The Last Movie Star
“The problem with people who have no vices is that generally you can be pretty sure they're going to have some pretty annoying virtues.” Elizabeth Taylor
On a Wednesday night in the summer of 1963, I was at the weekly Boy Scout meeting of Troop 69 in the Kendall Elementary School gymnasium, and though I was Senior Patrol Leader and a member of the Order of the Arrow, my mind, hell, my entire being, was far from Scouting. It was the night that “Cleopatra” was to have its world premiere in New York, at 8:00 PM, in the Rivoli Theatre, a spectacular movie palace in Manhattan that I had visited often.
I looked to the clock on the gym wall so many times, and when it was close to 8 PM, I was riveted, watching the second hand as it hit the 12. My heart raced and I knew the curtain was rising on the film, and on the woman I loved.
I was only 14, but my first encounter with Elizabeth Taylor onscreen had been as enrapturing and hypnotic as Montgomery Clift’s, in “A Place in the Sun”. And as I watched that film, I was young and I had not known any real women, only girls, but Elizabeth Taylor was a woman. And everything within me, every thought, every desire, was of this beautiful woman.
There was something alluring and captivating that I couldn’t control, and I loved every minute of my rapture, for she was something I had never known to exist, and she oozed all the possibilities of passion that make love the most popular subject of poems, songs, books, films, plays, paintings, and life.
All I saw was Cleopatra before me, her and those damn, sexy, velvet diamond eyes, and I knew I was more in love with her than Richard Burton. I had my red, Japanese transistor radio with me, and they were broadcasting live from the premiere, so I left the gym, and turned on the radio and put it to my ear to hear the report. Announcers spoke of her as if she was the Second Coming of Christ. I was dizzy, and that was no little thing for an active teen Boy Scout who played sports and could lash together a bridge over a raging
river in 20 minutes.
The previous August my heart had been crushed when Marilyn Monroe died, but I was immature, and had thought of her as “wow’, but not much more. I saw a reissue of “A Place in the Sun” a short time later, and I lived and breathed one thing, Elizabeth Taylor was a Goddess, my Goddess. I had grown up.
And who could have known that a young girl named Elizabeth Taylor, who starred with Carl “Alfalfa” Switzer in her first film, 1942’s “There’s One born Every Minute”, would become not only the most beautiful and successful actress in the world, but the one who would bring the issue of AIDS to the living rooms of the world.
In “A Place in the Sun”, Montgomery Clift’s was a rising young executive from the lower class who became enraptured the first moment he met Elizabeth Taylor’s character, an upper crust young woman with an appetite for romance. Unfortunately, Clift was married to Shelly Winters, whom he murdered in gruesome fashion to spend his time with Ms. Taylor. Although it was a movie, many could understand the passion of Clift in the film.
Elizabeth Taylor wasn’t just stunningly beautiful. She was dazzling. She defined gorgeous. She was so sultry her appeal was beyond sexy. Perhaps entrancing is an all-encompassing description, for every molecule, every atom, every breath, every slight move of hers was hypnotic. And magnetic. That was Elizabeth Taylor. There was no actress who could convey such a range of emotion and be so suggestive with even the slightest glance than Elizabeth Taylor.
America shared her pain when her husband, producer Mike Todd, of “Around the World in 80 Days”, and developer of Todd A-O Vision, died in a plane crash in 1958, only one year after they were married, and she was only 25.
And Taylor was not one to hide her passions. Her affairs were in the open, she didn’t hide them. Paparazzi were invented to pursue her and Richard Burton in Rome because of their affair while filming “Cleopatra” (Which while panned by critics, and labeled the most expensive film ever made, the film made plenty of money for her and 20th Century Fox, as fans around the world loved the movie.)
Taylor was the biggest star on the planet, anything she did became a fad, any clothes she wore became the fashion, and her hair styles made hair salons rich as every woman copied them. She was the woman who did it all herself. And the world bowed before her.
Elizabeth Taylor’s magic began as a child, when she appeared in a “Lassie” film, and though in her early teens, even film critics were enamored with her beauty. When “National Velvet” became a phenomenal success, her stunning eyes were violet diamonds that enticed the world. One look to the sky, and those eyes brought innocent hope to every heart.
She worked regularly, and with every star, from Spencer Tracy in “Father of the Bride”, to Clift, to Katherine Hepburn in “Suddenly Last Summer”, Paul Newman in “”Cat on a Hot Tin Roof”, James Dean and Rock Hudson in “Giant”, and with so many more actors and directors.
Taylor never took an acting lesson, and yet she won two Academy Awards, and from 1956 -1960 she was nominated every year for Best Actress, before winning in 1960 playing a hooker in “Butterfield 8.” (Incidentally, the winner of Best Supporting Actress in the same year, 1960, was Shirley Jones, who also played a prostitute in “Elmer Gantry”.)
She won her second Oscar for her spectacular performance in, “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf,” in 1966.
But what set her up on Olympian Heights, was her business acumen. For” Cleopatra”, Taylor earned “$1 million, which in 1963 was more than four times the rate major male actors were making. Additionally, she collected ten-percent of the picture’s gross, which was a hefty sum. She also received that for “Virginia Woolf.”
As she matured, she produced a lined of fragrances and jewelry that sent her value into the stratosphere, and her estate is estimated at close to $1 billion.
But all of that aside, in 1985, her dear friend, Rock Hudson, whom she had starred with in “Giant”, developed AIDS and soon died. At the time, AIDS was not spoken of except in hushed tones, it wasn’t even mentioned by the President, but Taylor took it head on, and started a foundation to assist AIDS patients throughout the world, and she raised more than $25 billion for the AIDS cause, and started a worldwide movement and acceptance of the illness.
Elizabeth, I will see you in every star, every night, from here to beyond the horizon.
~~~ Elizabath Taylor quotes ~~~
""I never planned to acquire a lot of jewels or a lot of husbands.”
”Big girls need big diamonds.”
“The problem with people who have no vices is that generally you can be pretty sure they're going to have some pretty annoying virtues.”
"I am a very committed wife. And I should be committed too - for being married so many times."
"Some of my best leading men have been dogs and horses."
"Everything makes me nervous - except making films."
"I adore wearing gems, but not because they are mine. You can't possess radiance, you can only admire it.
"I don't pretend to be an ordinary housewife. "
"I feel very adventurous. There are so many doors to be opened, and I'm not afraid to look behind them."
"I fell off my pink cloud with a thud."
"I have a woman's body and a child's emotions. "
"I sweat real sweat and I shake real shakes. "
"It is strange that the years teach us patience; that the shorter our time, the greater our capacity for waiting."