Wednesday, March 23, 2011

In Memoriam: Elizabeth Taylor 1932-2011

Actress. National Velvet. Father of the Bride. A Place in the Sun. Giant. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Butterfield 8. Who's Afraid of Virgina Woolf? The Taming of the Shrew, and some movie that took place in Ancient Egypt.

“Success is a great deodorant. It takes away all your past smells.”

(Quite a few in her case, and some long after her star had faded. Ever since I found out Taylor was sick--again--I've debated whether I would honor her were this to be her final illness. Her off-screen antics have always turned me off, though I do give her high marks for her AIDS work. Well, this did turn out to be her final illness, and, as you can see, I did end up honoring her. Couldn't help it. I've liked her in too many movies. National Velvet wasn't one of them, but I included it because it was her first big success. In fact, I've never liked her as a child actor. I found her so coy that she made Shirley Temple look like Jodie Foster in Taxi Driver. Father of the Bride is worth seeing for a funny performance by Spencer Tracy as Taylor's dad. As far as I'm concerned, Taylor's career begins with A Place in the Sun, where she holds her own admirably opposite Montgomery Clift. She's good in all the movies I list after that, and many I've left out, but her best performance, in my humble opinion, was as the volatile, boozy, slovenly, possibly loony Martha in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf. If you only see one Elizabeth Taylor movie in your lifetime, make it that one. That Burton fellow is pretty good in it, too. And the one that took place in Ancient Egypt? She's even good in that, though I've never been able to stay awake for the whole thing--KJ)


  1. I wasn't a fan, Kirk, though I know she did some good roles. I think some of that coyness in her youth was related to the era. She "had to" behave that way. That's how beautiful, wholesome, virginal girls behaved. I'm with you that Virginia Woolf would be the movie to see.

    Here's where it gets me, actually. She and my father were/are almost exactly the same age and now she's gone . . .

    I do like the love story with Burton, two flaming hot wild ones so drawn to each other.

  2. Oh, yeah, Les, I'm sure it was the era, along with a movie's targeted audience. I didn't really expect her to behave the same way in NATIONAL VELVET as ahe did in CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF. I just wanted to make it clear that it was her adult career, specifically the 1950s and 1960s, that I was most interested in.

    Odd how we sometimes use celebrities, and the aging of celebrities, and finally, the passing of celebrities, to track the passage of time.

    And as drawn as Taylor and Burton were to each, so, too, were movie audiences drawn to them. Whether they wanted to be or not, they were a major pop phenomenon during the '60s. I once heard them referenced on The Munsters!

  3. "The Munsters" is wonderful! It made me laugh right out loud. And you absolutely hit it about her best time, professionally. I'm rather drawn to Burton because of his Welshness. That's a slim thread, I understand, but solidarity forever, as they say.

    You know, I'm bubbling on that passage of time thing. I find (well, I already knew it, generally, but I'm more focused on it now) I ask in MANY situations, "How old is she?" or "When was he born?" I mark many things by date and age. Not sure why. I even know the ages of some celebrated people I don't even care for. As if it is that important. But it is to me, for unknown reasons. I'll have to think about it more.

    My WV is "bufferev" which I know should be turned into something wonderful, but I am tired. I've been at the computer too long. And dealing with other life, beyond the computer. ;~}

  4. The movie version of Tennessee Williams Suddenly, Last Summer was memorable for me. I think it's interesting that her step-daughter, Carrie Fisher said that if anyone had to be her step-mother, she was glad it was Elizabeth. She was a warm and loving mother. And it's interesting how Debbie Reynolds forgave her.

    I also found her early voice simpering and irritating. Martha was her best character.

  5. @Kass--Saw the first half of Suddenly, Last Summer but not the rest. Can't remember why. I might have been interrupted with a phone call or something. I'm going to have to rent the movie. I'm a fan of Tennessee Williams, so I'm sure it's worth seeing. Taylor was reunited with Montogomery Clift in that film. They also did Raintree County, making them a kind of unheralded movie team of the 1950s.

    You're right about the early voice. Part of the problem is she had a slight British accent growing up. Nothing wrong with that; she was born there. But the combination of the accent, and the wide-eyed innocence of her early characters, was, for me, kind of grating. She even kind of talked like that in A PLACE IN THE SUN, but I didn't mind it, because it contributed to Clift's overall idealization of her character.