Posted by Cristina Escarilla on 6/29/2012
A vintage travel trailer, customized as a lavish dressing room for Elizabeth Taylor during the filming of Cleopatra in 1963, has sold at auction for $51,660, according to a report on WhatSellsBest.com.
The auction listing noted: “Twentieth Century Fox spent a rumored $75,000 (in 1960s dollars) which would be now valued at over $560,000 to build a fully customized 36-foot dressing room/trailer for the star, staying true to the theme of the Egyptian/Roman epic.” Apparently all this effort was intended to help “keep Elizabeth Taylor in the true character of Cleopatra.”
The auction listing goes on to describe the 36-foot Aljo trailer’s lavish upgrades, which included; full columns mounted on the walls, hand-painted ceilings and hand-painted murals in the bedroom.
After the film wrapped, Nicolas Salgo, a millionaire financier who helped arrange financial backing for Cleopatra, negotiated with Fox to keep the trailer.
Reportedly, Salgo parked the trailer on his Oregon ranch until 1980, offering it to visiting friends who wanted to stay in the “Elizabeth Taylor/Richard Burton love nest.”
When Salgo sold the ranch, the trailer was exhibited in a museum, then later used as a guest house at a private residence before being sold at auction. Cable network Lifetime is currently filming a biopic of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton.
Elizabeth Taylor’s lavish studio—customized dressing room trailer for Cleopatra- (TCF, 1963) It is widely known that Twentieth Century Fox’s 1963 epic Cleopatra was both a troubled and devastatingly expensive production. The film is infamous for nearly bankrupting the studio with its budget swelling to $44 million (equivalent to $320 million in 2010 dollars). Star Elizabeth Taylor was awarded a record-setting contract of $1 million that rose to $7 million due to the delays of the production (equivalent to over $47 million today). The studio was in particular trouble when Taylor became very ill during the early filming and was rushed to the hospital where a life-saving tracheotomy had to be performed. The production was moved to Rome after six months as the English weather proved detrimental to her recovery, as well as being responsible for the constant deterioration of the costly sets required for the production. During the filming Elizabeth met Richard Burton and the two began a very public affair which made the headlines worldwide. To help Taylor remain focused and stay in character, Twentieth Century Fox spent a rumored $75,000 (in 1960s dollars!) to build a heavily customized 36-foot dressing room/trailer for the star, staying true to the theme of the Egyptian/Roman epic. The Aljo trailer is decorated with opulence, through the talent and expertise of the studio set construction crew. It features rose colored carpeting, hand-painted ceilings, hand-painted murals in the bedroom, detailed crown moldings, custom makeup dresser and vanity, half columns mounted on the walls and other columned furniture and decorative pieces. Silky curtains hang from a semicircular runner to separate the bedroom from the rest of the living area. This special hideaway was designed to make the star feel like the Queen of Egypt.
The provenance of this fabled trailer is fascinating. Millionaire financier and developer of the Watergate complex in Washington, DC, Nicolas Salgo, helped arrange financial backing for the film for the studio. Once the film wrapped, Salgo negotiated with Fox to keep Elizabeth Taylor’s dressing room trailer and had it parked at his ZX Ranch in Oregon from the 1960s through 1980. Friends visiting the ranch, the largest in Oregon, would request to stay in the Elizabeth Taylor/Richard Burton love nest—Hollywood’s version of the Lincoln Bedroom . Once Salgo sold the ranch, he transferred ownership to his neighbor from the adjacent ranch (the current owner and consignor) who owned The Lakeview Fantastic Museum where it became part of the museum exhibit. The trailer now resides as a guest house of his personal residence in Lake Tahoe, California.
The furniture, fixtures and curtains are all original. The other pieces currently decorating the dressing room, such as chairs, hand mirror, telephones, magazines, photographs, etc. are placed as a museum-like tribute to Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton and Cleopatra. The original round bed was removed over 40 years ago and replaced with a queen-sized bed. Some areas on the walls exhibit minor moisture damage which can be easily restored; otherwise, in very good condition with original curtains and main fixtures intact. Due to the size of the trailer, special transportation considerations must be arranged by the winning bidder. A wonderful and intimate Elizabeth Taylor piece, epitomizing the epic extravagance of Cleopatra—the last of the old guard Hollywood films.