The last of our great movie stars, Elizabeth Taylor was celebrity personified — and so the media coverage of her passing has been some of the most expansive ever seen. But as the sound and the fury of the past week lessens, I believe that those of you who love reading may find that this small selection of my own favorite books and films will enable you to know the great actress in a way you haven’t before.
In 2006, she called Richard Burton “her soulmate,” saying that “Richard enriched my life in different ways, internal journeys into feelings and thoughts. He taught me poetry and literature, and introduced me to worlds of beauty. He made me laugh. He made me cry. He explored areas in me that I knew existed but which had never been touched. There was never a dull moment. I loved Richard through two marriages, and until the day he died”.
Those words should set you up so well to read Sam Kashner’s Furious Love: Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, and the Marriage of the Century. If we are to believe the author — and it seems plausible — the couple never really fell out of love with each other until Burton died. I admit to being a romantic, but the letters in the book attest to this undying love. Elizabeth kept her last letter from Burton at her bedside table until the day she died. A part of it read: “We are such doomed fools. Unfortunately, we know it. So I have decided that, for a second or two, the precious potential of you in the next room is the only thing in the world worth living for. After your death, there shall only be one other, and that will be mine. Or, I possibly think, vice versa.”
When How To Be A Movie Star in Hollywood came out in 2009, author William Mann’s book was written up by Publishers Weekly (which is something of a bible to me), saying: “The book depicts Taylor’s larger-than-life appetites — whether for men, jewels, or food — and marvels at her ability to arouse and sidestep scandal, as well as to demonstrate continually a singular devotion to her acting craft.” There is no doubt that people like Britney, Miley, and their ilk have taken a page from Taylor’s book as they have tried to manage their own image. Here, author Mann has examined the actress’s life and successes from a singular angle that make this one worth reading.
I’ll let other wOw readers write in about their own favorite titles. But we all know this is also a perfect time to look back on Taylor’s life in film. My own favorite — hard to beat — is “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? ” But I have many others on tap that have proved themselves over the test of time. Remember “A Place in the Sun”? I saw it several times back then … and I am wondering if I am missing other good choices to replay in the near future as a part of “remembering Elizabeth.” I’ll be interested in what movies you, too, can’t get out of your heads.