RIP Dame Elizabeth Taylor
I can’t remember life without Elizabeth Taylor. I’ve always loved her. I think for the longest time it was mostly because we both had brown hair and blue eyes (it’s amazing how powerful that kind of connection can be when you are six years old). Over the last year or so I have seen about 9 of her films (prior to that I think I’d seen five others) and I’ve grown to appreciate her talent. She was an amazing woman on and off the screen and she will be sorely missed.
I thought it would be fitting to discuss the films for which she was nominated for Oscars. I would. however, like to mention one of my favorite of her films, one that she was not nominated for – 1956’s Giant. You can read more about my thoughts on that film here. Although, Elizabeth Taylor made her film debut in 1942, she didn’t receive her first Oscar nomination until 1957. She then received four nominations in a row, as well as a fifth in 1966. Of those five nominations she won twice.
She received her first Academy Award nomination for 1957’s Raintree County. I still haven’t seen this film, so I can’t really talk about it. In it she co-starred with Montgomery Clift. I believe it was during the production of this film that Clift got into his infamous car accident, Taylor supposedly pulled him from the wreckage. She lost the award to Joanne Woodward in The Three Faces of Eve.
Her next nomination was for playing Maggie the Cat in 1958’s Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. I love her in this film. She is smoldering and has the most exquisite chemistry with Paul Newman. Although she was already a huge star by the time this film came out, this is the film that cemented her as a bona fide “movie star.” This is the movie that made her an icon. She lost the Academy Award to Susan Hayward in I Want To Live!
Her next nomination came from her work in 1959’s Suddenly, Last Summer, co-starring with Katharine Hepburn and Montgomery Clift. This was probably Taylor’s most complex role to date. Although the film sometimes feels a little melodramatic, both Hepburn and Taylor give dynamic, weighty performances. Both were nominated for Best Actress that year, both lost to Simone Signoret in Room At The Top.
Her fourth nomination in a row came from 1960’s BUtterfield 8, co-starring Laurence Harvey and Eddie Fisher. This film is really not that good, but Taylor’s performance is astounding. It lifts the film from drowning in its own melodrama. She weaves in and out of the film, between her two costars, oozing charisma and charm, as well as deep melancholy. The end of the film is absolutely ridiculous, but that’s neither here nor there. Taylor won the Academy Award for Best Actress for this performance.
Taylor’s last Academy Award nomination came from 1966’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Not only is this Taylor’s best performance, it is one of the greatest performances to ever grace the silver screen. What’s so wonderful about this performance, this film really, is the mixing of Old Hollywood with New Hollywood. This is one of those wonderful films that came right when the eras were shifting in American filmmaking and Mike Nichols managed to get one of the most beloved Old Hollywood stars to give this amazing, riveting, edgy, thoroughly modern performance. She attacks this role with unbelievable gusto and never lets up for a minute. If you’ve never seen any of Elizabeth Taylor films or you doubt her talent as an actress, kindly watch this film and then get back to me. She won her second Academy Award for this film.
Although Elizabeth Taylor had many husbands, in my heart she will always be with Richard Burton. I love the two of them separately, but I also love the two of them together. In my mind the two of them are together now and forever. Rest in peace you titans of the silver screen. Thank you for all that you gave us. You will never be forgotten.