Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Maggie the Cat: A (Super) STAR Is Dead

Elizabeth Taylor in an MGM publicity photo. Photo courtesy of Fan Pix.

“ELIZABETH Taylor is dead?!,” I exclaimed in disbelief to all who had ears while in a neighborhood Chinese restaurant absently watching the TV screen and awaiting my lunch of sesame chicken. CNN delivered the bad news.

Oblivious, the workers in the restaurant stared at me, bemused/confused, likely thinking Yours Truly was out of her mind.

Why is it that we are always surprised when someone dies? Elizabeth Rosemond Taylor (27 Feb. 1932 - 23 March 2011) had been ill for some time and has had more than one close encounter with the grim reaper. Still, the news hit like a punch in the chest.

Elizabeth Taylor and Rock Hudson in a poster from "Giant." Image courtesy of Warner Bros.

Myriad thoughts raced through my basil ganglia. The first was a reminder to tune into TCM to learn which, if any, ET films will be airing tonight or in the very near future. The next thought was her tireless work in the AIDS fight after good friend and costar Rock Hudson became ill and later died from the disease. A co-founder of amFAR, ET was the first Hollywood A-list star to join the fight.

As I stood drumming my fingers on the counter I fondly recalled her stint on “General Hospital.” Who knew that Anthony Geary would disclose during a recent appearance on “Oprah" that he and ET were an item back in those days? Gallantly, he confirmed it only after Oprah inquired and he stressed that he was only doing so because ET was the first to go public with it. She liked the show and she liked him, explained AG, so it was the most natural thing in the world.

It is difficult to think of ET and relationships without thinking of multiple marriages – two to Richard Burton. They, too, were costars – most famously in the spectacular “Cleopatra” (yes, yes, ET played a rather pale version of the African queen) and the formidable “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” for which ET won her second Best Actress Oscar. In the last few months both have aired on TCM. The chemistry between ET and RB is electric in the two films for different reasons.

QUEEN ELIZABETH: The actress as "Cleopatra" in the film of the same name. Photo courtesy of Fan Pix.

Elizabeth, what an apt name for a little girl born (to American parents) in London. She hated being called "Liz."

Last year, TCM also aired "Little Women,” “Suddenly Last Summer” and "National Velvet." ET campaigned like a seasoned pro to win the role of Velvet Brown in the blockbuster which propelled her to stardom at the age of 12.

Reflecting on a film career that spans nearly three-quarters of a century can take a considerable amount of time. No doubt, ET fans around the world will be tramping about the corners of their brains in search of their favorite ET film. Appreciations will abound. Speaking of which, The New York Times film critic A.O. Scott does one of the most affecting video tributes I’ve unearthed so far:

My favorite ET film? I don’t have one, but two that are perennials on my Top 5 list are “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” and “Giant.” See “Cat” trailer:

Elizabeth, thanks for your talent, beauty and philanthropy. Rest in peace.

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