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.


  1. Michael Winner, always good for a shoot from the hip quote, said: 'She could never have played Hamlet.' You don't say.

  2. She came across as an ice queen while smoldering like a champ - there just aren't any contemporary film stars who can work that magic.

    Sort of off topic: Taylor-Burton, to me, sounds like some hot-chops, power trio. While Lavenderize has the ring of glo-stick, electro-mentalists about it.

  3. Movie stars DO act, but at themselves, which is possibly more difficult. It's different anyway. She was an astonishingly beautiful woman. She became an icon, which is like a larger-than-life movie star where every move becomes symbolic. In this grand-dame mode she surely excelled, championing AIDS and Jacko and other 'causes' (don't laugh) with the dignity and honour that few movie stars manage. But mainly, let's face it, she was astonishingly beautiful. Perhaps tis enough.