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Elizabeth Taylor’s Kiss and Other Brushes with Hollywood

David Wood is not only a playwright, writing mostly plays for children including The Gingerbread Man and The Plotters of Cabbage Patch Corner, he also founded, with John Gould, Whirligig Theatre which has toured all over the UK and abroad, raising the profile of theatre for young people. He has adapted several of Road Dahl’s books for the stage and has also found time since the early 1960s to act. This book concerns several never to be forgotten memories…

Elizabeth Taylor's Kiss and Other BrushesElizabeth Taylor’s Kiss and Other Brushes with Hollywood begins with an amusing account of the charity production of Dr Faustus at Oxford in 1964, when Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor were persuaded by Neville Coghill, of Canterbury Tales fame, to visit the UK and star in the production, later recorded for “LP” and disastrously filmed. Wood’s account ‘name drops’ frequently and is all the more charming for that, as well as being amusing and informative.

Then we are treated to an account of Wood’s encounter with the Hollywood actress Shelley Winters for the London Weekend Television production The Vamp in 1972, which sounds quite stressful for all involved!

However, for me, the most interesting chapter concerns Andrew Lloyd Webber’s ill-fated musical Jeeves in 1975 starring David Hemmings as Wooster and David Wood as Bingo Little, especially the comments regarding the director Eric Thompson, whose first musical it was, and the totally inappropriate designs by Voytek. The first version of this staged at the Bristol Hippodrome also included Betty Marsden as Aunt Dahlia, but she had been expunged by the time the show reached London, owing to the running time of over three and a half hours! More recently it was rewritten and restaged in-the-round in a much more intimate and successful production at Scarborough as By Jeeves.

Other chapters include the movie Aces High, North Sea Hijack with Roger Moore and Disney’s Back Home with Hayley Mills, each related with a gentle whimsy and ‘easy to read’ style: ideal for reading on a really hot day. This book will appeal to those who enjoy theatrical memorabilia and gossip – in the nicest possible way – and I have certainly enjoyed delving into it.

4 stars

Review by John Groves

In this memoir, actor and writer David Wood recalls his ‘brushes with Hollywood’, notably being kissed on the lips by Elizabeth Taylor as midnight struck on his 22nd birthday; playing Richard Burton’s servant on stage in Dr Faustus; being seduced by Shelley Winters in The Vamp, a television two-hander play; hanging upside down from a chandelier and being rescued by David Hemmings in the West End musical Jeeves; singing songs and being shot down in flames as a Royal Flying Corps officer in the film Aces High, in which he was reunited with Malcolm McDowell (his fellow rebel schoolboy in the film If….) and acted alongside Christopher Plummer and Simon Ward; sharing the screen at sea in an oil rig supply vessel with Roger Moore, Anthony Perkins and James Mason in North Sea Hijack; penning the daytime Emmy-nominated BackHome, starring Hayley Mills, thereby becoming a Disney-approved writer; and writing The Queen’s Handbag to celebrate the Queen’s 80th birthday, performed in Buckingham Palace Gardens and seen live by 8,000,000 BBC TV viewers.

It’s a window into another time and some of the wonderful people that David knew when he was just starting his career as a young actor. I couldn’t put it down. It has all the charm and warmth and wit that is David Wood and his lifelong passion for the theatre is inspiring. I loved it.” – Hayley Mills

Release Date: 28th July, 2022
Price: £9.99
ISBN: 9781914471902
The Book Publishing Guild

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  • John Groves

    John Groves studied singing with Robert Easton and conducting with Clive Timms. He was lucky enough to act in the British premiere of a Strindberg play at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe more years ago than he cares to remember, as well as singing at the Royal Opera House - once! He taught drama and music at several schools, as well as examining the practical aspects of GCSE and A level drama for many years. For twenty five years he has conducted a brass band as well as living on one of the highest points of East Sussex surrounded by woodland, deer, foxes and badgers, with kites and buzzards flying overhead.

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