Elizabeth Taylor, Elizabeth Taylor, An Informal Memoir
“During the first few weeks of shooting, Martha completely took me over. When I left the set, I couldn’t take off my Martha suit. Richard and I would be out with friends and I’d hear myself saying to him, ‘For Chrissakes, shut up.’”
Elizabeth Taylor, Elizabeth Taylor, An Informal Memoir
“Jackie [Onassis] might have hated him. (Ron is convinced it was a love-hate relationship.) But it’s clear that many of his subjects recognized that the guy made them look really good. Because he’s an artist and a realist. Anybody can be made to look good in the studio, but Galella made them look good on the street and on the run. And he may have been a real pest at times, but I suspect a person of Jackie’s taste must have recognized that he did take some very flattering pictures of her.”
Glenn O’Brien, The Photographs of Ron Galella, 1965-1989
There is no getting around it. Ron Galella stalked his number one prey (and source of income), Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. He went so far as to date one of her maids so as to have an inside track on her social engagements. In his book, Jacqueline, Galella boasted that his line in the sand would be breaking and entering into her 1040 Fifth Avenue apartment (as if that was a virtue for which he should be applauded).
And yet ... the two were co-conspirators when it came to her legend. He claims to have selected only flattering photographs of Onassis, and either he was telling the truth, or she was the most photogenic woman of her generation (and perhaps she was). In any case, without his candid snapshots, the record of her most incandescent and fascinating years would be incomplete. No one captured the former first lady's natural beauty like Ron Galella. There might have been more talented photographers but certainly no one with his audacity, his shamelessness. The result was something utterly unique. Da Vinci might have had his Mona Lisa, but Galella, his Jacqueline.
The most comprehensive and elegantly produced book of Ron Galella's work is Greybull Press's The Photographs of Ron Galella, 1965-1989. The copy he affectionately inscribed to Elizabeth Taylor is available via the Nick Harvill Libraries store. It is the only one of four books from Taylor's library that we acquired that has not yet sold. Elizabeth Taylor, by the way, was after Jackie, Galella's most bankable celebrity.
Image Credit: Jacqueline
"This remarkable stone is called the Krupp diamond because it had been owned by Vera Krupp of the famous munitions family ... When I look into it, the deep Asscher cuts, which are so complete and so ravishing--are like steps that lead into eternity and beyond."
Elizabeth Taylor, My Love Affair with Jewelry
Equally capable of great acts of extravagance and kindness, Elizabeth Taylor was a paradox. Manufactured at the MGM dream factory, she was every inch the Hollywood glamorous Hollywood movie star. Yet she was the least fabricated of them all. In her own inimitable way, Elizabeth Taylor was salt-of-the-earth, or to put it in the vernacular she herself sometimes used; she was a broad.
What Elizabeth Taylor was not, however, was a pushover. Consider her genius at convincing friends, lovers, husbands, and even new acquaintances to buy her expensive jewelry. The apotheosis was in 1968 when her then-husband Richard Burton gave her the infamous Krupp Diamond. He paid $307,000, an outrageous price at the time. It made international headlines. Yet it proved to be a shrewd investment. After Taylor's 2011 death, it sold for nearly $9,000,000.
In 1982, Taylor wore her Krupp Diamond (set in a ring) to a Kensington Palace dinner party. Throughout the evening, Princess Margaret repeatedly snubbed Taylor. The most glaring was when the princess remarked that the Krupp diamond was "the most vulgar thing" she had ever seen. The glamorous movie star permitted the persnickety royal to win that round, but it was not the end of the matter.
When Taylor and Princess Margaret saw each other at party a few weeks later, Taylor laid her trap. Again wearing the Krupp Diamond. she asked Margaret if she would like to try it on. After the princess eagerly slipped on the ring, Taylor inquired, "Doesn’t look so vulgar now, does it?"
A copy of My Love Affair with Jewelry signed by Elizabeth Taylor is currently available via the Nick Harvill Libraries kiosk at the Sunset Tower Hotel in West Hollywood.
“If you ever hear anybody refer to Elizabeth Taylor as Liz Taylor, you can be pretty sure that person doesn't know her.”
Image Credit: The Sixties, A Decade in Vogue
“In Hollywood the story is the thing. Whether it is factual or fictional is immaterial.”
Art Cohn, The Nine Lives of Michael Todd
Though a captain might be expected to go down with his ship, the same is not true of a biographer and his subject matter. Strangely, however, that is what happened to Hollywood screenwriter and author Art Cohn. His authorized biography of Elizabeth Taylor’s third husband Mike Todd was nearly complete when he accompanied Todd on an ill-fated trip aboard Todd’s private airplane The Liz. The overloaded plane was traveling from Los Angeles to New York when the engine sputtered, and the vessel crashed to the ground in a fiery explosion.
All on board perished, but Cohn’s manuscript, nearly finished, was safely back in Los Angeles. The book’s title had already been selected: the fate-tempting The First Nine Lives Michael Todd. Though evidently an affront to the gods, its title was apt. The showman entrepreneur had weathered a succession of highs and lows before becoming one of Hollywood’s most important producers after the success of the Academy Award-winning film Around the World in 80 Days. The publisher ignored the irony and kept the title almost as it was intended, only eliminating the word “first.” It was released posthumously with Cohn’s widow deciphering her husband’s notes to finish the final two chapters.
“If the star is the world's imaginary mistress, a kind of sacred prostitute, the world is an impatient and unfaithful lover.”
Peter Quennell, Time Exposure
We LOVE thought-provoking inscriptions in books. They transform an item produced in multiples into a one-of-a-kind treasure. Occasionally such inscriptions include information that the author dared not include the in the text, and that makes them part of history. Following are some of the best that have passed through Nick Harvill Libraries, two of which remain available.
Billy Baldwin Decorates, Signed to HalstoN
“For Halston, I wish that every woman who walks in these rooms was dressed by Him. Billy Baldwin, December 1972.”
In this copy of Billy Baldwin Decorates inscribed to the Halston, the dean of American decorators makes it clear whom he considers to be the dean of American fashion designers. Based upon the Bergdorf Goodman price sticker attached to the back of the dust jacket cover, this most likely was signed at the glittering party Bergdorf’s hosted to launch the book.
This would make a marvelous addition to a private collection, or it would also make a welcome donation to a fashion archive such as F.I.T. or the Met’s Costume Institute. For information on purchasing, click here.
Decorating Is Fun, Signed to Jacqueline BouvieR
“For Jacqueline Bouvier, This book goes to you with my best wishes. I Hope it proves useful, Dorothy Draper, August 15, 1953.”
It is difficult to imagine a more significant inscription for Dorothy Draper's classic design primer Decorating Is Fun! Several weeks after the date of this inscription, Jacqueline married John F. Kennedy, which set her on the path to becoming first lady. In that capacity, she took on one of the most prestigious decorating projects in the land. The connection between the future first lady and Draper was Draper’s niece Nancy Tuckerman, Jacqueline’s lifelong friend. This item is sold but listed here. Fabulous!
The Best Awful, Carrie Fisher Goes There!
“For my good to great neighbor Ed—who makes me think sometimes I “married” the wrong powerful gay agent. Oh well, next time. Largest love, Leia Carrie (Fisher).”
As is obvious to anyone who has followed her one-woman show or watched her interviews promoting the latest Star Wars film, Carry Fisher has a frank and quirky sense of humor. It is on full display in this droll inscription to Hollywood agent Ed Limato. The Best Awful is a semi-autographical novel, and the gay agent she did marry is one of the book's most sympathetic characters, adding relevance to the inscription.
Cecil Beaton’s Scrapbook, "Unlucky-in-Love"
“To George who has encouraged me by reading this book. From his admirer----I give up. Love Cecil.”
In this copy of Cecil Beaton's Scrapbook, from 1937--his second book, Cecil Beaton went out all to amuse the object of his affection, composing a humble but funny inscription accompanied by an original drawing of a rose and butterfly. The surname of the George to whom the book is inscribed is unknown, but even though it was decades before their famous falling out, it is unlikely that his friend George Cukor was the recipient.
Traveling Incognito with Bemelmans and Schiaparelli
This copy of How to Travel Incognito is one of those cases in which a picture is worth a thousand words. The written inscription is modest, but Bemelmans charmingly proposes a toast via an effervescent drawing of a Champagne flute. Bottoms up! An added bonus is that the recipient was Elsa Schiaparelli, and in her typical manner, she has written her signature in book, and on the same page as Bemelmans’s drawing to boot. This item sold within minutes after it was listed online, but we do have other books from the collection of Elsa Schiaparelli available here.
Every Night, Josephine, “Elizabeth Taylor in Fur"
“To Lynn & Hy, Even if you don’t like ‘dogs’—Josephine is not really a dog. She’s Elizabeth Taylor in fur.”
Shakespeare she was not, but this inscription by the author of Valley of the Dolls proves Jacqueline Susann possessed an imaginative sense of humor. This delightful book, Every Night, Josephine, preceded Dolls by several years. For information on purchasing, click here.
Elizabeth Taylor’s third husband Mike Todd died in an air crash aboard their private plane, The Liz. It was a terrible tragedy, and the only marriage for Taylor that ended in widowhood rather than divorce.
Todd was not the only passenger who perished in the crash. Art Cohn, who was writing an authorized biography of Todd, was also aboard. He was a screenwriter but not an A-List player, with just a few credits for “Additional Dialogue” to his name. It is a credit that no longer exists. The Writer’s Guild long ago did away with it.
The day after the mishap, Ivan Moffat was dining at Charlie Feldman’s, and of course, Topic A was the tragic air crash. One woman remarked, “What an awful thing for Art Cohn’s widow, that almost every account of the crash, the press hardly mentioned his name.” Billy Wilder, also in attendance, deadpanned, “Yes, at least they should have given credit for Additional Dying.”
Via The Ivan Moffat File by Gavin Lambert.
“Liz has always had a charming way of minimizing the public hurricanes that have raged around her. Perhaps this is because she is always operating from the comparative calm of the eye of the storm.”
Peter Harry Brown, The MGM Girls, Behind the Velvet Curtain
Another reason that might be is because, unlike many Hollywood icons, Elizabeth Taylor never took herself or her glamorous image too seriously. Her self-deprecating graffiti on this photo contact sheet is but one example of this lack of reverence.