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:
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.