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Elizabeth Taylor has died at age 79.

Hollywood studio-manufactured faces come and go, like calendar pages flying off the wall in an old movie. But that face — violet-indigo eyes, heartbreaking smile — was too much for a wartime filmgoing public to ignore. Before she was a teenager, even, Elizabeth Taylor won legions of hearts alongside a noble collie ("Lassie Come Home," 1943) and an equally noble horse ("National Velvet," 1944). Something in Taylor's tremulous yearning made her appear no less a purebred. Born in London to American parents, she relocated to Los Angeles in 1939. Her beauty was almost alarming in one so young.

I cannot say that I ever thought much of her acting and found even her star charisma questionable at times, but one can only feel regret at the passing of one of the last great stars. Her beauty is undoubted. I happened to catch "Ivanhoe" the other night, in which Taylor, aged about twenty, appeared as Rebecca, and she is so beautiful she seems not of this earth. The famous eyes glitter like the jewels men were so fond of decking her out in. She's wonderful in "National Velvet" indeed you could argue that it remained to the end her best performance (and her looks were alarming - that simply wasn't the face of a child, and as Melvyn Bragg once observed, the daddies who took their kids to the movie probably weren't looking at the horse).

Editor's Note: I somehow messed up while merging threads. This post is mine (dirac's), not Mme. Hermine's. The original was just an announcement with a link, so at least, Mme. Hermine, you are not obligate to re-post unless you wish, Mme. Hermine. My apologies!

Edited by dirac
dirac screwed up!
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I share your sentiments entirely, dirac. Taylor's acting usually made me cringe, but one couldn't take one's eyes off her - and when I read the news of her death this morning, one of my first thoughts was: How much more beauty can this world stand to lose? She was molded by a system that stacked the deck against her in many ways, but still one had the sense that a certain authenticity, kindness and wish to serve coexisted with excess. I will miss her, and I hope that she is reunited with Richard Burton, Mike Todd, Montgomery Clift, and the many other souls whose loss she endured over the course of a relatively long life.

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Dearest Elizabeth-(she had confessed being annoyed at being called Liz)-,a drop dead gorgeous lady and a true ally to the LGBT community. I place her on the very top of my list for being one of the first public, tireless voices to speak up about the AIDS crisis during the 80's, at the same time that many others stayed silent, helping raise millions of dollars to fight the disease. My thoughts and prayers go out to her family, and to all the countless human beings whose lives have been positively impacted by her life and work of true LOVE. As someone said...somewhere, beyond the blue, I'm willing to bet you're enchanting the angels.

You are resting in peace, Miss Taylor. :bow::bow::bow::bow::bow:

One of my first memories of Miss Taylor on the big screen.


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Well, the tabloid aspects of her life will fade eventually. When that happens, the work will sift down and future generations will be able to measure what was worthy and what wasn't.

I think she did strong work in the 1950s -- A Place in the Sun (was there ever a more beautiful screen pair than Taylor and Montgomery Clift?), Giant, Cat On a Hot Tin Roof, Suddenly, Last Summer. I also think her performance in Cleopatra has merit (although I recognize I'm in the minority on that one.) After that, though, there was a lot of dross -- star acting of the worst kind.

Bon voyage, beautiful! Hope you're having a high 'ole time with your gay pals Montgomery Clift, Rock Hudson and Roddy McDowall in the afterlife!!

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I also think her performance in Cleopatra has merit (although I recognize I'm in the minority on that one.)

You sure are. I think she does improve as the movie goes along, dropping a bit of weight, toning down the screeching, and managing some quiet dignity at the end, but that’s about all I can say. I thought she was pretty good in Virginia Woolf, although not batting in the same league with her husband, and she handled her final speech in Taming of the Shrew well. She isn’t too bad, apart from the usual annoyances, even in Reflections in a Golden Eye - even if she is outclassed by Brando she can still hold the screen with him. Odd to think that her career as a major star was for all intents and purposes over when she reached 35, not unusual for female stars in that era but one thinks of her as lasting a bit longer.

I would say her best performances are in “National Velvet” and “Suddenly, Last Summer.” “A Place in the Sun,” also, even if Clift did coach her performance virtually line by line.

(was there ever a more beautiful screen pair than Taylor and Montgomery Clift?),

A long time ago I think we had a thread on Most Beautiful Movie Couples and they were high up on the list.

Without the tabloid aspects of her career she would have faded from view a very long time ago. For a star of her stature she made very few films that have really stood the test of time, which might not help her reputation as the years pass.

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Without the tabloid aspects of her career she would have faded from view a very long time ago.







...for some millions, there were, are and will be other reasons beside the tabloids and Cleopatra to place her among the very few stars of their lives...

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I'm not discounting or denigrating Taylor's AIDS advocacy and charitable work. But without her famous-for-being-famous status it would have attracted that much less attention, given that her career was more or less over and had been for some time.

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That I agree, dirac. That her film career went on decline after certain point, yes. That her start status helped her to get more attention to bump her charitable work, yes. But again, I believe that it is definitely for her tireless fight in the AIDS cause that she's among the great ones, and I think many who didn't get to know-(or will never know for that matters)-her film career will continue benefiting from that other aspect of her life, and THAT'S what really matters. I never knew that much of her acting career-(except probably for Cleopatra and Ivanhoe, not having seen Butterfield 8, Virginia Woolf, Suddenly Last Summer or A Place in the Sun until I was an adult)-, but I certainly always ADORED her for her beauty and now, of course, so much more knowing for her generosity. I suspect that's the side where the most of her admirers stand. The "fading" item is dual. Fading from some aspects and circles-(not the most important ones, IMO)-yes, but shining even more than before in others, no question about it...

Just another example of the same situation...?



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But again, I believe that it is definitely for her tireless fight in the AIDS cause that she's among the great ones,

And as you also noted, cubanmiamiboy, in the 80s it was far from a conventional form of advocacy. She was courageous in leading the way.

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She was a wonderful actress in 'Reflections in a Golden Eye', in 'Cat on a Hot Tin Roof' (and I thought marvelous in 'Butterfield 8' esp., even though she repudiated it), and quite starry in a number of others. Had a wonderful sense of humour, was kind and generous, while also extravagant--this doesn't always go together, but in this case it does. She was a great woman.

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Burton is so fine in "Virginia Woolf," and it's all the more remarkable when you can see he's doing everything he can to help out Taylor and make her look good. One of his best performances.

Yes, indeed. Burton's performance is simply brilliant. The fact that Taylor gave a better performance in "Virginia Woolf" than anyone expected was sufficient to ensure her an Oscar, perhaps as much out of surprise as anything else; Burton didn't win that year, owing (I suspect) to the simultaneous fascination and antipathy of the public - reflected by the Academy - toward the Burtons as a couple. One of them had to lose. Taylor's improvement - sparked by the sheer novelty of seeing her in that role - was singled out for accolades, while Burton was punished for the sacrifice such a feat required. Burton's passion for Taylor effectively put the kibosh on his own light.

It always seemed to me that Taylor's cosseted early life prevented her from learning first-hand the sorts of life lessons that sparked Burton's performances; one could see her struggling for genuine moments, wrung from experiences she hadn't had. Her life was stamped by wealth, privilege, illness and tragedy, extremes on every hand: the middle steps were missing. In later years, after her movie career had ended, she was able to fashion a renewed path, weaving from her own substance a remarkable tapestry of public service.

I certainly will miss her. I admired her activism and enjoyed her sparkle and the sheer force of her presence, at every age. One senses Zsa Zsa in the wings, and a few others who remember or embody the glory days of Hollywood. The passing of an era, a mindset, a dream, is a weighty thing.

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One senses Zsa Zsa in the wings

as well you might, since the LATimes (which I now have to read the main stories on, as well as WaPo, so as to save idiosyncratic articles in the NYT since they're 'cracking down') reported yesterday that she had had to be hospitalized once she started watching news reports about Liz. She's got some of the same outlandishness and zaniness of Liz, which is probably why they were friends (or so the article said), but the cottage industry of selling princeling titles to mafia is a bit much--Prince Anhalt is a fake, and so it won't matter that much in certain kinds of dens in Las Vegas and Los Angeles, although they've sold these titles for millions.

NYTimes also had an interesting article about Liz's frequenting of gay bars in West Hollywood, with the Abbey as her hangout. There was an 'Elizabeth Taylor Room' there, and she came often in her wheelchair.

The extremes you note are definitely in evidence; perhaps even the weird closeness with Michael Jackson was something she was uniquely suited for--both children, in somewhat different ways, but few have the time to take with someone as far gone into fantasy as Jackson. Other articles pointed out that she was buried in the same mausoleum at Forest Lawn as Jackson, not far from him. That's a place I've never managed to make myself go to, although I have been in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery in 2008, where Valentino and many other stars are buried. I'll see if I can find these articles now...

Here's the Zsa Zsa one: http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/ktla-zsa-zsa-gabor-hospitalized-again,0,2340295.story This is pretty sad, since it's all happened (even for her age) since July. She does look like a very old woman, although the face still has some of the prettiness.

Here's the other. This is very touching, and obviously Liz felt comfortable with this kind of thing:


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"Reflections in a Golden Eye" has a remarkable performance by Brando. In "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" Taylor and Newman are more evenly matched - both of them are really pretty and not up to the larger challenges of their roles. But they certainly look gorgeous together. :)

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I also think her performance in Cleopatra has merit (although I recognize I'm in the minority on that one.)

You sure are. I think she does improve as the movie goes along, dropping a bit of weight, toning down the screeching, and managing some quiet dignity at the end, but that’s about all I can say.

That's interesting because I prefer the screechier first half of Cleopatra to the more subdued second half. When Taylor/Cleopatra tells Rex Harrison/Julius Caesar about her ambitions for Egypt and Rome to create a global empire to dwarf even that of Alexander, you really believe her!

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Cristian, thanks for putting up this clip. I saw 'Cleopatra' when it first came out, in one of those old big theaters that still had splashy openings with 'souvenir books'. I liked it briefly then, but was upset that, at about 10 years old, I couldn't keep the battles straight (my father cleared that part up.) Later, I remembered her in this film much less favorably than I did in many (or even most others). Watching it after nearly 50 years, I see that the closed face when one first sees her that is fantastically effective. In this, she is well beyond what Colbert had done (which I saw some 20 years after this later version), and all aspects of majesty are conveyed for awhile. However, once she and the boy are moving, that sense of 'state power' is gone (it's not even done perfectly, and there's almost a sense of being off-balance), and I couldn't believe the wink--it's awful, hokey and absurd by any period's standards, and takes all the 'Egyptianism' out of it, returning it squarely to Famous Lasky Players lot, which had even disappeared long before that. I thought Harrison and Burton both rather poor in the scene, just sort of stagey, wondering how much leer to do.

I was interested to see that the styles of spectacle had not changed that much from D.W. Griffith ('Intolerance' is more effective for the most part than this, though, more exciting and much more beautifully detailed for this kind of big thing) and early and later DeMille (parts of the silent 'Ten Commandments'), all of which I saw much later. There is some particularly campy dancing which looks almost like break-dancing in the procession. I wouldn't say that the 'parade entertainers' were substantively different from what you see in the Colbert version.

However, that inscrutable face she has at first glance does make it all worthwhile; with a big Hollywood property like that (no matter where it was filmed), you can't expect them never to fall for the cheap shot, and I hadn't remembered the face in this scene.

I wonder if Cleopatra has ever been well-played. I've read that the Cleopatra of the Shakespeare play is extremely difficult, and that it's usually a near-miss or worse. The Caesar and Cleopatra with Vivien Leigh is comedic and light, this is not bad at all, except I don't think most people think of Cleopatra as light and girlish that way. This is her first meeting with Caesar here (I think), and Taylor conveys the sensuality and hyper-seductiveness a good deal more than Leigh ever would, had she even intended to--until that wink. Before that, the face conveys something essential about what the word and concept 'idol' mean.

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