Elizabeth Rosemond Taylor, a Londoner by birth, born to American parents appeared in her first movie “There’s one born every minute” at the tender age of 9 (in 1942). She was in and indeed starred in movies as a child and teenager. I remember seeing both Lassie Come Home, and National Velvet when I was a child, and remembered the dark haired girl in both. I didn’t really understand she was already an adult star, I related to the girl.
Then my mother took us to see Little Women (one of her teenage movies), and all I remember of it was one of them stupid enough to sleep with a peg on her nose, to fix some imagined problem. I wondered if she gave herself headaches from it and not being able to breathe. Was that Liz, or one of the others?
Then she had moved to adult movies, and as my parents thought her sensual roles were not appropriate for children, I don’t think I saw her again for some years.
When I was at the end of primary school, she became the focus of a scandal. Filming Cleopatra, she and Richard Burton fell in love, and had “AN AFFAIR”. Shock, horror, she stole a man away from his wife. As she was the beautiful one (and as women then were always in the wrong) of course the blame was hers. He of course was simply ensnared by her beauty. (Goodness what a load of rot we were told at school.)
However as a teenager I was allowed to see her in the Taming of the Shrew. After all that was “SHAKESPEAR”. I was at the right age to fall into infatuation with Michael York, so at the time her performance was of less interest to me. After all she had a son who was MY age, so she couldn’t really be of interest.
By then I had understood she was a “STAR”. Something that only happened to a few impossibly glamorous people. If you saw her on the news, she was dressed to kill, and looked the part. I sometimes wondered what it was like to be a star.
As an adult I finally saw Cleopatra. At one of the little movie houses (it may have been the Victory in Orange Grove) that was having a Liz Taylor festival. The lushness of the movie, and their obvious attraction for each other was all I remembered. Some of her other roles were more impressive, a sexy woman, dealing with what life threw at her, several times. She was undeniably beautiful.
As I grew older, I began to understand the problems of a life in the public eye for a “STAR”. How difficult it must be. Every time you put on or lost weight, the whole world seemed to know. If you went out JUST ONCE looking less than glamorous, some photographer took pictures of you. The pressure to be perfect seemed immense.
When I heard she’d been treated for alcohol problems, and later drug problems (after all someone who kept breaking her back was probably addicted to pain killers) all I thought was “Poor woman, can’t she just have some privacy”.
Despite her multiple marriages, you got the feeling she was a good friend, following up after the death of Rock Hudson into the AIDS charities and support for HIV positive people. Her friendship and support for Michael Jackson, a seriously troubled person, was constant.
To have the time and money to do all the good she helped to do was a wonderful compensation for the rest of stardom.
I never related to her at all until I read a quotation by Richard Burton (after their divorce) “She has wonderful eyes, but she has a double chin and an overdeveloped chest, and she’s rather short in the leg.” A movie star being described like that – most of it sounded just like me. (I suspect Burton had some very elegant women to compare her with) Suddenly I could relate to her.
I have been told, I do NOT understand the psyche of movie stars. They LIKE the adulation, the praise. (Hey don’t we all like praise?). But that ability to act, be someone else, for a movie in disjointed segments, or on stage, over and over the same words and actions seems to me to be a job I could never do. To do it well enough to be remembered favourably, and to have the Hollywood ‘machine’ turn you into a star seems like a whole lot of effort I’d be unable to carry off.
So, Elizabeth Taylor – A star?
A woman with a career, a love life that wasn’t always smooth (hey whose love life ever is?), children, friends, helping others. She sounds like so many other women I know of, and they are all STARS!