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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Favorites List --- Elizabeth Taylor

A few weeks ago, I read something to the effect that Elizabeth Taylor had an explosive tell-all memoir sealed in a bank vault of unknown locale, and upon her death, it would be unearthed for right-away publication. Could anyone blow the lid off Hollywood so completely as Liz? News of her death came over a drug store fountain's TV halfway through my foot-long hot dog. Everyone in the place set down forks to watch. We'll hear more about this Last Star's legacy before a week (or day) is out. TCM already sent a mass e-mail announcing tribute nights. Taylor stayed longer than you'd expect of a glamour name with so much offscreen baggage. Where was life-saving difference in way she handled personal travails as compared with a Marilyn Monroe broken by her own? What ET experienced in this life would not be believed if we knew just the half of it. That's why I really hope there's a book where it's all gotten down for what I'm sure would be a more than eager readership.

Taylor's best friends were said to be those best at keeping secrets. Who could a person in her position trust? There must have been a score who gained confidence, then betrayed it. Imagine unerring eye she developed for users and their agendas. And did anyone get closer to so many doomed personalities? There's James Dean, Montgomery Clift, Rock Hudson to start, plus others I've doubtless forgot. Taylor never sat for a career interview (did she?), I guess for fear they'd harp on personal stuff, for which you'd not fault her reticence, but then there'd be surprise of participation in Paramount's A Place In The Sun DVD, where she spoke of Monty Clift with insight and affection. Such was exception she'd make to No Press rules chiseled in rock from madness of a Liz-Dick era unknown to generations after and near-forgot by those of us around during tabloid hysteria.

I always wonder if stars look at their old movies. Laid up as she mostly was toward the end, did ET finally revisit a lifetime's screen work? Must have been several the actress barely recalled doing. If not for TCM, would most be seen anywhere? To younger folk, Elizabeth Taylor was eldest support for Michael Jackson, if that. She stayed prominent through the 60's of Burton and Cleopatra, continued marrying through a disco 70's, remained famous for having been so famous through decades since. Taylor never had to worry about outliving legend as did others still around long past a public's recognition. Will Liz as definitive face and fashion of a gone era capture a generation groping for something like her style? Think of Audrey Hepburn stepping down runways from beyond. And Marilyn Monroe, known better today for still, rather than moving, images. Now that Elizabeth Taylor's past frailty and age, might there be icon status more lasting than these and even fame she knew during life?


Anonymous Bob said...

A real star!

3:58 PM  
Anonymous Chris said...

Real nice compilation of links and obits re Liz Taylor here:

TCM's 24 hour tribute allegedly to air April 4.

And since nobody else will say so, I will: BOOM! is one of my favorite movies.

4:40 PM  
Blogger Reg Hartt said...

The incredible thing, to me, is that she was one year younger than William Shatner wjo just turned 80.

Who would have thought it.

She passed through the Hell of the studio system which meant having her teeth pulled, barbiturates to keep her preppy for the camera and a life that was lived mostly in front of the world.

That system destroyed many including Judy Garland.

That it did not destroy Taylor gives evidence of how strong a person she really was on the inside where it counts.

If she made few movies in her latter years it was not because she could not handle the movies but because the movies could not handle her.

In my book she will always be a first rate example of a human being.

11:16 AM  
Anonymous Kevin K. said...

I don't care one way or another about Liz as an actress, but it seems like once she hooked up with Burton, their script choices went straight downhill (excepting "Virginia Woolf" and Burton's "Equus"). When it comes to Liz, does anyone really think of her as an actress after, say, 1967?

1:55 PM  
Blogger film_maven said...

oh! I am so glad to hear that! I've been waiting patiently for Liz to tell all she knows about Roddy McDowall...those amazing dinner parties, his there was a man who kept everyone's secrets...Oh, and yeah, stuff about LIZ too, of course!

8:42 PM  
Anonymous mido505 said...

It's instructive to note that by the 1970's, Taylor had become a national joke, the washed-up trophy wife of a egregious blowhard, subject to one of the most brutal parodies in the history of American popular culture (John Belushi as Taylor on SNL). Then, some time in the early 1980's, around the time she divorced John Warner, Taylor became GREAT again, central to the culture, regal, resplendent, magnificent. What set off the rebirth? The stint in the Betty Ford Clinic? The pioneering and genuinely felt HIV/AIDS activism? Those marvelous WHITE DIAMOND TV ads (also brilliantly parodied on SNL)? Whatever it was, it was clear that the American public was waiting to love Liz Taylor again, with an ardour that even the marriage to Larry Fortenski could not diminish. For a long time, Liz Taylor was too much - too much for her movies, too much for her husbands, too much for the culture, too much for herself. I think the key was that she finally discovered how to play Liz Taylor; the discovery disciplined her, and that discipline in turn was liberating. At the same time the culture caught up to her; in the 80's, Taylor ceased to seem so explosively misplaced, other, alien. Now she was our Great Goddess, the Mother of Us All. Whatever the case, it was the role she was born to play; and play it she did, brilliantly, to the end.

7:18 PM  
Blogger Mike said...

She lived her life in iconditioned splendour. I don't know if it's true or not but she was alleged to have said of Monroe, ''I'm much more beautiful than she is and I'm a hell of a better actress''. Agreed, anyway. For me, Liz became interesting with Giant and remained interesting up until about 1968. After that it scarcely mattered, she had paid her dues. She's left us a lot to mull over.

10:29 AM  

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