March 24, 2011

RIP Elizabeth Taylor

I used this picture of Liz Taylor with Montgomery Clift, because I'm really surprised that he has hardly been mentioned in all the eulogies, even after a thorough listing of all her numerous marriages, major and minor ones. They're the most glamorous and fascinating gay/bestie hag pairing that Hollywood has ever produced, and in many ways, Clift was the love of her life. They starred in three movies together, all three of which are really worth a viewing. Particularly in Suddenly Last Summer, you can witness the easy going and conspiratorial chemistry between them, that can only come from being the oldest of friends. Taylor saved Clift's life during the filming of Raintree County (Hollywood's failed attempt at recreating Gone With the Wind), by dislodging broken teeth from his throat after a car crash. Her effort to save and redeem Clift, whose life was perpetually tragic and alcohol/drug ridden, continued until his death at age 46.

It's a weird thing to mourn celebrity deaths, especially when the world is literally falling apart, with climate disasters and wars going on. It's certainly obnoxious to log on to Facebook and see the usual jumping in the bandwagon banalities of all the RIPs. Conversely, there's the usual backlash of "why do we mourn this vapid actress's death so much, when humanitarians and scientists die every day?" While I think entertainers, like musicians and actors, do probably get more attention they deserve when they die, I think it's not the case when it comes to actresses like Liz Taylor. On one hand, there's the image of Liz Taylor as the ditzy old woman- constantly confused, preoccupied with her perfumes and jewels... But Liz Taylor, the young actress, and the body of work she has left, I think is an important one that should most definitely be celebrated. Because Taylor was not just a great beauty and a great actress. She thoroughly embodied both the real and the super woman on screen, and in my opinion, that is something just as important as the cure for cancer.

Taylor was a master at playing desperation. She acted out desperation with the ferocity of both a wounded animal and a battle scarred warrior. When her characters had to be ridiculous or weak or wicked, she played it all to a hilt. But she managed to layer even the most pitiable characters with dignified resignation. Many of her characters, the way she played them, were smarter, stronger, wiser, more resilient and patient then her male counterparts. On the screen, men didn't always yield to her will, but when she left, they were never whole again. However much this was in contradiction to her personal life, I have a hard time caring. She gave it her all on the screen and was absolutely fearless about it, and that's what I celebrate as we mourn her death.