Elizabeth Taylor. The name conjures up images of Old Hollywood, glamour and elegance. And those vibrant violet eyes. But she was also a fierce, independent woman who blazed her own trail through show business and a compassionate humanitarian. Today we mourn the loss of a Hollywood legend who died at the age of 79 from congestive heart failure, and take a look back at 10 of her most memorable movies.
Suddenly, Last Summer
A wealthy, vicious old woman, Violet Venable (Katharine Hepburn), tries to bribe a young psycho-surgeon (Montgomery Clift) into lobotomizing her niece, Catherine Holly (Taylor). Catherine witnessed the death of Violet's son while on summer vacation in Spain and is traumatized to the point that she mumbles incessantly about his mysterious death. Patricia Neal, who played the lead role to such acclaim on the London stage, figured she would be given the role automatically, only to find out that Taylor had won the role. The movie also features Eddie Fisher, Taylor's fourth ex-husband, in an uncredited cameo role as a street urchin.
She may not have received any awards or nominations for Velvet, but it is the movie that made Taylor a star. The story of a 12-year-old girl who rescues a doomed horse and turns it into a Grand National steeplechase contender shows what an immense talent Taylor was at such a young age.
Often lost in the shadow of being James Dean’s last film, Taylor’s turn as a strong-willed maiden-turned-matriarch Leslie Benedict in George Stevens’s epic ranks among one of her best performances. Co-starring Rock Hudson (whom Taylor supported throughout his ordeal with AIDS), Giant won Stevens a Best Director Oscar and was nominated for 10 Academy Awards.
Granted, Taylor wouldn't be thrilled to see this movie included in a "top" list of her movies. The story of a call girl whose love affair with a married man is one of Taylor's least favorite roles she played. Taylor wanted to shoot Cleopatra but was obligated to make Butterfield to fulfill her contract with MGM. The role won Taylor her first Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role.
Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
Based on the play by famed playwright Tennessee Williams, Tin Roof explored greed, superficiality , social decay and sexual desire in the American South. Taylor played the lead role of Maggie opposite Paul Newman’s Brick, both of whom received Oscar nominations. Newman and Williams weren’t happy with the alterations that were made to the screenplay in lieu of the Hays Code, named after Hollywood’s chief censor Will Hays.
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
A dark drama about an alcoholic college professor saw Taylor gain 30 pounds to play the role. Taylor and Richard Burton wage a seemingly constant verbal warfare fueled by excessive consumption of alcohol. Costing $7.5 million, it was the most expensive black-and-white movie made at the time with Taylor, Burton and writer Edward Albee’s salaries costing a third of the budget. It was also the first controversial movie former MPAA president Jack Valenti had to deal with, with lengthy meeting taking place over the word, "screw," and the phrase, "hump the hostess."
This film doesn't make the list because it was one of Taylor's best performances. Instead, it makes the list for being one of the most infamous film productions in Hollywood history. During filming of the period epic, Taylor had a torrid love affair with co-star Richard Burton (whom she'd ultimately marry twice), divorced her then husband Eddie Fisher and saw her salary rise from $1 to $7 million due to production delays. The production was so huge and demanded so much lumber and raw material that building materials became scarce throughout the rest of Italy.
A Place in the Sun
Based on Theodore Dreiser's novel An American Tragedy, Sun finds Montgomery Clift's George Eastman thrust into his rich uncle's family business where he's expected to learn the ropes from the bottom up. He becomes involved with a simple, trusting girl Alice Tripp (Shelley Winters) on the assembly line but when he meets the gorgeous, sophisticated Angela Vickers (Taylor), he quickly forgets about Alice. The only problem is, Alice won't be gotten rid of so easily.
Father of the Bride
Before Steve Martin and Kimberly Williams starred in the remake, there was Spencer Tracy and Liz Taylor. The plot is the same; the father of a young woman deals with the emotional pain of his daughter getting married and trying to figure out how to pay for it. Known mainly for her dramatic roles, Taylor shines in this romantic comedy as bride-to-be Katherine Banks. The premiere of the film took place two days after Taylor married to her first husband, Hilton hotel heir, Conrad Hilton.
Louisa May Alcott's autobiographical account of her life with her three sisters in 1860s Massachusetts has been adapted for the screen numerous times, most recently in 1994 by Gillian Armstrong. In one of her earlier roles, Taylor starred alongside June Allyson, Janet Leigh and Margaret O’Brien in Mervyn LeRoy’s Oscar-winning adaptation as exuberant optimist Amy.
Liz Taylor: 10 Memorable Movie Roles
Finally, if there is ever going to be a biopic about Taylor, this quote pretty much says it all - "No one is going to play Elizabeth Taylor, but Elizabeth Taylor herself."
Share your favorite Elizabeth Taylor movies below!