Elizabeth Taylor

As the Baby Boomer icons die off, I prefer to ignore their passing and the slow recession of the 50s and 60s in memory’s rear-view mirror, as I ignore the living icons themselves in their variously decrepit states. Why would I have anything to say about Liz now? I tuned her out back when Burton died. Say, are they together again, up in heaven? Is he drunk and are they already raging at each other? I hope so.

Anyway, there are three items, factoids, memories that do pop up in my brain regarding Ms Taylor:

1. The rich guy she married, who got killed in a plane crash? He was supposed to have the circumference of a beer can. It was presumed at the time that this was Taylor’s main reason for marrying him. Mind you, this was back when crushing a beer can with one hand meant something, because the cans were still made of tin.

2. Roddy McDowell shot a lot of nude pictures of Taylor at the height of her powers and got some of them posted in a Playboy article. By this time, McDowell was best known as an intelligent ape with a suspiciously high voice. This new window into the relationship between Taylor and McDowell seemed somehow revelatory to me, although no further nude pictures eventuated.

3. Christmas of ’63 I was visiting my girlfriend’s family in Salt Lake City. One night we went out to eat and then on to Cleopatra (1963). It was playing in one of those old movie palaces that are long gone now. We sat up rather near the front in a packed house. As I waited for the movie to start, I was reminded of my excitement when I went to see Ben-Hur (1959). I was in the front row for that one, and it didn’t disappoint. But I think we already knew that Cleopatra, famously the most expensive movie ever made, mostly because of Ms Taylor’s salary, was something of a stinker. Still, one can hope. You had to go see it, and by “you,” I mean everybody. I was disappointed. Instead of a chariot race, we got Ms Taylor visiting Rome on a float.

Watching Vivien Leigh act up in Caesar and Cleopatra (1945) the other night, I thought that it might be fun to watch the Taylor Cleo again, just to compare the two screen queens. Checking Netflix, I see that it’s available. Somehow over the years, I don’t remember noticing it on the library shelves. Maybe I’ve just been ignoring it. Roddy McDowell as Caesar Augustus. Another reason that he got to take the nude photos.

P.S. The nation learned a lot about tracheotomies – I mean, what they are, so forth – when Elizabeth got plugged up that time. Her scar photos ruled the magazines for a while.

P.S.S. I haven’t been looking closely, but I would have expected more National Velvet shots.

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