Thursday, March 24, 2011

Elizabeth the Great

Yesterday came the sad news that Elizabeth Taylor had died at age 79 of congestive heart failure in Los Angeles. Although of course she hasn't been in the public eye for a long time it felt like the world had lost a bright light. A bright star, for sure.
Over the years I've enjoyed so much watching her movies, mostly from the '50s and '60s, on tv. She starred in movies from the age of 12, with National Velvet, and accomplished the rare feat of growing from a child actor into a major adult movie star. Though she was born in London and had in English accent, her parents were American, with roots in Kansas.
I think she was at her most beautiful in The V.I.P.s, made in 1963.
She stars with her husband Richard Burton, and the clothes are by Hubert de Givenchy and Pierre Cardin.

In it she wears a plain beige poplin rain coat out of which emerges a matching mink hood, the ultimate combination of simplicity and luxury. It's finished with camel-color suede gloves. Very Michael Kors indeed.

In Cat on a Hot Tin Roof by Tennessee Williams from 1958 she stars opposite Paul Newman who plays her alcoholic and apparently gay husband. She looks sweet in a white dress designed by Helen Rose which has a flattering neckline and tiny waist but it hides the steely spine of Maggie the Cat.

Was anyone ever been more beautiful wearing just a slip?

She bares her acting chops, fighting to keep her husband and their portion of the family inheritance.

Not pictured here but also quite fierce is her performance in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966) by Edward Albee, and also starring Richard Burton, in which the couple pummel each other verbally and physically in the marriage from hell. Taylor put on twenty pounds for the role and won an Oscar, her second, the first one having been received for BUtterfield 8 (1960).

And then of course there was the great hooha, Cleopatra from 1963.

One year at Christmastime as I unpacked Christmas ornaments, I watched this movie on tv. Though it's long and not great and almost bankrupted 20th Century Fox, it is a visual treat. Every time I looked up there was a different costume, different hair, different makeup.

This movie is a dazzling Christmas present itself which keeps on giving.

Taylor changed costumes 65 times for this movie, a Guinness Book of World record, and an Oscar went to its three designers, Irene Sharaff, Vittorio Nino Novarese, and Renie. On the set, Taylor met Burton, whom she married, twice. They were the quintessentially glamorous movie star couple.

Here they are at the Academy Awards in 1970, she wearing the famous Taylor-Burton diamond necklace which he bought for her at Cartier. Edith Head designed the lavender dress to match her eyes and highlight the necklace. Wow.

The marriage(s) suffered from his alcoholism, and Burton died when he was 59. After Elizabeth Taylor's good friend Rock Hudson died of AIDS in 1985, she tirelessly committed herself to raising money for AIDS research when it was a risky and unpopular thing to do, thus proving she had class both onscreen and off.

R.I.P. Elizabeth Taylor, who gave pleasure to millions for many years.


Ella said...

She was a real beauty and I remember that I loved to watch the old black and white movies with her and Lassie when I was a child.

Kathy said...

I was a teenager the first time I saw National Velvet. I can remember loving every minute of it and wishing I could watch it over and over again (no video/dvd yet). My all time favorite is Giant. I saw that as a teen as well, and wanted to be just like her (with a little Grace Kelly and Joann Woodward thrown in for good measure). She will be missed.......k

Madonna B said...

A beautiful tribute!!!!

Carolyn said...

She's a great woman, so beautiful! I adore her.

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Rick said...

It's funny that her image as Cleopatra pales to her real life beauty as shown in the many photographs.