Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Elizabeth Taylor 1932-2011

From child star to sex symbol to most famous woman in the world to washed-up tabloid punchline and now to a legend for the ages, Liz Taylor really did everything a movie star could do. She stayed famous longer than nearly any woman in show biz history, and she was one of the first people whose personal fame somehow eclipsed even her fame as a movie star. She got so famous that in a sense she quit being a movie star long before she stopped making pictures. She was just famous.

That is what it is, I suppose. There's no use arguing against it, but happily what will live on are the films themselves. My favorite Liz Taylor movie is the 1951 A PLACE IN THE SUN. Not a perfect movie, but she's perfect, a vision. When Goddard said that the history of cinema was the history of boys photographing girls, he might have been talking about the way Elizabeth Taylor walks into this movie and displaces everything and everyone around her. If you want to know what movie star quality looks like, you need look no further than the scene where Montgomery Clift turns around and sees Taylor for the first time. It's not just beauty--Clift himself is as beautiful a man as she is a woman--it's her palpable energy, her knowledge of and command over her affect on other people. It's star power, and it's what now lives on after her.

To see the moment I'm talking about, go here and skip ahead seven minutes: A Place In The Sun

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