The devastating news that Elizabeth Taylor has passed on came as quite a shock to me yesterday. I heard it but didn’t believe it and yet, I had to accept it. Why do we keep losing the greats? Why can’t they stay with us forever, and yet they can and they will thanks to all that they have accomplished in their careers. Elizabeth Taylor will always be someone very near and dear to my heart. I remember back on the eve of the late great Paul Newman’s death, which was the very first time I had seen Elizabeth Taylor act. Until that point, in my eyes, she was that crazy old lady who got married a bunch of times and befriended Michael Jackson. But,
TCM was running a marathon of Paul Newman’s work, and they happened to show ‘Cat on a Hot Tin Roof’.
|From that point forward I was smitten|
Yes, Elizabeth Taylor was my first ‘real’ actressing obsession. Sure, I have my preferential actresses, and it is true that I did ‘obsess’ over Kate Winslet back in the early 00’s, but I’m talking about classic actresses, the ones who paved the way and defined what it meant to be an actress. There are so many to choose from, and they all have their loyal supporters. Some of my personal favorites are Bette Davis, Ingrid Bergman and Barbara Stanwyck. For me though, there is no one who can top Elizabeth Taylor. From the early 50’s and climbing, she was a staple of cinema and she cemented herself in my heart with memorable performance after memorable performance.
For the sake of this blog and my time and wanting to post something today, I’m only going to focus on one of those performances; the one that caused me to fall in love with her and the one I still regard as one of the best performances of all time, by anyone.
‘Cat on a Hot Tin Roof’ is one of my favorite films, and it is for many, many reasons. It signifies a revelatory moment in my life (thanks to the plot) and it introduced me to some amazing actors, namely Paul Newman and Elizabeth Taylor. No, it was not the first film I had seen from Mr. Newman, but I saw it during a time when I was exploring his filmography and so it resounds heavily with me as a film that broadened my horizons. But of all things, this film will always be regarded as the one that showed me what a great actress can do with a great part; chew the hell out of it. But to say that she ‘chews’ the scenery isn’t to say that she oversells anything, for Taylor understood the importance of ‘pulling back’ and allowing the emotional relevance of the character seem into every scene. She portrayed a relatable vulnerability, one that denoted a confused state. She wanted the love and affections she thought she deserved, and yet she couldn’t completely hate her husband for not giving it to her. I love that you never doubt her devotion to Brick, despite the fact that she knows they don’t have a marriage anymore. Her words would cut like knives to anyone else, but they seemingly make barely a dent in her husband. She is distraught and bewildered and just plain tired of wanting.
|But she can't give up!|
|And yet, she never forgets the sex; her deliciously tempting portrayal of this woman is dripping with it.|
One thing that I noticed with both Taylor and Newman in this particular film was the brilliant way they played off their co-stars, allowing their personas and actorly decisions to help spur them on. You can see this especially between Taylor and Madeleine Sherwood. Sherwood’s ‘Mae Flynn’ is a tad clichéd in her development, but I can’t fault her too much because she really helps add yet another layer to Maggie. The way that
infuses such balance between jealous rage and heartbroken suffering with the bat of an eyelash is outstanding. She takes you into the soul of this woman, layer by layer by layer. Taylor
But as we all should know by now, it wasn’t like this performance was the exception. Elizabeth Taylor brought such raw charisma and dedication to every role. She was a class act, and a damn good actress and I will always adore, respect and remember her.
|Goodbye my sweet|