Wednesday, March 23, 2011

A Moment for Elizabeth Taylor: Jane Eyre

Elizabeth Taylor (1932 - 2011)
The Movie
A classic.  You know the story: Orson Welles' sulking and bombastic Rochester, Joan Fontaine's doe-eyed Jane, with Elizabeth Taylor in an uncredited performance as Jane's childhood friend, Helen.  Over 27 movie versions have been made and this is the best (although I prefer my older Jane with a bit more spice).  It isn't Elizabeth's movie, but her small role as the very sympathetic Helen Burns provides a poignant scene and serves as a counterpoint for passionate young Jane.  Jane Eyre (1943, directed by Robert Stevenson) was made the year before Elizabeth became a true star in her own right for the movie National Velvet.

The Elizabeth Taylor Image
White Diamonds...
I first became aware of Elizabeth Taylor when I was a child.  The picture at left shows her style - where the culture was really - at that point in time.  Big hair, frosted highlights, press-on-nails, Dynasty, shoulder pads, People magazine, gold-tone QVC jewelry, multiple divorces and marriages.  In truth, she embodied the defining style of every decade:  haltertop dresses and short curls in the 50s, stacked bouffant hair and cat's-eye liner in the 60s, (lets skip the 70s), the aforementioned 80s style, and vacuous blond wigs in the aughties.  Thank goodness there's so much more to her (and us)!

Activity and Activism
On closer inspection, there was much to admire in Elizabeth Taylor, not especially the jewels or expenses, but in her passion and generosity.  She was also brave enough to advocate for a cure for a disease (AIDS) that, at the time, was both misunderstood and socially repugnant.  Owner of many gems, she donated several to auction for various charities, including an engagement ring donated for AIDS charities and the famous Burton-Taylor Cartier diamond donated and sold to build an entire hospital in Botswana.

The mother of four children from three of her seven marriages.
A dual citizen of the United States and Britain, she was named a Dame of the British Empire in 1999.
Was photographed and painted many times by Andy Warhol
As a child star, was cast in several classics, including Life With Father and Lassie Come Home

Oh right, the 70s...  well, at least the Oscars must have been fun

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