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Elizabeth Taylor R.I.P

March 24, 2011

We’re fast running out of real Hollywood stars of the old school. We just lost another one at the age of 79. Her name was Elizabeth Taylor.

Elizabeth Taylor, actress

Much has been said of her beauty and indeed, it’s hard to deny, but she was also a good actress and a star in the days when it actually meant something.

I always knew she was British born, but only found out today that she was born here in London. Hampstead to be precise. She was a child actress featuring in such films as Lassie Come Home, and more notably National Velvet. She managed to move into adult roles with varying degrees of success before her appearance with Montgomery Clift in A Place In The Sun, setting the course for her career as a dramatic actress. The list of films are too numerous to mention, but here are some of them: Giant, Cat On A Hot Tin Roof (one of three films she was nominated for as best actress at the academy awards) and Butterfield 8 (where she was awarded her first Oscar). She starred in Cleopatra where she met and later married Richard Burton. I remember as a child they appeared to be everywhere on TV and newspapers, much like any number of current celebrity couples, except to me, their relationship felt, well, more grown up. One film that I absolutely must see, based on the clips I saw on YouTube is Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? where she won her second Oscar, playing the character of Martha, an angry and bitter woman. Her famed beauty could’ve constricted her in her film choices, but she wasn’t afraid to eschew that beauty to give an authentic performance, and she certainly did it in that film.

She made some dodgy movies, which is to be expected for anyone who’s been in the business for a decent length of time (hello, The Flintstones), but her body of good work makes it more than forgivable.

She married eight times, twice to Richard Burton. They were a combustible combination, both on and off the screen. One of her more random husbands was Larry Fortensky, a construction worker. Fair play to her for upturning the expectations of who she, as a film star, should wed, because film stars cleave to their own, right?

In spite of her illnesses, and there were many (some which nearly finished her off), she was a tireless worker for AIDS-related charities, setting up a foundation for research after the death of co-star and friend Rock Hudson, at a time when most people weren’t sympathetic to those living with the disease. According to Wikipedia, she didn’t go to The Oscars in 2003 as a protest against the Iraq war. Whether you thought she was right or not, you couldn’t deny she was a woman of strong conviction. She was also a very close friend of Michael Jackson, probably formed from their mutual understanding and experience of being in the public eye from a very early age.

I’m going to make a point of watching at least two of her films as soon as possible so I can really appreciate her talent. With any luck there may be a showing of some of her work by the end of this week as a tribute.

Bet she’s having a right giggle now with Michael Jackson, Richard Burton, Montgomery Clift and many others. R.I.P. Elizabeth Taylor.

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14 comments

  1. My favorite performance of hers is in Giant (1956). It’s such an important film to see in order to understand American greed and racism but also true courage. Her character is the heart of the film.
    If she had possessed a better, more musical-sounding voice I would have been infatuated beyond critique. But I still had great respect for both her acting ability and the energy she devoted to good causes.

    She was in severe physical discomfort the past several years. I’m glad her pain is ended.


    • Giant is one of those films I’ve only seen bits of. Wasn’t it super long, like Gone With The Wind? I’d better add that to my list. I imagine sales of films featuring Taylor will have increased since news of her death. I’ll check out HMV or Fopp this weekend.

      As for her health, I was struck dumb as I read the list of the diseases she was struggling with. She had enough ailments to knock out a horse. As sad as it is, her death was certainly a merciful release.


      • I think I’ve seen most of Giant, but remember it as you do, Gone with the Wind like length…and very good


      • Indeed it is a long film, but it’s much more substantial than GWTW. I restored the audio soundtrack, so I viewed it about 60 times. Each time I saw something newer and deeper.


        • O.K. I’m convinced. I need to get hold of a copy.


          • Another fan, and you have of course the great James Dean starring. I love the long films, Big Country, The Colour Purple to name a few. I never watch in one sitting as am always doing things but I love the fact if it is on pause I have got it to come back to when you have something boring to do.


  2. National Velvet always had me in tears(impressionable clueless kid, what went on in movies was real right?) and I don’t really know her adult films, but heard about her most in “Cleopatra” so I’m another one who needs to acquaint myself with the later movies Elizabeth was famous for.
    Yes she is one of the last “old school acting school” who worked for the respect she gained. Certainly if you every read a tabloid piece about her she had her faults, but it appears she was a tireless worker for various charities too, so Bravo to you Elizabeth!
    R.I.P.


    • Yes! Bravo! Even with her illnesses, she lived a full life and productive life. Good on her!


  3. I haven’t really watched any of her films because I was born later but I really think that she is very beautiful…


    • She certainly was. Welcome to my blog.


      • Thanks, oh by the way, I added you as my blog buddy 🙂


  4. I always wonder what stars from today would be added to the canon of all-time greats. We just don’t have that glamor anymore now that the studio doesn’t control every angle of creating an actor’s mystique and off-screen persona.


    • Yeah, they are a dying breed. She sighs.


      • Yup! It’s Lindsay Lohan and Charlie Sheen all the way…



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