‘Lunch With Lizbeth’ details author’s 20-year friendship with actress
A smoky and sensual voice. Shadows falling on the hypnotic face of a mysterious woman. A perfect sideways glance.
Hello, Elizabeth Scott.
The stellar but perhaps lesser-known film noir actress certainly knew how to light up the screen. So much so that local documentary writer/producer Todd Hughes took notice and ended up creating his own personal story with Scott herself.
Their gripping story is wonderfully told in Hughes’ memoir “Lunch With Lizabeth.”
The book – written with lyrical prose – delves into Hughes’ love of Hollywood, noting, among other things, how stunned he was to bump into Lauren Bacall on a film set when he was just 14. . Beyond Hughes’ personal story, readers learn more about the unique bond he shared with Scott, who he eventually “lunched” with at Musso & Frank in Hollywood, long after his star died. faded.
“I’ve always liked books that captured someone who was in the film industry,” Hughes said. “Lizabeth has just slipped through the cracks. His fame was not really chronic. I was hoping that she would collaborate with me on an autobiography, but we never got there.
“She never felt worthy of releasing a book like this,” he said. “When she died, I wanted to do something to carry on her legacy. Then I realized our story was also interesting. Lizabeth had a relatively brief career. I didn’t write a book about her career, itself, but rather on our relationship.
In her heyday of the 1940s, Scott was considered film noir royalty. She made her debut in the 1945 comedy-drama “You Came Along” before making a significant dent in other films, such as “The Strange Love of Martha Ivers”, “Desert Fury”, “I Walk Alone” and “Dead Reckoning” with Humphrey Bogart. .
Scott then starred alongside Elvis Presley in “Loving You” in 1957. She made more than 20 films and lived in relative isolation until her death in 2015.
“What really stood out about her was her zest for life and her enthusiasm for life. It was truly amazing,” Hughes said. “Here is this woman who hardly ever married. She lived alone until her death. She loved getting up in the morning, loved doing new things and meeting new people. You don’t often meet people like that. I speak in the book of the pressures [of show business] but Lizabeth was such a happy person, on top of being a movie star.”
The duo’s strong bond, and in turn, their endearing friendship, spanned 20 years. In the memoir, Hughes details Scott’s notable but brief career as an actress, recording artist and – what’s that? — the mistress of a major Hollywood producer?
It’s a page turner.
Hughes effectively captures their connection with occasional frowns, particularly about politics, art, and homosexuality. Either way, their heartfelt connection brings them into the 21st century.
“Lizabeth convinced me that fate was real and fate can happen if you really want it,” Hughes said of the life lessons Scott imparted. “She was very self-aware. I admired her independence. She really didn’t need anyone’s approval. She really followed her heart.
Hughes’ first impression on Scott came when he attended the Humphrey Bogart Festival.
“I arrived in time to see the glittering Columbia Pictures logo in a crisp, immaculate thirty-five millimeter print: Humphrey Bogart and Lizabeth Scott, both also shown before the title in John Cromwell’s ‘Dead Reckoning’,” said he wrote. “I had heard of Cromwell being blacklisted, but Lizabeth Scott’s name has eluded me until now. His letters caught my eye. He came across as both glamorous and confident.
“Twenty minutes into the film’s rapid and convoluted set-up, I almost forgot my initial curiosity about who this star actress, Lizabeth Scott, was.
“And then the voice…it hadn’t even appeared on screen, and it had Bogart’s attention and mine.” And then, the greatest movie star introduction of all time. The camera begins on the manicured feet of the open-toed shoes of the mysterious yet unknown woman.
And so on. Hughes was taken care of.
Everything filtered into his creative toolbox. He had majored in literature at Columbia University before solidifying his ties with her future husband, filmmaker T. David Ebersole. Their joint creativity sparked a series of acclaimed documentaries: “Dear Mom, Love Cher;” “Mansfield 66/67;” “My name is Lopez; and “House of Cardin”, among others.
Over the years, the duo have split their time between Los Angeles and Palm Springs.
“Moving to Palm Springs, you experience a very different mindset,” Hughes said. “Everyone is very safe with themselves, very positive. Palm Springs always gives me the freedom to say what I want and do what I want. And to be creative all the time. I’ve met so many amazing people – happy people who help you introduce yourself to someone – and then you start hearing about all these things that are going on. Almost everyone has done something here. It’s a wonderful feeling.
When asked how long it took him to write the memoir, Hughes quipped, “My whole life.” He laughed, quickly adding that one of the perks of the pandemic was extra time for his creative pursuits.
In the end – in Hughes’ own words – ‘fate’ intervened and helped bring about a fascinating, if not rare, story about the friendship between a fan and a movie star.
“What I’d like people to take away from the book is that you really shouldn’t be afraid to sue people who have changed your life, because for the most part, they want to know,” Hughes said. “Like Lizabeth, I like people to follow their hearts. If you like something, explore it. And see what happens.
Learn more about Todd Hughes at ebersolehughes.com.