Heartbreaking, if not entirely shocking news: Elizabeth Taylor passed away this morning in Los Angeles.
What can one really say when a legend dies? She was one of the most wholly beautiful women to ever grace the cinema, a proper Movie Star of the finest sort, adding glamour and lush sensuality to anything just by walking onscreen . She gave one of the great performances of a generation in the film adaptation of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? but her talents as an actress were secondary to the incredible vitality and presence she brought to every performance, even the ones that, in the cold light of day, weren’t quite as “good” as the others.
I just saw her excellent turn in the 1959 Suddenly, Last Summer for the first time earlier this month; I was especially shocked and impressed by how effortlessly she held the screen in the face of Katharine Hepburn at her grimiest and Montgomery Clift at his… being Monty Clift-ish-ness. It’s as fine a crash course in what made Taylor such an essential star as anything I’ve seen, though I’ll not claim to have seen nearly everything she’s made. For today, I am perhaps going to curl up with all four hours of her famously misbegotten Cleopatra, a movie I’ve been putting off for ages; or perhaps use it as an excuse to re-watch a perennial favorite of mine, A Place in the Sun. At any rate, now is the moment to remember and celebrate the life of one of the last icons of classical Hollywood, an actress of ethereal beauty and uncommon skill.