Sad news today that Liz Taylor, one of the last great actors of the golden age of the Hollywood star system, has passed away due to heart failure at age 79.
While her personal life became the stuff of tabloid legend (7 husbands and a score of highly-publicized affairs), we should never lose sight of the fact that Taylor was as accomplished and talented as she was glamorous. Breaking out as a 12-year old child star alongside Mickey Rooney in “National Velvet,” Taylor was already considered one of the premier beauties of Hollywood by the time she starred with James Dean in “Giant” at age 22. An astonishing career soon followed, with roles in projects as varied as the Tennessee Williams adaptations “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” and “Suddenly, Last Summer,” the famously bloated sword-and-sandal epic “Cleopatra,” and Mike Nichols’ ground-breaking screen version of Edward Albee’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” In the latter two she starred along Richard Burton, her husband at the time, and combined the two became the ultimate Hollywood power couple; their star wattage often threatened to blot out the sun (I’m only semi-kidding here; modern star couples like Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie or Ben Affleck and whatever Jennifer he’s with today don’t even come close to receiving the amount of scrutiny and idealization that these guys did, which is saying something).
Taylor was nominated for 5 Academy Awards and won twice, for “Butterfield 8” and “Virginia Woolf.”
I’m planning to write an extended obit/tribute/puff piece for both this blog and The Amherst Student; so for now I’ll just say that Taylor, whatever her personal troubles, was a grand ol’ gal of the silver screen, and a star presence the like of which we’ll probably never see again. She will be missed.