Wednesday, March 23, 2011
In Memoriam: Elizabeth Taylor
The first time I saw Elizabeth Taylor in a movie was as a young child in The Flintstones; she played Wilma's mother. Then I saw her as a guest star in the television show The Nanny and in her iconic television commercials for her White Diamonds perfume. I also remember everyone talking about the fact that this woman had been married eight different times, and no one ever talked about her acting.
All of the hype around her puzzled me, and then one day I remember asking my grandmother "What's the big deal about Elizabeth Taylor?" She answered "She was a huge movie star, beautiful, she had a strong presence, and was a great actress!" I was still not sold, and let it it go thinking I was not going to proven wrong.
Years later TCM was playing Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf and let me tell you my grandmother proved me wrong. Taylor was a tour de force as Martha. The film centers around Martha (Taylor) and George (Richard Burton-Taylor's husband in real life two different times) and the co-dependent abusive relationship as seen from two younger newlyweds the invite over to their house. This film won Taylor her second Academy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress ; her first Academy Award win was for Butterfield 8 (a win that happened while Taylor was close to death.) There have only 11 other women in Academy Award history that have won two or more Oscars in Outstanding Lead Actress category: Katherine Hepburn (4 wins), Luise Rainer (2 wins), Bette Davis (2 wins) Olivia de Havilland (2 wins), Vivien Leigh (2 wins), Ingrid Bergman (2 wins ), Glenda Jackson (2 wins), Jane Fonda (2 wins),Sally Field (2 wins), Jodie Foster (2 wins), and Hillary Swank (2 wins).
After Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf I watched my second favorite Elizabeth Taylor performance Suddenly Last Summer in which played Catherine Holly cousin to a boy who was murdered while they were on vacation. After Catherine sees what happened to her cousin she goes crazy; her aunt played by Katherine Hepburn brings in Dr. Cukrowicz (Montgomery Clift) to lobotomize her so the truth surrounding her sons death will never be revealed. Taylor is great in this film and proves what a wonderful actress she was. Taylor's other notable performances/roles were in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Giant, Father of the Bride, and Cleopatra.
Not only was Taylor's acting impressive but she also worked hard to battle AIDS. Elizabeth Taylor was a long time friend of Rock Hudson and when he died from the disease she co-founded the American Foundation for AIDS Research, and eventually created the Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation and the Elizabeth Taylor Endowment Fund.
What I learned was that not only was Elizabeth Taylor's acting career impressive (starring in 50 movies), but she had an impressive life. You could tell that she was a passionate woman in all of her film roles and in her fight to help battle AIDS. Taylor was received many prestigious honors from the American Film Institute, the Kennedy Center, the Motion Picture Academy, and the Queen of England, who bestowed Taylor with the title Dame of the British Empire in 2000. Taylor passed away at 79 today but her legacy will live on in her film work and the work she did for others.