Michael Wilding, 66, one of the last matinee idols of the British cinema and a former husband of actress Elizabeth Taylor, died yesterday in a hospital near his home in the Sussex town of Chichester.
Police in Chichester said that Mr. Wilding was taken to the hospital after suffering a fall in his home. Details of the accident were not immediately available.
Tall slender, and elegant, the debonair actor was known for his performances in such light comedy hits as "Spring In Park Lane," and "Maytime in Mayfair." His screen charm and romantic good looks led him to this country in the 1950s, but the result was not what he had hoped.
"I went to Hollywood for Metrogoldwyn-Mayer, married Elizabeth Taylor and watched my career turn to ashes," he said several years ago.
Mr. Wilding married Miss Taylor in 1952. They had two sons, Michael Jr. and Christopher, before their divorce in 1957. Miss Taylor is now the wife of Sen. John W. Warner (R.Va.).
When they were divorced, Miss Taylor said, "I still like and respect Mike very much. It is a friendly divorce."
Mr. Wilding later said of those years, "We had to maintain a certain standard of living, and Elizabeth was not earning the millions she earned later, and it was a bit of a struggle."
Mr. Wilding's marriages to actress Kay Young, and society figure Susan Nell also ended in divorce. His fourth wife, actress Margaret Leighton, died in 1976.
Mr. Wilding rose to fame following the 1946 picture, "Piccadilly Incident," in which he played opposite Dame Anna Neagle. His later pictures with her included "The Courtneys of Curzon Street" and Derby Day."
He also costarred with Ingrid Bergman in "Under Capricorn," and Marlene Dietrich in "Stage Fright." His later pictures included roles in "Trent's Last Case" in 1953, "The Egyptian" in 1954, "The World of Suzy Wong" in 1960, and "Waterloo" in 1969.
Mr. Wilding was born in Westcliff-On-Sea, Essex, and educated at Christ's Hospital, a private school. He worked as a portrait painter and commercial artist before beginning his acting career.
He said that he got into acting by accident after joining a movie company in Austria to try and sell them some design work. Instead, they gave him a bit part in the picture.
"I was no good in the part, but the movie was so bad it was never released," Mr. Wilding said.
However, he learned he loved acting, and joined a repertory company, then made his West End debut at Daly's Theater in 1935. He played many leading roles in light comedy plays, generally as the English gentleman who did always get the girl.
He is survived by his two sons. CAPTION: Picture, Michael Wilding, with Elizabeth Taylor and son Michael Jr. in 1954 photo. AP