For some reason it feels like the end of an era as the last of the great movie stars shrugs off this mortal coil. It's impossible to write about Elizabeth Taylor without hyperbole. The MOST beautiful, the MOST grotesque, the MOST married, the MOST scandalous, the MOST tragic. She was a monster and a saint and an icon. The idea of a movie star made flesh.
I don't think there was a moment in my life when I didn't know who she was. Growing up, we had that Life magazine Movie book - full of pictures of movie stars and films. I spent hours and hours and hours gazing at this book and it had untold influence on me. I knew who all these old time movie stars were from their extraordinary faces long before I saw any of their films. Lots, of course, were of Liz. I remember a lovely picture of her at 17 in a gold dress that I thought was just the loveliest thing I'd ever seen.
Beauty is destiny. Being the MOST beautiful is such a crazy double edged sword and Liz certainly had the best and some of the worst of it. Have I mentioned she was also an actress? I saw her in Jane Eyre, Lassie Come Home and National Velvet when I was little. And then A Place in the Sun, Butterfield 8 (which is also a really good novel that no one but me seems to have read), Giant, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. I mean, what a run! Then Cleopatra and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf. Just awesome.
Then, late in life, she nearly single handedly created a national dialogue and awareness of AIDS after the death of her friend and co-star Rock Hudson. There are a lot of adults alive right now who probably don't remember the complete silence surrounding homosexuality in general and AIDS in particular. Liz Taylor did a great deal of very effective work to change that.
If you would like to make a donation to amfAR, which Liz helped found, click here.
To quote myself: What a life! What a dame!
From A Place in the Sun: