Words cannot express how truly devastated I am by the news that Elizabeth Taylor has passed away. I know that some people may consider that statement to be insensitive and callous in light of recent events in Japan and the Middle East, but I do not mean to be uncaring or out-of-touch with world events when I say that her death has shaken me.
Elizabeth Taylor is a great hero of mine. I've written about her on DRG in the past, but never enough to accurately express how large a space in my heart she takes. She was the first actress I fell in love with on the screen. I was six years old and had recently began my decade-long love affair with horse-back riding. As a gift, I received a VHS copy of National Velvet, which starred a young Elizabeth as a girl quite like me - stuck in the middle of a loving family, but with an all-consuming passion for horses and the sport of riding.
From then, I grew up according to Elizabeth's movies - watching Little Women, Father of the Bride, and A Place in the Sun, before graduating to her more mature films like Butterfield 8 and Suddenly, Last Summer. Her performances were always sophisticated and nuanced - her portrayal of Maggie The Cat in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (one of my all-time favorite films) is a great example of that. Watching the film without prior knowledge of who Elizabeth was, you'd find it difficult to believe that the woman playing the Southern vixen Maggie was indeed born in London. She does the Southern social climber role so well that it seems like she's just herself and the camera is rolling without direction.
Elizabeth always made her work look easy, which was a great talent of hers but also cost her some critical appreciation. She made acting look so effortless that it was easy to lose focus from her performance and instead turn attention to her mesmerizing beauty. While she was always a famous movie star, she wasn't always a celebrated actress. After she won the Oscar for Butterfield 8 - a film where Elizabeth was plagued by severe physical ailments - Shirley MacLaine (who was nominated in the same category for The Apartment) famously exclaimed, "I lost the Oscar to a tracheotomy." It took tough roles like Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and The Taming of the Shrew for audiences and critics alike to see how talented Elizabeth really was.
While Elizabeth was known during her lifetime for her love of jewels, her many marriages, her violet eyes, and her scandalous public persona, I hope that she will be remembered at the supremely talented actress and wonderfully generous woman that she was.
Title: from "Crests of Waves" (Coldplay)