Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Elizabeth Taylor: 1932 - 2011

Legendary actress Elizabeth Taylor passed away this morning at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. She was 79. Considered by many to be the last link to Hollywood's so-called Golden Age, the much-loved actress led a passionate life both on and off screen. Married eight times (twice to actor Richard Burton), Taylor's personal life was often as melodramatic as that of the movie heroines she portrayed.

Elizabeth Taylor was quite literally raised in public; from her child acting days in Lassie Come Home and National Velvet, to her acclaimed performance opposite Montgomery Clift in A Place in the Sun, to her mature, complex performance as "Maggie the Cat" in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. By the early 1960s, she was Hollywood royalty, commanding a cool $1 million dollars for her role as Cleopatra in the opulent 20th Century Fox biopic. Her gritty performance in the 1966 Edward Albee adaptation Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? is, without question, one of the most fearless onscreen performances I have ever seen.

Taylor was twice awarded the Best Actress statuette by the Academy (for her performances in Butterfield 8 and Virginia Woolf). In 1992, she received the Jean Herscholt Humanitarian Academy Award for her HIV/AIDS advocacy. Taylor was a notable gay rights activist, consistently stressing the point that the struggle for gay rights is the struggle for human rights. More than a mere actress, or one of the "most beautiful" women in the world, she was also a fiercely loyal friend and an advocate for those that society at large was not yet ready to help.

Selected film highlights:

Under Milk Wood (1971)

The Taming of the Shrew (1967)

Reflections in a Golden Eye (1967)

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966)

Cleopatra (1963)

Butterfield 8 (1960)

Suddenly, Last Summer (1959)

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958)

Giant (1956)

A Place in the Sun (1951)

Father of the Bride (1950)

Little Women (1949)

National Velvet (1944)