They come and they go. In our age of celebrity culture it can be difficult enough just keeping up with who’s who, let alone notice the passing of names that might once have been household. But every so often a giant disappears, something we’ve seen a bit too much of over the last few years as iconic figures from “golden ages” past insist on proving that they are, after all, only human. And there can be no doubting the status of Elizabeth Taylor, not just within “celebrity culture”, but more meaningfully within the history of the Hollywood film throughout what was arguably its most glorious period.
Furious love : Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, and the marriage of the century by Sam Kashner and Nancy Schoenberger
The central pillar of Taylor’s life, whether she was married to him or not, was Richard Burton, and this history of their relationship in and out of their two marriages has been widely praised for its portrayal of two vastly different iconoclasts who just couldn’t do without each other. Now with a great title like that, who’s going to write the musical?
The received wisdom of the Hollywood studio system is that it was in total control of all aspects of its star’s personal lives and careers, and for the most part this was probably true. Whereas a ferociously independent actress such as Bette Davis spent almost her entire career at loggerheads with the system (and paid a hefty price for it), this books demonstrates how Taylor allowed herself to be manipulated by the studios, but in turn managed to manipulate back, creating a whole new type of celebrity. Having been connected to the system from around the age of nine she understood all too clearly how best to survive and prosper within it.
Here’s a curio. Not a tell-all memoir (drat!), but a book detailing Taylor’s ongoing battle with her weight, complete with helpful tips and menus. Enough said……
This is a more straightforward life story, well researched and covering just about every incident in a very crowded life.
You probably wouldn’t expect to find a portrait of Elizabeth Taylor in our Picture Collection, but I found this lovely silkscreen print in our Red Planet poster archive.
And to end, one of my favourite Elizabeth Taylor quotes:
“The problem with people who have no vices is that generally you can be pretty sure they’re going to have some pretty annoying virtues.”