Dedications: My four late friends Rory, Stan, Bryan, Jeff - shine on you crazy diamonds, they would have blogged too. Then theres Garry from Brisbane, Franco in Milan, Mike now in S.F. / my '60s-'80s gang: Ned & Joseph in Ireland; in England: Frank, Des, Guy, Clive, Joe & Joe, Ian, Ivan, Nick, David, Les, Stewart, the 3 Michaels / Catriona, Sally, Monica, Jean, Ella, Anne, Candie / and now: Daryl in N.Y., Jerry, John, Colin, Martin and Donal.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Elizabeth Taylor RIP

Like Marilyn, Elizabeth too was a feature of my childhood from about 1954 onwards, with all those magazine covers from her Mike Todd era and then Eddie, and those movies like THE LAST TIME I SAW PARIS, RHAPSODY and GIANT where she and Dean are so iconic (they are about the same age, 24, and she already has the 2 sons by Wilding). It is only now I realise how much we liked her in CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF and CLEOPATRA and those 2 duff Losey movies.

One liked her atttitude as well as she lived her life in the public gaze. It was nice to have seen her (with Burton and Losey) in 1970. Then of course after the excesses of the Burton-Taylor years there was her kaftan phase in the 70s as she tried being a politician's wife, but she was soon looking terrific again in the 80s as she promoted her perfumes and diamonds. One hopes her final years were happy.

All those great lines of hers, as Maggie the Cat or as Leslie Benedict or Martha or Sissy Goforth, but I particularly like Cleopatra's one: "I asked it of Julius Caesar, I DEMAND it of you"... What to choose of hers to watch? - there are so many... Liz with Clift, Dean, Hudson, Newman, Brando, Beatty, Burton etc. I think I like '50s Liz best, but truly [almost] the end of that era. As a child I was fascinated by her damaged Southern Belle in RAINTREE COUNTY [the Bob Willoughby pictures of her and Clift fooling around on set are refreshingly candid showing stars and friends at play] and although THE SANDPIPER was tripe (Pauline Kael's review is priceless) did she ever look better? She certainly deserved the Academy Award in 1966, if not in 1960 [that year's should have gone to Kerr and Simmons as a tie, as the culmination of their great years].

Several days after her passing the papers are still writing about her - Saturday's "Daily Telegraph" has a nice 3 page feature on Truman Capote writing about her in 1974. He of course knew her as well as he did Monroe, Garland, Brando etc - and the London "Times" had 9 pages on every aspect of her life and career and role as gay icon, humanitarian etc. as well as a 2-page obituary. I can't imagine anyone else getting anywhere near so much attention, not even Sophia Loren or Doris Day! Camille Paglia has also now waded in with a newspaper feature, and so has Francesca Annis (see THE PLEASURE GIRLS below) now one of our senior actresses, who was a handmaiden in CLEOPATRA. I bought that "Picture Show" magazine below in 1960 when I was 14!

CLEOPATRA - another look at Fox's mammoth which I always liked, seeing it originally on its 1964 release at local cinemas, as a teenager. What I particularly like are the sets and opulence of it all with the terrific soundtrack by Alex North and Shamroy's camerawork. The first half is undeniably better with Harrison's acerbic Caesar in full command. Taylor is surprisingly effective, I like that scene with Anthony (Burton) as she is about to depart in her boat back to Egypt just before the intermission, and that sweeping panorama across the port of Alexandria as Caesar arrives. It is full of nice moments and Mankiewicz certainly makes it sound good. I still chuckle at her command for Anthony to get on his knees as a supplicant: "I asked it of Caesar, I DEMAND it of you", with Pamela Brown, Robert Stephens, Martin Landau, Hume Cronyn and of course Roddy McDowell and of course the asp. There was a nice article by Francesca Annis (one of the handmaidens, now one of our senior actresses) on its making and how Elizabeth took her under her wing in one of yesterday's papers. Still a movie to savour then... that entry into Rome alone is still stupendous!


  1. Truly a great star presence who could control a screen as well as anyone I can think of. It would be dishonest to say I thought she was a great actress...she has as many embarrassing performances as good ones, maybe more. But I loved her voracious, larger than life magnetism, and when she was good she was very, very good indeed. At her peak she was as beautiful as any woman I can think of, and she will be greatly missed.

  2. Perfectly put. Despite all the dramas the illnesses I imagine she enjoyed it all - as per those Bob Willoughby photos of her and Clift fooling around on the set of Raintree County. Like Monroe she WAS the '50s and made the '60s hers too. It is a career we will not see the like of agaain, from JANE EYRE, LASSIE COME HOME, NATIONAL VELVET to that laughable performance in IVANHOE and growing into acting with GIANT and those Tennessee Williams dramas. By the 70s though those Burton-Taylor films were running down but she remained larger than life... then of course all her charity and Aids work as well as those diamonds and perfumes. Only Loren is a comparable star.