Tao acted in theatre and film in Europe.
During the World War II Nazi Bombing Blitz in London, Tao performed in five of the top cabarets – The Coconut Grove, Copacabana, The Nut House, the Cabaret Club and the Wellington. She started acting in theatre and then film at Elstree Studios, playing in French Without Tears in Piccadilly and in several musicals. During that time, she met Michael Wilding who later married Elizabeth Taylor. He put her in his first film, Sailors Three. Tao got the part as the Golden Idol in the movie, The Thief of Bagdad, when the lead actress quit because the gold paint was making her skin break out.
I didn’t have to talk which was good because I still couldn’t really speak English. They saw that I could do these Indian hand movements… You could see my eyes but you wouldn’t recognize me very much in gold paint. I didn’t care because I needed to make some money.
Tao eventually became the protégé of Noël Coward. She started to become famous and developed friendships with many celebrities such as Marlene Dietrich. Later, Tao was in the theatrical production of La Terre est ronte with Pierre Fresnay. When she was repatriated to France, she was in Dr. Knock with Louis Jouvet and, because of her Underground work helping Jews escape, she was the only non-Jewish person invited to be in Images of Israel at the Salle Pleyel.
Tao was under contract with MGM in the 1950s.
When Tao came to America as one of the first seven French models after the war, she met Jack Cummings again. He was a producer and director at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) and the nephew of Louis B. Mayer. Cummings had seen Tao perform in London during the war. He said if she ever came to Hollywood, look him up. So she did.
He kept his word and made an appointment with me. I was also able to get meetings with Ted Richmond at Universal, and Sol Seigel at Twentieth Century Fox through Lucille Lortel. What I had learned from my uncle and Gandhi about taking action was paying off.
Tao’s first job “under contract” with MGM was a part in ShowBoat. She was also in a range of other films such as The Last Time I Saw Paris, Sangaree, House of Wax and Jump Into Hell. Tao also had parts in TV shows such as The Bob Hope Show, I Married Joan, The Red Skelton Show, The Cisco Kid and Passport to Danger. Tao’s early representation was from the William Morris Agency.
Tao later became a writer, producer and international film broker.
Tao has been a storyteller all of her life, and started writing and producing when she was in Hollywood. She also worked in the film department for UNESCO in Paris in the late 1950s. Tao produced a number of documentaries including To Light A Candle on Dr. Welthy Fisher.
At this point Welthy was already 90 and had done so much. One of her mottos was, “It’s better to light one candle than to curse the darkness of ignorance,” so we called the film, To Light A Candle.
As Vice President of Unitel, Tao helped lay the groundwork for TV in India in 1959, and brokered relationships in other places on behalf of Unitel. She became an early distributor of international films to the U.S. and American films to global markets. She distributed films such as The Face of the Sahara and The Face of India.
Tao interacted with a Who’s Who of Old Hollywood.
Although she didn’t always have money herself, Tao socialized with the elite going to parties with the Barrymores and interacting with a Who’s Who of Old Hollywood – prominent women such as Elizabeth Taylor, Ava Gardner, Joan Crawford, Lana Turner, Debbie Reynolds, Kathryn Grayson, and Leslie Caron, as well as leading men such as Clark Gable, Spencer Tracy, Fred Astaire, Burt Lancaster, Jim Backus, and Red Skelton.
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