Liz Taylor in Malaga in Scent of Mystery. / SUR

Elizabeth Taylor's visits to the Costa del Sol

This Sunday 27 February would have been Liz Taylor's 90th birthday. Her visit to Marbella is still remembered by the local jet set as a controversial experience


Elizabeth Taylor came to Spain in 1959 to film the mystery drama movie Suddenly, Last Summer. It was filmed mostly on the Costa Brava. For her performance in that movie Taylor received her third Academy Award nomination and her first Golden Globe for Best Actress.

That same year, Taylor stopped off in Andalucía to play an episodic role in the film Scent of Mystery (Holiday in Spain), produced by her step-son, Mike Todd, Jr.

Apparently Todd begged her as a favour for a relative, and she finally agreed to feature in the movie, playing the role of an American heiress who mysteriously disappeared on vacation in Spain.

The episode was planned to be filmed in Malaga, and the popular actress appeared in the city to shoot the final scene. Proof of Taylor's visit was her stay in the luxury Hotel Miramar, however her participation in the film is anecdotical.

The final scene shows Liz Taylor standing in the Gibralfaro castle, overlooking the port of Malaga. However, her name is not mentioned in the movie's cast, and the actress never highlighted Holiday in Spain as part of her cinematographic career either. Instead the film credits include the name Liz Rolyat (Taylor backwards).

In the movie Taylor stands in the Gibralfaro castle, overlooking the port of Malaga

Incidentally, the movie Cleopatra, which really launched Elizabeth Taylor to an unprecedented level of stardom, was partly filmed in Andalucía. Due to its enormous budget overruns in England, Italy and Egypt, director Joseph L. Mankiewicz decided to shoot the remaining Battle of Pharsalus scenes in Almeria province, where it was possible to save costs.

In February 1963, an overloaded boat arrived in the port of Almeria, transporting Roman carriages and other set decorations from Egypt, though without the crowned Queen. Taylor's character did not appear in the battle scenes, therefore, it was not necessary for her to come to Andalucía on that occasion.

A controversial visit

It was the year 1986 when Elizabeth Taylor visited the Costa del Sol for her own real 'Holiday in Spain'. She came to relax with the American actor George Hamilton, who she began dating in the mid-1980s. During a visit to Europe, the couple dropped in on Marbella.

Liz Taylor, George Hamilton and Marbella residents: M. Ohlson, A. Khashoggi, J. de Mora. / SUR

Marbella would have been Taylor's cup of tea. The Hollywood diva always knew how to appreciate luxury and was fond of relaxing on yachts away from intrusive and annoying paparazzi.

The 86-metre yacht Nabila was offered to them in Puerto Banús by Hamilton's friend, the Saudi Arabian billionaire Adnan Khashoggi, who in the 1980s had settled in Marbella.

Taylor also played golf with Sean Connery, then also a Marbella resident. But it was impossible to avoid intrusive paparazzi. Spanish photographers chased the diva everywhere, even in one of Marbella's most exclusive hotels.

In 1986, Elizabeth Taylor visited the Costa del Sol with George Hamilton. The couple managed to relax on Khashoggi's yacht and played golf with Sean Connery

The annoying and intrusive visits

Elizabeth Taylor and George Hamilton stayed at the Marbella Club where they were invited for the inauguration of a new venue within the hotel.

There is a story told about the party that was to be held in honour of the prominent Hollywood guest. That evening Taylor was told about some topless photos taken by a paparazzi. She got angry and refused to go to the party until the photos were recovered.

According to the popular story, the photographer (in some sources named as Otero) was brought to her and forced to show the roll of negatives. The photos had been taken when she had decided to take her top off while sunbathing on her third-floor balcony.

George Hamilton apparently told the furious Liz that one of the photos looked rather good and asked her to let him publish them. Eventually, those photos were printed worldwide, bringing extra fame to Marbella.

In Marbella Taylor was told about topless photos taken by a paparazzi. She got angry, and refused to go to the party held in her honour until the photos were recovered

Elizabeth Taylor finally showed up at the party at around midnight, apparently under the condition that no press should be present. By then, many guests had already left, including Sean Connery, who had got tired and left about half an hour before Taylor's arrival.

The atmosphere around the diva is said to have been spiced with intrigue and controversial comments from the Marbella jet-setters and celebrities.

There is an anecdote about Taylor and a glass of cava. Juan María Torres, the vice-president of the Torres wine/cava company that was sponsoring the party, wanted to take photos of Elizabeth Taylor with a glass of the sparkling wine in her hand, for publishing in a glamour magazine for wider publicity. However the actress apparently said that he could not take a photo of her with a drink, as she was coming out of a detox process.