Yet another iconic item worn by actress Elizabeth Taylor is on the auction block – a wig she wore in the 1963 film, “Cleopatra.” Ms. Taylor wore many different hairdos in the movie and British wigmaster Stanley Hall made three wigs for each style. The wig for sale is made of real human hair, medium brown, and is adorned with hanging braids and gold beads.
In the movie, Ms. Taylor’s character wears this particular wig when she tries to convince Julius Caesar, played by Rex Harrison, to accept supreme control of the empire. (1) The wig is being sold by Heritage Auctions of Dallas, Texas, and is set to fetch around $11,000.
It was during the 1962 filming of “Cleopatra” in Rome that 30-year-old Elizabeth Taylor fell madly in love with her other male costar and onscreen lover, Richard Burton, 36, cast as Mark Antony. The two were both married to others at the time.
At the time, Ms. Taylor was already a big film star being paid the unprecedented amount of a million dollars to play Cleopatra. Mr. Burton, however, who was Welsh, was a Shakespearean stage actor largely unknown outside of England.
When people began to whisper that perhaps Ms. Taylor and Mr. Burton were conducting an illicit affair, the couple denied the accusations. So uncontrollable was their love and lust, that their affair was
“bloody obvious,” to use Burton’s term – so flagrantly on display. (2)
When the director of “Cleopatra” shouted “Cut!” at the end of love scenes, Taylor and Burton would continue to kiss.
They carried on on the movie set, film lot, in their private villas, and took their love to town – to the Via Veneto. But they were not safely in America, where there was a time-honored tradition not to pry into the private lives of public people and where the studio would have squelched any unflattering press. They were in Rome – the land of the paparazzi.
The Italian “paparazzi” were a new style of journalist. These young, Vespa-riding photographers with cameras with zoom lenses slung around their neck were hungry for a money-making photo that would reveal the affair to the waiting world. With a pack mentality, they were ruthlessly intent upon snapping photos of the jetset enjoying La Dolce Vita, the sweet life, popularized in the film of that same name. And Liz and Dick were getting hot and heavy on the Via Veneto.
From February thru July, paparazzi stalked Taylor and Burton’s every move, hoping for that money-making photo that would expose the lovers to the world. And they got them, too, forcing both Liz and Dick to deal with their respective spouses.
The Burton-Taylor Affair – “Le Scandale,” as Burton termed it – created international interest and thus, international coverage.
The public, it seemed, had an unquenchable appetite to follow the drama. Gone were the days when American readers of Photoplay and Modern Screen were content to read fictional accounts of their favorite movie stars generated by the big movie studios.
It is hard to overstate the excitement caused at the time by Elizabeth and Richard’s grand passion. Everyone was following the saga, even First Lady Jackie Kennedy, who asked the publicist Warren Cowan in early 1963,
“Warren, do you think Elizabeth Taylor will marry Richard Burton?”(3)
Initially, the pair were condemned by the press for their public adultery until publishers woke up and realized how much the “Liz and Dick” machine increased tabloid, newspaper, magazine, and book sales.
Note to readers: Today also begins the first auction at Christie’s, New York, of The Collection of Elizabeth Taylor, which I was privileged to view on December 3, 2011. (2)
(1) Source: The Guardian
(2) “Remembering Liz (1932-2011),” Life Commemorative, 2011.
(3) Kashner, Sam and Schoenberger, Nancy. Furious Love: Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, and the Marriage of the Century. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2010.
Readers: For more on Elizabeth Taylor on Lisa’s History Room, click here.