Here’s yet another actress who may in some way be connected to Elvira’s circle.
Valerie Taylor (1902-88) had a long career on stage and in film. She was best known at the time of the Barney case for her six-year association with John Balderston’s play “Berkeley Square“, in which she starred both in the West End and on Broadway and eventually on film. Other triumphs included her 1929 role as Nina, opposite John Gielgud, in Chekhov’s “The Seagull“. (Funnily enough, Beatrix Thomson had played in “The Three Sisters” a couple of years earlier.). Taylor, while remaining primarily attached to the theatre, would later appear in film classics such as “Went The Day Well?” and “Repulsion“. Again, like the other actresses that I have posted about, she was also a writer – and has one or two screenplay credits.
She had some strong Bloomsbury connections, which included correspondences with Clive Bell and an unlikely relationship with Eddy Sackville-West. In Michael De La Noy’s biography (“Eddy”) she is described as “simultaneously throwing herself at the feet of both Raymond Mortimer and Eddy’s cousin Vita”. Mortimer, who wrote so “colourfully” to Eddy about Arthur Jeffress’ Red and White Party, seems to have been briefly engaged to Valerie. These pairings-up of gay men and bisexual or gay women should by now be becoming familiar to anyone reading this blog.
She was also acquainted with the Mayfair/Chelsea crowd. Maurice Richardson, of whom more anon, recalls a party in 1929 where he “fell for Valerie Taylor in a gold evening dress. I thought I was going to make her but got brushed off later.” Brian Howard was also in attendance and, as a fight broke out later on, so, I would imagine, were some of our usual suspects. If Elvira ever met Valerie it would have been in this environment, as I just can’t picture Mrs.Barney at Knole or Charleston.
From 1930 onwards Valerie Taylor divided her time between England and America. She married Hugh Sinclair (who played “The Saint” in a number of fondly-remembered B-Movies). Taylor and Sinclair had acted together in the almost-openly lesbian play “Love of Women” by Aimee Stuart (whose friends included Sunday Wilshin and Nerina Shute). In Harlem they danced the night away with a young Lucille Ball and in Hollywood were friends with the legendary Mercedes de Acosta (reputedly the lover of both Marlene Dietrich and Tallulah Bankhead).
She returned to England after the War and left Sinclair for a mining-engineer. Before the break-up they had a property in Perranporth, Cornwall, and she collaborated with Winston Graham (of “Poldark” fame) on the screenplay for “Take My Life” (1947). He, then aged 39 and she 45, describes her thus, “She was a highly strung, highly articulate, beautiful but rather overpowering young woman who was full of ideas.” – which makes her sound pretty impressive to me.
She is not high among my candidates for a close friend of Elvira’s or as an attendee of the cocktail party. However, she would have known Howard and Gathorne-Hardy and most of Elvira’s theatrical friends. She is also, I suspect, someone whose career, on and off-stage, Elvira would have rather envied.