Thursday, March 24, 2011

My Last Elizabeth Taylor Post

Since yesterday's news of the passing of screen legend Elizabeth Taylor, there is little left to be said about her.  Here is my take, which tends to be quirky at times. 

She was amazing in her early career, establishing herself as an actress who would become a shining star.  Right from the start in Lassie Come Home (1943) she was noticed as having something that made her special on the screen.  The next year she starred in National Velvet at age 12 and never looked back.

Not all of her work was magic, though.  After the big hits, Giant (1956), Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958), BUtterfield 8 (1960), and Cleopatra (1963), she made the stinker, The V.I.P.s (1963).  Then back to the hits with Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf (1966) and The Taming of the Shrew (1967).

By now Taylor had a loyal fan base and they would watch anything with her in it.  But the mid 1960s were the start of her decline, if you can call it that.  There was a younger audience going to a new kind of movie, like The Graduate (1967), and they looked at Taylor as being one of the old stars.  She was 35 you know, and Dustin Hoffman was five years younger.

In 1973 she did a TV movie called "Divorce His - Divorce Hers."  I had the misfortune to buy this movie for $1 at Walmart.  My wife and I tried to watch it, but decided it would be better if we just put it in the box of stuff we take to the charity thrift shop. 

Taylor can be difficult to watch during this period.  She was obviously trying, but perhaps trying too hard and coming off as melodramatic.  Richard Burton in this was the opposite.  He seemed to be bored with the whole production, not just his wife, who he divorced (the second time) the next year.

I think the toll of her lifestyle and her health problems added to her later acting problems.  Take a look at the Wikipedia entry for her and you'll see what I mean.  She was a chain smoker from an early age and that led to lung cancer.  It also didn't help her heart, as she died from congestive heart failure.  And that's just the start. 

The fact remains that she was one of the biggest stars in Hollywood.  She was beautiful in her early years, and glamorous as she aged.  I never liked the big hair years in the 1980s, but it showed that she was bigger than life.  She also did a lot of good for many charities.  You have to like her simply because she showed what can be done in America.

Being a star is never easy.  It is easier to be a Bit Actor, as I've said before.  I am sure that Liz handled it as best she could.  She has also ensured her place as an immortal star, who will live on the screen forever.

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