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A Shining Legacy on Film
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Format:ebook $20.99 $26.99 CAD
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Elizabeth Taylor: Her Place in the Sun is a film retrospective that spans her 70-year career, featuring production histories, “behind-the-scenes” stories, and reviews for each film. Featuring hundreds of rare photos, it’s a dazzling tribute to Elizabeth Taylor, the film star.
SHE WAS CALLED THE LAST OF THE GREAT HOLLYWOOD ICONS, but Elizabeth Taylor was also a defining member of that rarified class. For more than sixty years she fascinated the world by doing everything that her public did, only on a far grander scale. Everyone contends with sickness; she conquered so many near-death illnesses that she seemed indestructible. Most marry; Elizabeth wed eight times—once at Neverland, the fabled home of her good friend Michael Jackson. All women have their baubles; she had a king’s ransom in jewelry, including the sixty-nine carat Taylor-Burton Diamond. People volunteer and make charitable donations; she raised hundreds of millions of dollars for AIDS research, in the course of a lifetime of humanitarian work. With sultry raven hair and expressive violet eyes, she also possessed otherworldly beauty.
All of these elements of a life lived at large were glittering fodder for the press but never obscured the fact of Elizabeth’s extraordinary talent as a star of more than sixty films over the course of five decades. Greatest of all was her golden era, from the mid-1940s through the late ’60s, which was filled with certifiable classics. Elizabeth’s work in movies started her on the road to stardom and was a mainstay throughout all but the last decade of her life. In a transient business, her career lasted longer than most can ever hope, making it a uniquely fascinating study in cinematic history.
As with any person one watches grow up, we saw a definite evolution of Elizabeth both as an actress and a woman. It was all played out on the screen, from the fragility of her youth through the power of her later years. In her fifth movie, National Velvet, she became a child star. The ensuing years under contract to MGM saw her through an ingénue period capped by Father of the Bride, among a rapid succession of less memorable films in which the studio cast her. In the 1950s, critics and the general public were more awed by Elizabeth’s beauty than by her acting. She was a singular standout in the blonde bombshell era of Marilyn Monroe, Jayne Mansfield, and Brigitte Bardot.
Elizabeth’s work in movies started her on the road to stardom and was a mainstay throughout all but the last decade of her life.
A loan out to Paramount Pictures resulted in the first dramatic role in which she was taken seriously as an actress. There to make A Place in the Sun, she was inspired by her close friend and costar Montgomery Clift. Working with great actors always brought out the best in Elizabeth. Director George Stevens and costars Rock Hudson, James Dean, and Clift saw her through Giant and Raintree County, but the tragedy of her third husband Mike Todd’s death in a plane crash in 1958 taught her to infuse her performances with her own raw emotions. This came through beginning with her sizzling work in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. The fact that her role of Maggie (“the cat”) was a character created by gifted playwright Tennessee Williams also worked in her favor, as it did in her next film, Suddenly, Last Summer. Elizabeth’s performances in Raintree County and the two Williams-inspired movies earned well-deserved Academy Award nominations. She finally took home an Oscar for BUtterfield 8, though many—including Elizabeth—thought it was more out of sympathy for the fact that she had almost died of pneumonia at the start of filming Cleopatra.
Besides setting a precedent by clinching a $1 million salary for the movie, Cleopatra saw Elizabeth transition into the next phase of her life and career: the Richard Burton era. During this time they made many popular films together, she conquered every thespian’s greatest challenge of Shakespeare in The Taming of the Shrew, and gave what is arguably the best performance of her career in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, for which she won her second Oscar. Untethered from her studio contract and able to choose her own roles, Elizabeth proved herself a daring actress. She later said, “I think ever since I was released by my penal servitude [at MGM] and was on my own making my own deals, I really started having fun.”
Making her own choices in the ’60s and ’70s, Elizabeth played characters you either loved or hated. From a virago of a wife who sleeps with her husband’s lover (X, Y & Zee) to a deranged woman on a mission to find the perfect man to kill her (Identikit), each role was deemed by critics either the best she had in years or cinematic suicide. Her daring was sometimes to her own detriment, but if a fan was disappointed by one movie it would soon be followed by another they did love. Although she was still beautiful, she never relied on her looks and was never afraid of a challenge. She said in 1973, “I like parts that aren’t too easy for me, that aren’t too close to me, because then it’s acting, and you have to do more than read through it.” After 1980 Elizabeth primarily turned to television, for work she found more interesting than the parts feature films offered to an aging screen goddess.
Through the decades Elizabeth grew from sweet-faced child star into a force of nature on the screen who could go toe-to-toe with any actor and commanded the viewer’s attention. In her golden era, Elizabeth gave her fans a thrilling spectacle on the screen and brought to life a colorful array of characters. From tomboyish Velvet Brown to vain Amy March, blushing bride Kay Banks, love struck Angela Vickers, libidinous Gloria Wandrous, acid-tongued Martha, Maggie the cat, and Katharina the shrew, Elizabeth Taylor left the world a truly unique cinematic legacy. It serves as a brilliant and lasting record of what made her a celebrity in the first place. More luminous than other stars could ever hope to claim, the big screen was, undoubtedly, her place in the sun.
Her Life and Loves in Photos
Much of the private life of Elizabeth Taylor is discussed in succeeding texts, as events occurred within the timeline of her film work. Presented here is a collection of photos illuminating a selected overview of her offscreen world.
Elizabeth passed away on March 23, 2011 of congestive heart failure. In her room at Cedars-Sinai Hospital she was comfortable and peacefully surrounded by those most important to her: her children. After she had survived numerous grave illnesses, the world was shocked to lose Elizabeth Taylor. Her final service was held the following day at Forest Lawn Cemetery. She had left instructions that the service must begin fifteen minutes behind schedule, so she would “be late for the last bloody judgment,” as Richard Burton used to tell her she would most certainly be. Even beyond the grave, after a lifetime of triumphant highs and heartbreaking lows, Elizabeth never lost her sense of humor.
There’s One Born Every Minute
|Hugh Herbert||Lemuel P. Twine|
|Peggy Moran||Helen Barbara Twine|
|Tom Brown||Jimmy Hanagan|
|Guy Kibbee||Lester Cadwalader, Sr.|
|Catherine Doucet||Minerva Twine|
|Edgar Kennedy||Mayor Carson|
|Guy Schilling||Professor Quisenberry|
|Elizabeth Taylor||Gloria Twine|
|Carl “Alfalfa” Switzer||Junior Twine|
Ken Goldsmith (producer); Harold Young (director); Robert B. Hunt, Barbara Weisberg (screenplay), based on story by Robert B. Hunt; John W. Boyle (photography); H. J. Salter (music); Jack Otterson, Martin Obzina (art directors); R. A. Gausman (set decorations); Bernard B. Brown, Charles Carroll (sound); Maurice Wright (editor); Vera West (costumes)
RELEASE DATE: June 26, 1942
RUN TIME: 60 minutes, black and white
SUMMARY: Pudding maker Lemuel P. Twine is an unlikely candidate for mayor, backed by crooked local businessman Lester Cadwalader, who is the one really pulling the strings behind the mayoral race. Twine suddenly gains enormous popularity (and campaign funding) through the success of his patented pudding, which is packed with “essential” Vitamin Z. Cadwalader, now fearful of Twine’s power, turns on him and embarks on a smear campaign to discredit Twine along with his pudding. But through the support of his family—and a ringing musical endorsement from the youngest Twines (Elizabeth Taylor and Carl Switzer)—the pudding king ends up victorious.
WHILE CROSSING OVER FROM ENGLAND, HOME TO AMERICA to escape the perils of Europe on the brink of war in 1939, Elizabeth and her mother, Sara, were treated onboard ship to a screening of the latest Shirley Temple film, The Little Princess. According to her mother, seeing the pint-sized princess of cinema in her first Technicolor feature, and in a story set in the England so recently lost to them, made a powerful impression on her little refugee daughter. The film’s influence on Sara Taylor was greater still, fanning the flames of her own desire: For the former stage actress, seeing Elizabeth in a career in the performing arts seemed not to be a far-fetched dream. With a final destination of Los Angeles, where Elizabeth’s father, Francis Taylor, was to run an art gallery owned by his brother, the Taylors were headed in the right direction to see their own little princess up on the big screen.
“The kid has nothing. Her eyes are too old. She doesn’t have the face of a kid.”
— UNIVERSAL STUDIOS CASTING DIRECTOR
Playing a smart-mouthed little girl, she clowned with Carl Switzer and sang a little campaign-song duet with him.
Living in Pasadena and then Pacific Palisades put the Taylors in close proximity to the film community and, primarily through Francis’s gallery at the Beverly Hills Hotel, Sara made some important friends—one being the fiancée of John Cheever Cowdin, the chairman of Universal Pictures. When she and Cowdin visited the Taylors, the movie mogul was impressed by little Elizabeth’s poise and beauty, and through him she landed her first film contract at Universal.
At the age of nine, Elizabeth made her screen debut in There’s One Born Every Minute. Politics met pudding in this zany low-budget comedy, which was originally called Man or Mouse. Playing a smart-mouthed little girl, she clowned with Carl Switzer (formerly of Our Gang fame as the beloved Alfalfa) and sang a little campaign-song duet with him. The comic number showed off the tuneful, if untrained, singing abilities that Elizabeth possessed as a child. Her voice certainly had volume, and Sara hoped it could develop to a degree that would boost her career. Universal even touted Elizabeth in the trades as a singer and dancer when she was first signed. She was no rival in that respect, however, for the studio’s resident young singing superstar, Deanna Durbin, then at the height of her fame.
Though she displayed energy and charm in her first role, the executives at Universal saw no future for Elizabeth under their aegis. Years later she recalled that casting director Dan Kelly “just didn’t like me.” Famous last words from Universal: “The kid has nothing. Her eyes are too old. She doesn’t have the face of a kid.” She did not make another film for the studio for the duration of her year-long contract. At age nine, it was on to the next job for Elizabeth.
Lassie Come Home
|Roddy McDowall||Joe Carraclough|
|Donald Crisp||Sam Carraclough|
- On Sale
- Oct 2, 2012
- Page Count
- 304 pages
- Running Press