AS film lovers mourned the death of Elizabeth Taylor, a Swinton grandad recalled his unforgettable encounter with the Hollywood icon... on a film set!
Terrence Bywater told the Times how he chatted with Liz – then a stunning young starlet – when he performed as an extra in the 1952 historical epic, Ivanhoe.
Terrence, of Fitzwilliam Street, was a dashing young guard in the Royal Horseguards when members of his regiment were asked to saddle up and ride as Crusaders alongside Richard the Lionheart.
They were billeted for three days during the filming at Hatfield Park in Hertfordshire.
Said Terrence: “On the set, we were under orders to be fitted with false moustaches and beards and carried wooden swords. We certainly looked the part.
“On one of the days, about five of us were standing around, when Elizabeth Taylor came up for a chat.
“I was 20 years old – she was 18 and already a well known star even then. She was chatting for a good half an hour or so about life in general. There were no airs and graces about her.
“She was very good looking – we were all mesmerised. In fact she was bloody lovely!”
Octogenarian Mr Bywater learned first hand about the life and techniques of big screen production.
He added: “During filming, we had to follow a truck with the director and a camera on it, as we galloped along a leafy lane.
“There were about 25 of us. We started the filming carrying balsa wood lances but the first time we broke into a good gallop they broke in half!
“The wage in the army back then for us was 30 bob a week – around £1.50 in today’s money. We were on the film set for three days and we were paid that much for each day. But they paid the army twice that amount to use the horses, which we found very funny!
“We were all under canvas, but we were given the five-star treatment, The food was out of this world – the meals were brought in on a Pantechnicon.
“They shot a lot of film with us on, but they only used a small amount in the final cut of the film. At one point they even had a machine firing arrows at us!
“We were galloping down the lane on our own horses, but the knights behind us were only on small ponies – the director kept shouting at them to keep up.”
He went on: “Finlay Currie, (who played Ivanhoe’s embittered father Cedric), fell off his pony! They were pouring him brandy to bring him round. We saw this and started pretending to fall off our horses, so we could have a tipple too!”
Terence saw the finished film in a cinema in London’s Kentish Town adding: “I have looked at our video of it and I can see myself at the end, when we galloped into the arena!”
Of Liz – whom he never saw again – he said: “I was sorry to hear about her dying. I suppose we have been expecting it for a while”.
Terrence had started out as a pit pony handler, then spent five years in the Horseguards, before returning to his native South Yorkshire, where he worked at Manvers and Wath Main Collieries.
The young guardsman married his childhood sweetheart Audrey on August 4, 1952.
The couple are set to celebrate their Diamond wedding next year.
Audrey added: “She was a lovely thing that’s for sure – but I was his Liz Taylor!”.