Elizabeth Taylor, 1932 - 2011

David Hudson

"Dame Elizabeth Taylor, one of the 20th Century's biggest movie stars, has died in Los Angeles at the age of 79," reports the BBC. "The peak of her film career came in the 1950s and 1960s, with four Oscar nominations in a row from 1958 to 1961. She lost out in her first three attempts — for Raintree County, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and Suddenly, Last Summer — but triumphed at her fourth attempt with Butterfield 8. Her second Oscar came in 1967 for Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, one of 12 films with [Richard] Burton. She met the actor while filming 1963's Cleopatra — which became notorious as one of the most expensive films of all time, but which also sparked one of Hollywood's greatest romances."

From the New York Times: "In a world of flickering images, Elizabeth Taylor was a constant star. First appearing on screen at the age of 9, she grew up on screen, never passing through an awkward age. It was one quick leap from National Velvet to A Place in the Sun and from there to Cleopatra as she was indelibly transformed from a vulnerable child actress into a voluptuous film queen." And the NYT posts a slide show of images from her career. LIFE's gallery calls for spending a little more time with.

"Long after she faded from the screen, she remained a mesmerizing figure, blessed and cursed by the extraordinary celebrity that molded her life through its many phases," writes Elaine Woo in the Los Angeles Times. "She was a child star who bloomed gracefully into an ingenue; a femme fatale on the screen and in life; a canny peddler of high-priced perfume; a pioneering activist in the fight against AIDS. Some actresses, such as Katharine Hepburn and Ingrid Bergman, won more awards and critical plaudits, but none matched Taylor's hold on the collective imagination."

"Could anyone as lovely as Elizabeth Taylor also be talented?" asks Mel Gussow in the NYT. "The answer, of course, was yes. Given her lack of professional training, the range of her acting was surprisingly wide. She played predatory vixens and wounded victims. She was Cleopatra of the burnished barge; Tennessee Williams's Maggie the cat; Catherine Holly, who confronted terror suddenly last summer, and Shakespeare's Kate. Her melodramatic heroines would have been at home on soap operas. Joseph L Mankiewicz, who directed her in Suddenly Last Summer and Cleopatra, remembered seeing her for the first time, in Cannes, when she was 18. 'She was the most incredible vision of loveliness I have ever seen in my life,' he said. 'And she was sheer innocence.'… Marilyn Monroe was the sex goddess, Grace Kelly the ice queen, Audrey Hepburn the eternal gamine. Ms Taylor was beauty incarnate. As the director George Stevens said when he chose her for A Place in the Sun, the role called for the 'beautiful girl in the yellow Cadillac convertible that every American boy, some time or other, thinks he can marry.'" As Nick Greene notes at the Voice, the NYT has had this piece ready to go for some time. Gussow died in 2005.

From the AP: "Critic James Agee wrote of her: 'Ever since I first saw the child ... I have been choked with the peculiar sort of adoration I might have felt if we were in the same grade of primary school.'"

"She is, of course, English, having been born in Hampstead in 1932," the Telegraph's David Gritten reminds us. "But her parents were both American; they returned home at the outbreak of World War II, settling in Los Angeles. Elizabeth was thus perfectly placed to launch her career as a child star, in Lassie Come Home (1943) and National Velvet (1944) — both of which were shot in Hollywood but set in England. Even in her teens, her star quality was evident and her on-screen adolescence reached its peak with her charming performance opposite Spencer Tracy in Father of the Bride (1950)." Also: Her "20 best quotes."

Andy Warhol's 1963 portrait. New York's Jerry Saltz: "Andy is in the air we breathe; Liz was in the air he breathed… Warhol painted Taylor from his own photos, and as both the young star of National Velvet and the later Liz of Cleopatra, queen of high camp, patron saint of the strange. One masterpiece, the almost monochrome Blue Liz As Cleopatra (1963), depicts her fifteen times. It's a sort of blue movie, a silent film made of still pictures and moving photo-booth strips. You can almost feel how bad Cleopatra was, in the ways Warhol allows the images to overlap and appear off-register and piled-up. The film sprockets slip before your eyes."

"In her final decades, as her stardom outgrew the need for movies, Miss Taylor sailed on in a state of perpetual celebrity," writes the Boston Globe's Ty Burr. "She called her close friend Michael Jackson 'the most normal person I know.' She had her 60th birthday party at Disneyland, and irony was not on the menu. We will not see her like again."

Via the Film Experience:


"She managed to keep people fascinated," writes Ronald Bergan, "by her incandescent beauty, her courage, her open-natured character, her self-deprecating humour, her eight marriages (two of them to the actor Richard Burton), her almost as many brushes with death, her seesawing weight, her diamonds and her humanitarian causes, all of which often obscured the reason why she was famous in the first place — her tantalizing screen presence."

Also in the Guardian, Guy Lodge annotates a series of clips: "Taylor was a sporadically marvelous performer, one who rarely superseded her director or material but who could, with those factors working in her favor, surpass some of her more gifted peers' capacity for reckless emotional danger. She was the rare actor who was as interesting on a bad day as on a good one, and not just for her mesmeric physical beauty: like any great film star, she was as compelled by her own screen presence as we were, aware of how it needed to be consistently adjusted and exaggerated for the camera. Taylor's filmography ranges from the imperiously accomplished to the gobsmackingly inept, yet she never seemed entirely uninvested in the outcome of her own performance."

More clips. At Cinematical, Bob Cannon lists "10 Reasons She Was a Hollywood Legend." And Simon Rothöhler posts one from her amusing appearance on What's My Line? at Cargo. NBC News' report is part of Ambrose Heron's collection at FILMdetail. She was "strong-willed, ballsy, untouchable, and luminously celestial. In an industry that so often throws around the term 'star,' few were ever as worthy of the word." At the AV Club, Sean O'Neal comments on several clips. For Movieline, Mike Ryan posts the "8 Most Memorable Elizabeth Taylor Cameos." More from Jasper Rees and Matt Wolf at the Arts Desk.

Nas Capas collects some of the best magazine covers she appeared on over the years. More.

The New Yorker's Richard Brody: "She was a jazz-forged performer in an industry whose norms and ways were falling before the new styles of the almighty teen; she was a hot performer, one of the most ferociously intense, in an era that turned McLuhan-esque cool; she needed Douglas Sirk to transfigure the melodramatic excesses from camp into symbol, but he left Hollywood in 1959."

Tony Dayoub quotes from a scene in Giant (1956), adding: "As Leslie, the progressive wife to Rock Hudson's sexist rancher, Jordan 'Bick' Benedict, Taylor was intelligent, willful, and usually right." Vanity Fair's John Lopez: "Legend has it that Taylor and co-star Rock Hudson brought the crew to tears as they looked longingly at each other in a wedding scene. In reality, not only was Hudson gay but he and Taylor had been out drinking until three a.m. the night before: the two were trying not to be sick."

Alexandria Symonds: "On the occasion of the February 2007 issue of Interview devoted entirely to Elizabeth Taylor, then-editor Ingrid Sischy executed an extensive interview with the actress and icon. The issue also included original artist commissions devoted to Taylor and interviews with people in her life and just a few of those who admired her, including Madonna, Tom Ford, Anne Hathaway, Todd Haynes, and many more… It is with the greatest fondness and respect for Dame Elizabeth Taylor that we present the first of several excerpts from that issue."

"The details of her special relationship with the gay population, right up until her death, are crucial," argues Paul Flynn in the Guardian. "During the Reagan presidency she was the first and most prominent star to align herself with Aids fundraising. The traction her star wattage lent Aids charities turned Taylor from a woman who naturally empathised with both the fragility and duality of gay men's political status in the US to a notable force in reversing them. At the 8th International Aids Conference in 1991, she said of the first President Bush: 'I'm not even sure if he knows how to spell Aids.' Her public pronouncements on the subject were bluff, profound and affecting. She raised millions."

"'I was pronounced dead four times,' Elizabeth Taylor told me," recalls David Kamp for Vanity Fair. 'Once I didn't breathe for five minutes, which must be a record.' This was in early 1998, when I was interviewing Taylor for my VF story in that year's Hollywood issue about the calamitous making of her film Cleopatra, 'When Liz Met Dick.'… I don't mean to make light of Taylor's death today, at the age of 79, but when I heard news of it, my first instinct was to ask: Are they sure? This was a woman who turned the emergency hospitalization into an art form, the wheelchair into a red-carpet accessory, and the sickbed into a press room. In her later decades, especially, her bouts of ill health, along with her extraordinary bounce-backs from the brink, were themselves a kind of performance."

Also, photographer Firooz Zahedi: "I was blessed that I could have my show [at LACMA] so that I could thank her for everything she has done for me. She was a wonderful friend." In the July 2010 issue, VF excerpted Sam Kashner and Nancy Schoenberger's book Furious Love: Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, and the Marriage of the Century, which draws on letters Burton had written to Taylor that hadn't been previously seen. Just added: a slide show. And in 2007, Dominick Dunne looked back on his 30-year friendship with Taylor.

"Her friend Johnny Depp captured her mixture of the earthy and the ethereal when, in 2009, he described Taylor as 'a glowing, levitating thing — but a real broad, a liver-and-onions broad.'" Time's Richard Corliss: "In Stevens's Giant, she was a Virginia bloom transported as the yellow rose of Texas; in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof and Suddenly Last Summer, a Tennessee Williams heroine exorcizing the demons of men's desires; in Butterfield 8, a chic call girl digging her stiletto heel into the cowhide of Laurence Harvey's thick skin. Taylor was exploring a wider, smarter, grander dramatic range: a dream of womanly invitation who could escalate without warning into arias of sexual confession or recrimination. In each role she found the starting point for a creative journey at the crossroads of modern femininity, or proto-feminism, and ageless star quality."

Nathaniel R lists "79 Ways To Celebrate The Life of Elizabeth Taylor," while John McElwee looks back on his favorite performances.

"It's hard to imagine that there's ever going to be an American celebrity quite like her," writes NPR's Linda Holmes. "Our stars now are so known to us, and we devour them with such ferocity, that the idea that someone could be a child star today and die 70 years from now as an icon doesn't feel plausible. It's not clear whether you can do this anymore, this thing she did — mixing elegance and vulgarity and beauty and spectacle, and still writing your own ticket."

"In truth, La Taylor had an uneasy relationship with the world of fashion," writes Simon Taylor in Slate. "As we revisit the Taylor movie canon in the coming months, you will no doubt watch Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Suddenly Last Summer, Butterfield 8 and all the greats. But don't overlook the dustier nooks and crannies of Liz-obilia. Some of the best style moments are to be found in her more obscure movies like Secret Ceremony and Reflections in a Golden Eye. My fave might just be X Y & Zee with Michael Caine. How to describe this demented movie? Imagine if Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf was transposed into early 70s London and 90 percent of the characters are wearing caftans. The opening credits — a busty, boozed-up Liz plays a violent game of ping-pong with a hot-looking, bespectacled Michael Caine — are pure orgasmic joy."

Viewing (6'10"). "The Guardian's Andrew Pulver and Catherine Shoard, plus the Observer's Jason Solomons, look back at the life of the legendary actor."


The NYT's Mekado Murphy posts a widely cited clip from A Place in the Sun and quotes Stanley Fish: "'Sexy' doesn't even begin to describe it.

TCM's 24-hour tribute airs on April 4.

The Guardian's Peter Bradshaw on Butterfield 8: "This movie contains what is perhaps her finest hour as an actor: the scene in which she explains her attraction to older men as father figures and that she was molested as a 13-year-old girl by a friend of the family. As her listener stirs uneasily, she murmurs that he still has not heard the full evil of this experience — she turns, passionately, and almost shrieks: 'I loved it!' Taylor's face has something of Jean Simmons at the very beginning of the scene, as well as Taylor's own feline self-possession, but is transformed and transfigured at the very end, eyes blazing with rage and self-hate. It is still a shocking sequence, and we can see Taylor's face at the very cusp of change from the uncomplicated loveliness of young womanhood into the older Taylor's face, full of hauteur and worldliness and hard-won knowledge of the ways of the world — a fallen world, and a man's world."

For Movieline's Stephanie Zacharek, "even in movies that are often, by today's standards, considered overcooked, like John Huston's weird, wonderful, unsettling Carson McCullers adaptation Reflections in a Golden Eye, Taylor used her almost otherworldly sex appeal to burrow deep into painful emotional territory: As the luscious wife of Army officer Marlon Brando (who, in turn, has eyes only for a gorgeous young soldier played by Robert Forster), she wasn't just your stereotypical sex-bomb presence but a dangerously erotic one. When Brando taunts Taylor for wearing pants that outline her voluptuous shape, she strips down right in front of him, turning his lack of desire for her into a lacerating accusation. Brando crumples before her, and she earns that crumpling: She's the potent catalyst for his anguish, a reminder of his own inadequacies poured into hourglass form… The hero of Steve Erickson's wild, woolly and feverishly poetic 2007 novel Zeroville is a movie obsessive who has a peculiar image tattooed on his shaved head. 'One lobe is occupied by an extreme close-up of Elizabeth Taylor and the other by Montgomery Clift, their faces barely apart, lips barely apart, in each other's arms on a terrace, the two most beautiful people in the history of the movies, she the female version of him, and he the male version of her.' Erickson got it right."

"I can't think of a contemporary actress who could equal the largesse of her passions — on-screen or off." Kathleen Murphy at MSN Movies. "Can you imagine Julia Roberts or Angelina Jolie or Scarlett Johansson or Jennifer Aniston having the sexual heft to hungrily eye a stud like Paul Newman (Taylor's co-star in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof) as if he were the last bowl of milk ever? Could any of these pretty lightweights stand up to a fully charged Richard Burton in a slash-and-burn duel of wits and words (as she exhibited in her second Oscar-winning performance for 1966's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?)? … Besotted Richard Burton once accused her of being more of a man than a woman — and, in the unliberated 50s, we so tapped into that subtext: Taylor played the gender game as though she were as free as any man to pick and choose what gave her pleasure, without becoming a sexual victim. Leveling her measuring gaze at a suitor like a cocked gun, she projected ruthless sexual authority. She'd have unmanned TV's Mad Men, on the prowl during what would have been her heyday. I can tell you that any girl fighting the steel bit of that benighted decade's sexual double standard thrilled to the way Taylor let her impossibly lush body (36-21-36) out to play, without fear or apology or regret. For women already locked down, she provided vicarious, big-screen fantasy — a night out with Maggie the Cat."

"Taylor has her impressively histrionic moments in Virginia Woolf," writes Dan Callahan for the L, "especially in her liquor-soaked battles with Burton, but if you want to talk about precise, emotionally truthful film acting, take a look at the scene she plays by a kitchen door where Martha quietly talks about how she does not wish to be happy. Taylor was trained by MGM, not by Stella Adler or Lee Strasberg, but in a scene like this she is able to make an imaginative leap and exactly catch the masochistic heart of one of the most difficult and rewarding roles for a woman in all of twentieth century American theater."

"To this day, her performances — even the bad ones — give you the distinct and at times eerie feeling that she's right there in the room with you," writes Slate's Dana Stevens. "Her strangely liquid eyes — everyone talks about their mercurial blue-violet color, but what about that intense shininess? —  combined with that thin, unexpectedly girlish voice in a powerfully womanly body — create a quality of hyper-presence (and explain why so many men would refinance their houses to buy her a diamond bauble). Especially in the high-camp roles of the decadent 'Liz and Dick' era of the late 60s (this trailer for the 1968 Joseph Losey film Boom! will give you an idea) Taylor may have been histrionic, but she was never remote. 'If you have not met or known her, you have lost much in life,' scribbled the besotted Burton on the back of a photo of his two-time wife. But that was the thing about Taylor — she made you feel like you had.

"Burton and Taylor weren't just partners in love and life, but art as well and they made it four films in a role in 1966 when both gave their best screen performances in Mike Nichols's directing debut, Ernest Lehman's adaptation of Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virgnia Woolf?" Edward Copeland notes that, besides scoring Oscars for Taylor and Sandy Dennis, the film "also won Oscars for art direction, black-and-white costume design and Haskell Wexler's exquisite black-and-white cinematography. In all, the film was nominated for 13 Oscars and as far as I'm concerned is not only Taylor's greatest performance but her best film as well."


Hitfix's Drew McWeeney was working as a tour guide at Universal Studios when The Flintstones was being filmed. "One afternoon, as we were walking across the lot, I spotted the cast trailers, and wanted a friend to take a picture of me with Elizabeth Taylor's door. That's all. Just the door… I walked up the first few steps of her trailer so I could pose. That's when the door to the trailer swung open from inside and I found myself looking directly into the most famous pair of violet eyes in film history.  She may have been just past 60 at that point, but she didn't miss a beat. She sized me up, then turned to her assistant and said, 'I'm almost sure I didn't order this.' They do not make broads like that anymore. And I mean that will all due respect."

Updates, 3/24: "The last movie star died Wednesday," writes Manohla Dargis. "Unlike Marilyn, Liz survived. And it was that survival as much as the movies and fights with the studios, the melodramas and men (so many melodramas, so many men!) that helped separate Ms Taylor from many other old-Hollywood stars. She rocketed into the stratosphere in the 1950s, the era of the bombshell and the Bomb, when most of the top female box-office draws were blond, pneumatic and classifiable by type: good-time gals (Betty Grable), professional virgins (Doris Day), ice queens (Grace Kelly)… Living large proved a brilliant survival strategy as well as something of a rebuke to the limits of the studio system, both its formulas and false morality, which was all but gone by the time she appeared in Virginia Woolf in 1966. Her weight went up and down and the accolades kept coming. She cheated on one husband and then another at a time when adultery was still shocking, and her career kept going. She was a lovely actress and a better star. She embodied the excesses of Hollywood and she transcended them. In the end, the genius of her career was that she gave the world everything it wanted from a glamorous star, the excitement and drama, the diamonds and gossip, and she did it by refusing to become fame's martyr."

Also in the NYT, Cathy Horyn talks with Joel Rosenthal, "one of the top jewelers in the world… 'She was irresistible mayhem,' he said by telephone from Basel, Switzerland. 'And she was without vanity. She transcended whatever else she was doing, be it a mediocre script or a dress that didn't look right. You saw her. It was, let's get back to the face, the laughter.' He could still hear the singing tone of her voice as she signed off a telephone conversation: '"I love you,"' he said, 'in 18 syllables.' He paused, laughing to himself. 'I'm saying frighteningly banal things, but that's what a goddess does to you.'"

Plus, a special Op-Ed section, "Is It Harder to Be a Celebrity Now?," with five contributions, including one from Jonathan Rosenbaum: "She was a straight-shooter and a mensch, and we don't have too many of those left now."

"Of few deaths can it be said that they end an era, but hers does," writes Roger Ebert.

"No one as big as Elizabeth Taylor was can quite be forgotten, but the reasons why we remember her are not entirely clear," writes Andrew O'Hehir in Salon. "In her 2009 review of William J Mann's How to Be a Movie Star: Elizabeth Taylor in Hollywood, my colleague Laura Miller wrote that Taylor didn't much care about movies and that her real breakthrough was inventing a more candid and openly hedonistic model of public celebrity: 'What she really wanted was to lounge around on yachts and in luxury hotels, chowing down on fried chicken with "lots of gravy" and waking up to a Tiffany's box on her pillow on a fairly regular basis. Acting, fame and a few of her marriages were little more than means to those ends.' In the face of all that, it seems curiously old-fashioned to insist on going back to Taylor's actual film performances, which really can't be separated from the larger context of her performance as Elizabeth Taylor."

Also in Salon, Kerry Lauerman calls up Camille Paglia: "To me, Elizabeth Taylor's importance as an actress was that she represented a kind of womanliness that is now completely impossible to find on the US or UK screen. It was rooted in hormonal reality — the vitality of nature. She was single-handedly a living rebuke to postmodernism and post-structuralism, which maintain that gender is merely a social construct."

And: David Thomson's entry from his New Biographical Dictionary of Film and Cintra Wilson: "Elizabeth Taylor wasn't a celebrity so much as a part of cultural consciousness with as much resonance as an established religion or a letter of the alphabet — an impossible equation that really irritated the scientific mind in people, since she was always considerably more than the sum of her parts."

"I knew her best," writes Phil Nugent, "and came to love her the most, as a tough broad, a dinosaur surviving the crunch, redefining glamour and vulgarity by showing how well they could co-exist in one person's image, and not giving a flying fuck what anybody else thought of her. That's a quality that might have been a little off-putting in the most beautiful girl in the world, but it can seem liberating in a woman who used to be that girl and gone over a couple of hills since. I can't say that I ever looked forward to seeing her in a new movie, but it was fun to know that she was out there somewhere."

New York's David Edelstein: "What Taylor had was something oddly rare in the annals of movie stars: certainty. However frail or neurasthenic or ravaged she appeared, she needed no one else to tell her she was a star. And with that confidence came honesty. She had no airs."

"There is a very difficult scene in National Velvet between Taylor and [Mickey] Rooney, that plays out in one long take," writes Sheila O'Malley. "Both of them play this scene beautifully, and it shows their talent as actors. Long takes aren't for amateurs. Both characters go on a journey during this scene, they start out one way, and end another way. He has to break down in tears. She has to change tack a couple of times. She has to support him, talk him down, hug him. Of course when I first saw it as a kid, I didn't think to myself, 'Wow, this is one take,' but now that's all I can see. All I can see is two young people, one far younger than the other, sitting on the steps of a fake caravan, and launching themselves into the imaginary. With total faith and total belief." Taylor's "persona as a grown woman was voluptuous, but underneath all of that was a highly functioning human being, which was in evidence from the very beginning in that scene in National Velvet, and up until the very end."

"Though Bonnie and Clyde helped kick-start the emerging 70s cinema, Virginia Woolf was a formidable front runner and, in a few ways, more disturbingly violent," writes Kim Morgan. "Nothing so nasty has ever been so sickly beautiful."

For Entertainment Weekly, Adam B Vary's called up Debbie Reynolds: "She was the most glamorous and sensuous star of our generation. No one could equal Elizabeth's beauty and sexuality. Women liked her and men adored her — my husband included — and her love for her children is enduring. She was a symbol of stardom."

The Voice's Michael Musto: "My favorite period of hers was after her second Oscar for Virginia Woolf, when she and Dick Burton were game for anything, even a rip-roaring, cleavage-filled movie of Taming of the Shrew (1967) and 1972's Hammersmith Is Out, which Leonard Maltin describes as a 'grotesque comedy about a mental patient, his male nurse, and a hash slinger which proves once again that Liz and Dick would do anything for money.' Yeah, MY money!"

Kimberly Lindbergs for TCM: "Although she was wonderfully creepy opposite Laurence Harvey in the psychological thriller Night Watch (1973), incredibly sympathetic as Henry Fonda's neglected wife in Ash Wednesday (1973) and amazingly brave and brass in The Driver's Seat (1974), the 1970s are generally considered a forgettable decade in Taylor's long career before she was regulated to TV work. I don't happen to agree with that assumption, which is too often repeated and very rarely investigated. Taylor brought all of her life experience, problems and passions to her performances. Naturally this means that some of her later films were rather messy but rarely boring."

All Things Amazing collects a few photos, and yes, they are amazing.

Join the discussion.

The BBC gathers remembrances from Madonna, Barbra Streisand, Shirley MacLaine, Mickey Rooney, Liza Minnelli, Julie Andrews and more; Reuters reports on how media around the world is covering news of Taylor's passing.

For the Telegraph, Helen Brown selects the best books on Taylor: the previously mentioned How to Be a Movie Star and Furious Love but also Taylor's own My Love Affair with Jewelry and JG Ballard's Crash — which leads us to Ballardian, where Simon Sellars reviews "the appearance of this enigmatic actress across a significant chapter in Ballard's work, from the publication of the experimental story 'The Atrocity Exhibition' in 1966, through to 1973 and the notorious Crash. What did Taylor represent to Ballard? Less a sex symbol and more an indication of the parallel landscape that celebrity culture in the 1960s and 70s represented, a virtual reality colonizing the private lives of 'ordinary' people exposed, through mass communications, and on a hitherto unprecedented scale, to a world as strange as any alien planet, yet confusingly erotic and near — a readymade, synthetic substitute for reality itself."

David Thomson: "She had the range, nerve and instinct that only Bette Davis had had before — and like Davis, Taylor was monster and empress, sweetheart and scold, idiot and wise woman. We went in awe of her, but with one word or a knowing smile she assured us she was one of us. So beautiful, she could go crazy, too — and then move on."

Also in the Guardian, La JohnJoseph: "Elizabeth Taylor died on Joan Crawford's birthday: a wholly fitting date. The two leading ladies met on the set of Torch Song in the early 50s, a movie Crawford was filming with Taylor's second husband, Michael Wilding. And they did not hit it off; Crawford could see the future, and it was Taylor. When the younger actor declined to treat Crawford as the movie queen she was, the star branded her 'a little bitch' and threatened to teach her some manners. Taylor rebuffed her with typical nonchalance, saying how lucky Wilding was to play a blind man in the movie and therefore be spared the horror of looking at Crawford. If anything sums up Taylor's personality it's probably this meeting of minds, for it perfectly encapsulates her fierce independence, her rebellious nature, and her complete acceptance of her magnificent good looks. In refusing to kiss Hollywood arse, in throwing caution to the wind and her white-hot sexuality in the face of a public often as aghast as they were thrilled, Taylor bucked and redefined modern movie stardom."

How to Be a Retronaut gathers photos of Taylor as a child; Dangerous Minds runs that famously intimate shot of Taylor and David Bowie.

"If there's an archetypal Taylor scene we could focus on, it's the image of her sprawling in bed," suggests the Telegraph's Tim Robey. "One suspects she felt most comfortable acting when not having to stand, since most of her key roles furnish ample excuse to take to a four-poster, a sofa or a chaise-longue in a pose of either seduction, wailing decrepitude, or occasionally both. The poster for Cat on a Hot Tin Roof shows her perched, famously, in a white satin slip, with only bedposts and pillows behind her. The one for Suddenly, Last Summer has her in a state of troubled repose, while Monty Clift and Katharine Hepburn look in on her through the bedroom door. Cleopatra is virtually a Bed, Bath and Beyond tour of her Alexandrian palace, cushioning both the Caesar and Antony relationships with a staggering yardage of Egyptian silk and cotton."

Clancy Sigal in the Guardian: "During the filming of Giant, my duty as a Hollywood agent was to hang around Warner Brothers to pick off dissatisfied clients from rival agents and keep an ear open for money-making gossip. In the picture's lunch break for studio workers, who were setting up interiors and closeups, I got my taco and beans from the on-lot catering coach and at a plank table sat opposite a quite ordinarily attractive, freckle-faced woman, her hair in a bandanna, who I assumed was a makeup person or 'script girl.' She smiled pleasantly and seemed friendly enough. One thing led to another, and I asked for a date. She placed her hand across the table on mine and, I swear with regret, said, 'Dear heart, I'm already taken.' Oh, I said, I don't mind, and she gave this huge vulgar bellylaugh, really raucous, and that's when I recognized Elizabeth Taylor, not madeup for her role as Rock Hudson's wife and James Dean's love object in this epic movie about Texas."

MA Peel's favorite is The Sandpiper (1965), "directed by Vincent Minelli, written by Dalton Trumbo and Michael Wilson, from an original story by Martin Ransohoff, and it embodies, quite literally, the cultural shift that was happening in the midsixties, a.k.a. the sexual revolution."

"I've been thinking about Giant," blogs the New Yorker's Amy Davidson. "She made that film in 1956; when I saw it, about 35 years later, I was fascinated by the film's fantasies of aging, and why they never became real."

More trailers and clips: Dangerous Minds.

Updates, 3/25: Elizabeth Taylor was buried yesterday at the Forest Lawn Memorial Parks & Mortuaries in Glendale, California. Vulture runs a statement from her representative: "The service was scheduled to begin at 2 PM but at Miss Taylor's request started late. Miss Taylor had left instructions that it was to begin at least 15 minutes later than publicly scheduled, with the announcement, 'She even wanted to be late for her own funeral.'"

For the NYT, Brooks Barnes reports from the Abbey, "a sprawling gay bar" in West Hollywood, where Taylor would drop by once a week or so, "sipping tequila shots, downing watermelon and apple martinis or simply waving merrily from her wheelchair. Sometimes she brought her dog, Daisy, who, some bar-goers insist, liked to nod her head along to the bar's throbbing Madonna soundtrack. The scene in the 'Elizabeth Taylor Room' — her favorite spot amid the Abbey's many nooks and crannies — was decidedly somber just after news of her death on Wednesday. Regulars, fans and Abbey employees started leaving flowers, candles, pictures and other tokens of affection (an autographed napkin) around a donation Ms Taylor once made to the bar: a large portrait of herself in her prime."


Phillips de Pury has announced "that it will be offering an Andy Warhol portrait of the actress in its May 12 contemporary art sale, carrying a seriously hefty estimate of up to $30 million." Artinfo reports: "Titled Liz #5 [right], the 1963 portrait — silk-screened against a turquoise background — comes from an unnamed private collection, and will hit the block at a time of potentially extraordinary interest. Beyond any ghoulish increase the actress's passing might confer on the painting's price, it comes to auction just months after The Men in Her Life [left], a 1962 Warhol painting depicting Taylor, sold at Phillips for $63.4 million — the second-highest price ever for a Warhol at auction."

The AP reports that Broadway will be dimming its lights tonight in honor of Taylor, who "made her first appearance on Broadway in the 1981 revival of Lillian Hellman's The Little Foxes and was nominated for a best actress Tony Award. Taylor returned to Broadway in 1983 as producer and star of Noël Coward's Private Lives opposite her former husband, Richard Burton. She also produced The Corn is Green that year."

The Telegraph runs Truman Capote's 1974 portrait: "My first discovery about her was that despite an amusing abundance of four-lettered profanity, she was in various areas a moralist, quite a strict one, almost Calvinistic… The second surprise was how well-read Taylor seemed to be — not that she made anything of it, or posed as an intellectual, but clearly she cared about books and, in haphazard style, had absorbed a large number of them. And she discussed them with considerable understanding of the literary process; all in all, it made one wonder about the men in her life — with the exception of Mike Todd, who had had a certain flashbulb-brightness, a certain neon-savvy, her husbands thus far had not been a whiplash lot: Nicky Hilton, Michael Wilding, Mr Fisher — what on earth did this very alert and swift-minded young woman find to talk to them about? 'Well, one doesn't always fry the fish one wants to fry. Some of the men I've really liked really didn't like women.'"

Updates, 3/26: "I'd love to know the technical explanation of a strange phenomenon," writes Dick Cavett, recalling the night Taylor served as his magician's assistant. "First gazing upon that sublimely gorgeous face, you were struck by the fact that she was even more beautiful in person. Yes, the camera and screen did not — and how silly it sounds to say — do Elizabeth Taylor justice."

"Following her death on Wednesday, book projects have been brought forward to take advantage of a renewed interest in her career — and the opportunity to publish revelations without being sued," reports Rob Sharp in the Independent. "British publishers Mainstream, JR Books, Macmillan and Faber are all prioritizing biographies about Taylor to be published in the coming weeks. Mainstream's book, Elizabeth Taylor: The Lady, The Lover, The Legend: 1932-2011 by Hollywood biographer David Bret, is being released 'imminently' with Mainstream's managing director Bill Campbell claiming the author feared legal reprisals from Taylor because of its contents. The other three releases are either paperbacks or reprints, whose release dates have also been shifted forward. 'We are the only new book,' said Mr Campbell. 'We have been holding it back because it is controversial in parts. Current libel laws would have prevented it. I would call it as much a tribute as it is revelatory.'"

On a related note, Carolyn Kellogg takes a quick look at 16 books on Taylor for the Los Angeles Times.

"She filled my childhood," writes Barry Levine in the NYT. "In the late 1960s and 70s, my mother kept a never-ending supply of every pulp movie star magazine and gossip tabloid imaginable on our coffee table in Levittown, Pa — and she consumed all of them with gusto. Liz and Dick! Liz and Eddie! Liz's continued feud with Debbie! Liz's latest illness! Liz's latest heartbreak!… Although their lives were a world apart, Mom lived and died through every romantic heartbreak, every hospital visit of her beloved Liz. She lived by the words, 'If Lizzie can keep on ticking, so can I.' I'm sure her mantra was also that of countless moms across America, briefly diverted from their routines by living vicariously through Ms Taylor's astonishing life."

Updates, 3/27: "For people like myself, born in Britain in the inter-war years and growing up during the second world war, Elizabeth Taylor will always be thought of as the youngest of four British evacuees who brought their immaculate English accents to Hollywood and became an essential part of a corner of Tinseltown that was forever England," writes the Observer's Philip French. "Taylor, [Peter] Lawford and [Roddy] McDowall were all in the tribute to British fortitude, The White Cliffs of Dover (1944), and the 12-year-old Taylor became a star as the farmer's daughter who triumphed at Aintree in National Velvet, with [Angela] Lansbury as her elder sister… So how will history judge her? In 1999, the American Film Institute, after an earnest weighing of evidence over performance, reputation, influence and so on, came up with a list of more than 100 film actresses who might be considered female screen legends. They submitted it to a carefully chosen selection of professionals from all branches of the film industry. Taylor was placed seventh, just ahead of Judy Garland, Marlene Dietrich and Joan Crawford and behind Katharine Hepburn, Bette Davis, Audrey Hepburn, Ingrid Bergman, Greta Garbo and Marilyn Monroe. This seems, for the moment, a satisfactory seating arrangement in the cinematic pantheon."

"I was 16 when I went to Rome to film alongside her in Cleopatra," writes Francesca Annis in the Telegraph. "Many people describe how, when meeting Elizabeth Taylor for the first time, they expected her to be special, given all they had heard about her and seen of her – but that still she took their breath away. And when I met her on the set in Rome, that is how it was for me."

Update, 3/28: Another amazing gallery of photos, this one at everyday_i_show.

Update, 3/29: Artdaily posts a gallery of front pages from all over: "The World Says Goodbye to Elizabeth Taylor."

Updates, 3/31: "This week's Nomad Wide Screen is devoted entirely to Elizabeth Taylor," notes the Siren, "as it should be." Glenn Kenny runs excerpts from his piece on Taylor's films "perceived through a sort-of auteurist prism."

Listening. Stephen Metcalf, Dana Stevens and Julia Turner discuss Taylor in the second segment of this week's Slate Culture Gabfest.

"One important name missing from the plethora of tributes to Elizabeth Taylor was MGM's leading costume designer of the 1950s, Helen Rose, who was largely responsible for intensifying Taylor's distractingly sensual image at the height of her fame." Ronald Bergan offers a corrective at the House Next Door.

Updates, 4/7: Viewing (8'34"). Catherine Grant presents Framing Incandescence, a study of Elizabeth Taylor as Helen Burns in Jane Eyre. "As befits a 'Primer,' rather than aiming to generate completely new insights, this 'rich text object' attempts, within the time-space of an average YouTube fan clip, to assemble and combine quotations from existing film scholarship on its topic with sequences from the film in question in order to provide a meaningful, scholarly and affective, immersive experience."

"Maggie, la eterna." Pedro Almodóvar's remembrance in El País.

Earlier: A roundup of reviews of William J Mann's How to Be a Movie Star: Elizabeth Taylor in Hollywood. For news and tips throughout the day every day, follow @thedailyMUBI on Twitter and/or the RSS feed.

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