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Rants and Raves: Elizabeth Taylor

Legendary Actress Dies at 79

Above: Elizabeth Taylor in her MGM days.

Elizabeth Taylor, 79, passed away today, and with her goes some genuine old school Hollywood glamour.

I just had a discussion on my Cinema Junkie Facebook page about who do you think is drop dead gorgeous and she was the first one I listed. And she was, especially when she was young and aimed those piercing violet eyes in your direction. She made her first screen appearance at 9 and was a star by the age of 12 with "National Velvet." She was groomed for stardom by MGM at a time when the studio system was still in place. Although her initial roles banked more on her luminous looks she quickly proved she had acting chops as well with roles in "Father of the Bride," "A Place in the Sun," and "Giant." But she won her first Oscar for "Butterfield 8," a role she said stunk. Her second Best Actress, however, was well-deserved for her work in "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?," a film she did with her then husband Richard Burton. Here's a scene.


Clip: 'Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?'

A clip from "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?"

Liz and Dick played up their tumultuous off screen relationship by starring in Franco Zeffirelli's "Taming of the Shrew." And that's part of Taylor's legacy too – she was probably as well known for her work on screen as for her life off screen with on-set scandals, multiple husbands, and fluctuating weight.

Elizabeth Taylor was both a star and an actress. She could simply adorn a film like "Ivanhoe" or Quo Vadis," but then she could dazzle in films like "Cat on a Hot Tin Roof" and "Suddenly Last Summer." She also made some glorious turkeys like "Boom!" and "Cleopatra." But no matter what the film or what the part, she was always radiant and had a fiery spark that always made her worth watching. She will be missed.

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Avatar for user 'olsentm'

olsentm | March 23, 2011 at 9:25 a.m. ― 6 years ago

My goodness, what I would give for those looks!

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Avatar for user 'Beth Accomando'

Beth Accomando, KPBS Staff | March 23, 2011 at 10:27 a.m. ― 6 years ago

Drop dead gorgeous indeed.

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Avatar for user 'Missionaccomplished'

Missionaccomplished | March 23, 2011 at 11:31 a.m. ― 6 years ago

Beth, you forgot to mention X.Y and ZEE under the "turkey" list. LOL BUt serously, she was memorable in A PLACE IN THE SUN, GIANT, CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF and of course, BUTTERFIELD 8. VIRGINIA WOOLF and SHREW??? I don't know. Was she just playing herself by that time in her career??? There was always a little emotional caos there along with the physical ailments, which of course were capped by the eccentricities of her latter years. RIP!!! Today's female actors couldn't shine your shoes!!! Well, I take it back, Mirren and Blanchett are excellent actors indeed.

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Avatar for user 'Beth Accomando'

Beth Accomando, KPBS Staff | March 23, 2011 at 12:58 p.m. ― 6 years ago

Yes there are a few more titles I could add to that turkey list. And agreed, she was someone in a class of her own.

Thanks for the comments.

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Avatar for user 'SDCyclist'

SDCyclist | March 23, 2011 at 3:37 p.m. ― 6 years ago

The work she did for AMFAR in the early days of AIDs when it was incorrectly thought to be a gay disease will never be forgotten. She had the guts to speak out when everyone else around her was running in the opposite direction. The positive impact she had was tremendous and can't be understated. She did more to raise awareness and reduce stigma than most have done since. She was a truly remarkable human being, a compassionate and deeply generous person, and the world is a far better place because this woman was born. I will miss her deeply.

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Avatar for user 'Greg Duch'

Greg Duch | March 23, 2011 at 6:45 p.m. ― 6 years ago

Liz Taylor- personified class, glamour, compassion, and of course, first-rate talent. Her outstandingly first-class performance in "Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolf" is, for me, unambiguous testimony to her greatness, and depth and power as an actress for all time. What a life and what a talent!- Greg

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Avatar for user 'Greg Duch'

Greg Duch | March 23, 2011 at 6:55 p.m. ― 6 years ago


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Avatar for user 'Beth Accomando'

Beth Accomando, KPBS Staff | March 24, 2011 at 9:22 a.m. ― 6 years ago

SDCyclist- thanks for reminding us about her remarkable charitable work. I'm sorry I neglected to include that in my post... And too true, they don't make them like her any more. :(

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