Elizabeth Taylor: In Memoriam 1932-2011

By Jacobowitz, Florence; Lippe, Richard | CineAction, Spring 2012 | Go to article overview

Elizabeth Taylor: In Memoriam 1932-2011


Jacobowitz, Florence, Lippe, Richard, CineAction


Elizabeth Taylor spent most of her life in the public eye; her status as a Hollywood actress was a part of the broader personality that also encompassed her iconic beauty, eight marriages (two of which were preceded by scandal) religious conversion, family, major illnesses, love of animals, political alliances and personal friendships, jewelry indulgences, that all produced 'Elizabeth Taylor' in the public domain.

Taylor's film career can be seen as dividing along the line of Cleopatra (1963) and the tumultuous relationship with Richard Burton. The pre-Cleopatra period includes Taylor as a child of the studio system who, at nineteen, makes A Place in the Sun (1951) a film that marks her entry into adulthood. She evolves into a sensuous, vivacious woman, and becomes labelled 'the most beautiful woman in the world'. This image defined Taylor into the early 60's.

In the latter half of the 50's, Taylor was a star whose persona challenged the stringent production code during a period of transition in which Hollywood was competing with television. Films such as Giant (1956), Raintree County (1957), Cat on a Hot tin Roof (1958), Suddenly Last Summer (1959) and Butterfield 8 (1960), call attention to Taylor's physicality and incorporate a variety of identities simultaneously: mother, lover, sister, and friend.

Beginning with Cleopatra and the end of the classical cinema, Taylor becomes a superstar who commands an astronomical salary. The spectacle of her life takes on new meaning both in terms of her love relationship with Richard Burton and the commodities associated with the celebrity lifestyle, la (lake vita. …

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