A Rare and Extensive Archive of Love Letters, Leading up to Elizabeth Taylor’s First Engagement
Unprecedented, one–of–a–kind collection of over sixty love letters handwritten by Elizabeth Taylor, a Hollywood legend infamous for her many love affairs and marriages. Written during 1949, at age seventeen, to fiancé William Pawley, Jr the son of a wealthy American businessman and ambassador, they encompass her first engagement and perhaps even the beginning of her love affair with jewelry—Pawley gave Taylor her first white diamond ring.
Archive includes: 64 ALSs written by Elizabeth, with the majority on high-quality off-white stationery paper ranging in size from 3.75 x 5 to 5 x 7.75, several on light blue stationery, five on Taylor’s personal 5 x 4 light blue ‘Elizabeth’ stationery, one on official Elizabeth Taylor MGM letterhead stationery, two on light pink stationery, and three of the letters being written on postcards. Most letters are written on both sides of one or more adjoining sheets, and are intimately signed as either “Elizabeth” or “Liz.” All but five of the letters are accompanied by the original envelope addressed in Taylor’s hand. Also included is a signed Easter card with handwritten sentiment and an original newspaper clipping from June 7, 1949, announcing the Taylor-Pawley engagement on which Taylor personally pens an amusing note. Lastly is a gorgeous vintage matte-finish photograph of a young Elizabeth boldly signed and inscribed to Pawley in black fountain pen, “Bill—Until tomorrow—Love, Elizabeth.”
The collection is in overall fine condition, with a even strip of toning to many of the letters where the envelope’s adhesive lip sat over the enclosed letter while in storage and Taylor’s mother Sara adding postscripts to a few of Elizabeth’s letters. There is also light irregular trimming to extreme edges of the signed photograph’s border which could be easily matted out.
Collection is accompanied by 16 lengthy ALSs from Taylor’s meddling mother Sara written to Pawley, original telegrams including a few from Taylor to Pawley and many others from friends congratulating them on their engagement, a wedding invitation to actress friend Jane Powell’s wedding and a handwritten thank you note from Powell for their wedding present. Interesting to note that Powell’s wedding is where Taylor and Pawley officially broke off their brief engagement.
The letters begin in late March 1949 after Taylor and her parents left her uncle Howard’s vacation home in Florida, where Pawley was located, for California so Taylor could get back to work for MGM. So much in love, Elizabeth began writing Bill as early as on the plane home, evidenced by the first letter of the archive dated March 22 and penned on Delta airlines stationery. The archive dries up around the beginning of October of that year as their relationship ended. A true piece of Hollywood history, the final letter postmarked October 9, was actually written on the set of A Place in the Sun.
Each letter is beautifully scripted in Elizabeth’s graceful hand, most all in bold blue or black fountain pen, although two are written in blue ballpoint and another two in pencil. Most all letters are several pages long, with the majority being four pages but some ranging to as many as ten pages in length. These heartfelt letters reveal a blossoming woman of seventeen, who even though called the most beautiful woman in world, had insecurities just like the rest of us.
Elizabeth reveals having to watch her weight and even feeling a little depressed at times—truly showing her humanity. What really shines through is the virtuousness of this amazing young woman, who had distractions abound as one of the most beautiful girls in Hollywood but who saved herself for that one true love.
Interestingly enough, even while Taylor and Pawley were engaged, she was advised to publicly date Heisman Trophy Winner Glenn Davis. This archive includes several interesting letters discussing the issue and her personal disdain for the ruse orchestrated by her mother Sara and the studio meant to maintain her girl–next–door persona.
Much to the delight of movie buffs, Taylor goes into detail about two movies she made during this era—A Place in the Sun and The Big Hangover. Taylor candidly shares what she really thinks of the massive and controlling studio machine that was MGM. Showing her keen eye for a good script she openly denounces her role in The Big Hangover which turned out to be a flop, yet is ecstatic to be part of A Place in the Sun—a future classic—even calling director George Stevens “The best in the business.”
With these priceless letters comes a rare glimpse into the mind of a Hollywood legend and a newfound understanding of her misunderstood larger–than–life celebrity. Astoundingly, Taylor actually considered retiring from films to become a wife, penning, “I am only too ready to say farewell to my career and everything connected with it—for I won’t be giving anything up—but I will be gaining the greatest gift that God bestows upon man—love, marriage, a family—and you.” A once in a lifetime chance to own a piece of the ‘most beautiful girl in the world’s heart gracefully penned on paper. A more comprehensive description of letters and images are available online.
A fabulous movie-content letter in which the young starlet discusses her first real adult role in the critically acclaimed film A Place in the Sun, revealing the inclement weather conditions involved in shooting a summer movie in Lake Tahoe during October and even describing a snow fight with famous director George Stevens. Eight pages on both sides of two pair of adjoining 5.25 x 7 sheets of high quality light pink stationery paper, eloquently written in purple fountain pen and signed twice, once “Your Elizabeth” and in a postscript “Love You, Liz,” no date but the envelope is postmarked October 9, 1949. In part: “What has been going on up here could happen in no other place but California—and in motion pictures. This story is supposed to be laid in the summer time, so there are many horse back riding scenes & swimming scenes, ect—naturally all done in very thin clothes. Well, it’s been just like ice up here, and we’ve all just about frozen to death, especially us poor actors in our ‘summer’ cloths [sic]. But to top it all off—yesterday morning when we woke up the ground was covered in about six inches of snow—and the temperature was about 24 degrees—but presently the sun came out so they decided they could shoot anyway—the whole company went charging out to the location with fire blazers & horses to melt the snow off the ground...I played a whole scene in a bathing suit—with snow all around me and at the end of the scene I went racing off into the lake...luckily I only had to go up to my knees...I had a snow fight with Mr. Stevens—and some of the snow got in the pockets of my big fur lined army coat...several hours later...the snow was still unmelted in my pockets...That’s how warm the room is!” Accompanied by the original matching light pink stationery envelope addressed to Pawley in Taylor’s hand.
An interesting letter discussing Van Johnson and their work together on The Big Hangover and also mentioning known baseball enthusiast Frank Sinatra winning a charity baseball game they both attended. Four pages on both sides of adjoining 5 x 8 sheets of off-white stationery paper written in black fountain pen and signed “All my love, Elizabeth,” no date not postmarked August 2, 1949. Taylor recalls the “Out of This World” charity baseball game she attended that day noting that she was the “Bat Girl “ and “Sanatra[sic] won” most likely referring to Frank Sinatra. She goes on to discuss her new picture The Big Hangover “Van J.[ohnson] & I are recording a couple of songs in the afternoon for the ‘Big Hangover’ one is ‘Sleepy Time Gal’ & the other is ‘When You Were Sweet Sixteen’ we’ve had a lot of fun with them—I hope they sound alright…”
A lengthy drama-filled letter in which the still heartbroken starlet regrets calling things off and begs for Pawley to love her again. Five individual 7.25 x 10.5 pages on Del Mar Beach Club letterhead written in blue fountain pen and signed “Your Elizabeth.” In part: “Just to hear the sound of your voice gave me a thrill and made me feel happier—eventhough the things you said made me unhappy...I made an awful mistake, Darling—& I could kill myself over & over again for it...I am completely convinced that you are the only man in the world that I shall ever love...And I also realize now that I was blaming all my own personal unhappiness & confusion on you...I was so sure that everything would clear up if we called it off for a while—but now I am unhappier than I have ever been before—in my entire lifetime...Even your jealousy is the most wonderful thing I can think of now...I have been so stupid, Bill...All I can ask is that you forgive me.” Taylor concludes with a desperate postscript “P.P.S. “love me Bill, love me—Please!” Accompanied by the original matching Del Mar Beach Club stationery envelope addressed to Pawley in Taylor’s hand, with her return address also handwritten on the reverse, though not signed.
A heart-wrenchingly important letter signaling the end of the Taylor-Pawley relationship in which Taylor reveals she will be returning the engagement ring per Pawley’s request. Four pages, 5.25 x 7, on both sides of one adjoining sheet of high quality light blue stationery paper (opposite side is an off-white color), nicely written in blue fountain pen and signed “Elizabeth,”dated September 20, . In part: “I didn’t go to the studio today, for the picture was done yesterday [1950’s The Big Hangover]...the beach is completely deserted—and it looks as lonely and sad as I feel—Oh Bill Darling—I do love you so very, very much—and I miss you so much that it feels like my heart were going to break...And I know with all my heart and soul that this is not the end for us—it couldn’t be—we love each other too much. I received your wire this morning about sending the ring and bracelet to New York—I have the ring on now—it is sparkling so beautifully in the sunshine—I suppose this will be the last time I have it on—for a while at least—take good care of it, Darling—for my heart is embeded [sic] right there in the center of it.” Signed again “ Elizabeth Taylor” on the reverse of the accompanying original matching light blue stationery envelope addressed to Pawley all in her hand, including her own return address below her signature. Interesting to note that although she apparently returned the ring they continued their correspondence and love affair as the letters continue into October
A wonderful letter discussing A Place in the Sun in which the legend so famous for her jewelry affinity describes the stars at the Lake Tahoe filming location like diamonds and speaks of her admiration for director George Stevens and the rest of the cast. Four pages on both sides of adjoining 5.25 x 7 sheets of high quality light pink stationery paper, boldly written in purple fountain pen and signed “Your Elizabeth,” dated October 3 . In part: “Well, we just arrived up here in Tahoe a couple of hours ago—it’s just beautiful—the moon is simply huge, and it looks so wonderful up in the velvet black sky with the stars sparkling like diamonds ...I am very excited about this picture, it should be a very good one—for George Stevens is just about the best director in the business—and he’s so nice—the whole company & cast are just wonderful—I hope it remains as happy—I’m sure it will.” Signed again “ E. Taylor, Chambers Lodge, Lake Tahoe Calif,” on the reverse of the accompanying original matching light pink stationery envelope addressed to Pawley all in her hand.
An intimate four-page letter signed “Elizabeth” and dated March 28 . Taylor expresses her deep love for Pawley, penning “My heart aches & makes me want to cry when I think of you, and how much I want to be with and to look into your beautiful blue eyes, and kiss your sweet lips and have your strong arms hold me, oh so tight, & close to you...I want our hearts to belong to each other through out eternity—I want us to be ‘lovers’ always...even after we’ve been married seventy-five years and have at least a dozen great-great-grandchildren.”
An eight-page letter signed “Elizabeth” and dated March 26, . Taylor gushes over Pawley and how much she misses him, then focusing on the media scandal of her two-sided love life—publicly dating Heisman Trophy winner Glenn Davis and privately dating Pawley. “It has been so awful since I’ve been home with all the reporters calling up & asking if Glenn [Davis] & I have broken up—At first I just didn’t know what to say, but then we all talked it over & decided to say ‘Well, we’re not engaged but we are still good friends and have not broken up”—If I say anything else it will become a national problem or something, and this way it can die a slow death without too much comment (I hope) But actually, Glenn & I have made an agreement just to go to social events together where there are some nosy reporters—like the Academy Awards and some big premiere next week—but otherwise we are completely through.”
A ten-page letter signed “Elizabeth” and dated April 1 , in which Taylor writes of troubles with faux-boyfriend, famous football player Glenn Davis. After he accidentally broke a new pair of earrings Pawley had given her Elizabeth wrote “I have never had such a strong desire to hit anyone with all my might in all my life—I could just have killed him...He is so spoiled, & weak, & pouty—I’ve tried, honestly I have Bill, yet I might just as well have been batting my head against a brick wall—He hates me now, I know it—it’s written all over his face—But actually, I guess it’s best that way—at least he’s not in love with me anymore” That night Elizabeth had finally had enough. She penned “I gave him back his ‘A’ pin, the football and his All- American sweater...I don’t care what they say anymore...from now on I’m going to live my life the way I want to.” Taylor goes on to gush over Pawley stating “If only I could find the words that tell of that much love—so I could let you know how I feel. Guess I’ll just have to wait until I’m your wife, for then I’ll be able to show you & prove my love to you.” She ends the letter with “Oh another thing honey—don’t worry about our having a fight—I’m sure we never will but even if we do, think of the fun we’ll have making up!!!”