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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Elizabeth Taylor: it's really not easy being beautiful

On the radio this morning nobody seems to know what to say about Elizabeth Taylor that doesn't use the word "icon", which is the word they reach for when they want to say that somebody's significant but they're not sure why. It's even more difficult in Taylor's case because most of the films she made were remarkable largely for having her in them. It gets even more difficult when they talk about whether she was "a good actress". I'm not really sure what that means, though I suspect it's too often confused with big, sweaty displays of impersonation. I'm also not sure what being good at acting has to do with being a movie star. I suspect it's more to do with being able to move people by projecting certain qualities that they can't get enough of.

I had a look in The New Biographical Dictionary of Film. One of the things I like about David Thomson is that he's strong on the things that we read into stars. He remembers her appearances in her twenties as "the vague eligible debutante that she infused with insolent wantonness, half asleep from being stared at." Half asleep from being stared at. I like that.