Posts Tagged ‘biographies of actresses’

On January 6, 1956, the long leading story on page one of the New York Times read:   


Prince Rainier of Monaco and Grace Kelly of Philadelphia announce their engagement on January 5, 1956.

The fairytale romance was front page news! It had captured the public imagination “to the point of intoxication.” (1) There was to be a wedding – a royal wedding ! It would be the “Wedding of the Century,” it was predicted.

Grace Patricia Kelly was an Academy-Award-winning actress and America’s #1 box office star. Prince Rainier was Europe‘s most eligible bachelor. It was a marriage made in heaven – it seemed.  Behind the scenes, though, a rather down-to-earth business arrangement had preceded the finalizing of the engagement.

The public was swept away by such a whirlwind courtship. After all,  Grace and the Prince barely knew one another. Just the previous May, the two had met at a Paris-Match publicity shoot at the Prince’s palace in Monaco.  They had exchanged polite words, nothing more. But after that chance encounter, Rainier and Grace began a vigorous correspondence. For the next seven months, letter flew back and forth across the Atlantic.

The Royal Palace at Monaco

Over the course of time, Grace and Rainier discovered that they had much in common – their Roman Catholicism particularly and their dissatisfaction with their lives. Both were looking to get married and start a family. 


Grace Kelly, Life magazine, ca. 1955.

The two were nothing more than pen pals when the Prince, his doctor, and his priest arrived at the home of Grace’s parents, Jack and Margaret Kelly, in Philadelphia on Christmas night, 1955. Grace had flown in from Hollywood for the special dinner visit. Bear in mind, Grace had not laid eyes on the Prince since the spring.  Three days later, they were engaged, with Grace’s parents’ approval.

Before Rainier and Grace could officially announce their engagement, though, there were several obstacles to overcome – matters of state, as Grace was marrying into the House of Grimaldi. First, Grace had to submit to a physical exam to determine if she could bear children – heirs to the throne of Monaco. She passed the fertility test.

Secondly, it was the custom among the European aristocracy for the bride’s family to pay the groom a dowry. Jack Kelly, an Irish millionaire whose family was the cream of Philadelphia society, flew into a rage at the very idea. In the end, though, as the marriage of his daughter was thrown in jeopardy, he agreed to pay the Prince a dowry of $2 million.

Finally, Grace had to accept that, in the event of a divorce, any children of the marriage would remain in Monaco with their father.

(1) Glatt, John. The Royal House of Monaco. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1998.

Readers, for more on Grace Kelly on this blog, click here.



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Actress Natalie Wood (1938-1981) in an undated photo

“Ever since I was knee high,” Natalie Wood would say later, “I  was waiting for my break.”

Natalie’s mother – whom she called “Mud” – had convinced Natalie that the only thing that mattered in life was to be a great actress. Mud had moved her family to Hollywood for the sole purpose of getting Natalie (1938-1981) into pictures. By the time Natalie was six, though, she had been paraded by Mud in front of scores of casting directors who paid her no mind.

In February 1945, Mud managed to get Natalie a screen test for “Tomorrow is Forever,” a picture directed by Irving Pichel. Natalie was one of six pretty little girls to audition for the role of a traumatized German war orphan named Margaret. In the film, Margaret has several heartrending scenes, one of which was chosen for the screen test. The scene called for Margaret to cry.

“She [Natalie] played the scene and it was not very good,” recalled Pichel. Natalie had not been able to cry. She didn’t get the part.

Mud became frantic that Natalie didn’t get the part. “My mother got mad and said, ‘What do you mean, you didn’t cry?'” recalled Natalie. That night at home, Mud commanded Natalie to phone Pichel and beg for a second chance. Pichel was moved by Natalie’s call and agreed to another screen test.

Mud then set her mind to preparing Natalie to cry on cue. She enlisted the aid of Natalie’s older sister, Olga, as coach. Olga remembered her drama teacher instructing the class to think of something sad when they needed to cry. Olga told Natalie to remember the day their dog was hit by a truck. Horrorstruck, Natalie relived the nightmare of her puppy being crushed to death.

 “I got her to cry,” recalls Olga.

Olga’s technique was not lost on Mud.

Both Mud and Olga were at the studio for Natalie’s second screen test. Before the camera rolled, Olga whispered to Natalie to think about their little dog dying, coaxing Natalie to cry. Then, even worse, her mother pulled the sobbing Natalie to the side where no one could see, and,

‘took a live butterfly out of a jar and tore the wings off it.'” (1)

Natalie became hysterical at her mother’s sadistic act, which only she had witnessed. Mud then grabbed Natalie by the hand, shouting at the crew, “She’s ready,” and propelled the screaming Natalie in front of the cameras. The cameras rolled.

Pichel, unaware of Olga and Mud’s behind-the-scenes brutality, recalled that Natalie’s tears that day “seemed to come from the depth of some divine despair.”

Natalie Wood’s 1946 publicity shot for “Tomorrow is Forever”

Natalie got the part, which allowed her to act alongside such Hollywood greats as Orson Welles and Claudette Colbert.

In a short time, Mud’s determination and Natalie’s talent achieved Mud’s desired result: Natalie Wood became a star. At the age of seven, she was supporting her family.

In 1947, she rocketed to superstardom as Susan Walker in the Christmas classic, “Miracle on 34th Street.” A few months after the film’s release, Natalie Wood was so popular that Macy’s  invited her to appear in the store’s annual Thanksgiving Day parade. She would star in 20 films as a child.

(1) Finstad, Suzanne. Natasha: The Biography of Natalie Wood. New York: Three Rivers Press, 2001. This story was recounted by Natalie Wood to actor Robert Redford twenty years later.

American actors Robert Redford and Natalie Wood, ca. 1965-66. They starred in two films together, Inside Daisy Clover and This Property is Condemned.

Readers, for more on Natalie Wood on Lisa’s History Room, click here.

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American movie actress Grace Kelly (1929-1982) had an encounter with a “Bust Inspector” during the production of the 1954 film Rear WindowHowever, this “BI” was not a censor dispatched by the Motion Pictures Production Code crew (See “Elizabeth Taylor and the Bust Inspector.”) The person attempting to meddle with Grace’s bust was none other than the film’s director: Alfred Hitchcock. Grace recalled: 

“At the rehearsal for the scene in Rear Window when I wore a sheer nightgown, Hitchcock called for [Paramount costume designer] Edith Head. He came over here and said, ‘Look, the bosom is not right, we’re going to have to put something in there.’ He was very sweet about it; he didn’t want to upset me, so he spoke quietly to Edith.

 When we went into my dressing room and Edith said, ‘Mr. Hitchcock is worried because there’s a false pleat here. He wants me to put in falsies.’ Well, I said, ‘You can’t put falsies in this, it’s going to show and I’m not going to wear them.’ And she said, ‘What are we going to do?’

 So we quickly took it up here, made some adjustments there, and I just did what I could and stood as straight as possible – without falsies. When I walked out onto the set Hitchcock looked at me and at Edith and said, ‘See what a difference they make?'”

Grace Kelly wears a silky negligee in a movie still from the 1954 murder-mystery, “Rear Window.” Costume designer Edith Head recalled Kelly giggling upon spotting her reflection in the mirror. “Why, I look like a peach parfait!” she said.

Readers: For more on Grace Kelly (Princess Grace of Monaco), click here.

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Elizabeth Taylor sizzes as "Maggie the Cat" in the 1958 film, "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof."

From 1930-1968, the Motion Picture Production Code spelled out clearly what was acceptable conduct to be shown in Hollywood movies. When  British-born actress Elizabeth Taylor (b. 1932) appeared as Maggie the Cat in the 1958 movie version of Tennessee Williams’ Pulitzer Prize-winning play, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, the movie censors dogged the set.

“It’s hard to believe how strictly we were supervised in those days when it came to anything involving sex,” recalled Elizabeth. “It wasn’t just homosexuality that was concealed; heterosexual behavior was subject to almost as many restrictions.”

One day when she was on camera for a wardrobe test, an “inspector” showed up.

When a BI (Bust Inspector, if you can believe it) appeared, he took one look at me and called for a stepladder. He climbed up, peered down, and announced that I needed a higher-cut dress, too much breast was exposed.”

To satisfy the BI, the costume designer Helen Rose pinned Elizabeth’s bodice with a brooch. But as soon as the BI left, that brooch came off and Elizabeth Taylor’s legendary cleavage was bared. (1)

Paul Newman and Elizabeth Taylor have more bitter conversation in a still from the 1958 film, "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof."

(1) Kashner, Sam and Schoenberger, Nancy. Furious Love. New York: Harper Collins, 2010.

Readers, for more on Elizabeth Taylor, click here.

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Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor photographed on the set of “Cleopatra” in Rome. Life Magazine, April 13, 1962

During the 1962 filming of “Cleopatra” in Rome, Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton began a very public affair. The two were both married to other people at the time. The scandal made headlines worldwide and was met with moral outrage.

After five months in Rome, filming moved to the island of Ischia, Italy, off the Amalfi Coast, with the paparazzi in hot pursuit. It was on Ischia that the scenes on Cleopatra’s barge were shot. The following candid photos of Elizabeth Taylor sunbathing and swimming were taken by celebrity portrait photographer Bert Stern.

Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton relax in Ischia, Italy, in June 1962, during the filming of the "Cleopatra" barge scenes.

Elizabeth Taylor on location for "Cleopatra" off the coast of Ischia, Italy, June 1962

That same month, the Hollywood stars visited the neighboring island of Capri as guests of entertainer Dame Gracie Field at her exclusive hotel, La Canzone Del Mare. The hotel’s name – “Singer of the Sea” – is a reference to the incredible view over the rocks below where the mythological sirens were said to have lured sailors to their deaths. The photo shown here is being shown publicly for the first time in an auction of Field’s scrapbooks

Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton arrive on the island of Capri in June 1962. The screen stars, who were both married, were guests at Dame Gracie Field’s exclusive hotel on Capri, La Canzone Del Mare.


Rumours of their relationship had been sizzling since filming of Cleopatra began the year before, but exploded that June when the scandalised Vatican accused them of ‘erotic vagrancy’ and the U.S. government threatened to ban them from the country. In the photograph, however, they look as though they haven’t a care in the world as they stroll side by side to the waterfront, him holding a cigarette in a casual white top and trousers, Taylor standing beside him in a one-piece bathing suit and cap, their hands almost brushing together.”

After the picture “Cleopatra” was completed filming the next month (July 1962), Taylor and Burton would continue their off-screen romanace. Another two and a half years would elapse before they would divorce their respective spouses and be free to marry one another. After their March 1964 wedding in Montreal at the Ritz Carlton, “the Burtons” would continue to captivate the public’s attention for the rest of the sixties, grabbing headlines, making movies together, throwing glamorous parties, having nasty public arguments, buying ridiculously large and expensive jewels and yachts, jetting here and there, and hobnobbing with royalty like the exiled Duke and Duchess of Windsor and other glitterati. 

But by 1970, the glitter had worn off the golden couple. Their endless and needless spending and self-indulgence were wearisome and tacky. Their film reviews were terrible and their relationship was worse. They made each other miserable. They were in bad health. Both drank heavily and Elizabeth liked pills.  They would divorce each other only to remarry, then divorce again.   

Readers: For more on Elizabeth Taylor, click here.

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Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton tie the knot in Montreal on March, 1964.

Since they began their affair on the movie set of “Cleopatra” in January, 1962, Richard Burton delighted in giving bride Elizabeth Taylor extravagant jewels.

The Taylor-Burton Diamond

One of the most famous pieces Burton gave Taylor is the pear-shaped, 69.42 carat Taylor-Burton Diamond. Fifth husband Richard Burton bought the diamond from Cartier in 1969 after a Sotheby’s auction, paying over $1 million for it. Burton agreed to allow the jeweler to display the jewel for a limited period in New York and Chicago, beginning on November 1. Crowds of more than 6,000 a day circled the store’s Fifth Avenue shop in New York to “gawk at a diamond as big as the Ritz.”

Meanwhile, Taylor had Cartier remount the stone as a pendant suspended from a V-shaped necklace of graduated pear-shaped diamonds, mounted in platinum. Elizabeth admitted that even for her the Cartier Diamond – now called the Taylor-Burton Diamond – was too big to wear as a ring.

The Taylor-Burton Diamond hangs from a diamond necklace created by Cartier.

Elizabeth is no stranger to heavy rings. She wears the Krupp Diamond on her left hand almost every day and has worn it in most if not all of her films and TV appearances since she bought it in 1968 for $305,000. The stone weighs 33.19 carats.

Liz Taylor's everyday ring: The Krupp Diamond

The Krupp Diamond, Liz Taylor’s everyday ring

Elizabeth chose to debut the Taylor-Burton Diamond at Princess Grace of Monaco’s  fortieth birthday bash at L’Hermitage in Monte Carlo. Princess Grace, formerly known as film star Grace Kelly (1929-1982), who would officially turn 40 on November 12, 1969, wanted to share this special occasion with sixty of her closest friends. Many of them were celebrities she knew from her film days like Rock Hudson, the Taylor-Burtons, and David and Hjordis Niven.

Film star Grace Kelly marries Prince Rainier III of Monaco in Monte Carlo, April 1956 and becomes Her Serene Highness The Princess of Monaco.

Princess Grace’s invitations were designed like horoscopes and the party was to have a Scorpio theme – as that was Grace’s astrological sign. Grace was a lifelong believer in astrology, and often called a Hollywood astrologer for a personal daily horoscope. (1)

Princess Grace of Monaco (center) is flanked by her 2 sisters on the day of her fortieth birthday party. Monte Carlo, Monaco. November 15, 1969.

Meanwhile, Elizabeth Taylor (b. 1932) planned her big entrance to Princess Grace’s party. Aside from choosing her wardrobe and hairstyle, she and Richard decided that the Taylor-Burton Diamond required more then ordinary security:

First, the diamond was flown from New York to Nice in the company of two security guards, who delivered it to Elizabeth Taylor and her husband aboard their yacht, the Kalizma. The Burtons were then escorted to the party with their security guards, who were armed with machine guns as added protection.” (2) 

Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor arrive at Princess Grace’s 40th birthday party, Monaco, November, 1969. Notice that Liz Taylor wears a robe in keeping with the party’s Scorpio theme, the Princess’s astrological sign. On her left hand she wears the Krupp Diamond. The necklace pendant is the Taylor-Burton Diamond. November, 1969 (“Bling-Bling, Bang-Bang: Elizabeth Taylor Attends Princess Grace’s Scorpio Ball,” Lisa’s History Room)

Princess Grace of Monaco with Richard Burton at her 40th birthday party, Monaco, November 1969

Princess Grace of Monaco, 1969

Although it was Grace’s birthday, Elizabeth Taylor clearly upstaged the princess, dazzling all the guests with her new jewel and her beauty. After the ball, Grace wrote friend Judy Balaban Quine that she found it hard to take her eyes off Elizabeth, whom she considered

 “unbearably beautiful.”

Turning forty, added Grace, was equally unbearable. (1)

Richard Burton escorts wife Elizabeth Taylor to the April 1970 Academy Awards. Elizabeth wears the Taylor-Burton Diamond necklace and an Edith Head chiffon gown.

After the Taylor-Burton divorce in 1978, Elizabeth sold the diamond for $5 million, pledging to use part of the profit to build a hospital in Botswana (which, my mother tells me, blew away).

(1) Glatt, John. The Royal House of Monaco: Dynasty of Glamour, Tragedy, and Scandal. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1997.
(2) Taylor, Elizabeth. Elizabeth Taylor: My Love Affair with Jewelry. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2002.

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American actress Grace Kelly looks over her shoulder in Hollywood, California, March 1954. In April 1956, Kelly married Rainier III, Prince of Monaco, and became Her Serene Highness the Princess of Monaco. (“Grace Kelly: Floating on Chiffon,” Lisa’s History Room)

I was so excited to read in Vanity Fair that London’s Victoria & Albert Museum was featuring an exhibition of Grace Kelly‘s clothes. What a treat! I thought. Imagine all those beautiful 1950s dresses designed for actress Grace Kelly (1929-1982) together in one place. Of course I couldn’t get to London, I knew; I was recovering from spine surgery and we were building an addition to our house.

But what did that matter? I had my computer. With a few keystrokes and mouse clicks, I could cyber fashion stroll. I just assumed the V & A Museum would put the collection online as they had done with Queen Victoria and Prince Albert‘s jewelry collection. (See “Victoria & Albert: Art & Love & Teeth”)

I jumped to the museum website and found the exhibition: “Grace Kelly: Style Icon.” I got even happier after I read the promising blurb:

“Featuring dresses from her films including ‘High Society’ and ‘Rear Window,’ as well as the gown she wore to accept her Oscar in 1955, the display will examine Grace Kelly’s glamorous Hollywood image and enduring appeal.

It will also explore the evolution of her style as Princess Grace of Monaco, from the outfit she wore to her first meeting with Prince Rainier in 1955 to her haute couture gowns of the 1960s and ’70s by her favourite couturiers Dior, Balenciaga, Givenchy and Yves St Laurent.”

But much to my chagrin, I discovered that the exhibit is not posted online at the V & A. I was, at first, incredibly disappointed. In a mad haste, I scoured the Internet for images of the fashion display on newssites and blogs. I found a lot of articles but precious few images of the actual exhibit. But what I did find told a lot. To illustrate a point, here are two of those V & A showcase windows:  

A mannequin displays the dress Grace Kelly wore in “The Swan.” (1956) The exhibit, “Grace Kelly: Style Icon,” is at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London from April 17- September 26, 2010

The exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, “Grace Kelly: Style Icon,” includes dresses worn by Grace Kelly after she became Princess Grace of Monaco in 1956.

Yawn. Pretty dry stuff, huh? Dresses on mannequins have no sparkle. What they needed was Grace Kelly.

Grace Kelly as Lisa Fremont in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1954 thriller, “Rear Window.” (“Grace Kelly: Floating on Chiffon,” Lisa’s History Room)

So instead of trying to catalog for you all the dresses in the V & A, I have picked my personal favorite and shown it as worn by the eternally beautiful Grace Kelly. It is the Paris dress she wore as sophisticate Lisa Carol Fremont in the 1954 Alfred Hitchcock classic, “Rear Window.”

The dress with a fitted black bodice and deep V-cut bustline was designed for Kelly by Paramount Picture’s chief costume designer Edith Head. The full skirt falls to mid-calf, gathered and layered in white chiffon and tulle. From the nipped-in waist, a spray branch pattern falls playfully over the hip. Grace accessorized her high-fashion gown with white silk gloves, pearls, and a chiffon shoulder wrap.

To read the “Rear Window” script excerpt wherein “Lisa-Carol- Fremont” enters Jimmy Stewart‘s apartment wearing this outfit, click here.

Grace Kelly sits on steps in her “Paris” dress she wore in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1954 “Rear Window.” The gown had a light & airy quality with a slender waist and a beautiful skirt made from yards and yards of tulle and chiffon. The black and white confection was created by Paramount Pictures costume designer Edith Head. (“Grace Kelly: Floating on Chiffon,” Lisa’s History Room)

For more on Grace Kelly, click here.

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To promote the film, "April in Paris," Doris Day appeared on a 1952 Collier's magazine cover with six dyed poodles.

Doris Day appears on the cover of Collier's 1952 magazine to promote her new film, "April in Paris." With her are 6 dyed poodles. Poodles became the most popular dog in the 1950s, when poodle skirts made their debut.

In post WWII America, the poodle dog became the rage. It went from being the 25th most popular dog in 1946 to No. 1 in 1960. All of a sudden, poodles

…were chic; they stood for modernity and sophistication, which anyone could shoot for, whether they were rich or just wanted to appear a la mode. Teenage girls wore stylish poodle skirts decorated with felt-appliqued French poodles wearing rhinestone collars; ladies bought handbags with embroidered poodles on the side and decorated their powder rooms with wallpaper that had pictures of poodles strolling down the Champs-Elysees. (1)

In the fifties, every glamorous movie star had a poodle – or was photographed with one.

Actress Joan Collins with her dyed pink poodle

Although they are not French, poodles came to be called “French poodles,”  recalled for their clever antics in French circuses. Thus, Americans bought poodles and gave them French names like Fifi, Gigi, and Pierre. They also took them to fancy groomers:

To gaze upon a standard (full-size) poodle in a “Miami Sweetheart” cut with centered fur hearts on hips and back, pantaloon legs sculpted lathe-smooth, tassel ears, a Van Buren mustache drooping from its muzzle, a ribboned topknot, and a wagging pompon tail, parading along the boulevard in a rhinestone collar at the end of a jeweled lead, is to see an animal that has become a walking, barking work of art.

Then the poodle enthusiasts went a step further. They attempted to make an animal that was already cute even cuter. They began to use vegetable dyes to dye the dogs to match their owners’ houses, moods, and outfits. Movie actress Doris Day epitomized this fad when she appeared in the movie, “April in Paris,” with six dyed poodles on leashes.

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Elizabeth Taylor with husband #2: Michael Wilding: Married 21 February 1952, Divorced 30 January 1957

On May 12, 1956, Anglo-American film actress Elizabeth Taylor and her second husband Michael Wilding threw a dinner party at their Beverly Hills home. It was a bad night for a party. For the first thing, it was foggy and the Wildings lived up a long and winding road in Benedict Canyon. For the second thing, the Wildings’ marriage was on the rocks. Elizabeth was having an affair and Michael’s out-of-control drinking had led to several indiscretions with other women. 

The guest of honor was to be Father George Long, a hip priest who ran with the Hollywood set. Rock Hudson and his new wife Phyllis Gates were invited. So was Kevin McCarthy, who was then making “Invasion of the Body Snatchers.” 

Montgomery Clift was another actor on the guest list. That spring, he and Elizabeth were shooting the MGM Civil War melodrama, “Raintree County.” 

Montgomery Clift and Elizabeth Taylor in "Raintree County" (1957)

(Elizabeth had just finished filming “Giant” which would be released in October of that same year.) 

Elizabeth Taylor and Rock Hudson in "Giant" (1956)

Monty and Elizabeth had become best friends in 1951 during the filming of “A Place in the Sun.” Monty affectionately referred to Elizabeth as “Bessie Mae.” She was his confidante. Monty Clift was a rising star, known for his sensitive and brooding portrayals of troubled young men. He was very intense and deeply serious about acting. 

"A Place in the Sun" (1951) with Montgomery Clift and Elizabeth Taylor

At first Monty declined the invitation at Liz’s. He was awkward being around the Wildings while their marriage was so bad. But he changed his mind and agreed to join the group for dinner, leasing a car and driving up the mountain road to the Wildings’ house. 

The party turned out to be a terrific bore. The guest of honor didn’t even show. Michael Wilding wasn’t feeling well and spent the evening lounging on the couch, saying virtually nothing to the company and acting aloof. That made Elizabeth nervous so she was unusually chatty. Monty grumbled about the way the MGM director Edward Dmytryk was shooting everything in “Raintree County” in giant close-ups. He was depressed and angry. He sensed the film would be a colossal disaster. 

The party broke up about midnight with Monty and Kevin bidding each other goodbye in the driveway and taking off down the road Elizabeth called a “cork twister.” Kevin was in the lead. Within minutes, Kevin was back at Elizabeth’s house, ringing the bell. Monty Clift had had a serious car accident. His car had struck a utility pole as he rounded one of the hairpin turns in the fog. Elizabeth shrieked and demanded that Kevin immediately take her to the scene. 

Montgomery Clift, Elizabeth Taylor, and Eva Marie Saint in "Raintree County" (1957)

Since the 1950, many unflattering things have been written about Elizabeth Rosemond Taylor who is now a Dame of the British Empire, and much of it was justified. (She tended to steal people’s husbands.) But what was to happen next on that foggy stretch of midnight road below her house was to be Elizabeth’s finest hour. 

She and Kevin arrived at the wreck:

“Monty’s car was demolished, an ‘accordion-pleated mess,’ Elizabeth said. A 4,800 transformer, knocked off the pole by the impact, had narrowly missed hitting the car. McCarthy thought his friend was dead. ‘The doors were so jammed that we couldn’t get to him,’ he said.” (1)  

Broken glass was everywhere – but that didn’t faze Elizabeth. She climbed in the car through a back window.  

“‘Adrenaline does something to you,’ she remembered.” 

Elizabeth hauled herself over the bloody seat. Monty’s motionless body lay beneath the steering wheel. His face was barely recognizable. 

“‘It was like pulp,’ she remembered.” 

Elizabeth called out to Monty. He reacted to her voice and indicated to her that he was choking. Several of his teeth had broken off and had lodged in the back of his throat. Reaching inside his mouth, Elizabeth pulled the teeth out, one by one. Elizabeth saved his life. Monty could once again breathe.

It was nearly an hour before an ambulance arrived and, with it, a handful of frenzied photographers. Elizabeth positioned herself between the stretcher carrying Monty and the photographers’ cameras. “She was remarkable,” said McCarthy. She told the photographers that if they so much as snapped one photo of Monty’s bloodied face, she’d never allow her to take another photo of her. (That would never do. Elizabeth Taylor was one of Hollywood’s top actresses and would become one of the most photographed women in the world.) The photographers backed off.

The car accident left Elizabeth with persistent nightmares. She couldn’t get Monty’s bloody face out of her mind.

“It would come up like a balloon in front of me at night.” 

"The Misfits" (1961) stars Clark Gable, Marilyn Monroe, and Montgomery Clift

Understandably, filming on “Raintree County” was put on hold as Monty underwent a long hospitalization and painful facial reconstruction. Despite these efforts, Monty never looked as beautiful as before. His face remained scarred and partially paralyzed. This was the beginning of Monty’s long and deadly slide into alcohol and drug addiction. He became a wrecked man.

Marilyn Monroe, who appeared alongside Monty in the 1961 film, “The Misfits,”  described him as 

“the only person I know who is in worse shape than I am.” 

Monty’s post-accident career has been called “the longest suicide in Hollywood history.” In 1966, ten years after his car accident, Montgomery Clift died alone in his New York apartment while watching “The Misfits” on TV. He was only 45. 

(1) Mann, William J. How to Be a Movie Star: Elizabeth Taylor in Hollywood. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishers, 2009.

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Elizabeth Taylor as "Cleopatra" (1963)

Elizabeth Taylor as Queen of the Nile in "Cleopatra" (1963)

There’s a delicious new Elizabeth Taylor biography on the market: How to Be a Movie Star: Elizabeth Taylor in Hollywood by William Mann. I’ve been reading juicy excerpts online. The book is so good, so rich in scandalous detail, that I’ve ordered a copy to be sent to my doorstep.

I’m devouring the chapter on the early 1962 filming of “Cleopatra,” when Elizabeth famously ditches husband #4 Eddie Fisher for her Welsh costar Richard Burton. Author Mann paints Elizabeth Taylor as quite the pampered diva, ensconced in her Italian villa, filming in Rome by day. Her butler, for example, was one of many charged with satisfying her every frivolous need.

An example: Elizabeth was a pack-a-day smoker – despite the fact that she was recovering from pneumonia and a tracheotomy that had seriously delayed the movie’s production and almost cost Elizabeth her life. Nevertheless, she smoked, and with a cigarette holder. She never used the same holder twice.

“Fresh ones – at least ten a day –  had to be at the ready, and they had to be color-coded. A green dress called for a matching holder – and Madame changed outfits quite frequently as her moods shifted. Every morning Oates [her butler] prepared a box of cigarette holders based on what Elizabeth would be wearing that day and evening, and not only did the holders have to match her outfits, they couldn’t clash with the tablecloth.” (1) 

Richard Burton as Mark Antony with Elizabeth Taylor as Queen of the Nile in "Cleopatra" (1963)

Richard Burton as Marc Antony with Elizabeth Taylor in "Cleopatra" (1963)

But Richard Burton wasn’t dazzled by Liz’s Hollywood fame. Twentieth Century Fox was paying her $1 million to play the Queen of the Nile in their production. Elizabeth Taylor was the highest-paid actress of the day – but Richard Burton called her “Lumpy” – and to her face. She was intrigued by his dismissive attitude toward him.

Burton was a heavy drinker.  In his first big scene with Taylor, he appeared on the set with a terrible hangover. Elizabeth, although the mother of 3 children at the time, with an adoption of a fourth child in the works, had never been particularly maternal. Yet when she saw how sick Burton was, she felt an overwhelming need to take care of him. It was the turning point. They began a hot-and-heavy and very public romance.

Rumors seeped out and crossed the Atlantic, creeping into gossip columns by Hedda Hopper and Dorothy Kilgallen, scandalizing the film industry and the public who were just recovering from Liz’s latest romantic acquisition, when she stole the married Eddie Fisher from actress wife Debbie Reynolds.

In early 1958, Fisher embraces wife Reynolds in Las Vegas, though his eye seems to be on Taylor, his best friend Mike Todd's wife. In March, Todd dies in a plane crash, and Fisher soon leaves Reynolds for Taylor.

In early 1958, Fisher embraces wife Reynolds in Las Vegas, though his eye seems to be on Taylor, his best friend Mike Todd's wife. In March, Todd dies in a plane crash, and Fisher soon leaves Reynolds for Taylor.

Meanwhile, back on the “Cleopatra” set, Eddie Fisher learned of his wife’s affair. Their marriage had already been on shaky ground but was not yet in complete tatters. He wanted to salvage it. On February 5, at the suggestion of his  wife’s secretary, he took Elizabeth shopping. He chartered a flight to Paris. The international press followed their every move, as the former nightclub crooner Fisher and his gorgeous celebrity wife visited Parisian fashion houses such as Yves St. Laurent, Chanel, and Dior, where Eddie wrote check after check for gowns, jewels, and furs for his flagrantly unfaithful wife. Eddie Fisher once said,

“To keep Elizabeth happy, you have to give her a diamond before breakfast every morning.”

Delighted with her new trinkets, Elizabeth promised Fisher she would stop seeing Burton. A rupture was temporarily averted; they flew back to Rome.

Two weeks passed yet things did not go better for Fisher. Liz did not keep her word. She continued seeing Burton. On February 17, 1960, drinking heavily, Elizabeth swallowed 14 sleeping pills and passed out cold.  She was hospitalized for what was considered a suicide attempt. She was distraught over her personal life. She could not make the break with Burton. She had fallen head-over-heels in love with him.

A little over a week later, she turned thirty, and her parents flew to Rome for the celebration. Shortly afterward, Burton confronted her in front of Fisher and told her she must choose between her two men. On the spot, she chose Burton. Richard divorced his wife of 13 years, Sybil Burton. In 1964, Elizabeth divorced Fisher and married Richard Burton.

Richard Burton escorts wife Elizabeth Taylor in an Edith Head evening gown, 1970
Richard Burton escorts wife Elizabeth Taylor to the 1970 Oscars. Taylor wears an Edith Head gown that matches her violet eyes and displays her assets, particularly her own 69-carat, pear-shaped Cartier diamond — which later became known as the Taylor-Burton diamond.

Twice married, twice divorced to one another, the love affair between Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton remains one of the most famous – and tempestuous – of the Twentieth Century.

(1) Mann, William J. How to Be a Movie Star: Elizabeth Taylor in Hollywood. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2009.

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i-love-lucy-fourth-seasonReaders: Read the two previous posts before continuing:

 “I Love Lucy: Lucy Meets Bill Holden, Part 1”

“I Love Lucy: Lucy Meets Bill Holden, Part 2”

Doll maker Mattel has immortalized some of Lucy’s most famous roles by creating a line of collector Barbies. Mattel no longer makes the dolls but they are widely available for sale. One of the most popular dolls is the one shown below.

Lucy "L.A. at Last" Barbie doll by Mattel.

"I Love Lucy Barbie doll by Mattel: "L.A. at Last"

“Hooray for Hollywood! At least that’s what Lucy thinks in the episode L.A. at Last™. But after a disastrous encounter with William Holden at the famed Brown Derby Restaurant, she’s not so sure. Especially when Ricky invites Holden up to their hotel room to meet his biggest fan, Lucy. Mortified by her previous encounter, Lucy runs to the bedroom and disguises herself with glasses, scarf, and an oversized putty nose, which she manages to catch on fire, and then comically extinguishes in a cup of coffee! Lucy wears an authentic re-creation of the episode’s costume, which includes a black chiffon coatdress with black dots over a tan jumpsuit. Silvery dots adorn her waistband and a large bow at the collar to coordinate with her dangling earrings. She has rooted eyelashes underneath tortoiseshell glasses that rest on an over-sized, protruding nose. Curls of her signature-red hair peek out from the tan kerchief that completes her disguise.” (Mattel)

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Lucy Ricardo eyes Bill Holden at the Brown Derby in the "I Love Lucy" episode, "L.A. at Last!"

Lucy Ricardo eyes Bill Holden at the Brown Derby in the "I Love Lucy" episode, "L.A. at Last!"

*Readers: If you haven’t already done so, read “I Love Lucy: Lucy Meets Bill Holden, Part 1” before continuing. 

In my last post, I revealed that my absolute favorite “I Love Lucy” episode is

 “L.A. at Last!”

and showed you a video of the first half, the famous scene when Lucy and the Mertzes spy actor Bill Holden in the Brown Derby.

 The second half of the show takes place in Lucy and Ricky‘s Hollywood hotel room.

Click here to continue with “I Love Lucy: Lucy Meets Bill Holden, Part 3”



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Lucy Ricardo from the popular, long-running, 1950s television comedy "I  Love Lucy"

Zany Lucy Ricardo (played by Lucille Ball) from the immensely popular, long-running, classic 1950s television comedy "I Love Lucy"

Everybody has a favorite “I Love Lucy” episode and this is mine:

“L.A. at Last!”*

Lucy’s husband Ricky Ricardo is filming a picture out in L.A. and has taken Lucy and the Mertzes out to California with him. This scene opens with Lucy, Fred, and Ethel out star hunting. They are having lunch at the Brown Derby, a popular haunt for Hollywood movie stars.

As the three await their meal, Ethel mouth drops open. She is astonished to discover heartthrob William Holden being seated at the next booth. A video excerpt from “L.A. at Last!” is posted at the bottom of this post. When you view it, notice that Bill Holden asks the waiter to bring him a Cobb Salad. The Cobb Salad – now famous – was invented by the owner of the Brown Derby.

The original Brown Derby at 9537 Wilshire Boulevard. It was a landmark restaurant in Los Angeles, which was frequented by celebrities during the Golden Age of Hollywood. It was an example of novelty architecture, known for being physically shaped like a brown derby hat, for being the birthplace of the Cobb salad (which was named for the Cobbs, the owners of the Derby), and the home of hundreds of caricatures of celebrities.

The original Brown Derby at 9537 Wilshire Boulevard was a landmark restaurant in Los Angeles, which was frequented by celebrities during the Golden Age of Hollywood. It was an example of novelty architecture, known for being physically shaped like a brown derby hat and for being the birthplace of the Cobb salad (which was named for the Cobbs, the owners of the Derby), and the home of hundreds of caricatures of celebrities.

Audrey Hepburn and William Holden from "Sabrina," 1954.

Audrey Hepburn and William Holden from "Sabrina," 1954. The next year, "Bill" Holden makes a guest appearance on the "I Love Lucy" show. This episode, "L.A. at Last!" still in reruns, is one of the all-time favorites. At the time of the filming, Bill Holden was filming "The Country Girl" with Grace Kelly.

Now enjoy 6 minutes of Lucille Ball’s comic genius. 

Now, for part 2, click here:

 “I Love Lucy: Lucy Meets Bill Holden, Part 2”


“I Love Lucy” Episode 114 – Filmed 12/2/54; aired 2/7/55

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Mackenzie Phillips says she had sex with her dad

The Mamas and the Papas, from left to right: Michelle Phillips, John Phillips (in tube), Denny Doherty, and Mama Cass Elliot. The sixties pop rock band is remembered for its sweet harmony and enchanting melodies.
The Mamas and the Papas, from left to right: Michelle Phillips, John Phillips (in tube), Denny Doherty, and Mama Cass Elliot. The sixties pop rock band is remembered for its sweet harmony and enchanting melodies.
Father and Daughter, John and MacKenzie Phillips, in 1998.

Father and Daughter, John and MacKenzie Phillips, in 1998.

Associated Press

Wed Sep 23, 12:37 pm ET

CHICAGO – Former child star Mackenzie Phillips said Wednesday her father, John Phillips, who was a leader of the 1960s pop group the Mamas and the Papas, raped her when she was a teenager and that her sexual relationship with him later became what she termed “consensual.”

Mackenzie Phillips writes in her new book, High on Arrival, that she had sex with her father on the night before she was to get married in 1979 at age 19, according to People magazine.

“On the eve of my wedding, my father showed up, determined to stop it,” writes Phillips, who was 19 and a heavy drug user at the time. “I had tons of pills, and Dad had tons of everything too. Eventually I passed out on Dad’s bed.”

“My father was not a man with boundaries. He was full of love, and he was sick with drugs. I woke up that night from a blackout to find myself having sex with my own father.”

She told “The Oprah Winfrey Show” in an interview that aired Wednesday that her siblings “definitely have a problem with this.” Winfrey also read a statement from Genevieve Waite, John Phillips’ wife at the time of the alleged abuse and Mackenzie’s stepmother that said he was “incapable, no matter how drunk or drugged he was, of having such a relationship with his own child.”

At far right, MacKenzie Phillips from a publicity photo for the 80s TV sitcom, "One Day at a Time." MacKenzie Phillips is best known for her roles as an emotionally troubled and rebellious teenager.

At far right, MacKenzie Phillips from a publicity photo for the 80s TV sitcom, “One Day at a Time.” MacKenzie Phillips is best known for her roles as an emotionally troubled and rebellious teenager.

Phillips, who starred on TV’s “One Day at a Time,” said the sexual relationship with her father lasted a decade and ended when she became pregnant and didn’t know who had fathered the child. She had an abortion, which her father paid for, and “and I never let him touch me again.”

Phillips told Winfrey that she first tried cocaine when she was 11 years old. Her father did drugs with her, taught her to roll joints and injected her with cocaine. Phillips said she’s been clean for a year after pleading guilty to possessing cocaine and entering a drug treatment program.

Phillips said the sexual relationship, although she believes it became consensual, was “an abuse of power” and “a betrayal” on her father’s part. She said she forgave John Phillips on his deathbed.

“I can’t be the only one this has happened to,” Phillips said. “Someone needs to put a face on consensual incest.”

Here is a video of the Mamas and the Papas singing “California Dreaming.” MacKenzie Phillips’ father, John Phillips – “Papa John” –  plays guitar, wearing a fur hat. The other band members are Michelle Phillips (at the time, John Phillips’ wife and MacKenzie’s stepmother), Mama Cass Elliot, and Denny Doherty.

 Click here for more on the wild and reckless lives of John and Michelle Phillips.

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American Royalty: President John and Jackie Kennedy stroll the White House grounds.

American Royalty: President John and Jackie Kennedy stroll the White House grounds.

It was a star-studded event. It was Saturday, May 19, 1962, and the young, dashing, and popular U.S. President John F. Kennedy was turning 45. The Democratic Party held a huge fundraiser at New York’s Madison Square Garden. The birthday salute was televised before a national audience and 15,000 people had paid for seats to catch the show live at the Garden. The cream of American show business turned out to pay homage to Kennedy – Ella Fitzgerald, Peggy Lee, Jack Benny, Henry Fonda, Harry Belafonte. Greek opera diva Maria Callas was also there. Actor Peter Lawford, the president’s brother-in-law, served as master-of-ceremonies. But the pièce de résistance – the showstopper – was the performer who sang the finale – sexpot and film star Marilyn Monroe.

First Lady Jackie Kennedy riding horses with her children at their Middleburg, Virginia, retreat "Glen Ora." Jackie grew up surrounded by horses and was an accomplished equestrian. President John Kennedy did not share her passion for horse shows and riding. He was allergic to horse fur. November 19, 1962.

First Lady Jackie Kennedy riding horses with her children at their Middleburg, Virginia, retreat "Glen Ora." Jackie grew up surrounded by horses and was an accomplished equestrian. President John Kennedy did not share her passion for horse shows and riding. He was allergic to horse hair. November 19, 1962.

It seemed that everyone was there – except the honoree’s wife – Jackie Kennedy. The president attended the ceremony without the First Lady at his side. When Jackie had learned that Marilyn was to be performing at the benefit, she decided she was not about to attend. She instead became a last-minute participant in the Loudoun Hunt Horse Show at Glen Ora, her weekend home.  Jackie knew that her husband and Marilyn Monroe were lovers – and Jackie was not about to have her nose rubbed into it in front of a national audience.

Marilyn Monroe (1926-1962) was wild for Jack Kennedy. She accepted the invitation to appear in New York in violation of her contract with Twentieth-Century Fox – and their relationship was already at its breaking point. Production on her latest film, “Something’s Got to Give,” had been on start/stop for months due to Marilyn’s chronic tardiness and absence.  Marilyn was in a narcotics and booze nosedive and living on impulse. She was in hot pursuit of Jack Kennedy and nothing would get in her way. She was scheduled to sing “Happy Birthday” to the president.

Marilyn Monroe in "Gentleman Prefer Blondes" (1963)

Marilyn Monroe in "Gentleman Prefer Blondes" (1953)

“A manic energy propelled her….” wrote Barbara Leaming in Marilyn Monroe:

“All weekend, the white-carpeted, unfurnished rooms at Fifth Helena echoed with Marilyn’s whispery voice. She lay in the tub singing “Happy Birthday.” She sat on the living room floor, endlessly tape recording and listening to herself….” (1)

Then, ignoring the studio’s stern warning, Marilyn flew from Hollywood to New York with Peter Lawford, singing on the airplane. She continued to practice once in her New York apartment. Those who listened said her interpretation grew sexier, more and more outrageous. Friend Paula Strasberg warned that it verged on self-parody.

Finally, the night of the performance arrived. Backstage, Marilyn got into her costume – a flesh-toned slip of a dress by Jean-Louis sewn with 2500 rhinestones. The gown was so snug Marilyn had to be sewn into it. Paralyzed with stage fright, Marilyn kept ignoring her cue to appear on stage. She hung back, drowning her fears in alcohol, before Milt Ebbins shoved her onto the stage.

“She walked like a geisha….” (1)

“The figure was famous and, for one breathless moment, the 15,000 people in Madison Square Garden thought they were going to see all of it. Onto the stage sashayed Marilyn Monroe, attired in a great bundle of white mink. Arriving at the lectern, she turned and swept the furs from her shoulders. A slight gasp rose from the audience before it was realized that she was really wearing a skintight flesh-toned gown.” (2)

Marilyn Monroe at the microphone singing "Happy Birthday, Mr. President," at President John F. Kennedy's birthday bash, May 19, 1962.

Marilyn Monroe at the microphone singing "Happy Birthday, Mr. President," at President John F. Kennedy's birthday bash, May 19, 1962.

When she came down in that flesh-colored dress, without any underwear on…” said Hugh Sidey of Time, “you could just smell lust. I mean, Kennedy went limp or something. We all were just stunned to see this woman.”

“What an ass…what an ass,” whispered Kennedy.

“Happy…Birthday…to you,” Marilyn began to sing [whisper]. (3)

Her rendition of “Happy Birthday, Mister President” – was soft, seductive, and pathetic. The 35-year-old Marilyn was high as a kite (and wearing a wig that was slipping). Columnist Dorothy Kilgallen called it nothing less than:

 “…making love to the President in the direct view of forty million Americans.”

President John F. Kennedy speaks to the audience at Madison Square Garden at his 45th birthday bash, May 19, 1962.

President John F. Kennedy speaks to the audience at Madison Square Garden at his 45th birthday bash, May 19, 1962.

At the end of the performance, a noticeably-embarrassed President Kennedy took to the stage and announced disingenuously:

“I can now retire from politics after having had Happy Birthday sung to me in such a sweet wholesome way.”  (2)

At an after-party, a photographer caught President Kennedy and brother Robert Kennedy hovering over Marilyn in the library, still wearing the see-through dress Marilyn called “skin and beads.”  

Bobby Kennedy, Marilyn Monroe, and President John Kennedy gather following Monroe's iconic performance of "Happy Birthday, Mr. President," at Madison Square Garden, May 19, 1962. Marilyn is still wearing the gown she wore in the performance which she referred to as "skin and beads."

Bobby Kennedy, Marilyn Monroe, and President John Kennedy gather following Monroe's iconic performance of "Happy Birthday, Mr. President," at Madison Square Garden, May 19, 1962. Marilyn is still wearing the gown she wore in the performance which she referred to as "skin and beads." The auction house Christie's later sold this dress for $1.2 million, the most money ever paid for a dress.

Kennedy’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Adlai Stevenson, was at the party and saw Marilyn’s “skin and beads” dress. He later wrote to Mary Lasker:

“I didn’t see the beads!”

Greek opera diva Maria Callas laughs it up with Marilyn Monroe at President Kennedy's 45th birthday bash at Madison Square Garden, May  19, 1962. Marilyn Monroe was President Kennedy's lover. Maria Callas was the off-and-on lover of Aristotle Onassis, Jackie Kennedy's 2nd husband.

Greek opera diva Maria Callas (1923-1977) laughs it up with blonde bombshell Marilyn Monroe at President Kennedy's 45th birthday bash at Madison Square Garden, May 19, 1962. First Lady Jackie Kennedy did not attend the celebration. Marilyn Monroe was President Kennedy's lover when Jackie was Mrs. Kennedy. Maria Callas was the clandestine lover of Aristotle Onassis when Jackie was Mrs. Onassis.

Jackie Kennedy watched Marilyn’s performance on TV the next day. She was livid. The rumors about Jack and Marilyn were flying. Jackie called up sister-in-law Ethel Kennedy and complained that she just knew Bobby had staged the prank. Jackie ordered Jack to stop seeing Marilyn. (4) Jack also sent word to the press that there was nothing to the rumors of an extramarital affair between him and Marilyn Monroe, which, we know, was a lie.

President Kennedy broke off the relationship with Marilyn. Her performance at Madison Square Garden became her last public appearance. Marilyn became profoundly affected by the break-up with the President and her loss of  other men, including ex-husband Arthur Miller, who had recently remarried.

As a result, the summer following the Madison Square Garden show,  Marilyn dove deeper and deeper into a downward spiral of drugs and alcohol, storm and stress, and depressed isolation. Out of necessity, the production of her film, “Something’s Got to Give” came to a halt, because the star was a “no-show” on the set.

 The movie was never finished. On August 5, Marilyn Monroe – born Norma Jeane Baker – was found dead in her home from a drug overdose – an apparent suicide – and the world was shocked.

Goodbye, Norma Jean

Goodbye, Norma Jeane

(1) Leaming, Barbara. Marilyn Monroe. New York: Three Rivers Press, 1998.

(2) Smith, Sally Bedell.Grace and Power: The Private World of the Kennedy White House. New York: Random House, Inc., 2004. (excerpted from a Time magazine article)

(3) Klein, Edward. All Too Human: The Love Story of Jack and Jackie Kennedy. New York: Pocket Books, 1996.

(4) Taraborrelli, J. Randy. Jackie Ethel Joan. New York: Warner Books, Inc., 2000.

*Readers: I’ve written many posts on Jackie O and the Kennedys. Please look in the right sidebar – Categories – People – the Kennedys. Enjoy!

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