Obituary: Saluting Elizabeth Taylor, 1932-2011

Elizabeth Taylor

Elizabeth Taylor, 1932-2011

Screen legend Elizabeth Taylor died early March 22, 2011, in Los Angeles of complications from congestive heart failure. She was 79 years old.

Certainly there was much about the glamorous Ms. Taylor outside of her motion picture work that could prompt her “legendary” status, namely her eight marriages, tabloid-saturated romances and tireless philanthropic work in combating the AIDS virus.

But the legend of the gorgeous, violet-eyed Ms. Taylor was created in the movies, which is where it will endure.

So many memorable performances in so many unforgettable filims. Here are a bunch of our favorites…

National Velvet movie scene

National Velvet, 1944

National Velvet (1944)
Everyone’s favorite equestrian endeavor introduced much of the world to its fresh-faced, rising star, a violet-eyed 11-year-old  who quickly proved that she wasn’t horsing around. And don’t forget she won a special children’s Oscar for her performance!
Available on DVD from MGM/Fox

Little Women (1949)
MGM bleached Ms. Taylor’s hair blonde for her role as Amy in this adaptation of the Louisa May Alcott literary classic, opposite sisters June Allyson, Margaret O’Brien and Janet Leigh.
Available on DVD from Warner Home Video

Father of the Bride (1950)
You can keep your 1991 remake with Steve Martin; we prefer Spencer Tracy’s portrayal of Elizabeth Taylor’s daddy in this Vincent Minnelli-directed original.
Available on DVD from Turner Home Entertainment

A Place in the Sun movie scene

A Place in the Sun, 1951

A Place in the Sun (1951)
This George Stevens-directed adaptation of Theodore Dreiser’s novel An American Tragedy finds a shining Ms. Taylor making lot of melodrama and romance opposite Montgomery Clift.
Available on DVD from Paramount Home Entertainment

Giant (1956)
This sprawling, big-budget epic film of the Edna Ferber classic offers us Texas-sized talent led by Ms. Taylor as Leslie Benedict and James Dean and Rock Hudson as the two men who love her.
Available on DVD from Warner Home Video

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (1958)
One of the finest film adaptations of a Tennessee Williams play features Ms. Taylor seductively purring away in her role of  Maggie the Cat, a “a girl who’s got life in her, alright.”
Available on DVD from Warner Home Video

Cleopatra movie scene

Cleopatra, 1963

Suddenly, Last Summer (1959)
It’s Montgomery Clift to the rescue when Ms. Taylor loses her head and gets institutionalized in the star’s second successful swipe at a movie based on a Tennessee Williams drama.
Available on DVD from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Butterfield 8 (1960)
Elizabeth Taylor won the first of her two “grown-up” Best Actress Academy Awards for her performance as Gloria Wandrous, an Upper East Sider with a penchant for one-night stands, in this film version of John O’Hara’s 1935 novel.
Available on DVD from Warner Home Video

Cleopatra (1963)
Here’s our favorite tale about the film that nearly bankrupted 20th Century Fox: When producer Walter Wanger called up Ms. Taylor to ask her to star as the legendary Queen of Egypt, she jokingly said, “I’ll do it for a million dollars!” Well, he met the joke head-on and agreed to her record-setting salary. The topper: With all the production’s delay, the amount eventually swelled to $7 million!
Available on DVD from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf movie scene

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, 1966

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966)
Ms. Taylor won her second Best Actress Oscar in this adaptation of Edward Albee’s play helmed by the new kid in town, first-time director Mike Nichols (The Graduate, Charlie Wilson’s War).
Available on DVD from Warner Home Video

A Little Night Music (1977)
Okay, it’s not one of the great ones and Ms. Taylor was never really a singer, but hearing her version of Sondheim’s “Send in the Clowns” is good enough for us.
Available on DVD from Hen’s Tooth Home Video

About Laurence

Founder and editor Laurence Lerman saw Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest when he was 13 years old and that’s all it took. He has been writing about film and video for more than a quarter of a century for magazines, anthologies, websites and most recently, Video Business magazine, where he served as the Reviews Editor for 15 years.