A girl and her bijoux.

Somewhere in the firehose of information that blew past me yesterday — just another day at the office — someone said that Elizabeth Taylor, like Frank Sinatra, was a generational artist. You had to catch her early to consider her an artist at all, because at some point she stopped being an artist, pretty much stopped working at all, and was content to simply be Elizabeth Taylor ™, the brand.

That’s probably right, and I’d put people my age on the dividing line. I was about 10 when I discovered my grandmother’s stash of Hollywood fan magazines and learned of the latter. Every so often the hot couple of the moment comes along — Brangelina, Bennifer (remember that one?) — and tries to blot out the sun, but they are mere satellites to the original, Liz and Dick, whom we should be grateful came along before the mushed-names thing, because no one would have gone for a couple nicknamed Lick. Or Diz.

Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton were the alpha and omega of celebrity couples, and much in between. They were together, apart, together, apart. After the breakups, he wooed her with ever-more-lavish gifts of jewelry, which she’d wear dangling from her ears or nestling in her famous bosom. They fought in public (booze), snuggled in public (ditto). Like Marilyn Monroe and Arthur Miller, she gave him glamour, he gave her prestige. They gave each other fits.

I’ve never understood relationships like this, but then, I’m not a movie star. I guess they enjoyed makeup sex. They certainly enjoyed drinking, which fuels the breakup/makeup cycle.

About that jewelry. I was by no means a feminist at the age of 10 or so, but even as a kid, there was something about Taylor’s romantic life that bugged me. Never mind the marriages, Mrs. Hilton Wilding Todd Fisher Burton Burton Warner Fortensky — what sort of woman comes back to a man after he gives her a pair of diamond earrings? Major ick factor. At the same time, she was gimlet-eyed enough to know that a girl ought to get something out of a relationship like the one with Burton, and I guess she cashed in.

In the end, if you were younger than 50 or so, you remember Taylor more for this:

…than this:

And that’s a shame. But she had a good time along the way. Women like her don’t have the Clint Eastwood Option for later-in-life work, particularly if you’ve been known as a great beauty. I think Manohla Dargis put her finger on it:

Living large proved a brilliant survival strategy as well as something of a rebuke to the limits of the studio system, both its formulas and false morality, which was all but gone by the time she appeared in “Virginia Woolf” in 1966. Her weight went up and down and the accolades kept coming. She cheated on one husband and then another at a time when adultery was still shocking, and her career kept going. She was a lovely actress and a better star. She embodied the excesses of Hollywood and she transcended them. In the end, the genius of her career was that she gave the world everything it wanted from a glamorous star, the excitement and drama, the diamonds and gossip, and she did it by refusing to become fame’s martyr.

So, bloggage? Sure:

I’m so glad Kate has grown out of “American Idol,” so we don’t have to watch stuff like this. (I’m talking about J-Lo, not the singer. Although he’s got at least as much diva Diana as mellow Marvin in him, unless I miss my guess.) You’d think, by this point in the competition, the stylists would have gotten the performers clothes that fit.

This is why people choose careers in journalism: To answer ads like this.

In Britain, he’s been stripped of his medical license. In the U.S., he’s free to keep spreading his special brand of quackery, and to a poor, minority population, no less.

Happy birthday to our regular commenter, 4dbirds, who turns 29 again today.

Sunny today! But still in the 20s. Dammit. I’m outta here, and have a great Thursday.

Posted at 8:52 am in Movies |

50 responses to “A girl and her bijoux.”

  1. Jolene said on March 24, 2011 at 9:02 am

    Nancy, the URL for the American Idol link is wrong. It goes to the Manohla Dargis piece.

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  2. Kim said on March 24, 2011 at 9:32 am

    About Liz and Dick – Authors of the book “Furious Love,” published last July and which details the torrid romance/marriage/breakup/marriage/etc, got its cooperation from Liz (she gave a bunch of love letters to the authors)after they shared a generational story. A college student, upon hearing the professors were working on a book about Taylor and Burton, replied that she’d not known Liz Taylor had been married to Tim Burton. Taylor wanted to be sure Richard’s depth as a stage and screen actor, as well as a man, was not forgotten. So she decided to share her stash of private love letters. Goes to show you should never presume that “no” is the answer.

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  3. coozledad said on March 24, 2011 at 9:35 am

    I just don’t get the plot of the “White Diamonds” ad. I know they had to work the diamonds in somehow, but a stranger walking in to mess with a game seems to violate the basic rules. I’d have to side with the Russian on this one.

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  4. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on March 24, 2011 at 9:40 am

    Every kiss begins with “K” says the jewelry firm I’ve just barely not named, every Christmas. And every Christmas my wife looks at me when the ad runs, and says, with feeling, “Ewwww.”

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  5. Jolene said on March 24, 2011 at 9:45 am

    Here she is on What’s My Line?, showing her talents as a comedienne–to use the term of the era.

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  6. brian stouder said on March 24, 2011 at 9:58 am

    Happy 29again-th birthday, 4dbirds!

    I raise an icy cold Diet Coke to you (and I DO mean icey cold; it’s freezin-wheezin’ outside today!)

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  7. nancy said on March 24, 2011 at 9:58 am

    Thanks, all. Fixed.

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  8. del said on March 24, 2011 at 9:59 am

    Yeah, I fall on the near side of the Liz cutoff point. Except for her role as Maggie in Cat On A Hot Tin Roof (my focus is on Newman anyway) I can’t appreciate her acting because my mental lens is clouded by the White Diamonds lady. Great post.

    The journo ad reminds me of good news, the Detroit News rehired the auto reporter (Burgess) it sacked for not changing his Chrysler review. In stark contrast, however, today it published a suck up piece of the highest order on Tom Gores, the Michigan native billionaire who wants to buy the Pistons. The byline should have read “Special advertorial.”

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  9. Randy said on March 24, 2011 at 10:37 am

    A friend of mine owns a house that Richard Burton briefly lived in, here in Winnipeg, during the early 1940’s. He was here training to be a pilot for the RAF.

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  10. Dorothy said on March 24, 2011 at 11:07 am

    Elizabeth was a little cutie in this movie (one minute, 35 seconds into the clip): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-JC7Xy9ggLI

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  11. alice said on March 24, 2011 at 11:13 am

    “what sort of woman comes back to a man after he gives her a pair of diamond earrings?”

    Depends on the diamonds.

    Here’s a day brightener: Saved by the Internets!

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  12. alex said on March 24, 2011 at 11:21 am

    Age-wise I should be unfamiliar with La Liz’s body of work but in fact saw “Virginia Woolf” and many of her other films during childhood when they were on the boob tube and had my parents spellbound. As a young adult, I remember her as one of the golden dozen whose face sold magazines, and for her occasional guest appearances on soap operas, and for selling perfume, but it didn’t diminish my appreciation of her acting.

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  13. LAMary said on March 24, 2011 at 11:27 am

    I used to fill her delivery orders when I worked at DDL Foodshow in Beverly Hills. She never came in to check out the cheese display or ask if the lox were fresh or anything like that. She could have. I would have been suitably discreet and respectful.

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  14. 4dbirds said on March 24, 2011 at 11:30 am

    Thanks Nancy. I wish I had my 29 yr old body with my now “29 again” sensibilities.

    “I just don’t get the plot of the “White Diamonds” ad. I know they had to work the diamonds in somehow, but a stranger walking in to mess with a game seems to violate the basic rules. I’d have to side with the Russian on this one.”

    As a poker player, I can tell you anyone coming up to a game, in the middle of a hand and plopping money/diamonds/deeds etc on the table would be the cause of a ruckus. In some places, not my 20 buck home game of course, violence would ensue.

    Liz Taylor. She was alway a star to me but I do remember watching one movie as a young teenager. I think it was “A Place In The Sun” and Liz’s character is recounting the scene where Montgomery Cliff is killed and “consumed”. I didn’t really understand the meaning of it at the time but it scared me to no end. I also remember whenever she was interviewed or caught in a natural situation she appeared to be organically kind.

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  15. nancy said on March 24, 2011 at 11:44 am

    They did a funny take on this ad on “Saturday Night Live,” featuring Mike Myers in drag, standing behind a pane of frosted glass. They did lay the soft lens on a little thick.

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  16. Catherine said on March 24, 2011 at 12:14 pm

    I loved what Mindy Kaling tweeted: White Diamonds was the first fancy thing I owned in my life. Elizabeth Taylor is the first person so glamorous you wanted to smell like her.

    Also: The coolest thing about Elizabeth Taylor is that she lived life PRECISELY as I would’ve if I’d been born so f’ing gorgeous.

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  17. LAMary said on March 24, 2011 at 12:20 pm

    “Also: The coolest thing about Elizabeth Taylor is that she lived life PRECISELY as I would’ve if I’d been born so f’ing gorgeous…”


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  18. Joe Kobiela said on March 24, 2011 at 12:28 pm

    John Belushi did the best Liz Taylor. “I’m eating nothing but chicken Bill.”
    Pilot Joe

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  19. Jolene said on March 24, 2011 at 12:30 pm

    The NYT obit is wonderfully detailed–really well done. Taylor, in fact, outlived the original obituary writer, who died in 2005.

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  20. nancy said on March 24, 2011 at 12:31 pm

    Joan Rivers also got a laff out of saying, “Liz Taylor is so fat she stands next to her microwave yelling, ‘Hurry!'”

    I thought that was funny, but I cannot tell a lie: I do so myself.

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  21. prospero said on March 24, 2011 at 12:46 pm

    I’d never, somehow, seen that ad. I saw National Velvet when I was a kid and loved it. Butterfield 8, excellent movie and performance. Maggie the Cat, ditto. Suddenly Last Summer? Capote-wierd and affecting, and inspired a great song by the Motels (from the vast musical wasteland of the 70s, and I always thought Martha Davis bears a resemblance to Liz Taylor.) Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolfe? Incredibly intense. My favorite, Taming of the Shrew. There had to be a bit of life imitates art at work, and Franco Zeffierelli could sure do Shakespeare. And Richard Burton is hilarious as a lout.

    Watching this video of cows released from a winter indoors it’s easy to believe that free range dairy cattle produce superior milk, and that the whole process is healthier for all involved.

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  22. nancy said on March 24, 2011 at 12:56 pm

    That’s a great video, Prospero, but note *why* the cows have been cooped up all winter — it’s to preserve the pasture. Free-range only works year-round if your range is more or less unlimited, or you have enough to move them from piece to piece and preserve the grass. People who’ve never kept thousand-pound animals sometimes have a hard time grasping how destructive they can be without even trying.

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  23. ROgirl said on March 24, 2011 at 1:13 pm

    4db, it was “Suddenly Last Summer.” I remember being disturbed by it when I was a kid too.

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  24. Rana said on March 24, 2011 at 1:27 pm

    I vaguely remember seeing International Velvet – the sequel – as a kid. I was young enough that it blurred up in my mind with National Velvet and with Blue Velvet. This made for many bouts of second-guessing when the last came up in discussion – had I really seen that film as a child? Was I so focused on the horsey bits that I’d forgotten the sex?

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  25. paddyo' said on March 24, 2011 at 2:18 pm

    Not to mention, Rana, that . . . severed ear!

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  26. Mark P. said on March 24, 2011 at 2:35 pm

    del, no one else seems to be commenting on the journalist ad, so I will, too. Long ago I was a reporter for a mid-sized daily in a mid-sized city in a Southern state for a few years. I went in naive and came out cynical. A fellow reporter and I did a “downtown is dying” story where we counted empty stores. We were told never to do that again. In connection with the dying downtown, an editorial writer wrote that no one came downtown any more because there were too many blacks there. He ended up the press rep for a very-well-known-to-be-racist senator from an adjoining state. Another reporter interviewed Efrem Zimbalist Jr at a certain very-well-known golf course and mentioned it in passing (“… interviewed at the VWKGC …”) and was told “thou shalt not take the name of the VWKGC in vain” unless the VWKGC is the main subject of the story. So my take on the ad is that there must be some newspapers where things are like that, but for every one of those there are a hundred that are pretty much just organs of the local chamber of commerce. I guess I’m behaving like a spurned lover.

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  27. 4dbirds said on March 24, 2011 at 2:36 pm

    Yes thanks ROgirl “Suddenly Last Summer”. Her narration and the scene of the young men swarming on MC chilled me.

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  28. MichaelG said on March 24, 2011 at 3:37 pm

    Happy b’day, 4dbirds! Have one on me.

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  29. del said on March 24, 2011 at 3:45 pm

    Newspapers as “pretty much just organs of the local chamber of commerce.” That pretty much nails it Mark. It’s affirming to have journalists notice it — sometimes I think I’m just getting cantankerous.

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  30. Laura Lippman said on March 24, 2011 at 3:45 pm

    Mr. Lippman sent his application to the Sarasota Herald-Tribune after I alerted him to the ad’s existence. They had us at “cursed out an editor.”

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  31. KarenNM said on March 24, 2011 at 4:24 pm

    I’m usually just a lurker here (big fan!), but I’m catching up on this week after being out of the office, and reading through the last two days left me with a couple things to share:
    1. Your descriptions of Russia (USSR) yesterday reminded me of the chapter in Jay Raynor’s book The Man Who Ate the World, where he describes visiting Moscow in search of a great meal. Sounds expensive, and complicated. I don’t know if you have a Kindle, but if you do I’d be happy to loan you my copy. It’s an entertaining read, though it will probably make you hungry.
    2. Regarding the NYTimes paywall – I read the online version a LOT, and was preparing to pay the fee when I received an email from a sponsor (Lincoln), saying that because I was such a well-read person, they were offering me a complimentary subscription. I think I’m flattered (nice to be called well-read, even if it’s by mass email), but it’s left me wondering how many other kinds of comp subscriptions are out there, and who exactly is going to pony up for the monthly fee? I still may – I can afford it and want to support the paper – but I’ll be very interested in seeing how the subscription numbers pan out.

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  32. prospero said on March 24, 2011 at 5:29 pm

    Surely, ” cursed out an editor” is a good thing. Isn’t that a job prerrequsisite. I’ve been editor more often than progenitor of prose, and I abjectly admit to leaving out the more crepuscular of prose. Or at least what I LIKE THE MOST. I’ve been accused of writing heads that way in copywriting classes in JSchool. I always figured more people would read it, what’s the harm? I’m relying on Nino Tempo and April Stevens here I think, for a definition of crepuscular. It may be my favorite word other than inchoate and ineffable, as in ineffably affable, which means the way you feel when spring arriv

    Nancy, I know you got a kick out of those cows frollicking. You sounded down about the temperature. You’re blog has frequentlly made me feel better, leqwt I couled do. . there was a popular pop ballad about being in a courtyard with somebody you were infatuated with, about deep purple, climbing sleepy garden walls. Our 70s and my sunburn made me feel guilty about those of you suffering 20s aand such obscene temperatures, when God’s grace has given us 70s. But, we got horendous win that blows no good will. It’s not sand nor dust, it is live oak pollen,

    It’s not fair., and I’d pass it on if I could. Which is why I sent along the Bossies playing like the were calves. Bovines bucking and headbutting is a new one on me. I thought it might help in the doldrums, which are, of course supposed to be summer5, but when it’s spring and it seems still to be winter, I thought you’d get a boost. Horse’s are unquestionably gorgeous animals. Hard to imagine a human that would deny that. But in that unbridled joy, those cows lookcelebratory. Is it the younger Bossies bucking and headbutting? Or their elders that understand the liberation. God knows, and unfortunately we can’t talk to them. Can ‘animals’ experience happiness? I don’t thing any humans would deny dogs can. Probably horses. Cows, they look happy as hell to me. Pigs? In slop. Dolphins and Whales? seems like a no-brainer. So, it seems to me that being able to be happy might be more important than the opposable thumb. Great Apes, Dian Fosse proved they were dapable of emotion, affection, happiness, without any training in what she was doing. But she proved it before she was murdered. I’ve read Teillhard extensively. The basic idea is creation as God becoming God. I know that’s a difficult concept. It certainly makes creationists look like they claim God couldn’t have put evolution in motion, because Teillhard was the worst sort or Catholic. And Catholics are q wect, even though historically every Protestant sect came directly from Catholicism. So who are these people? Jerry Falwell? Glenn Beck? Where is there any remote sense in anything any of these people say. And how do they glom on to O’Donqahue, that does not represent anything American Cathollics think? I have had it with the moron pundit characterization. American Catholics pretty much stick WWJD, The Jesus freaks don’t.

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  33. prospero said on March 24, 2011 at 5:32 pm

    No way, seriously unfqqir crqp. Here’s the d4ql. Whatever you wqy, I’M RIGHT; Don’t be wimp;iwtic. Sorry, I’M

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  34. prospero said on March 24, 2011 at 5:37 pm

    No way, seriously unfqir whit.you hqv3 got to b3 kidding
    . Some2qy we coule mqk3 you look re2son2bl3. YOU Q43MW0M FULL 0F SHIT.

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  35. prospero said on March 24, 2011 at 5:39 pm


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  36. coozledad said on March 24, 2011 at 6:24 pm

    4dbirds: Happy birthday! Apparently I wasn’t reading for comprehension this morning. Salsa y Ketchup!

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  37. LAMary said on March 24, 2011 at 6:46 pm

    Happy Birthday 4DB. Go have a nice plate of pasta, a glass of wine and a huge hunk of dessert and a brandy.
    Jeez that sounds good.

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  38. Bob (not Greene) said on March 24, 2011 at 7:07 pm

    Prosparoxysm alert

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  39. Connie said on March 24, 2011 at 7:14 pm

    I for one am quite pleased to be full of whit.

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  40. Scout said on March 24, 2011 at 7:18 pm

    I cannot help but chuckle.

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  41. nancy said on March 24, 2011 at 7:54 pm

    I certainly did.

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  42. moe99 said on March 24, 2011 at 7:54 pm

    Nice one Bob NG.

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  43. Deborah said on March 24, 2011 at 8:12 pm

    Happy birthday 4dbirds, and many more. Nancy, how do you know these birthdays?

    Couple of things – my fave Liz movie is Butterfield 8. And what happens between 5:29 and 5:39?

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  44. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on March 24, 2011 at 8:49 pm

    In all the wide world, it’s always 5:29 somewhere.

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  45. brian stouder said on March 24, 2011 at 9:38 pm

    (muffled thump)

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  46. alex said on March 24, 2011 at 9:40 pm

    It’s Late PM and I’m full of whit, but not enough so to keep on typing. Hey, gin blossoms make us pass for young’uns with acne, right?

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  47. alex said on March 24, 2011 at 9:44 pm


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  48. brian stouder said on March 24, 2011 at 10:20 pm

    Ms Lippman (et al) – this is why I admire you archetypal newsies; ya’ll got brass!

    I recently witnessed a colleague of mine get into a shouting match – not simply raised voices, but wide-eyed, red faced, vein-throbbing shouts and exclamations – with the owner of the company.(!!!)

    On one hand, I personally have no stomach (at all) to directly engage in such drama; and on the other, even witnessing such impassioned head-butting is enough to make me cringe and scurry the other way.

    But the world is a better place for having at least a few people who will plant their feet and set their jaws, and insist that their point of view gets across…and at least a few all-powerful bosses who don’t feel the need to peremptorily end all such exchanges, and instead can give as good as they get, and then get back to business

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  49. Kim said on March 24, 2011 at 10:46 pm

    Happy day, 4db!

    One of my worker bees sent me that ad yesterday and said, “You should apply!” My style has never been to shout back (at least that’s how I now remember it, BobNG). Now that I have some years in this I’ve found that treating the boss like a teen-age daughter (never give the fight they’re spoiling for!) is the most effective tool ever. Who knew.

    Brian S., I find there are a disproportionate number of asshats (to use a NN.C commenter’s word) in the newspaper world. Making up for that are a precious few who, as the ad says, “take on powerful people and institutions that wish you were dead” and are worth their weight in platinum. And thank God they have the stones to stay in the game.

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  50. Rana said on March 25, 2011 at 2:02 am

    Severed ear? Yikes.

    A belated happy birthday, 4db!

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