Mrs. Miles Davis: Part II


Frances had seen Miles Davis from time to time and sparks began, but it wasn’t until she finished her run in Porgy and Bess that her world would change. She was on her way to a rehearsal of Mr. Wonderful and she ran into Miles Davis on the street in Manhattan. Miles said, “Finally I have found you and I am never letting you go!”

Jerome Robbins and Arthur Laurents wanted her for West Side Story and she accepted. Being billed as Elizabeth Taylor, people have asked over the years how could this be, two actresses with the same name? The answer is really quite simple. In order to work in Hollywood, the Academy Award winning Elizabeth Taylor was required to become a member of the Screen Actors Guild, and in order to work on Broadway, one must belong to Actors Equity. This is where the two Elizabeth Taylors begin. There was already an Equity member under the name of Frances Taylor, so she assumed her middle name of Elizabeth and another first was made. The show opened at the Winter Garden Theatre with Carol Lawrence, Chita Rivera, and Elizabeth Taylor, winning her the “Gypsy Robe Award.”

It wasn’t long before Miles and Frances were married and began setting up what she thought would be their loving/working together household, only to find out he was canceling her from West Side Story by announcing, “I want you out of West Side Story! You are Mrs. Miles Davis and a woman should be beside her man at all times.” He meant just that!

One night at a Lena Horne performance Jerome Robbins came over to their table and asked Miles if he would please consider allowing Frances to do the movie version of West Side Story. There was a polite “I’ll think about it” and when they left the club and got into his Ferrari he immediately said with expletives, “Is that man crazy?” That was the end of the discussion, permanently!

Miles gave her bits of beauty fame by gracing her on the covers of five of his greatest albums. By this time Miles Davis had so much clout with his record label that he no longer wanted his album covers to portray white women and he wanted his wife on his album covers; once again, another first for Frances.

Perhaps it was his controlling and physical abuse that was the demise of their marriage, which led to separation and final divorce. Frances always kept a handbag full of cash in the closet by the front door in case she had to make a quick getaway. Ten years had passed and a decade was all she could endure, even though when asked why she stayed, she will always say, “But I loved him.”

Here are a few words from “The Optimist’s Creed,” which I think sums up why Frances Davis has endured and remained forever young.

To be strong that nothing can disturb your peace of mind. To make all your friends feel there is something worthwhile in them. To look at the sunny side of everything and make your optimism come true. To think only of the best, to work only for the best and to expect only the best. To be just as enthusiastic about the success of others as you are about your own. To forget the mistakes of your past and press on to the greater achievements of your future. To give so much time to improving yourself that you have no time to criticize others. To be too large for worry, too noble for anger, too strong for fear, and too happy to permit the presence of trouble. To think well of yourself and to proclaim this face to the world, not in loud words, but in great deeds. To live in the faith that the whole world is on your side, so long as you are true to the best that is in you.

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