10 February 2019

I want to do it more than any script I have ever read

Elizabeth Taylor was fed up with the roles MGM kept giving her and wanted better roles, especially after being cast against her will in the period drama Beau Brummell (1954). In 1953, while in Rome with husband actor Michael Wilding, Elizabeth met director Joseph L. Mankiewicz who had started the preparations for his next film The Barefoot Contessa (1954)Elizabeth desparately wanted to play the Maria Vargas part and asked Mankiewicz if she could read the script. Back in London, she wired MGM-executive Benny Thau, letting him know that she had met Mankiewicz in Rome and that she wanted to do The Barefoot Contessa "more than any script [she had] ever read". Much to Elizabeth's dismay, Thau wired back that the role had already been given to Ava Gardner.

Elizabeth's telegram to Thau and her subsequent telegram to Mankiewicz (sent in November 1953) are seen below. Having been denied the role in The Barefoot Contessa, Elizabeth next starred in The Last Time I saw Paris (1954), a film she liked and of which she later said: "[It] convinced me I wanted to be an actress instead of yawning my way through parts."


_______________

DEAREST, DARLING BENNY: SAW JOE MANKIEWICZ IN ROME AND ASKED HIM TO LET ME READ BAREFOOT CONTESSA. I WANT TO DO IT MORE THAN ANY SCRIPT I HAVE EVER READ. I KNOW WHAT HAPPENED BETWEEN AVA AND SCHENCK* BUT IF METRO HAS NOTHING IMPORTANT FOR ME, PLEASE HELP ME WITH THIS BECAUSE AS YOU KNOW IT WOULD DO ME MORE GOOD PERHAPS THAN ANYTHING I HAVE EVER DONE. PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE BENNY AND LET ME KNOW AS SOON AS POSSIBLE DORCHESTER. FONDEST LOVE, ELIZABETH 

[*Ava Gardner had an affair with movie mogul Joseph Schenck.] 


_______________

JOE MANKIEWICZ
GRAND HOTEL ROME

DEAR JOE  RECEIVED A SOMEWHAT EMBARRASING [sic] ANSWER FROM BENNY SAYING I WAS MENTIONED BY NOBODY INCLUDING EVIDENTLY BERT OR YOU FOR THE PART AND INFORMING ME THAT AVA WAS ALREADY SET STOP DO WISH THAT YOU COULD HAVE LET ME KNOW STOP BUT THE BEST OF LUCK TO YOU AND THE FILM  I AM SURE IT WILL BE WONDERFUL  LOVE ELIZABETH

source: Bonhams

Above: Joseph Mankiewicz and Elizabeth Taylor during production of Suddenly, Last Summer (1959). While Mankiewicz didn't think Elizabeth was right for The Barefoot Contessa, he would direct her in two films, Suddenly, Last Summer and Cleopatra (1963) // Below: Ava Gardner was chosen to play Maria Vargas in The Barefoot Contessa; here she is in a scene from the film with leading man Humphrey Bogart.

2 comments:

  1. Ava was perfect for The Barefoot Contessa but despite that, the film has always felt rather bloodless to me and this may have had to do with the rest of the cast, with the exception of Edmond O'Brien, who won an Oscar for it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm no fan of the film either, but I liked Ava, O'Brien (although I think that Karl Malden should have won the Oscar for "On the Waterfront") and especially Bogie in an unusual role. Thanks!

      Delete