Remembering Elizabeth Taylor, the actress
March 23rd, 2011
01:53 PM ET

Remembering Elizabeth Taylor, the actress

When you live life as grandly as Elizabeth Taylor did, there’s a lot to keep up with.

There was her heartfelt humanitarianism, her legendary style and her many husbands. But if that’s all you know of her, perhaps because you’re too young to have grown up with Taylor on the silver screen, you’re missing out on “how extraordinarily beautiful she was and what a very strong actress she was,” says New York Times film critic A.O. Scott.

Taylor starred in a number of movies, with two of them nabbing her Oscars: 1960’s “Butterfield 8” and 1966’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf," but her career began long before then.

“She came to the screen very young, and made a very big impression almost immediately with ‘National Velvet’ in 1944,” Scott explains. Taylor, he says, “really embodied an era where to be a great actor and a great movie star kind of went together; [she] did some really extraordinary work.”

And while her really active film period spanned about 25 years, Scott says, "in that time, she was in some pretty amazing movies.”

First example? “A Place in the Sun” with Montgomery Clift and Shelley Winters, a 1951 role that Scott believes Taylor "regarded as a breakthrough in her own seriousness as an actress.”

And then there’s the aforementioned “Butterfield 8” and “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf,” the latter of which Scott holds up as the crème de la crème of Taylor performances.

“It was one without any kind of vanity or glamour; she put on weight for the role,” Scott says. “She was playing a middle-aged woman and was in her 30s when she did it. [She was] really going all out in what was at the time a very extreme and provocative adaptation.”

Of course, there are plenty who automatically think “Cleopatra” when they think “Elizabeth Taylor,” and in some ways that makes sense. “‘Cleopatra’ will be figured in how people remember her because it’s a big movie star movie. It’s over-the-top in every way, with the make-up and the jewelry and the costumes.”

But if you really want to see “what she and Richard Burton could do when it comes to really acting and burning up the screen,” he goes on, “then ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf’ is the one.”

Those are the standouts, but there are many others worthy of viewing, like her sensual turn in 1958’s “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” with Paul Newman and Burl Ives.

“It’s hard to think of two better looking people to have on-screen at the same time as Paul Newman and Elizabeth Taylor,” Scott says. “If you wanted to see the kind of pure potency and sex appeal that she and he had, that’s a good one.”

Really though, Taylor had the ability to captivate regardless of the film.

“She has that thing that defined a movie star,” Scott says. “When she was on screen, your attention was on her. Whatever she was doing, whatever she was playing, she was what you were watching. And she always had that, from a very young age right up to the end.”

Filed under: Celebrities • movies

soundoff (20 Responses)
  1. Fabio

    She was a Treasure: nobody more Beautiful than her!

    November 10, 2011 at 4:48 am | Report abuse |
  2. lol

    This troll must be very bored.

    March 24, 2011 at 10:55 am | Report abuse |
  3. toad

    She did an incredible job as Mrs. Garrett on Facts o LIfe. Plus her impersonation of Marlon Brando was dead on ! She rocked !

    March 24, 2011 at 6:45 am | Report abuse |
  4. elle

    Way overrated. If she was so great why didnt they include her in the IN MEMORIUM section of the academy awards this year. They included alot of actors who passed away but not her. Obvioisly she was a B lister at best.

    March 24, 2011 at 6:42 am | Report abuse |
  5. Andrea

    I liked her work in different shows she was an inspired actress. She was there for her family and friends who really helped her when she was not feeling well. I miss her talent, her grace she was a great icon to every one.

    March 24, 2011 at 2:43 am | Report abuse |
  6. Kayla

    She was a good actress. I am young so I dont know all her movies but the ones that I do she did great on. She was bigger then life. She deserves to be remembered for her being a great actress and for her support and help with Aids.

    March 24, 2011 at 1:47 am | Report abuse |
  7. heidi ho

    Great woman and wonderful actress! Who cares if she had 8 husbands? Thats alot less than most women sleep with these days. She made enough money to live her life the way she wanted and could pick and choose. Whats the difference? Old men chase young girls all the time. People are just jealous. Youll live on forever!

    March 23, 2011 at 10:31 pm | Report abuse |
  8. bboop1

    Being born in 1959, I grew up reading and hearing Ms. Taylor being described as the most beautiful woman, and a bigger than life persona;now that she has passed, we have lost a rare flower, the likes of which we may never see again. She was not afraid to live; 8 marriages, she was a mother,she embraced AIDS and was a stauch activist and supporter of AmFar, she won two Oscars, in a time when actors were real actors, not You tube sensations. She endured so many illnesses and had been given up for dead long before this final curtain call. We have lost one of the great ones;she leaves a legacy in her body of work and in the hearts and minds of all she touched.She was not perfect, as no one is,but she apparently was able to love others,besides herself.Her life should serve as a lesson for us all; live,love,laugh, and enjoy the ride, coz' none of us live forever! R.I.P., dear lady, and may God have mercy on your soul!

    March 23, 2011 at 5:51 pm | Report abuse |

    II bet she is down there where it is good and warm chasing after Chippendale dancer ghost as we type. 🙂

    March 23, 2011 at 5:05 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Me

    So she was a cougar! She could afford to be anything she wanted!! She gave us some good movies & some laughs. Everybody goes downhill sooner or later, at least she had some fun. A lot of charity work, too.Well RIP, Liz.

    March 23, 2011 at 4:09 pm | Report abuse |
    • Cheese Wiz

      She often would consume a block of Monetery Jack at one sitting and this lead to her being a fat cow...all that doo doo couldnt get out.

      March 24, 2011 at 7:51 am | Report abuse |

    LOL ! She dd ! She was always sniffing around them young male models. She seemed like a dirty old woman always a wanting the young guys to service her.

    March 23, 2011 at 3:47 pm | Report abuse |
  12. HANK

    I remember her mostly for being a grossly obese older lady that chased after young guys.

    March 23, 2011 at 3:43 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Ponch

    MOOOOOOOOOOO she was a big huge giant fatty.

    March 23, 2011 at 3:32 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Ponch

    Was she the really fat cow that dated all the young guys ?

    March 23, 2011 at 3:31 pm | Report abuse |
  15. WILLA

    Years ago I saw her perform at the old Apollo Theater in Harlem. Her performance of Mammy ang Good OL Summertime just blew me away. Who knew she could sing like this? Later we saw her on stage with Cass Elliot. INCREDIBLE. She will be greatly missed.

    March 23, 2011 at 3:17 pm | Report abuse |
  16. JOSH

    She was very very old for an elderly person.

    March 23, 2011 at 3:11 pm | Report abuse |
  17. Tina Guyse

    Dame Elizabeth Taylor was the last real Hollywood actress. I always admired her not only for her humanitian work but she fought and stood her ground when it came to being a loyal friend to the late great King of Pop (which she dubbed him by the way) Michael Jackson. God bless her soul and thank goodness MJ has his Liberian Girl by his side

    March 23, 2011 at 3:08 pm | Report abuse |
  18. njcagirlnow

    Elizabeth Taylor was full of wit and grace and I used to see her visiting with Malcolm Forbes Sr. in Bedminster New Jersey in the late 1980's. She used to be seen on the back of Malcolm's motorcyle on Rt. 206 in Bedminster riding with his cycle club at the time. They seemed to have a close friendship in the late 1980's together.

    Also, I saw Elizabeth Taylor sitting in a small shop in Disneyland outside of Splash Mountain late at night, in her wheelchair. I looked up with surprise as I was shopping and noticed a women looking at me. It was Elizabeth Taylor in the Winnie The Pooh store near Splash Mountain. She was there escorted by three young people in their 20's. Perhaps her grandchildren. I was stunned and ran to tell my husband who was there. I did not want to invade her privacy, so I didn't speak to her as she sat with her dark hair, diamonds and a cane in a wheelchair looking glamorous.
    We were at the back of the park, around 11: 30 pm and hardly anyone around noticed it was Elizabeth Taylor. That blew my mind. I wonder if she was having dinner ealier at Club 33 that night. I watched as the young escorts, one was a young mediterranian guy pushing her, leave after buying sweets at the store. This was around two years ago.
    My fondest wishes to her family and all her loved ones. We will miss her. She was wonderful.

    March 23, 2011 at 2:58 pm | Report abuse |

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