(Audrey at the Ball of the Century)
(Audrey Taylor was the name given to my Halloween persona by my late friend Neal Fitzgerald (Kay O’Pectate) the the following story was presented to me on my birthday as a Life Magazine article. I posted this for Madame Weebles enjoyment. Oh and Audrey has been retired now for many years.)
Story by Neal Fitzgerald (edited by Lanier Smith)
Audrey Taylor was born in the small English village of Highteasing On Wigg, Her family moved to London shortly before the war and during the blitz Audrey suffered hearing damage that left her tone deaf (all her singing in later musicals was dubbed) After the war the family emigrated to the U.S. where they settled in Riverside California. On a class field trip to Grauman’s Chinese Theater, Audrey stormed the stage and began belting out the old Baby Jane Hudson song “I’ve Written A Letter To Daddy” There was as Hollywood luck would have it a casting agent in the audience and the raven haired child was offered a screen test despite the fact that she could’t sing. It was her charm and un-natural beauty that got her a contact at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.
Her first film shot her to the top of the star roster at the studio. “Gassie Come Home” the story of an English farm girl and her flatulent old collie. At 18 she landed the part of a runaway princess to shacks up with a reporter in the enchanting “Neapolitan Holiday” who can forget the lithesome young Audrey being chased through the back alleys of Naples by a leering Van Johnson?
After her divorce from first Husband Nicky Six (heir to the Motel Six fortune) Audrey plunged headlong into a stream of hits, “The Girl Who Had Everyone”, “Elephant Stomp” and the delightful “Seborrhea” about the chauffeur’s daughter who marries a millionaire. “Humongous!” from the Edna Ferber bestseller about Oklahoma pig farmers. She stole the picture from co-stars Rory Calhoun and Sal Mineo as the gal with the biggest spread in the west.
Up next was “Funny Puss” with Pipi Chanel and Gene Kelly. Audrey wore a sensational wardrobe as the shop girl who becomes a lingerie model in Paris Although her singing was dubbed by Marnie Nixon, she danced up a storm with Kelly and Chanel.
At the premiere of the film, Audrey met the man who would become her second husband, larger-than-life producer Jack Rodd. They began a whirlwind romance in which he wooed her with fabulous gifts including a famous diamond engagement ring. Audrey’s life long passion for collecting jewels began at the time. I was Rodd who gave Audrey the fabulous” Tears of Russia” Tiara which she often wears to this day. The couple had a huge Hollywood wedding at which sexpot Annie Day burst out of her gown lunging for the bridal bouquet.
(Audrey in the delightful “Breakfast At Woolworth’s)
The newlyweds moved into a huge Bel Air mansion that had once belonged to fallen screen star Margaret Elliot. Audrey’s happiness was to be short lived, however. Tragically Rodd was struck by a tourist bus outside Van Cleef and Arpels in Beverly Hills and killed instantly.
At the time Audrey was finishing production on the Civil War epic, “Wetbush County”. Ever the trooper she missed only one day’s filming to attend the funeral of her husband, at which the grieving Audrey, (Elegant in a black Dalian et rae) was mobbed by reporters. When “Wetbush” was released she received great reviews and another Oscar nomination, but despondent Audrey began having problems with the pills she had taken steadily since childhood and the massive quantities of caffeine that fueled her star’s shine. On a weekend bring at Las Vegas’ Hideaway Casino Audrey was introduced to nightclub singer Bobby Sailor by actress Kay O’Pectate.
The two stars began an affair that shocked Hollywood and the world when Sailor left his wife Debbie Dallas to marry Audrey, now dubbed by the press as “The Black Widow”.
Thou the marriage was never a happy one, Audrey did some of her finest work in the next few years. First there was “Kitten on a Cold Wood Floor” Adapted from an ill-fated Broadway play with Helen Lawson and Annie Day. Audrey took over the Day role and made the picture a success. Then came “Butifico-8” and “Breakfast at Woolworth’s”
Her greatest triumph was in “Suddenly Last Call” a shocking tale of a barfly who is institutionalized after the closing lights in her bar illuminate her cousin’s grizzly murder. For this role she receive her seventh Oscar nomination.
(TIME cover for “Suddenly Last Call”)
Shortly before the awards ceremony Audrey was dining at Perino’s with Joan Crawford when she choked on a chicken bone and had to be rushed to the hospital where she nearly died. It was a visibly weakened Taylor who appeared at the Oscars. When her name was announced as the best actress the audience cheered as Audrey resplendent as always in a magnificent Dalian et rae gown, ran to the stage to accept the prized statuette.
Scandal followed upon the heels of acclaim when in Rome on the set of “Pompeia” she fell for married British actor Richard Bourbon. As the affair blazed across the newspapers of the world and her marriage to crooner Bobby Sailor crumbed the film ran into huge budget overruns nearly bringing Imperium International into bankruptcy. Suffering from a weak script the film was a huge success due to the scandal. Its highlight was an elaborate scene of Audrey entering the Baths of Pompey astride a golden bull borne by Nubian slaves.
Then came the film version of the Broadway hit “Low Fair Lady” (again dubbed by Marnie Nixon) Audrey was woefully miscast and the film was her first flop. A great big FLOP! The Bourbon’s decided to work together again on “The Sandcrabs” this proved to be another flop and the marriage began to show strains. Richard was a notorious drinker and Audrey was often wild on caffeine. The fights became legendary.
Desperate for a hit but nervous about carrying another picture on her shoulders, Audrey took a secondary role in her next film, “Who The Hell Am I, Anyway?” The film was a psychological thriller featuring Irish star Kay O’Pectate as a woman with multiple personalities tormenting her sister played by Annie Day. Audrey had the pivotal role of the neighbor but it was not a highlight of her career.
It was Bourbon who coaxed his wife into her next film, “I’m Afraid of Virginia Graham!” Audrey gained thirty pounds to play her first frump who shouted vulgarity all night long at Bourbon and co-stars Troy Donahue and Sandra Dee. Dee was hospitalized with acute hysterical blindness because Audrey’s performance on the set was so disturbing. The film brought excellent reviews and one more Oscar nomination for Taylor.
It was at a post-Oscar party at the home of Dinah Thurst that Audrey (in a snit over loosing the Oscar and high on champagne, pills and her usual caffeine) stunned the party goers by doing an impromptu strip tease. Caught by a photographer the pictures were flashed around the world.
Financial difficulties followed. Despite huge salaries, Richard spent million alone on Audrey’s appetite for jewelry, designer fashions and wigs. On top of that there was the mansion in Bel Air, the homes in London, Mismaloya, and a huge villa outside of Rome. Strapped for cash the famous couple appeared in a string of regrettable flops that last being “Bang!”. Shortly after “Bang!” fizzled at the box office the battling Bourbons were divorced.
(50th Birthday Photo and single again. )
Audrey took what cash was left and her jewels and moved to the Roman villa where she went into semi-retirement. She made a few screen appearances in the following years. There was an Italian production called “Incoerente” (“Incoherent” in Britain and the US) and a cameo in “Airport 81”. Her last TV appearance was as a guest spot on “Dynasty” as Alexis Carrington’s good twin sister. She was killed off after only three episodes.
(Still a Tabloid favorite!)
Today Audrey lives alone in her lovely Edwardian home in San Francisco where she entertains close friends such as Annie Day and Rusllyn Rozzel. When asked if she would ever return to the screen she declined to comment from behind her heavily veiled face. When we pressed her to name her favorite perfume she smiled.
“Chanel No.5 darling. What else could it be?”
Her home is on the grey line tour of the city and often fans are thrilled to see Audrey at the window waving to them. Always the gracious star to her adoring public.
AUDREY TAYLOR ~ STAR!
Audrey Annie Kay Rusllyn