Robert Taylor and Elizabeth Taylor

Robert Taylor and Elizabeth Taylor co-starred in two films: the less than thrilling thriller Conspirator (1949) and the blockbuster Ivanhoe (1952). Ms. Taylor also had a cameo in Quo Vadis in which she was fed to the lions.

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On the set of “Conspirator.” Robert Taylor, Elizabeth Taylor, Director Victor Saville and Honour Blackman.

The age difference between them seemed particularly bad in Conspirator.  Someone commenting on the film thought that it was odd that a father and daughter should play lovers.  Ms. Taylor was 16 and Mr. Taylor was 38. Ms. Taylor said of her co-star:

“He is just as wonderful as everyone in Hollywood told me he was. I have to admit I did get nervous when he took me in his arms and made love to me, but the director said I shouldn’t be upset.”  Charles Tranberg, Robert Taylor: a Biography. BearManor Media, 2011, page 197.

Robert Taylor was enthusiastic about his young co-star and helped her with her studies on the set.

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Tutoring on the set (among other things).

“They told her to kiss, and she kissed. …she will be talking on the set just like a regular teenager.  Then suddenly she will go into a dramatic scene with me and change into a grown young woman.  She is an excellent actress with great talent.” Tranberg, page 197.

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Promotional materials for “Conspirator.”

The two of them also made a problem for the cameraman.  Mr. Taylor was having difficulties containing his enthusiasm while working with Elizabeth:

“He spoke to the cameramen and explained his ‘physical situation,’ and they said they would try to focus the camera on him above the waist.  ‘Doggone, I spent the entire day in that condition and I couldn’t understand it. She was only seventeen years old and I certainly wasn’t going to try to seduce her.  I might have tried a few years later when we did another movie together, but she was in love with Michael Wilding and wasn’t lookin’ at anyone else!”  Jane Ellen Wayne, Robert Taylor: the Man with the Perfect Face, NY, St. Martins, 1973, 1987, page 143.

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Scenes from “Conspirator.”

In 1951 the Taylors were united in the color spectacular Ivanhoe. Robert Taylor was, of course, Ivanhoe and Elizabeth Taylor was Rebecca, the Jewess whom he could never love.  Joan Fontaine was Rowena, Ivanhoe’s fiancee.  Neither Taylor was particularly happy about doing a costume picture.  Mr. Taylor called them “iron jockstrap” films. Ivanhoe’s visuals, as well as its stars, made it hugely successful. It was also a pleasant picture to make:

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Scenes from Ivanhoe.

“It was the most pleasant picture I’ve ever made over there.  Dick Thorpe, who directed, is fast and efficient.  We really worked.  There was no nonsense. We didn’t just sit around.”   Tranberg, page 242.

The critics also liked Ivanhoe and ranked it fifth on Film Daily’s 30th Annual Poll of Critics Ten Best List.  Bosley Crowther of the New York Times, not usually a Robert Taylor fan, called it a “brilliantly colored tapestry of drama and spectacle.”  Crowther called Mr. Taylor “good, sturdy and manly.”   Tranberg, pages 242-243.

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On the set with Robert Taylor, Elizabeth Taylor, Joan Fontaine, director Richard Thorpe and George Sanders. I love the one with the umbrellas.

The two Taylors were never lovers, although they were friends.  Mr. Taylor tutored Ms.Taylor during breaks on the set of Conspirator.  They attended a royal command performance together. They never worked  together again after Ivanhoe.

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The Taylors attending a royal command performance of “Scott of the Antarctic” on November 29, 1948.

About giraffe44

I became a Robert Taylor fan at the age of 15 when his TV show, "The Detectives" premiered. My mother wanted to watch it because she remembered Mr. Taylor from the thirties. I took one look and that was it. I spent the rest of my high school career watching Robert Taylor movies on late night TV, buying photos of him, making scrapbooks and being a typical teenager. College, marriage and career intervened. I remember being sad when Mr. Taylor died. I mailed two huge scrapbooks to Ursula Thiess. I hope she got them. Time passed, retirement, moving to Florida. Then in 2012 my husband Fred pointed that there were two Robert Taylor movies that evening on Turner Classic Movies--"Ivanhoe" and "Quentin Durward." I watched both and it happened all over again. I started this blog both for fans and for people who didn't know about Robert Taylor. As the blog passes 200,000 views I'm delighted that so many people have come by and hope it will help preserve the legacy of this fine actor and equally good man.
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4 Responses to Robert Taylor and Elizabeth Taylor

  1. dianne345 says:

    Thanks for this. I just love these 2! “Conspirator” was the first movie I saw Robert Taylor in & I went to see it because Elizabeth Taylor was a childhood idol of mine. I had ET paper dolls & a coloring book & tried to see all her movies. I thought at the time that RT was a good looking man but nothing special. I preferred Errol Flynn (in a reissue of “Robin Hood” & “Don Juan” & Gene Kelly (in “The 3 Musketeers” & “The Pirate”) at the time. I guess I had a thing for swashbucklers, which, of course, RT eventually became, 3 times. The age difference in “Conspirator” was handled by making her 2 years older (18) & him several years younger (31) but it still wasn’t a good movie, although I watch it occasionally. In “Ivanhoe,” ET played a very young woman very infatuated with a handsome older man, so the age difference was no problem. And they looked fabulous on the screen together in costume & Technicolor.

  2. giraffe44 says:

    I like swashbucklers too. Errol Flynn was also a favorite of mine. I can remember sitting up late to watch him on late night tv when I was a teen. I had to block out the light under my door so my mother wouldn’t notice I was up. I didn’t know about Robert Taylor until “The Detectives.” Instant infatuation. Thanks for writing.

  3. Sharion Frazier says:

    Well done!

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