Thursday, December 13, 2007

The HUH? Hall of Fame: LIZ TAYLOR

Well, you just gotta love Liz Taylor. She's a friggin' legend - living a glamourous public life and starring in some of cinema's greatest films like GIANT, CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF, WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF?– not to mention cherished classics like LASSIE COME HOME, NATIONAL VELVET and FATHER OF THE BRIDE. Outside of film, Dame Elizabeth's devotion to ending the AIDS epidemic is truly inspiring and she really is a INTERnational treasure.

Then there's the other Ms. Taylor, the Liz that makes me say "Huh?". This is the Liz Taylor that's friends with Michael Jackson, markets crappy perfume...and the one that married Larry Fortensky. This is the Liz that starred (or appeared in) some of the worst films ever made. The Liz that played Pearl Slaghoople in THE FLINTSTONES movie. A casting choice so bizarre and inept, that 13 years later and it still makes me say "Huh?" I mean look at the evidence: I rest my case.

But the craziness did not start in Bedrock in 1994. Let's turn the clocks back a bit to 1960 and BUTTERFIELD 8. Liz actually won an Oscar for this film in which she plays a slutty, drunken " fashion model" (aka prostitute) who falls in love an alcoholic son of a working class family who has married into money. Liz made the film to get out of her contract with MGM, so she could jump over to 20th-Century Fox to star in the epic CLEOPATRA (more on this one later). Taylor's conditions for agreeing to make BUTTERFIELD 8 included shooting the film in New York, having control over costumes, hair and giving husband Eddie Fisher (freshly divorced from America's sweetheart Debbie Reynolds) a supporting role. She publicly campaigned against the film: "I hate the girl I play, " she told the press, "This is the most pornographic script I have ever read!" The public, titillated by Taylor and the provocative subject matter, made the film a hit. "I still say it stinks" recanted Liz. After finishing production on BUTTERFIELD 8, Taylor, and freed from MGM's clutches, shew flew to London to begin work on CLEOPATRA, the biggest budgeted film up till that time.

In 1963, Liz also became the highest paid movie star AND worked with future husband Richard Burton (who was cast as Mark Antony) for the first time. The press had a field day when Taylor and Burton began an torrid and scandalous affair during filming – both stars were married to other people at the time!!! The Vatican even accused her of "erotic vagrancy"!!! That's pretty damn cool The production itself was plagued by many problems, and director Joe Mankiewicz' original cut was six hours long. Fox demanded that two hours be cut, which they were, thankfully. When the film was released historians criticized it's inaccuracies, critics attacked the disjointed script and the over-the-top acting was laughed at universally, causing filmgoers to wonder how a film maker could get such great actors to act so badly.

After a string of better films in the mid-60s, Liz and Dick returned to Huh?-ville in 1968 with a little something we like to call BOOM! Freely adapted from Tennessee Williams' play "The Milk Train Doesn't Stop Here Anymore", BOOM! is the oddest, most pretentious "art film" ever made. It's almost indescribable. But if you EVER get the chance to see it - Run!!!

Liz spent much of the 1970s making mediocre films for theaters and TV, appearing on talks shows, Bob Hope specials and playing herself on HERE'S LUCY. In 1978, she showed up in - of all places - a musical! In A LITTLE NIGHT MUSIC, Liz delivers a poorly dubbed rendition of "Send in the Clowns". Isn't it rich?

In 1981, during the peak of the daytime soap opera fad, Liz showed up for a short stint on GENERAL HOSPITAL, playing Helena Cassadine. The character has lived on, though Liz has never revisited the role. After THE FLINTSTONES debacle, Liz participated in an ill-concieved ABC TV-movie aimed at gay men who missed THE GOLDEN GIRLS. Entitled THESE OLD BROADS, this "event" gathered together for the first (and LAST!) time: Liz Taylor, Debbie Reynolds (Liz's longtime nemesis) , Shirley MacLaine (who had played Debbie in POSTCARDS FROM THE EDGE) and Joan Collins (who took over the role of Pearl Slaghoople in THE FLINTSTONES sequel). I can recall this being among the two of the most painful hours ever spent in front of the TV - rivaling the infamous MARY & RHODA reunion movie. To top it all off, poor Liz delivered all her scenes from a sickbed!!!

Well, in spite of it all - we still love her and are proud to have Dame Elizabeth Rosemond Taylor as our first inductee into the "Huh?" Hall of Fame! Cheers!


Anonymous said...

I love you, Elizabeth Taylor-Hilton-Wilding-Todd-Fisher-Burton-Burton-Warner-Fortensky!

- HC

Rick Andreoli said...

But isn't the crazy side half of why we love these women? I mean, who likes someone just for their talent when a side dish of crazy makes everything SO MUCH more delicious!