--Marjorie Hillis, New York, Fair or No Fair, A Guide for the Woman Vacationist
“You may or may not be passionately interested in the whims of fashions, but, either way, it is an undeniable fact that having the wrong clothes can put a crimp in the pleasure of any vacation and having the right ones can make everything that much more fun.”
--Marjorie Hillis, New York, Fair or No Fair, A Guide for the Woman Vacationist
“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 his subject on an ill-fated trip aboard Todd’s private airplane The Liz. The overloaded plane was en route 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.
Legendary Hollywood director Billy Wilder had his own wry interpretation of the tragedy. See “And the Award for Additional Dying Goes to …” from the NHL blog earlier this year.
“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. If only Draper had a crystal ball. The connection between the future first lady and Draper was Draper’s niece Nancy Tuckerman, Jacqueline’s lifelong best 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 very important, 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 all in attendance were discussing the 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, remarked, “Yes, at least they should have given credit for Additional Dying.”
Via The Ivan Moffat File by Gavin Lambert.
Newspaper headline via RareNewspapers.com.
“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.
The MGM Girls, Behind the Velvet Curtain is available via the Nick Harvill Libraries kiosk at the Sunset Tower Hotel in West Hollywood.
Image Credit: Double Exposure, Take Four