Son of famed producer, stepson of Elizabeth Taylor
Michael Todd Jr., son of the famed producer and stepson of actress Elizabeth Taylor, and who is remembered for working on the first Cinerama film and producing the only feature ever shot in Smell-o-Vision, died May 5 of lung cancer at his home in Ireland. He was 72.
He was born in Los Angeles as the only child to Mike Todd and his first wife, Bertha, who died in 1946, when the son was about 17. He was sent by his father to Amherst College to study philosophy and was later groomed by him to be a producer. Eventually he became a vice president in his father’s production company.
He served as an assistant producer on his father’s landmark “This Is Cinerama,” the early attempt to popularize 3-D technology, and he is credited with suggesting the film’s most famous, stomach-churning scene: showing the view as seen from the front seat of a roller coaster.
After working on the film, he joined the Navy. Then, when Todd Jr. was just 28 years old, his father, fresh from the huge success of “Around the World in 80 Days,” was killed in a plane crash in 1958. Todd also left behind his 26-year-old widow, Elizabeth Taylor, whom he married only 13 months before.
One of Todd Jr.’s first projects when he took charge of his father’s production company was “Scent of Mystery” (1960), starring Denholm Elliott and Peter Lorre. It featured a new technology called Smell-o-Vision which piped smells featured in the films scenes, such as pipe smoke, from tiny tubes beneath the filmgoers’ seats. The scent technology worked, but critics thought the film itself stunk, and Smell-o-Vision disappeared from feature-length filming.
He went on to produce some legiters and a book about his father.
He had six children with his first wife, Sarah, who died in 1972, and two with his second wife, Susan. Besides his wife, children and stepmother, he is survived by a half-sister.