Heaven On The Screen: Elizabeth Rosemond Taylor RIP

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Elizabeth Rosemond Taylor

February 23, 1932 – March 23, 2011

On March 23rd, I was stunned into silence for about five minutes as I watched the news broadcast which announced the death of Dame Elizabeth Rosemond Taylor. I had heard that she was ill but it never crossed my mind that her time with us was drawing to a close. Had it crossed my mind, I might not have lapsed into a brief spurt of heartfelt tears. Then again, knowing the depth of my respect and admiration for the late actress it would probably not have played any differently.

I can not say that I grew up with Elizabeth. By the time I was old enough to pay attention to her body of work, we were already 20 years past Hollywood’s Golden Age (1910-1960) when she reigned supreme.  I was in my early twenties when my love of classic cinema was born and it was then that she captured my attention and I began to understand the meaning of the word adulation. Knowing the definition of something is nothing like experiencing the state which it describes.

When I think of her performances, a string of words spring to mind. Words like riveting, passionate, masterful, presence, brazen, concentration, powerful and beautiful. She is to be associated with that overused phrase “the consummate professional”.  I can’t say which of her starring roles awakened my thirst but to see her once is akin to falling in love. Even in silence, she drew the eye. Her exceptional beauty would make this a foregone conclusion but coupled with her talent it was a lethal combination. Yet one of the things I love about her is that she was not just another pretty face. Her performances were never disappointing as she portrayed her roles as if she inhabited the character, and walking in their shoes could regale us with their emotions and idiosyncracies with prescience. The depth and brilliance of her talent is one that I associate with legendary actresses like Katherine Hepburn, Bette Davis, Joan Crawford and Vivien Leigh. Such talent, I am sad to say, is all too rare today. They literally lit up the screen.

Her very much publicized private life gives every indication that she lived with passionate purpose, breaking rules and choosing her own path. This propensity was in all likelihood a base for the range of emotions that she so seamlessly displayed upon the screen. Such people always evoke my admiration as they live a life less ordinary.

Her filmography is awesome, befitting her talent and popularity. Of her films, my favorites are “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”, “A Place in The Sun”, “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” and “Cleopatra”.  Virginia Woolf is actually my favorite dramatic film and she was awarded an Oscar for her performance. The stormy, dark and very human drama about couples and the twisted games people play is timeless, the dialogue is genius and the acting was superb. What’s not to love about Tennessee Williams? 🙂

She is an icon, deservedly so. We loved her from a distance and are left to mourn her passing, ever grateful that we were the witness to a glittering star of such luminescent brilliance…

Vaya Con Dios.

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