Screen-legend Elizabeth Taylor died Wednesday of congestive heart failure at age 79. In her honor today I'm wearing a double strand of pearls, quaffed hair, and an undeniable attitude. She was an American fascination for nearly 67 years (and an obsession of mine since the '80s) -- her violet eyes were first seen on screen when she started her illustrious career at the age of 12 in the movie National Velvet.
She was one of the first in Hollywood to become famous for being famous. Unfortunately, the likes of Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian studied their history and have made careers out of their love lives, break-ups, wealth, and weight gains and losses, but Liz was the original and did it with panache, charisma, and amiability.
But unlike the famous-for-no-reason stars of today, Liz actually put in some hard work first and starred in over 50 films and won two Oscars. Grab your popcorn, eyeliner, and some tissues -- here are her five most fabulous films.
- Father of the Bride, 1950: Liz was 18 years old when she starred as Kay Banks in the original comedy about a father funding and surviving his daughter's wedding. Spencer Tracy played her father and Joan Bennett her mother -- roles that would later be reprised by Steve Martin and Diane Keaton.
- Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, 1958: Talk about star-studded. Taylor, Paul Newman, and Burl Ives lit up the screen in the film adaptation of Tennessee Williams' famous play. She got an Oscar nomination for Best Actress.
- BUtterfield 8, 1960: She played a fabulous Manhattan socialite call-girl who can get any man she wants. Sexy, smart, and sassy, Taylor won the Oscar for Best Actress for her role as Gloria Wandrous.
- Cleopatra, 1963: This movie taught me what a woman is. The historical epic had Taylor as Queen C., and Richard Burton as Mark Antony. Their chemistry was apparent and the two married a year later ... divorced 10 years after that ... remarried 16 months after that ... then divorced again.
- Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, 1966: Starring again with then-husband Richard Burton, the movie is said to portray what their real-life marriage was like: volatile, alcoholic, yet co-dependent. Liz won another Best Actress Oscar -- guess playing oneself helps one nail the part.
She'll be remembered as much for her movies as she will be her private life. I'll miss Ms. Taylor and I'm so happy to have her box-set collection in my DVD cupboard. It's a worthwhile investment that I recommend. Big girls don't only need diamonds, Liz, they need your movies, too.
What's your favorite Elizabeth Taylor movie or role?
Photo via classic film scans/Flickr