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.
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.
“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.
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.
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:
“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.
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.