Thursday, March 24, 2011

Rant #469: Elizabeth Taylor-ed Her Own Life

Elizabeth Taylor, the last of the real movie stars, died yesterday. She was 79 and had been battling a barrage of illnesses for years, although she died of heart failure.

With her passing, old Hollywood has finally closed its book.

She was part of the old Hollywood system, where a studio signed you, and you worked for that studio until your contract ran out. They basically ran your lives, generated publicity about you, blocked other publicity ... they were your mother hen.

But Elizabeth was not going to entirely go under their wing.

In fact, she basically flapped her own wings for her 79 years of life.

She was an absolutely stunning beauty, with nearly perfect features top to bottom. And she had those eyes--were they purple, or what color were they? They were as stunning as her figure was.

Scandal followed her like she invented it. When she wasn't bedding one man, she was bed-hopping with another.

And she did this all during the 1950s and 1960s, when such things weren't bragged about like they are today.

She was somewhat old fashioned. Once she bedded a man, she pretty much married him, until she bedded another guy, and then she married him. Eight marriages to seven different men ... yes, she was a busy woman indeed.

And who could forget--or at least not be fascinated with--her efforts in this regard related to the film "Cleopatra." She lived the life, stealing away Eddie Fisher from Debbie Reynolds and then dumping him for Richard Burton.

I guess she really was a modern Cleopatra.

She was a fine actress, not some busty bimbo who pretends to act. She won two Oscars, for "Butterfield 8," where she played a call girl, and for "Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolff?", where she played a raspy oversexed neanderthal woman.

And the love of her life, Richard Burton, even though he was something of Hollywood royalty, too, well, even he couldn't keep up with her, even after he gave her that huge diamond ring in the late 1960s.

Her later years were marred by illnesses which pretty much robbed her of her beauty, and often her sanity. Her bloatedness, and her friendship with the likes of Michael Jackson, pretty much defined that part of her life.

But she was sane enough to be one of the first spokespersons for those with AIDS. Her friendship with Rock Hudson made such a large stamp on her life that this will really be her ultimate legacy, beyond the films she made.

If she lived out her life in today's world, what would have been the impact, in this Facebook and Twitter age where the biggest star in the world right now might be mentally ill Charlie Sheen?

It is hard to tell. Today, Hollywood stars go bed hopping and brag about it, so I would say that she wouldn't have had the impact today that she had way back when.

She basically did things back then that rankled the staid 1950s and early 1960s.

Good girls didn't do that. And if they did, like in "Butterfield 8," they were called sluts and got slapped in the face.

Only in real life, Elizabeth Taylor was the one doing the face slapping ... to us, as a culture.

She will be missed, but not ever forgotten.

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