Movies: Elizabeth Taylor, A True “Giant”

This farewell is illustrated with pictures from one of her most-derided films BUtterfield 8 (1960), because it all but demands a critical reappraisal. At the very least those of us who weren't alive during its run can only (correctly?) imagine that her work as testy callgirl "Gloria Wandrous" inspired many a drag queen, with its in-your-face vulgarity "Face it Mama, I was the slut of all time!", performative abandon and absurd beauty.

Lizbadreputation In every article you read about the movie queen BUtterfield 8 is called a "stinker" and her first Oscar win is deemed a panicky Academy decision since she was was gravely ill during the voting. Whether or not those now common-wisdom assumptions are true, it just reminds us that a witty one-liner — and Taylor herself knew from those –  can stick. Did this particular performance's reputation ever recover from Shirley Maclaine's bitchslap when her Oscar bid for The Apartment failed?

"I lost to a tracheotomy."

So give any of her movies a spin this week. Raise a glass to Gloria, Martha, Maggie the Cat, Cleopatra, Velvet Brown, Angela Vickers and all the other characters that Elizabeth Taylor brought to such vivid unruly life.

A few more of her movie titles could describe the star as well as Giant, come to think of it: The VIPS qualifies for obvious reasons; Boom because wherever she went, fireworks; and A Place in the Sun. Who was more obviously lit by the heavens? Her film debut at age ten is erroneously titled, though. It was called There's One Born Every Minute. Oh but there isn't. And there never will be again.


  1. Alisdair says

    Watched Cat on a Hot Tin Roof again last night. Her death signals the end of an era. I can’t imagine anyone alive today that I could watch on screen so mesmerized by her beauty and skill. The fact her compassion outshone even her looks makes her a true legend.

    Rest in peace Elizabeth.

  2. jsb says

    Elizabeth Taylor was the last of the true Hollywood stars. What they call stars today are a joke by comparison. I was aware of Elizabeth while growing up, but she permanently endeared herself to me when she took on the establishment over HIV/AIDS. We should all strive to be as aware and helpful as Dame Elizabeth Taylor proved to be.

  3. Jacknasty says

    Butterfield 8 is a tawdry movie that starts off fairly strong – thanks to Taylor, mostly – then slowly comes unraveled in its melodrama and moralizing. But overall it’s enjoyable, and that’s mostly due to the actors, who do their best with a silly script. Taylor really does deliver an award-caliber performance.

    Yeah The Apartment is a better film, no question, but I think Taylor deserved an award just for delivering such a mesmerizing performance in such a piece of crap.

  4. arch says

    The day after her death my boyfriend, who is spanish, asked my whether she was british or american. i had to stop and realise that i didn’t really know the answer, a bit of both I told him due to her family background, birth, domicle and legal nationality.

    She was one of those wonderful creations of the 19th and 20th centuries that belonged a little on both sides of the atlantic, like Churchill and TS Elliot or Cary Grant.

    Perhaps that was part of her charm, she was a blend of (mostly) the best bits of both cultures, a little bit old school but open and relaxed in the american way. A true star.

  5. says

    When another one-of-a-kind [and devoted friend to our Community], Eartha Kitt….whom I once knew…died a couple of years ago, I was shocked because, even tho slightly older than Ms. Taylor, I’d just seen her in concert a year before and she was better than ever. And, of course, the two had a special mutual gay friend: James Dean.

  6. Michael in Toronto says

    I recall seeing BUtterfield 8 and Suddenly Last Summer as a kid — and getting a kind of premonition of S-E-X. Elizabeth OOZED it. Not the sweet soft Marilyn Monroe version, but the REAL HOT NASTY WONDERFUL THING. Know what I mean?

  7. Bear says

    Oh Elizabeth, she was good.
    She turned most men to standing wood
    And those she didn’t charm that way
    Went into orbit anyway.

    Thanks for your life my dear.

  8. Robert says

    In a world that often over hypes…she was the real deal…a true super star…an enormously talented actress…a courageous humanitarian…and a great beauty with an inner radiance that made her simply breathtaking…