This article is incomplete, but what there is unusual and fun. It is from a movie magazine in 1949. I don’t know that I believe much of it. Mr. Taylor always stayed at the Dorchester when he was in England.
Bob Taylor might have wondered as he dragged out the kerosene stove what he was doing in England with steak and Stanwyck at home.
by Christopher Kane
Bob Taylor and his ex-Navy pal Ralph Couser were exchanging recipes for boiled eggs in their suite in London’s Savoy when the phone rang. Ralph answered it.
“For you, Bob,” he said, “A woman. She sounds like Harry Lauder.
“It’s Mrs. Stotts,” Taylor said. “Wait and see.”
He was right. It was Mrs. Stotts, more Scotch than ever, though he could follow her closely enough to get her drift. She said the staff at the palace send their kindest regards. Furthermore, she said if he’d like to go through the palace (Buckingham), the royal family would shortly be leaving for the other palace (Sandringham) so the palace (Buckingham) would be entirely at his disposal.
He thanked her cordially and they talked for a while longer. When he hung up, he was grinning. “Now I really feel I’m in England again.”
The relationship between himself and Mrs. Stotts dated back to 1937. That was the year
he’d been making A Yank at Oxford and he’d had a house out in Westminster-on-the Bias, or something, and he needed a cook. Somebody’d come up with Mrs. Stotts. “I cooked for Queen Mary,” Mrs. Stotts told him and Bob said that was good enough for him.
As it turned out. Mrs. Stotts’ cooking wasn’t anything to worry Oscar of the Waldorf, but Mrs. Stotts’ character was sensational. She was so tremendously eager to please, she was so positively certain that she couldn’t do enough for him, that Taylor found himself falling in love. When A Yank at Oxford wound up and it was time for him to head home, the hand clasp between him and Mrs. Stotts was fervent, the gaze they exchanged was brave, and moist.
Years passed. Each one brought a Christmas card from Mrs. Stotts. Finally, in 1947, Mr. and Mrs. Robert Taylor traveled to England for a visit. Mrs. Stotts got in touch at once. “I’ll take you through Buckingham Palace,” she said, almost literally producing the keys to the castle. “Of course, their majesties are in residence, so we won’t be able to see it all….”
She came to meet them at Claridge’s, dressed in her best black, and Bob and Barbara had a chauffeured Rolls Royce ready for the trip.
Along the way, Mrs. Stotts busied herself with dispensing information. She spoke her pieces like a radio announcer, each statement sounding rather formal and complete, allowing of no possible question. “King Zog, the former ruler of Albania, has been living in our house,” she said at one point. (They found out later that she didn’t mean her own house, she meant Bob’s Yank at Oxford house.)
As the limousine drove through the back gate to Buckingham Palace, Mrs. Stotts sat up straighter. “This is the gate,” she said solemnly, “through which the Duke of Windsor left, when he abdicated as King of England, December 11, 1936.”
After that, the Taylors got out of the car, visited the palace carriage room and the harness room, were introduced to the staff, and considered themselves to have been educated.
This was in ’47. And here it was ’49, and a Barbara-less Taylor in England again to make a picture, and Mrs. Stotts on the phone again, and it was just as he’d said to Ralph, it was just like old ties.
fuel for the machine
Now, Ralph proceeded to drop a can kerosene on the floor, and then grab it up nervously. “In the old days,” he enquired, “were you never thrown out of your hotel for breaking the fire laws?”
“Stop worrying,” Taylor said. “You’ll get wrinkles.”
The reason for the kerosene was simple. They’d been starving to death. According to Taylor and Couser, the English can’t cook. Salt of the earth, you understand, but they’ll murder any food that doesn’t stand right up and bite ’em back.”
To begin with, when the boys had first known they were coming abroad, they’d made arrangements to have eggs, bacon, etc., shipped to them. The British are still on painfully short rations, and you don’t want to take food out of anybody’s mouth.
First couple of days in the hotel, they’d been sending their own breakfast provisions down to the kitchen for preparation. The bacon came up floating in grease, the eggs were bullets.
Ralph, a man of action, went marching out of the hotel the third morning. He came back loaded with a kerosene stove, several jars of wood alcohol, and a primer. It was obviously nothing the Savoy management would have condoned, but he’d neglected to tell the Savoy management about it.
There were three hall waiters on their floor. Bob and Ralph christened them Baldy, Slim and Shorty, which was inconsistent with their dignity, since they (the waiters) sported long tail coats even at six a.m., but it was chalked up to, “oh, you know Americans,” and passed over charitably.
Ralph apprised the waiters of his alcohol stove routine and from there on, low farce set in. Every night Slim would greet Bob, “What time do you wish breakfast tomorrow, sir?”
“The usual, sir?”
The next morning, at seven on the dot, Slim would wheel in a table. On the table, there’d be two plates, two napkins and two glasses of water.
Ralph would snatch the cooked eggs from underneath the electric core in the fireplace where he put them to keep warm, and they’d eat.
One hideous dawn, they thought the jig was up. Ralph was cooking in his room, when they heard the knock on the door. Bob went to answer it. There was a London Bobby standing at attention.
He’d been sent by the fire department, Taylor said to himself. For sure. From the other room came the noises of Ralph’s domesticity. (If you’ve ever primed a kerosene stove, you know it sounds like you’re welding).
“How do you do?” Taylor said meekly. The constable pulled out an autograph book. “I have a niece,” he began.”
Taylor’d never signed an autograph more cheerfully, or quicker.
The very next morning, the Savoy’s “Head of Security” (that’s British for house dick) came barging in.
It was seven-ish. Ralph’s stove priming symphony was in full swing. Bob looked resigned. Another escape was more than a man could escape. But the Head of Security just smiled, checked their identity cards, got an autograph for some relative of his and beat it.
The whole thing was too hard on Taylor and Couser, though. They gave it up. Got themselves a nice little electric plate. That blew all the bulbs in the place, but at least it was quiet.
Speaking of food problems, Barbara sent Bob six steaks from the Stork Club, which precipitated another tragedy.
The steaks were thick as your fist. Taylor and Couser ordered a couple of them broiled for dinner, and sat back.
But not for long. What that cook had done to those steaks wasn’t nice. Taylor tucked his tongue, which had been hanging out, back into his mouth and sat down to write an indignant letter.
“You don’t even know the chef’s name,” Ralph said.
“I’ll call him ‘Dear Sir,’ said Taylor.
Another time, Jack and Mary Benny sent six steaks via a friend. The friend, who’d flown across, delivered the meat with his own two pink hands.
Bob called Slim in for a conference. “Has the hotel a deep freeze?”
Slim said yep.
“Okay” Bob said. He wrapped the steaks carefully, first in waxed paper and then in newspaper, and sent them down.
frozen food. . .
About a month later, the boys decided steak for dinner, and odered one of their cold-storage jobs cooked. When it came, they had to open the windows and leave the room.
“You know,” Bob said, “I don’t think that steak is as fresh as it might be.”
“What gave you such an idea?” Ralph asked, and they went off to investigate the kitchen. Turned out that Slim thought a deep freeze was the same as a refrigerator and if some jerks wanted to eat meat that was 12 years old and crawling, it was none of his business.
For the most part, Bob’s stay in England was reasonably uneventful. He was there from mid-October until mid-February and he traveled from the Savoy to the studio, from the studio to the Savoy, with very little time for anything else but writing letters. (He’s a fiend at the typewriter: Barbara got a volume every day and a neat volume at that. He never xed out anything, or made a typographical error. Ralph once mentioned some woman’s astonishment at the perfection of Taylor’s manuscripts. “Yeah,” Bob said, but what she doesn’t know is I’ve got a little dickens of an eraser.”)
The picture they were shooting is called Conspirator. Bob and Elizabeth Taylor were the only Americans in the cast.
“I play an Englishman, ” Bob says. That makes it a comedy.
Elizabeth came in for some intensive …..article ends.