Wednesday, March 23, 2011

DAME:  The Queen of Hollywood back when Hollywood was Hollywood, Elizabeth Taylor has passed away at the age of 79.  Our friend Carrie Rickey puts it in context:
Dame Elizabeth Taylor, the Oscar-winning Hollywood actress whose personal life had tumult and drama to equal her 62 films, died today of congestive heart failure, her publicist told the Associated Press....

The voluptuous goddess, one of the first celebrities to live her private life before the public eye, was one of two Elizabeths who ruled the 20th century. One was queen of England; the other, queen of screen and scandal who, in her third act, remade herself into the ultimate Samaritan.

Miss Taylor, whose long history of health problems accelerated as she aged, enjoyed a six-decade career in Hollywood. Over the years, the number of headlines devoted to her maladies - not to mention her men and her movies - made Miss Taylor perhaps the most celebrated of 20th-century celebrities.

Blessed with sable hair, alabaster skin, a ruby pout, and sapphire eyes that flashed violet, she was a human inventory of precious materials. The fabled collector of animals and minerals liked her dogs small, her men larger than life, and her diamonds at least 30 carats.
"Sadly," Carrie writes, "Elizabeth Taylor Hilton Wilding Todd Fisher Burton Burton Warner Fortensky was better known for her many marriages and medical miseries than for her acting or philanthropic gifts. Those under 40 who know Miss Taylor primarily as a peddler of perfume and tabloid gargoyle are too young to remember that she was a working actress and national icon from the time she was a preteen, one of the handful of child stars to make the graceful transition to adult roles. And even those old enough to know better are more likely to remember Miss Taylor for her bronchitis, bijoux, beauty and brio than for her 62 movies and telefilms, nine grandchildren, four children, two Oscars, and countless awards."

More from the LA Times: "Some actresses, such as Katharine Hepburn and Ingrid Bergman, won more awards and critical plaudits, but none matched Taylor's hold on the collective imagination. In the public's mind, she was the dark goddess for whom playing Cleopatra, as she did with such notoriety, required no great leap from reality." The LAT obit also has this bit from Richard Burton's diary as quoted in his biography:
She was, I decided, the most astonishingly self-contained, pulchritudinous, remote, removed, inaccessible woman I had ever seen ... beautiful beyond the dreams of pornography.
The Awl has a clip from Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, a devastating film which blew me away when I first saw it. And now the Inq also has Carrie's appreciation of Taylor's work, separate from the obit itself: "Elizabeth Taylor was so traffic-stopping gorgeous that even if she couldn't act, she almost certainly would have been a movie star. But though her dramatic career paled next to the melodrama of her life, Miss Taylor could act. She was one of the rare examples of a beauty who ripened into an actress. (Michelle Pfeiffer is another.)"


  1. Meghan9:49 AM

    Wow, I always knew the day would come but never really expected it to, you know?  RIP, Liz. 

  2. Christy in Philly10:24 AM

    Very sad. Suddenly Last Summer is a favorite of mine.

  3. Professor Jeff10:28 AM

    Kudos to Carrie on a lovely and thoughtful obituary for an individual who embodied the concept of "celebrity" (for better and for worse) more than almost anyone else of the past century.

    I'm assuming, by the way, that many of the lengthy Taylor obits and memorial packages we'll see today have been in the works for some time. How long? The lead obituary from the NYT is credited to Mel Gussow, who died in 2005. (The Times also has a nifty interactive timeline of Taylor's career, with lots of clips and links.)

  4. As long as I've known Carrie, a draft of this obit has existed. 

  5. Does anybody know where I can find a close-up picture of her eyes?  I've yet to see a pair of eyes that I'd label violet. 

  6. Peter Travers tweeted, "<span><span><span>Never more beautiful than as Maggie the cat. Never more actor impressive than as Martha in Virginia Woolf." I agree wholeheartedly and obviously her film careeer is one to be honored, but I'm glad to see her work for HIV & AIDS is getting the recognition it deserves.</span></span></span>

    I also like that she was who she was -- she didn't try to act like she was one person but was really another. I always felt like the Liz Taylor we saw was the real Liz Taylor.

  7. My uncle died in 1984 of an AIDS-related illness.  My mother still cannot talk about the way that he and she were treated at the hospital as he died.  I will always be grateful to Ms. Taylor for her incredible work to destigmatize the disease and raise research money through amfAR. 

  8. Christy in Philly2:03 PM

  9. isaac_spaceman6:13 PM

    I dunno.  I'm with MEC here.  That's less like "life through violet eyes" and more like "life through eyes with violet eye shadow." 

  10. Meghan8:45 PM

    There's no one who can usurp her place of honor in the Oscars necrology moment, right?

  11. Carrie9:30 PM

    To answer your question Jeff, I have written and rewritten Taylor's obit more than 50 times over the past 30 years at four different newspapers, the last time two weeks ago. 

  12. Carrie9:36 PM

    P.S. Jeff: I think of the Taylor obit as my own personal Groundhog Day.

  13. She gets a separate tribute, I'm guessing. Can't imagine how she doesn't.<span> </span>