The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

March 24, 2011

Elizabeth the Great

Bill Eggert
For The Tribune-Democrat

— Her leading men included Paul Newman, Rock Hudson, Montgomery Clift and Richard Burton.

Her co-stars included Katherine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy, Mickey Rooney, Tony Curtis, Michael Caine, Marlon Brando and James Dean.

Her noteworthy directors included Vincente Minnelli, Mervyn LeRoy, George Stevens, Mike Nichols, Franco Zeffirelli, John Huston and Stanley Donen.

She was Elizabeth the Great: Better known by the public as Liz Taylor, and her passing continues to dim the constellation of stars from Hollywood’s Golden Age.

Elizabeth Taylor literally grew up before our eyes on the silver screen. Her impressive resume of noteworthy films chronicled her career  as she effortlessly segued from child star (“National Velvet”) to ingénue (“Father of the Bride”) to leading lady (“Giant”) to sex symbol (“Cat On a Hot Tin Roof” and “Cleopatra”) to Oscar award-winning actress (“Butterfield 8” and “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”).

This raven-haired beauty’s greatest asset was her compelling violet eyes, which spoke volumes to her legion of fans.

Taylor’s eternal beauty easily shifted throughout the ensuing decades, never missing a beat with each latest style. She remained in the public eye throughout her adult life until the very end.

But it was not just her looks that enthralled moviegoing audiences; she had acting talent as well. She handled the words of Shakespeare (“Taming of the Shrew”) to Tennessee Williams (“Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” “Suddenly, Last Summer”) with equal aplomb.

Unfortunately, Taylor’s off-screen life did not go as smoothly as her onscreen career.

She lost husband Mike Todd in a plane crash after being married for only a year.

Health problems (some serious and life-threatening) plagued her throughout her life, as did poor judgment in choosing husbands.

She was married eight times (to seven men; she married, and divorced, Richard Burton twice) since the age of 18. Taylor had two well-publicized scandalous affairs with two married men (singer Eddie Fisher and Burton); both of whom she eventually married.

Despite her being dubbed a home wrecker by the tabloid press, Taylor and her film career continued to flourish.  Her most enduring off-screen legacy, however, may have been her AIDS-related activism efforts.

Losing close friend Rock Hudson to AIDS in 1985 spurred Taylor to become actively involved in the cause of AIDS activism.

As the curtain is lowered on the life and career of Elizabeth Taylor, thoughts drift to the longevity of her career and fascination of her fans (like my mother and my Aunt Alice and their generation) to her tumultuous life.

She was a glamorous, talented and beautiful movie star of the first magnitude.

Her all-too-human life enabled her fans to relate to this luminous, ethereal beauty who continues to grace the silver screen whenever and wherever her films are shown.

Bill Eggert is a Johnstown resident.