Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Elizabeth Taylor: In Memoriam

Movie legend Elizabeth Taylor has died at the age of 79. Arguably the biggest film icon, along with Marilyn Monroe, to come forth from the screen, Taylor was the much married, much publicized, much ridiculed and much loved star, known above all for her dark, sultry beauty.

Literal volumes have been written about Elizabeth Taylor, as there was a lot in her long and varied life to record. Born in Hampstead, England on February 27, 1932, she came to the United States and began her career as a child star. Her soft voice, violet eyes and dark good looks, set her apart from others and with National Velvet, made in 1944, she made a name for herself and a wad of dough for her studio, MGM. Unlike other child actors, she made the transition to adult roles almost seamlessly, due to her mature beauty at an early age (the girl looked like a goddess at 16 in A Date with Judy).

First married at 18 to hotel heir Nicky Hilton, she later married seven more times, twice to actor Richard Burton. Through them all, as well as her personal and public trials, tribulations and many health problems, the press followed her like a gossip hungry entourage. Heck, for an information hungry media, she was a veritable scandal buffet!

Not only a pretty face and name in the news, Taylor was also an Academy award winning actress. Her first Oscar came to her in 1960 for Butterfield 8 (some say as a consolation for nearly dying from pneumonia the previous year), her second for a much deserved performance with her then husband Burton in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf in 1966. In 1999, La Liz was appointed Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire. The title suited her.

Besides the afore mentioned films, Taylor appeared in such classics as Little Women (1948), the original Father of the Bride (1950), Giant (1956), Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958) and the massive Cleopatra (1963) the mega-bomb in which she met and fell in lust/love with Burton and became the first actress to be paid $1 million for a single film. (The thing about Cleopatra is, despite its woeful reception by critics, it was the highest grossing picture of 1963, but due to its enormous production costs ~ it was set to cost $2 million, but ended up with a $44 million price tag ~ it lost millions). Love her or hate her, Elizabeth Taylor was a true movie star.


  1. So many beautiful posts about the passing of a true movie star. So many beautiful pictures and tributes. Yours is wonderful, per your usual talents, Rupe.

  2. I enjoyed your tribute to the life and career of Elizabeth Taylor - along with the beautiful photos you posted. Was anyone ever more photogenic? Possibly Marilyn Monroe - how intriguing that they both existed and were at their height at the same time.

  3. Who could have guessed that of the four principals in "Woolf," George Segal would outlive all the others? If "The Women" is my favorite comedy (and it certainly is), "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" is my very favorite drama. Both films, in very different ways are sly jabs at heterosexuality. Probably never before 1966 did marriage, portrayed on a movie screen, look as beastly and wounding as in "Woolf?"

    (And incidentally, the two films have a connection: Taylor insisted on Sydney Guilaroff for her hair in "Woolf," and of course, he had done all the star heads in "The Women" 27 years earlier.)

    "Woolf" came at a time when many people had forgotten there was a real actress underneath the celebrity, an awareness misplaced in the news of Liz 'stealing' Eddie from Debbie, and the Burton affair drawing condemnation from The Vatican. Taylor biographer Foster Hirsch noted the damage this cost the elephantine production about the Queen of the Nile: "Liz Taylor, modern minx, stole the spotlight from Cleopatra. She was grander in her own person than she was on screen as someone else."

    At very brave risk, "Woolf" corrected that. It brought Taylor a second and very deserved Oscar and restored her reputation, but as Hirsch further notes, Taylor supplied equivalent gifts to the project: "Brash, yes, but hardly masculine, Taylor brings some welcome shading to the Albee shrew. On stage, you never believed Uta Hagen would say yes to Arthur Hill's milquetoast George, but in the movie you are convinced that Taylor would eventually knuckle under to Burton's quiet, absolute authority."

    It's funny you should say "love her or hate her," because she was a star who could foster conflicting emotions. After all, it was Taylor who said Michael Jackson "is the most normal man I know." Oy. But you'd also have to have a heart of stone to stay dry-eyed as the Gay Men's Chorus sang "There's Nothing Like A Dame" directly to her at the Kennedy Center Honors.

    We'll not see her like again in our lifetimes.



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