Blog Roll, This Day In History

On March 23, 2011: Elizabeth Taylor’s Final Curtain Call

Celebrity fandom is not a world where I like to spend much time. Whilst it is true, I am not easily enamoured, in many cases, I find their personas to be entitled and arrogant, so I would prefer to live vicariously through the art vs. the artist.  

Their detached and overly privileged viewpoints suggest a fundamental misunderstanding of the real world and the majority of people that have to live it every day. On top of that, the ceaseless virtue signalling is insufferable. 

That all said, I adore Elizabeth Taylor; always have, always will. March 23rd, 2011, marked the blockbuster beauty’s passing from congestive heart failure, at 79 years old.

For this child of the ‘eighties, something was electrifying about a woman who unapologetically commanded every screen she donned, could look glamorous with a cigarette hanging from her mouth (ok, maybe not appropriate for modern times), and would use a potty-mouth if she so desired. Many of her roles, and possibly her marriages, saw her not answering to anyone who would try to tell her who she was or how she should be, making me an envious and eager fan. 

Taylor begrudgingly entered the parasitical world of child stardom at age 9, with her screen debut at 10, in the film There’s One Born Every Minute. With a former actress for a mother and an art dealer father who packed up his family and left London for LA, it might have been the violet-eyed beauty’s fate to grace the silver screen. Sadly, not unlike other child stars, she felt performing to be the thief of her childhood.

There was no denying that Taylor had an innate ability for acting and would likely have ended up in show business anyway. Without ever attending an acting lesson, she observed the legends on the big screen and turned herself into one of the brightest stars we have ever seen.

Sometimes referred to as volatile and scandalous, although she did not prefer such labels, Taylor was fondly known for her passion, creativity, and sexual intensity, mastering the gifts she possessed. She fiercely enjoyed her independence but deeply loved her many husbands… and her jewellery, just not necessarily in that order.

One of my most fond memories of Liz Taylor, which is likely my first encounter with her work, was her entrance on the Sphinx, before Caesar, in the epic film Cleopatra

The rhythmic march of her servants as they pulled her along, the cheering of the peasants, and the look of awe on both Caesar and Mark Anthony’s faces merely amplified just how enchanting she was. 

Without uttering a word throughout the entire scene, all were captivated by her mysterious gaze and majestic aura, as she proceeded to bow before her King. With reverence and ease, she expertly became one of the most amazingly complex and mesmerising figures in history. 

20th Century Fox approached her about taking the role, and although she offered a price tag of a cool million, to her surprise, they accepted. With this self-made deal, the ballsy star catapulted herself to the highest-paid performer in history at that time. 

With an illustrious career spanning six decades, Taylor received The French Legion of Honour, the American Film Institute Life Time Achievement Award, and was named a Dame by Queen Elizabeth II.

After losing her dear friend Rock Hudson to the novel and terrifying disease AIDS, Taylor spent her golden years as a philanthropist and activist for those suffering from the then deadly illness. 

Many consider her to be a trailblazer, and one of the most influential advocates for AIDS research, with some of her grandchildren continuing her legacy through her foundation.

This year marked the first national HIV is Not A Crime Awareness Day, thanks to a partnership between The Sero Project and The Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation.

My favourite Liz Taylor performance, bar none, although I’ve yet to see them all, was Martha in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? In this remake of the Edward Albee play of the same name, she worked her magic opposite her husband Richard Burton, who played Martha’s exasperated partner, George. 

Taylor was magnificent in her role as the tipsy, boisterous, and delusional middle-aged woman, owning the character as though she were a fine pair of diamond earrings.

Although I have read and enjoyed Edward Albee’s play, there is no question that Taylor, especially opposite Burton, whom she would later divorce twice, brought a uniqueness to the role that no other actor could provide.

Enjoy this short clip from Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Are you a fan of Dame Elizabeth Taylor?

Which of her performances do you favour?