Elizabeth Taylor has passed away. I’m right now trying to think of a more iconic actress in American history. Marilyn Monroe? Audrey Hepburn? Katharine Hepburn? Who matches that?
The first movie I ever saw of her’s that I said “Holy s***” was “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” In my life, I made it a goal to see every movie that won an Oscar (which was really painful when I got to “Shampoo”). “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” was one of the first I watched. I was so blown away. A young George Segal, Sandy Dennis’ Oscar (“I dance like the wind”), Mike Nichols’ direction and Richard Burton (“That, dear, is how you play ‘Get the Guests.’ “) and Elizabeth Taylor at their very best. It is, in my opinion, her best performance by far.
I remember late one night being at the video store and seeing “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” and thinking “Oh, why not?” And that was another one that I was blown away with. She was so sexy in that movie. She was so sultry and fit that role so perfectly. That was the night I realized how incredibly beautiful and sexy she was. Between Burl Ives, Paul Newman and Taylor, it was an awesome movie, and it still holds up well today. I’m probably the worst person to be objective on this, because Tennessee Williams is perhaps my favorite writer.
“A Little Night Music” (the musical version of “Smiles of a Summer Night”) was I think the only musical of Taylor’s I ever saw. Aside from West Side Story & Sweeney Todd, I think it’s the only Sondheim musical I’ve ever seen. That is another film that blew me away, not because of Liz, but because of the musicality of it all. And it did introduce “Send in the Clowns” to pop culture.
“V.I.P.’s” was a great ensemble film. Liz looked so gorgeous with her hair in that movie. The costumes were designed by Pierre Cardin, and that man knew how to accentuate that woman’s beauty. Though Margaret Rutherford got all the praise and credit, without Taylor, this movie would have been nothing.
“Cleopatra”, while nearly bankrupting 20th Century Fox, is still a breath-taking film. Yes, it goes on forever, but it is so visually stunning. And Taylor was the role. It was Taylor and Burton’s first film together.
“BUtterfield 8” has always bored me. I hate to admit it. But it was Liz’ first Oscar, so I feel obligated to mention it.
“Giant” was another legendary movie for me. My favorite part of that movie is when the kids have befriended their turkey and named him “Pedro.” Then at Thanksgiving, the kids look at the turkey they’re eating and ask, “Is that Pedro?” When the adults say yes, they start crying. Of course she was excellent in that.
I hate Montgomery Clift for one role. And that was “A Place in the Sun.” I always liked the underdog and LOVED Shelley Winters. And here was Monty Clift abandoning her for Elizabeth Taylor. I guess any actor would be happy to read that, because I’m pretty sure that was the point. Taylor looked so beautiful and gorgeous and elegant in that movie.
I will be turning in my Man Card after admitting this publically, but I have seen “Little Women.” (It won Best Art Direction. ^%#$^%$#^%#!) That was another one of the movies where I first looked at Elizabeth Taylor and was so blown away by how beautiful she was, even in her teen years and how gorgeous she looked as a blond. So at the risk of showing up in Chris Hansen’s kitchen, I will simply say she was very beautiful in that film.
And then there was “National Velvet.” I’ve already done enough to dig myself into a hole, but you could see even from that early age, there was this beauty and swagger and natural charisma about her that was unique and once-in-a-lifetime. Before I sound like a dirty old man, the actress I spent the most time ogling in that film was Angela Lansbury. Before you laugh at me, watch the movie. You will never watch “Murder, She Wrote” the same way again.
But probably my most favorite film of her’s was “Reflections in a Golden Eye.” I remember watching this when Turner Classic Movies was revisiting some of the great films dealing with homosexuality. And I remember being blown away by this movie. The cinematography was so experimental and so breath-taking. And Taylor was at her sexiest. She was voluptuous, curvy in all the right places and had a body that would satisfy any man’s fantasies.
She also aged very gracefully. How many people of my generation know her by the phrase “These have always brought me luck?” (White Diamonds commercials) She had 8 marriages to 7 different men. That’s what we knew her a lot for when I was growing up. But she was real. She was sexy, voluptuous and so naturally beautiful. Liz, rest well and thanks for your years of entertaining us.