabeth has been taught, all her life, to regard as the ultimate security.
Elizabeth and Mike Todd each, therefore, would seem to be satisfying a fundamental need in the other. And yet the idea of a young woman marrying a man five years older than the husband many people thought too old for her has its elements of the incongruous. It seems equally incongruous from Todd’s point of view. His home base is New York, his friends a combination of New York cafe society and the so-called intelligentsia of writers, artists and millionaire dilettantes.
Elizabeth Taylor’s work, friends and interests are all as firmly established in Hollywood as Mike’s are in New York.
This is why the announcement that she would sell her home made friends believe, for the first time, that she and Todd actually did plan to marry. If she marries Mike Todd, she will have to live in New York. Will she also give up picture-making? Elizabeth has said, not once but many times, when asked why she made movies if she didn’t enjoy it, “For money.”
But Todd is a showman. He is a man not exactly averse to publicity. He is marrying Elizabeth Taylor, one of the most beautiful women in the world and one of the most important stars in Hollywood. If he is marrying a movie star, while she is marrying in the hope of being able to abandon, even partially, the career that is part of her attraction for him, can the marriage possibly last? Or will it, for that matter, happen at all?
Some of the answers, at least, can be found in the story of their whirlwind courtship.
Like Montgomery Clift, Michael Todd was what is referred to as “a friend of the family.” The fast-talking producer and the gay, fun-loving Liz had known each other for years in a breezy, casual, businesslike way. He was a frequent visitor at the Wildings’ home whenever business brought him to California. He was in their party, along with another friend of Liz’s, Kevin McClory, when the Wildings attended a premiere of “Moby Dick” last July. The fact that Michael Wilding spent the evening table-hopping at the party that followed at the Mocambo, while Liz spent it dividing her attention between Mike Todd on one side of her and Kevin McClory on the other, elicited no particular comment. After all, it had been an open secret for almost a year that the Wilding marriage was having rough sledding.
But until that night everyone, perhaps even Liz, thought that her children would quiet the tempestuous restlessness that had made her short-tempered, almost waspish, with everyone she knew, including her immediate family. No one will ever know what words passed between Elizabeth Taylor and her husband on the drive home that night. But everyone knows that the next day, Liz, through her studio, M-G-M, announced that she and Michael Wilding were separating.
“There is,” each avowed, “no other man and no other woman. No divorce action is planned at this time. We want time to think things over.”
Shortly after that announcement, Elizabeth left for Danville, Kentucky, and the filming of “Raintree County.” The fact that long-time friend Monty Clift was her leading man did not go unnoticed by the press. Columnists recalled the fact that Clift had been seriously injured when his car rammed a telephone pole as he was driving away from a party at the Wilding home. At that party was another young man with whom Elizabeth’s name had been linked, Rock Hudson. The fact that Rock is now happily married to Phyllis Gates didn’t mitigate the gossip.
“There,” people mused, “was Michael Wilding, charming, debonair, but almost twice the age of his wife and of the two men with whom, rightly or wrongly, her name had been coupled. And those men were not only young, they were also handsome and successful. Knowing in his heart that he and Liz were close to the parting point, I wonder how he felt?”
That, too, is locked away in Mike Wilding’s heart and memory. When Montgomery Clift’s car smashed into that telephone pole, Liz came racing down the winding path and climbed into the car to hold his head in her lap, cradling it there, murmuring to him as she choked back the sobs until an ambulance came.
So when she left for that “Raintree County” location so soon after her public break with Wilding, the old rumors sprang to new life. “Liz Taylor and Monty Clift—will he be her next husband?”
But, even then, Elizabeth and Mike Todd had already traveled a long way along the trail that was to lead to Reno.
In September, less than a month after Elizabeth had arrived in Danville, Mike Todd came to keep a luncheon date with her. He arrived, not by train or in an automobile, but in a chartered airplane. The two-motored silver craft glided to the ground at the Lexington airport. Elizabeth Taylor and two companions climbed aboard. Less than two hours later, Liz and Mike Todd were gazing deeply into one another’s eyes across a table at an exclusive Chicago restaurant.
The people who saw only the incongruity of this second alliance with a man old enough to be her father forgot or ignored the fact that Mike Todd, by doing such madcap things as chartering a private plane for a luncheon that cost, in all, $820.75, was appealing to the little girl in Liz. The little girl who still hasn’t grown up at all, despite two husbands, two children, and twenty-four years. The same little girl who said, when she saw Nicky Hilton at the race tracks a year ago, “No wonder I was so in love with you. You were always so crazy and such fun.”
The same little girl who said, when questioned about her then-forthcoming marriage to Mike Wilding, “Age doesn’t mean anything, really. He’s just a boy at heart.”
The little girl who chased Mike Wilding about their palatial home in a giddy game of bullfight in which he was the bull and she the toreador. The little girl who was a breadwinner at an age when other children are not concerned with anything more financially momentous than their twenty-five-cent weekly allowance.
Elizabeth, apparently, has found Mike Todd irresistible. They have gifted each other with expensive watches. Invited to dinner parties in New York, Mike would call and ask, mysteriously, whether he could bring “a friend.” The friend turned out to be Elizabeth Taylor.
While friends of both waited for the romance to cool off it accelerated. The stocky, nervous, rather heavy-set man with a chin thrust out like a bulldog’s and the glamorous movie star became a familiar sight, a familiar gossip-column item. Todd’s past was called up as further evidence of the incongruity of this alliance. Mike Todd, born Arrow Hersh Goldbogen of Minneapolis, was self-made. The fact that he had peddled papers in his youth, jerked sodas, taught bricklaying, was not important except as a tribute to his determination to succeed—until people’ mentioned the fact that one of Mike Wilding’s attractions for Elizabeth had been his background, his family silver, his ancient family traditions.
“It’s funny,” they said. “Elizabeth always seemed—not impressed, perhaps, but aware, certainly—of things like background and tradition. Of course, Mike Todd is supposedly a millionaire, but even so—”
Even so, the story went rolling on toward an end that seemed more and more inevitable—marriage.
Elizabeth gave up an appearance at the Hollywood premiere of her biggest and best picture, “Giant,” in order to be on Todd’s arm for the New York opening of his mighty epic, “Around the World in 80 Days.”
The pair appeared at a post-premiere party for “Lust for Life” at the home of Ed Pauley, the oil king. Liz, once described as a girl who comes alive only when she’s in love, appeared radiant. No matter what the circumstances, the guests had to agree they made a handsome and happy pair. Todd was attentive and affectionate to the screen beauty.
(Wilding, upon being informed of this new duo, remarked, “it isn’t this romance that upsets me, it’s the one before,” but characteristically refused to explain this odd sentence. An M-G-M publicist murmured, “Oh, but Liz asked Wilding first if it was all right if she went out with Todd.”)
While the activities of this unusual combination were steaming the columns from New York to Hollywood and back again, the burning question of the day was the usual one—But Will It Last?
Hollywoodites, when they had no weightier subjects to discuss, buzzed with arguments pro and con.
The beautiful Miss Taylor was sure it would last. After her dates with Todd began to be noticed, she joked to M-G-M friends that she and Todd were just pals. But in private she told a close friend that “I’m really in love with him. When I’m free I hope to marry him.”
Many of her friends supported this idea. They felt her friendship with Todd was a step toward her maturity. Furthermore, they pointed out, the couple was not such an odd combination after all.
I talked to one close friend of the star’s who likened the Todd-Taylor duo to David Selznick and Jennifer Jones.
“Liz’s other husbands have been all wrong for her,” the friend insisted. “Todd will guide her career.
“Nicky Hilton was much too young and mixed-up. Mike Wilding was too subtle and sophisticated and not responsible. He was a pixie who liked to drink and have fun. He wasn’t exactly rich, either. But Todd is the opposite. He is wealthy and, unlike an actor, always will be. He is funny, but in an open, gay way as Elizabeth is. She is not a sophisticate, but a down-to-earth, fun-loving creature. She likes to pull on a pair of pedal pushers and a sweater and be casual. She is a natural, California-type girl.”
“Todd,” says another, “is dependable. Liz can lean on him. With Wilding she had to do everything—run the house, bring up the children, take care of him. At work on the set she was always worried about what was happening at home. But Todd knows how to get things done. She could feel secure with him. He is a competent, brilliant guy.”
Thus, the champions of a Todd-Taylor merger insist that young men bore her. But as late as last October, opponents to the merger said stubbornly that the age factor was the single reason why Liz would never become Mrs. Mike Todd. “If she does,” they added, “it won’t last.”
“She gets those schoolgirl crushes, violent, intense things,” says one of her close friends. “And they’re usually on older men. Just show her any man over 45 and she flips.”
Elizabeth, these worried pals say, has a common ailment: a father complex. She was a troubled girl who never had a natural home life. To a daughter the father is the most important member of the family; her relationship with him sets the pattern for her relationships with men the rest of her life. Elizabeth scarcely knew her father until recent years. Her friends believe she is attracted to older men because of a desperate search for that father love, never fulfilling a normal man-woman relationship.
Her closest companion when she was little was her mother. Mrs. Taylor, the former Sara Sothern, had been an actress but gave up her career to marry art dealer Francis Taylor. The mother apparently turned her drive for a theatrical career to her beautiful child.
At eight Elizabeth began to act. At ten she was an M-G-M star, playing an English girl in “Lassie Come Home.” She did not grow up with other children her own age She attended school on the M-G-M lot and worked for the salary of an adult.
“Elizabeth was always very much under her mother’s thumb and her mother always idolized her,” one M-G-M worker told a reporter recently.
“At home there were six to twelve pictures of Liz in every room. Posed alone, or with her mother. You’d never have known there was a Taylor father or that Liz had a brother.”
Four years of Elizabeth’s career formed a wedge between her parents. They separated for a time.
Liz told a friend, “It was no special loss. I had felt fatherless for years, anyway. I looked upon my agent and Benny Thau of M-G-M as my two fathers. I went to them for help and advice.”
About this time Elizabeth, fourteen, had an unsettling experience that usually happens to girls at a later age. She grew up physically. The beautiful brunette with the violet eyes and heavy eyebrows never passed through an awkward age. She developed the curves of a woman. While other girls were thinking about dates and buying a brassiere, Elizabeth was being eyed—even chased—by older men.
She was wise enough to realize her physical maturity didn’t match her emotional outlook.
“I had the emotions of a child but the body of a woman,” she has often and proudly confessed in interviews.
Elizabeth cared little for schooling. She gave up her education after high school and plunged into a series of romantic upsets. As a teen-age femme fatale she was engaged to football hero Glenn Davis at sixteen and to wealthy William Pawley at seventeen. Between boyfriends she met Wilding, then thirty-six, and flirted with him. Even then she was fascinated by older men.
Middle-aged producer Howard Hughes, who rarely missed a promising beauty, courted Liz furiously when she was seventeen. But suddenly she fell in love with someone closer to her age, Nicky Hilton.
Elizabeth denied recently to magazine writer Eleanor Harris that she married Hilton to dodge her over-protective mother. At any rate, the marriage, begun with a spectacular ceremony arranged by her studio, ended in divorce.
Elizabeth suffered through her divorce hearing in tears. I remember when she sat in the judge’s chambers after the session, her little girl face frightened and swollen from crying. During the Hilton marriage she suffered a nervous breakdown. But she always has refused to visit a psychiatrist to get help.
Married at eighteen, she was divorced at eighteen. She refused to return to her parents. Most girls her age were living in college dormitories when Elizabeth took an apartment with a girlfriend.
She apparently is a girl of impulsive relationships, who can love one man intensely one day but adore another the next. She was declaring her devotion to director Stanley Donen when she left Hollywood for London to work in a movie. In London she was entranced to again meet Michael Wilding. Forgetting Donen, she proposed to Wilding. He wanted to wait, thinking this young, emotional girl would change her mind. But she insisted on a wedding.
Their marriage was outwardly calm. Liz had two children and even felt like giving up her career and staying a housewife. But her emotional problems continued. She suffered constant illnesses, many possibly psychosomatic. She complained of back trouble, and a sore knee.
Wilding once said she acts like a little girl in many ways. She never notices the time and is constantly late for appointments. She never learned to cook and runs her house with great informality, even carelessness. She is wildly enthusiastic about presents and squeals with joy when someone brings her a gift.
On hindsight, Liz’s friends think she and Wilding split up last July for a number of reasons. Apparently the dissatisfaction was on both sides. Their pals say Wilding was restless to be back with his older, sophisticated crowd in London, where he would not be Mr. Elizabeth Taylor and where his career would be more successful. And Liz, they say, was just as anxious to try to find her emotional freedom and maturity on her own.
“I’ve developed a complex about Elizabeth,” Wilding said shortly before their split-up. “I thought I’d influence (his trembling little creature and guide her along life’s stony path. Not at all. Lately I’m simply told to shut up.”
Perhaps her break with Wilding and her romance with Todd is a sign she is seeking a more adult, satisfactory relationship. But most of the evidence points to the fact the troubled star still is a child struggling to grow up and find peace of mind, torn still between the demands of the woman and the child. This, essentially, has always been her problem—and her dilemma. Whether or not marriage to Mike Todd will solve it, no one can say. Nor, for that matter, can anyone say with any certainty that Todd will be Elizabeth’s third husband.
There are several reasons for doubt in this romantic sweepstakes. For one thing, Liz had not even filed for divorce at the time she fell for Todd—her freedom was a thing of the future. Some of her observers believed that by the time she was a divorced woman, she and Todd would have moved on to other attachments.
There even are some cynical observers of the Hollywood scene who suggest Todd’s whirlwind courtship of Elizabeth was partly motivated by the opening of his picture, “Around the World in 80 Days.” Being successful in business, Todd was excited enough to try a giddy romance, they say. But Mike Todd issued the flat statement, ‘I’m in love with Liz—in love for the first time in my life.”
As for Elizabeth, her one published statement regarding her feelings for Mike Todd was, “I love him madly—passionately—why not?” At the time, practically everyone thought she was kidding.
But it is safe to say that Elizabeth Taylor is not yet sufficiently adult to be able to make a choice between the need for a father and the equally strong need for a husband-companion. When she marries again, she will once more find, in her third husband, as she found in her second husband, someone who will seem able to fill both needs. If he can and does, Elizabeth Taylor will be a very happy woman. If he cannot or does not, we and Reno have not seen the last of Elizabeth.
Knowing better now what she wants, the chances are pretty good that she might get it.
It is a quote. PHOTOPLAY MAGAZINE JANUARY 1957