Friday, August 13, 2021

The "7" Husbands of ELIZABETH TAYLOR

The World had watched Elizabeth Taylor grow-up on the motion picture screen and become "Hollywood Royalty".  It all started with 1942's, "There's One Born Every Minute", as innocent, "Gloria Twine", and would turn to not so innocent adult roles. Such as, her "Academy Award Nominated", "Maggie", in the 1958 motion picture version of playwright Tennessee Williams, "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof", but this article isn't really just about "Liz". It's about her SEVEN HUSBANDS, or was that, technically, from marriage, Eight?















Above, 10-years-old, Elizabeth Taylor, with Carl "Alfalfa" Switzer and Catherine Doucet, in "There's One Born Every Minute". Below, 27-years-old Elizabeth Taylor, in "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof".




























A Little Back Ground:

Miss Elizabeth Taylor was born in London, England, on February 27, 1932, and would have dual citizenship between the United Kingdom and the United States, because her parents, art dealer Francis Lenn Taylor, and his wife, retired legitimate stage actress, Sara Viola Warmbrodt, were actually from Arkansas City, Kansas. Their daughter was raised in London until 1939, when with their fear of the pending World War, the family, including her brother Howard, moved back to the United States and settled in Beverly Hills, California. In 1941, with an endorsement from Hollywood Gossip Queen, Hedda Hopper, the young Elizabeth Taylor started her on-screen career with "Universal Pictures".



























Above 15-years-old Elizabeth Taylor, with her very protective parents, at "Stork Club", in 1947


Could the Following List of  Husbands Been Different?

The myth, if that's the right word, of the marriages of Elizabeth Taylor. Actually, began in 1948, when her studio, "Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)" arranged a date for the 16-years-old actress with, 24-years-old, Glenn Woodward Davis, a halfback for the "Los Angeles Rams". The date led to several more and the "Gossip Columnists" did their thing. 

In 1949, Elizabeth Taylor was briefly engaged to William D. Pawley, Jr., the son of the Ambassador to first Peru and then Brazil. According to the story, it was Taylor who broke off the engagement, because she wanted to continue her motion career and her fiancé wanted the young actress to leave Hollywood.

According to an interview, in "Life Magazine", dated December 18, 1964, by Richard Merryman. Taylor told this story about movie mogul, Howard Hughes, he owned "RKO Studios" at the time, offering her parents a six-figure amount of money for her hand in marriage. She turned down the offer and stated, at the time, she did want to marry young, but to the right person.


Husband #1--CONRAD HILTON, JR.





























On May 6, 1950, 24-years-old, Conrad Nicholson "Nicky" Hilton, Jr., married Elizabeth Taylor. He seemed the perfect match for the 18-years-old actress and was the heir to the "Hilton Hotel Chain", founded by his father, 

Being released 12 days later, was Elizabeth Taylor's latest feature film, the original version of "Father of the Bride". The classic comedy picture, co-starred Taylor with Spencer Tracy and Joan Bennett. It was a pure Hollywood tale of a father comically overwhelmed with his daughter's wedding and all the preparations that come before it. 




The real world was something far different for the young actress.

To the social world that Taylor and Hilton heir lived in, their wedding was a "Cinderella Fairy Tale" come true. However, unlike the role of "Kay Banks", that she played in that upcoming motion picture. Elizabeth Taylor was still being chaperoned and needed her parent's approval for anything she did and especially marriage. In one respect, Elizabeth's wedding, might be described as a means of gaining control of her future and finally being considered an adult. 

As to the fairy tale, my reader must remember that, "Cinderella, or the Glass Slipper". was written by the Brothers Grimm.

On January 29, 1951, just 205 days after being married, Elizabeth Hilton's divorce became final. She would refuse alimony, but legally took back her last name of Taylor. "Prince Charming" turned out to be an alcoholic, womanizer (his step-mother, Zsa Zsa Gabor, would write, in her autobiography, of having an affair with her step-son in 1944), a gambler with no concern over how much he bet, and a physical abuser.

Conrad Hilton, Jr. would remarry and divorce, once again, with the same charges raised. On February 5, 1969, at the age of 42, "Nicky" Hilton died from an alcoholism related heart attack.




Husband #2--MICHAEL WILDING




































On February 21, 1952, just a week before Elizabeth Taylor turned 20-years of age, she married the 39-years-old, British actor, Michael Wilding. 

Prior, Taylor was having problems with the roles "Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer" gave her, but being under contract she had to do them. The studio had sent Elizabeth Taylor to England, in 1951, to be in their most expensive production to date. The feature was based upon British historical author, Sir Walter Scott's, "Ivanhoe". The motion picture starred in order, Robert Taylor, Elizabeth Taylor, Joan Fontaine, George Sanders and Emlyn Williams. 































Even with second billing, which indicated her value to the studio, Elizabeth Taylor's role of "Rebecca", was very small compared to the novel, and the actress objected to the studio about it. She was considering leaving "MGM" when her present contract ran out, and this picture seemed to be the straw that broke the camel's back for the actress.

"Ivanhoe", was the second motion picture for both the unrelated Taylor's, Elizabeth and Robert. They had first appeared in a American-British Film Noir, the "Conspirator", released July 29, 1949, in the United Kingdom. She played a beautiful 18-years-old American, that falls in love with an Officer of the British Guards, who turns out to be a Russian spy. The gossip columnists didn't miss the chance to create a controversy over the ages of the two leads, he was 38, and she was only 16.























Above Elizabeth Taylor and Robert Taylor in "Conspirator".

It was while filming, that Elizabeth Taylor first met British actor Michael Wilding and his wife.

In 1951, after returning to London from Hollywood, Michael Wilding divorced Kay Young, his wife of 14-years.. In Hollywood, Wilding had worked with Greer Garson, on the "MGM" box office failure, 1951's, "The Law and the Lady". Back in the United Kingdom the actor made the highly successful, "The Lady with a Lamp", co-starring Anne Neagle as "Florence Nightingale", and released in the U.K. on September 22, 1951. It was during the production of Wilding's motion picture and Taylor's, that the two met again.

Five months after the release of "The Lady with a Lamp", the newspapers on both sides of "The Pond", ran headlines of the Taylor-Wilding wedding.

The two were at cross purposes in this marriage, but didn't realize it at the time.

In that "Life Magazine" article by Richard Merryman, referenced above, Elizabeth Taylor stated her marriage with Michael Wilding was the means to give her:
the calm and quiet and security of friendship
While, Michael hoped his marriage to Elizabeth would help restart his downward spiraling film career. He had signed a long-term contract with "MGM", but refused a film and the powerful studio placed the actor on suspension. They took him off, because Wilding was a perfect fit for the Joan Crawford musical drama, her voice was dubbed, 1953, "Torch Song", and loaned him out to "20th Century Fox", for the big budgeted, 1954 epic, "The Egyptian", to play the "Pharaoh". 

Earlier, Elizabeth had changed her mind about not signing another contract with "MGM", because she found herself pregnant with their first child and the money was needed. Michael Howard Wilding was born on January 6, 1953, and, Christopher Edward Wilding was born on February 27, 1955.







































Above, a happy Elizabeth and Michael Wilding with their first son. Below, Mom with both of her boys.




































The two were starting to drift apart as her career continued upwards and his, the other way. In 1954, Michael, 42-years-old, filmed the "MGM" musical, "The Glass Slipper", portraying "Prince Charles (Charming)", to Leslie Caron's, 23-years-old, "Ella (Cinderella)". The picture was released in 1955. That same year the box office failure, "The Scarlet Coat", was released, with Wilding portraying the head of the American Secret Service during the "Revolutionary War".



























Above, Michael Wilding and Leslie Caron.


While, during almost all of 1955, Elizabeth Taylor was on location in Texas, filming Director George Stevens' classic version of authoress Edna Ferber's, "Giant", co-starring Rock Hudson and James Dean. 










"Giant" wasn't the only novel by Edna Ferber turned into a motion picture. In fact they go back to the silent era, and my article: "Edna Ferber and the Hollywood Interpretations: Featuring Elizabeth Taylor, Barbara Stanwyck, Katharine Hepburn, Ingrid Bergman, Ava Gardner, Jane Wyman, Irene Dunne, Kathryn Grayson, Carolyn Jones, and Ginger Rodgers", is available for reading at:

http://www.bewaretheblog.com/2016/12/edna-ferber-and-hollywood.html

Adding pressure on their marriage was the tabloid, Confidential". It ran article that while Elizabeth was away in Texas, Michael was having wild parties with strippers at their home.













































On July 18, 1956, Elizabeth and Michael Wilding announced their separation and the divorce became final in January 1957.




Husband #3--MICHAEL "MIKE" TODD










































Mike Todd was an American Theatre and Motion Picture producer. Todd had started out in construction, at the age of 21, and married his first wife, Bertha Freshman in 1927. The couple would have one son, but with "The Great Depression" taking hold of America, Todd's business went bankrupt. 

In 1933, for the Chicago, "Century of Progress Expedition", Todd's publicity gimmickry began with the creation of an attraction called the "Flame Dance". The audience was transfixed as a woman danced on a stage and gas jets of fire surrounded her, as she appeared to be entirely naked on the stage.

In 1939, Mike Todd produced "The Hot Mikado", a parody of Gilbert and Sullivan's comic opera, "The Mikado", on Broadway. This was a major gamble, as Todd's production starred Bill "Bojangles" Robinson at the head of an all African-American cast. It was a success, but first ran afoul of FDR's, "Federal Theatre Projects" administration for not clearing it with them. Next, it was Broadway producer and showman, Billy Rose. Who had a straight version of the Gilbert and Sullivan opera on Broadway. The two showmen settle their dispute over drinks and dinner at "Lindy's Deli, at Broadway and 51st street.
























In 1943, Mike Todd produced the Broadway hit, "The Naked Genius", written by and starring Stripper Gypsy Rose Lee. Todd had become a known Broadway producer, but was still the king of publicity and came up with the idea of holding the Major League Baseball All-Star Game in newly liberated West Berlin. The new Baseball Commissioner was intrigued with the idea, but declined.

In, 1946, Bertha Todd passed away from a collapsed lung.

On July 5, 1947, Mike Todd married film star Joan Blondell, but the two would divorce, on June 8, 1950, with Blondell claiming mental cruelty.

In 1950, Mike Todd became involved with a movie process known as "Cinerama". It used three cameras to film a three-projector process that covered the complete vision of the human eye, However, he left during the development stage.

To counter the flaws, two lines seen on the curved "Cinerama" screen, between the three projected images. Mike Todd developed, with the American Optical Company, the film process known as "Todd -A-O". 

Between "Cinerama" and "Todd-A-O", in 1953, "20th Century Fox" introduced their widescreen process, "CinemaScope", with the biblical epic, "The Robe", starring Richard Burton and Jean Simmons. The process was actually a form of standard 35 mm film, that created compact elongated images, projected through a special lens attached to the projector onto a wide screen. 

However, when Rodgers and Hammerstein's "Oklahoma", opened on October 11, 1955, in "Todd-A-O", the film stock was actual 70 mm.

On October 17, 1956, released in "Todd-A-O", was Michael Todd's, "Best Picture Oscar", production of Jules Verne's, "Around the World in 80 Days".





The motion picture starred, David Niven, Shirley MacLaine, Robert Newton, and Mexican comedian, Cantinflas. However, the showman and gimmick minded Mike Todd knew how to draw the audience into what was basically a travelogue. He hired over 40 famous actors to appear for as little as a few seconds, the Old West piano player turns to face the camera and it's Frank Sinatra, Buster Keaton was a train conductor, George Raft was a bouncer in a Barbary Coast Saloon, or Keye Luke was a man in a Yokohama travel agency for example. 

The setting of Verne's story is Victorian England and in the hardcover program. Each of these special actors were placed in a Victorian photo frame with a small explanation about them, but it was those frames, known as "Victorian Cameo Frames", that created the term, "Cameo Role".

Sometime during this period, Michael Todd and Elizabeth Taylor began seeing each other. On February 2, 1957, only one month after her divorce to Michael Wilding. The the 24-years-old Taylor, married the 47-years-old Todd in Acapulco, Mexico. Their witness was Mexican actor Mario Moreno aka: Cantinflas. On, August 6, 1957, count the months, their daughter Elizabeth Frances "Liza" Todd was born.


































Above, Elizabeth, Mike, and Liza.

On December 20, 1957, what some people would consider the counter to 1939's, "Gone with the Wind". "Raintree County", set in the North, before, during the Civil War, and after, was released, also from "MGM". Elizabeth Taylor would be nominated for the "Best Actress Oscar" for her performance. 





  
































My article, "The Making of the Motion Picture Version of Ross Lockridge, Jr's, 'Raintree County': The Forgotten, 1957, Attempt at a 'Hollywood Clone' of Margaret Mitchell's, 1939, 'GONE WITH THE WIND", can be read at:

 http://www.bewaretheblog.com/2017/02/the-making-of-motion-picture-version-of.html



The Todd's marriage had its ups and downs, but basically the two were in love with each other. Below a February 10, 1958, "TWA Advertisement" with the Todd's.




































On February 22, 1958, the "Golden Globe Awards" took place and the following photograph, of Eddie Fisher, Elizabeth Taylor Todd, and her husband Mike Todd, was taken. What would happen the following month makes the photography slightly predictive.

 



























On March 22, 1958, Mike Todd was flying in a "Lockheed Lodestar" private jet that crashed near Grants, New Mexico, killing all on-board. His body, as were the others, had to identified by dental records. Ironically, attending the Jewish funeral was Eddie Fisher, a close personal friend of Mike Todd's. In his autobiography, "Been There, Done That", July 15, 2000, Fisher wrote:

There was a closed coffin, but I knew it was more for show than anything else. The plane had exploded on impact, and whatever remains were found couldn't be identified... The only items recovered from the wreckage were Mike's wedding ring and a pair of platinum cuff links I'd given him



Husband #4--EDDIE FISHER


 

















The death of Mike Todd brought the "Best Friend" and "Grieving Widow" together. They started an affair, but Fisher was still married to Debbie Reynolds. Their second child, Todd Fisher, had only been born on February 24, 1958, just a month before Michael Todd's death. To add to the "Hollywood Story", Elizabeth Taylor and Debbie Reynold's were also, "Best Friends" and the two couples used to double date.




























Eddie Fisher was one of the most popular singers during the first half of the 1950's, and with his wife, Debbie Reynolds, had appeared in the 1956 motion picture, "Bundle of Joy". From, October 1, 1957, through, March 17, 1959, he hosted the musical/ comedy variety television program, "The Eddie Fisher Show". 

The Fisher-Taylor Affair, became a major scandal and resulted in the cancellation of that television program. 

The April 1959, issue of "Screen Stories", had the following cover:



























On, May 12, 1959, after converting to Judaism, Elizabeth Taylor married Eddie Fisher, at "Temple Beth Sholom", in Las Vegas, Nevada. 

This newspaper article was from a month after the wedding dated, June 13, 1959:








At the time the above article was circulating in the United States, Elizabeth Taylor was in Rome, Italy, making the motion picture, "Cleopatra", and being paid, the, then, unheard of salary of one-million-dollars, equal at the time of this writing to, $9,381,546. In January 1961, production shut-down, because Taylor became extremely ill. Only ten-minutes of film had been shot and the cost was a loss of $7 million to the studio, but the insurance company kicked it back to them.

Eddie Fisher was making trips between his commitments in the United States to the production site in Italy, and home again. I will speak to Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton in the next section.

On March 5, 1964, Elizabeth Taylor was granted a divorce from Eddie Fisher in Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco, Mexico. Taylor stated, in interviews, that she only married Fisher as a way out of her grief over the death of Mike Todd.

As for Debbie Reynolds, the two women had started a major feud at the time of her divorce, but according to Reynolds on the television show, "Oprah", in 2011. Their feud had ended, when the two ex-wives, were both on-board the "Queen Elizabeth", in either the late 1960's, or early 1970's. Reynolds sent a note to Taylor's stateroom, and the two met and reconciled sharing stories about Eddie.



Husband #5--RICHARD BURTON







Richard Walter Jenkins Jr., aka: Richard Burton, had married Welsh actress, theatre director and, in 1965, the founder of a popular New York City nightclub, "Arthur", Sybil Williams in 1949. She was still married to him, when her husband started work on "Cleopatra".

Burton started acting on the British stage and when the Second World War broke out, found himself in the RAF, but stationed in Canada as an instructor. After the war, he made his first on-screen appearance with 16th billing in a British made-for-television feature film. In 1952, he made the transition to Hollywood in the gothic romance, "My Cousin Rachel", co-starring with Olivia de Havilland. The following year Richard Burton starred in two other American films, "The Desert Rats", featuring James Mason recreating his role of "Field Marshal Erwin Rommel", and that first CinemaScope motion picture, "The Robe". He battled Frederick March for overacting as the title role in 1956's, "Alexander the Great",

Burton's motion picture roles, on both sides of the pond, had ups and downs, but in 1960, on Broadway, Richard Burton portrayed and sang the role of "King Arthur", to Julie Andrews', Guinevere", in Lerner and Lowes hit musical, "Camelot". 

















However, on the downside in 1960, was the terrible version of authoress Edna Ferber's, "Ice Palace", with Robert Ryan and Martha Hyer. Along with the same years "The Bramble Bush", with Barbara Rush

In July 1961, Elizabeth Taylor was well enough to return to "Cleopatra", but Stephen Boyd had left the production as "Mark Anthony". Producer Walter Wanger approached Richard Burton to take the role. While, at the same time, Peter Finch, left the picture as "Julius Caesar", and would be replaced by Rex Harrison.

The production resumed shooting in 1962, but with Eddie Fisher away in the United States and mutual attraction in close quarters. The married Elizabeth Taylor, and the married Richard Burton, started a scandalous affair that topped the one she had with Fisher. The cost overruns for the motion picture kept mounting, and the Taylor-Burton affair added to the problems of the troubled production.

















Above a photo taken after "Cleopatra" wrapped in 1962, of Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, in Ischia, Italy. The Vatican condemned the two movie stars for "Erotic Vagrancy", and "Moral Christian's" in the United States started calling their Congressmen to bar the couple from re-entering the country.


 Below, the two are seen at the Paris, France, premiere of "Lawrence of Arabia", in March 1963.




  



On June 12, 1963, "Cleopatra", was released. 







 Richard Burton divorced his wife Sybil, the couple had two daughters, Kate and Jessica.

On September 1, 1963, starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, the British motion picture "The V.I.P's",  premiered in Denmark. "The V.I.P.'s", according to story and screenplay writer Terence Rattigan, was based upon the true story of actress Vivian Leigh's attempt to leave her husband Laurence Olivier for Peter Finch, but getting delayed in the fog at Heathrow Airport.

The following year, Taylor in a blonde wig, as a villager, appeared in Burton and Peter O'Toole's, historical drama, "Becket", released on March 11, 1964.


On March 15, 1964, ten days after her divorce to Eddie Fisher became final. Elizabeth Taylor married Richard Burton at the "Ritz-Carlton", in Montreal, Canada, for the first time. Their "Jet Set" lifestyle, their public fights and make-ups, all contributed to what the media called "Liz and Dick". The gossip columnists dubbed this:
THE MARRIAGE OF THE CENTURY!
Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton appeared together in the motion picture version of playwright Edward Albee's, "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?", released on June 21, 1966. Both would be nominated for "Oscars", she won, he didn't. However, reviewers and others thought the Burton's were not playing Albee's, "Martha" and "George", but "Liz" and "Dick".

























The following year was the excellent version of William Shakespeare's, "The Taming of the Shrew", released on February 27, 1967 in London. 














The gossip columns were full of reports of massive spending, affairs within affairs, and of course those fights. On June 26, 1974, their First Divorce became final.

However, the two couldn't stay apart and they reconciled, and on October 10, 1975, in Kasane, Botswana, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton were remarried. Their second time around, lasted less than one year, and on July 29, 1976, their Second Divorce became final.



Husband #6--JOHN WARNER





















John William Warner III was a politician and attorney from the State of Virginia. He was a veteran of both the Second World War, as a member of the United States Navy, and the Korean War, as a member of the United States Marine Corps, rising to the rank of Captain. He received his law degree from the "University of Virginia".

During the 1960 United States Presidential Election, Republican Warner, served as an aide to Richard Milhouse Nixon. From, February 11, 1969 through May 4, 1972, John Warner was the "Under Secretary of the Navy". From, May 4, 1972 through April 8, 1974, Warner was the "Secretary of the Navy".

In 1973, Warner had divorced his first wife, Catherine Mellon. During their 16-years of marriage, the couple had three children, two daughters and a son. 

Shortly, after her second divorce from Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor was introduced to John Warner. The two would be married on, December 4, 1976, and the actress seemed to enjoy the life of a politician's wife. In 1978, John Warner ran for the Senate nomination of the Republican Party. He would lose for his somewhat liberal leanings toward the "Civil-Rights Movement", to a ultra-Conservative challenger. However, on January 3, 1979, John Warner became a "United States Senator" for the State of Virginia", and over time, his relationship with his wife started to change.

Elizabeth Taylor, found her husband's two campaigns for the Senate exhilarating, but after he was elected. The life of a Senator's wife became boring, he would work long hours, and she stayed at home most of the time. The glamour was going out of her life and her Motion Picture career had been in a decline since 1968. The reality was Elizabeth Taylor was middle-aged, had put on weight, and did not fit the new "Hollywood Profile" of American actress Jane Fonda, or British actress Julie Christie.

Taylor kept putting on weight, became addicted to prescription drugs and was a borderline alcoholic. 

In December, 1981, Elizabeth Taylor and John Warner separated, and on November 7, 1982, their divorce became final.



The Years Before Husband #7

After her divorce, Elizabeth Taylor dated "Soap Opera", "General Hospital", leading man, Anthony Geary, "Luke Spencer".
































According to the gossip columnists, still debated as to if it really happened, between 1983 and 1984, Elizabeth Taylor was engaged to Mexican lawyer, Victor Luna. Then, according to the columnists, in 1985, she was engaged to businessman Dennis Stein.

Besides her dating Anthony Geary, what is known as fact is:



Husband #7--LARRY FORTENSKY





























Larry Fortensky was a twice married Construction worker. In 1987, he was convicted for driving while intoxicated. Police found him sitting in his car in a San Clemente, California, parking lot and in possession of marijuana. In 1988, Fortensky checked himself into the "Betty Ford Center", for drug and alcohol  rehab and met Elizabeth Taylor there.

The couple were married at singer Michael Jackson's "Neverland Ranch", on October 6, 1991. The paparazzi having a field day with the 160 guests, including, Nancy Reagan, Liza Minnelli, Quincy Jones and Eddie Murphy. Taylor wore a $25,000 dollar wedding dress, equating to double that amount at the time of this writing.

Elizabeth Taylor would sell photographs of the wedding to "People Magazine", for one-million-dollars and used the money to start her "Aids Foundation". 

When Fortensky married Taylor, he had been given a prenuptial agreement guaranteeing the Construction worker one-million-dollars, IF he remained married to the actress for Five-years. Five-years later, the couple divorced on Halloween, October 31, 1996 and Larry Fortensky got his million-dollars.

Over the years the marriages of Elizabeth Taylor have become a joke of sorts to many biographers, but they also look to be that young woman who jumped at a marriage to "Nicky Hilton" to escape her parents control and prove herself an adult, or the woman still looking for "Calm", "Quiet", and the "Security of Friendship".


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