Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Elizabeth Taylor: Death of a Perennial Presence


Katie Couric opened the CBS Evening News: "Tonight America says goodbye to one of its biggest stars, Academy Award-winning actress, Elizabeth Taylor … If movie stars are America's royalty, then Elizabeth Taylor was queen and her long reign has come to an end."

Treated as the top news story of today, Couric spent more than 8-minutes at the beginning of the broadcast describing the 79-year-old actress––her life, her loves and her career––and another 3-minutes at the end recounting Liz Taylor's work as a spokesperson for AIDS.

The time devoted to this story on national news attests to the power of film, which transcends its medium. Millions of people feel as if someone they knew personally has died. Her UK obituary recounts the milestones of an extraordinary life lived both on and off camera. The NYT posted a summary of her life, stating that "In a world of flickering images, Elizabeth Taylor was a constant star."

I often wondered if she got tired of shining.

Giant, 1956
My favorite Elizabeth Taylor movie Giant captures on film the peak of her physical beauty against the backdrop of Texas cattle, oil and excess.

All three of the movie's stars loomed larger than life in celestial Hollywood, but James Dean died in a car accident before the film's completion. Rock Hudson died in 1985 from AIDS.

"All gone" my mother once wrote in an album under a picture of my dad, my grandfather, an uncle and their friend. My dad died in a car accident when I was 9-years-old, and I used to stare at that picture, run my fingers across those words.

Pictures somehow accentuate the loss. The loss of youth, the loss of beauty, the loss of life.

Father of the Bride, 1950

After watching more than a dozen videos on YouTube, this one called "Elizabeth Taylor: A Thing of Beauty" (4 minutes) has wonderful film clips from some of her best movies.

My favorites: Giant (1956), Raintree County (1957), Elephant Walk (1954), Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958), Father of the Bride (1950), National Velvet (1944), and Little Women (1949).

The artist and the artifact, sometimes it's hard to tell the difference.

1 comment:

Ender said...

I thought of you when I woke to this news. I know she didn't play Scarlett O'Hara, but I always felt she was that character in real life form. Loving Conroy's book, by the way.