Wednesday, March 23, 2011

In Memoriam: Elizabeth Taylor (February 27th, 1932-March 23rd, 2011)

Elizabeth Taylor's death today at the age of 79 has brought about the end of an era. Like both Paul Newman and Tony Curtis' recent deaths, there are certain stars that represent a piece of classic Hollywood that can't be replaced. It reminds us that the "golden days" of Hollywood are rapidly disappearing with the deaths of its legends. Their old films stories and anecdotes are going with them.

Taylor was the true definition of a Hollywood star -- talented, beautiful and controversial in her everyday life. Having worked alongside the likes of Rock Hudson, James Dean, Marlon Brando and Richard Burton, Taylor managed to hold her own and commanded the screen in a way few actresses could.

Taylor passed away at Cedars-Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles, where she'd been hospitalized for the last six weeks. She ultimately succumbed to congestive heart failure after decades of poor health.

The five time Oscar nominee, and two time winner (for her roles in Butterfield 8 in 1961 and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? in 1967), used her fame to bring attention to a variety of causes. In 1993, she was awarded the Academy's Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award. When her close friend and former co-star, Rock Hudson, passed away in 1984 of complications from AIDS, Taylor founded the National AIDS Research Foundation. Her eight marriages, while scandalous and often talked about, were only a small part of what made her Elizabeth Taylor -- the generous, violet-eyed actress and humanitarian. Her good deeds and loyalty to her lifelong friends (most notably Michael Jackson) far overshadowed anything written in the gossip columns. She was always her own woman, regardless of the opinion of those around her.

The first time I ever saw Taylor in a film was when I was a little girl. My mom showed my sister and I the 1949 version of Little Women. She was beautiful, snobby and hilarious. To this day, the most perfect interpretation of the character of Amy March is, and always will be, the one played by Elizabeth Taylor.

As I got older I saw The Taming of the Shrew, Reflections in a Golden Eye and Giant, yet it was her role in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof that always stayed with me. Paired with Paul Newman, Taylor was a powerhouse in the role Maggie Pollitt -- the frustrated wife of Newman's hard-drinking Brick. Taylor was born to recite the dialogue of Tennessee Williams. The quiet, albeit vicious, strength and determination she instilled in her characterization of Maggie was what stayed with me most after the closing credits -- that, and those violet eyes.

Hollywood is now, once again, short one more star -- and there won't ever be another like Liz Taylor.