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Elizabeth Taylor


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TCM was doing a tribute to costume designer Irene Sharaf last night as part of their Friday Spolight series, and showed "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" for which Sharaf won the last Oscar given for costumes in a black and white film. I have seen it at least 3 times and was puttering around with it on in the background but ended up sitting on the couch enthralled. With each viewing, Taylor's performance is even more appreciated. Granted, she had enormous help from Mike Nichols' direction and Richard Burton's support but she is superlative and maybe even definitive. I have seen quite a few Marthas, including Kathleen Turner, Marlo Thomas, Glenda Jackson and Diana Rigg and as good as each was in her way, they just don't match Taylor in my opinion. There are 2 moments in the film that are just plain brilliant and in which she reaches the heights. One is the "snap" speech outside the roadhouse and the other is at the kitchen door: "George and Martha. Sad. Sad. Sad." The last scene, of course, is shattering and she plays it superbly but I prefer the moments when she is bitchy, mean, vicious, blowzy and somehow also very touching. She was way too young and way too pretty but she pulled it off. The rest of the cast is also brilliant, and Sandy Dennis certainly derserved her Supporting Oscar but it's Taylor's film.

 

I was always a fan. She gives one of the top 5 child performances in "National Velvet", and is just a knock-out in "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" but she really entered the stratosphere in "Virginia Woolf". With a lot of Oscars, you slap your forehead and say WTF??? as in when she won her first Academy Award for "Butterfield 8". But then there are other times when you grin and say, "Well, of course." And Taylor's win for "Virginia Woolf" was one of those.

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Despite Two Academy Awards, Elizabeth Taylor never really received enough credit for her acting. She is simply wonderful in "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf." Even more amazing, Taylor more than holds her own in "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" even though Maggie the Cat has less screen time as the movie progresses. And she was paired with some superb actors, Burl Ives and Judith Anderson particularly. Perhaps her off-screen life, especially her marriages to Richard Burton, led to people forgetting what a good actress Taylor was in the '40s, '50s and '60s.

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Not too long ago I watched Cleopatra which I hadn't seen in a long time. We all know the history of that movie but I was struck by how much of it was really good and Taylor looked amazing in those costumes. The entrance into Rome is still pretty astounding and lots of fun. I did get to see her and Richard Burton a few times on Broadway. I think she was highly underrated as an actress.

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That's a good quote. I think it's better not to be mean rather than being on time.

 

I can not speak about being late for filming. But, it is different on Broadway or a concert. I do not know if Elizabeth Taylor arrived late often, or never for her two Broadway shows. I saw Judy Garland in concert three times, the longest wait was about 50 minutes. I was lucky! But, fifty minutes is a very long in a theater or concert hall. So I am not sure that mean is always worse than being on time.

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Apparently Elizabeth Taylor felt she could always keep people waiting even at her own funeral. I believe she left instructions that the hearse should arrival late. I think she knew what she was doing building up the anticipation for her arrival. Frankly I hate being late or kept waiting but I'm not a star (damn it!)

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I agree that she was a most incredible actress. Recently I saw a feature on Amfar which showed a lot of clips of her appearing before Congressional committees seeking funding for AIDS research. I loved it when she told a committee of old white senators... "I am not going to stop coming here, I will not be silenced,I will not be put down, you need to act and act now. AIDS is not a gay disease, and even if it were, you have a moral and public health reason to solve this crisis." I may not have the quote exactly right, but she did not read a script, she looked the members of the committee straight in the eye and we have her to thank for doing probably more than any other single person in the United States to get Congress and the Regan administration to deal with AIDS as a public health issue. May she rest in peace. We lost an incredible woman.

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  • 4 weeks later...
TCM was doing a tribute to costume designer Irene Sharaf last night as part of their Friday Spolight series, and showed "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" for which Sharaf won the last Oscar given for costumes in a black and white film. I have seen it at least 3 times and was puttering around with it on in the background but ended up sitting on the couch enthralled. With each viewing, Taylor's performance is even more appreciated. Granted, she had enormous help from Mike Nichols' direction and Richard Burton's support but she is superlative and maybe even definitive. I have seen quite a few Marthas, including Kathleen Turner, Marlo Thomas, Glenda Jackson and Diana Rigg and as good as each was in her way, they just don't match Taylor in my opinion.

 

I wonder if part of what impressed you is how it is "Elizabeth Taylor" on the screen, playing this character who is far, far different from what anyone is used to seeing.

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