Elizabeth Taylor: Star Rising

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The reason for this driving ambition baffles many a jaded Hollywood operative. Elizabeth has had just about everything that a moderately prosperous family with good connections could give her. Her father, Illinois-born Francis Taylor,* is an art dealer who used to be a European buyer for his uncle's art business, Howard Young Galleries. Her mother, Sara Sothern Taylor, once had a good part in a 1922 Broadway production of Channing Pollock's The Fool. Elizabeth grew up to seven in a handsome London house, and in a 15th Century lodge in Kent. Her family got around in art, literary and political circles.

Lassie & Velvet. With the war coming on, the Taylors returned to the U.S. and settled in Beverly Hills, where father Taylor opened an art gallery. Cinemagnate J. Cheever Cowdin, a friend of the Taylors, wanted to sign eight-year-old Elizabeth for Universal almost as soon as he laid eyes on her. The Taylors said no. Elizabeth said yes, and carried her point.

After an almost idle year under contract to Universal, Elizabeth switched to M-G-M where she played opposite Roddy McDowall in Lassie Come Home. National Velvet followed a year later. For three years of "awkward age" she had only minor roles, went to the studio school, rode horses, and played with her turtles, fish, mice, rabbits, cats, dogs, ducks and chipmunks. She wrote a little story about one of the chipmunks, called Nibbles and Me, which was published under her name but shows the toothmarks of some careful editorial nibbling.

Biology Wins. Then one day a Metro photographer walked up to Elizabeth and said: "I thought you'd like to know that the boys have voted you the most beautiful woman they have ever photographed." "Mother!" gasped Elizabeth, "did you hear what he said? He called me a woman!"

Biologically, she was — and biology is good enough for Hollywood any time. Elizabeth soon got her first screen kiss in Julia Misbehaves and returned it charmingly; her fan mail climbed. Some Annapolis midshipmen were suddenly moved to vote her "The Girl We'd Abandon Ship For." Some Harvard boys added: "The Girl We'll Never Lampoon."

As Elizabeth ripened, M-G-M ripened her roles. In Conspirator, not yet released, Robert Taylor (no kin) made love to Elizabeth so fiercely (said Hedda Hopper) that one of her vertebrae was dislocated. Next year Elizabeth will get an even juicier part in Theodore Dreiser's An American Tragedy. She will co-star with Montgomery Clift.

Mother Watches. Metro's publicity men have not missed many bets. In July of last year, West Point's All-America Glenn Davis was brought by some friends to the Taylors' house at Malibu Beach. When Infantryman Davis appeared, Elizabeth looked up "and I thought: O ye gods, no! ... He was so wonderful!"

Cinema columnists duly reported the state of Elizabeth's wonder, followed the romance play by play. Glenn gave her his gold football, his All-America sweater and finally, Elizabeth said, his troth, effective in three years, some time after his tour of duty in the Orient.

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