Thursday, March 24, 2011


I don't have that much to say about Elizabeth Taylor.  Her personal life filled the gossip pages, and she was considered one of the great beauties of her time, but I'm more interested in her movies, and though she appeared in many, very few of them are of great interest to me.

She was a child actor at MGM in the 40s, making films like Lassie Come Home and National Velvet.  Most such kids don't go on to major stardom, but she made the difficult transition.  She was Spencer Tracy's daughter in Father Of The Bride and really broke out as the upper class girl Montgomery Clift longed for in A Place In The Sun.

She was becoming a screen goddess, and assured her iconic status in 50s films like Giant, Cat On A Hot Tin Roof and Suddenly, Last Summer.  She even won an Oscar for her 1960 picture BUtterfield 8 (the "U" is capitalized because it's a phone number exchange).

Now she was the female star in Hollywood, and got offered a million dollars to play the lead in Cleopatra, a film that would become so expensive it almost sank 20th Century Fox.  It's also where she started a love affair with co-star Richard Burton, who'd become the fifth of  her seven husbands.

They starred in Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? in 1966, and she won another Oscar.  (Burton was nominated, but didn't win--he was nominated seven times overall but never won.) They made a bunch of other films in the 60s, all of them forgettable.

By the 70s, it was the old Hollywood story--as looks fade, so does stardom.  She made less and less films, and couldn't really carry them any more.  She started appearing on TV, and continued having love affairs and marrying new men--including a second marriage to Burton a year after they divorced.  (She gained weight and was mocked mercilessly by John Belushi on SNL.) She also did a lot of charity work.

Looking back on her films, there are some decent ones, but none I could say I love. She was a competent performer, sometimes more than that, but even at her best she rarely knocked me out. Some are calling her the last movie star, and they have a point.  She came up in the last days of the studio system, and represented a type of glamor that's all but gone these days.

PS  I was driving down Hollywood Boulevard today.  As I passed Ivar, going toward Vine, on the right was a huge pile of flowers and four news trucks.  I'm guessing that's where Elizabeth Taylor's star is.

PPS  Taylor always meant a lot to Camille Paglia. Her take may be a bit much, but it's fascinating.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

She was sick when she won her first Oscar. She always claimed they gave it to her because they felt sorry for her.

9:35 AM, March 24, 2011  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I always thought her most interesting stuff was as a child actor--she was great in Jane Eyre.

9:13 PM, March 24, 2011  

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