As we’ve all without doubt most sadly heard by now, Dame Elizabeth Taylor has passed away at the age of 79 after being hospitalized six weeks ago for congenital heart failure. With a career and life as wildly storied as hers (the accolades and awards! The marriages and divorces and remarriages! Her tireless contributions to the fight against HIV and AIDS! Being Elizabeth frickin’ Taylor!), it would be wrong to not offer one of Hollywood’s greatest and most glamourous screen icons of all time a moment of elegant and somber reflection, which is precisely why you should read this New York Times‘s obituary. It really is quite the lovely tribute.
This being the particular corner of the internet that it is, however, it would also be remiss to not pay respect with a wink and a mince and the utmost devotion to the divine Dame Taylor. After all, we’ve gotta smile through the tears (and believe me, there were tears this morning. At work. And now. So awkward!), which is precisely (and perhaps a little surprisingly?) why I’m not going to make too much about this:
Don’t get me wrong. I happen to have a peculiar fondness for “the fragrance dreams are made of” which I imagine to be worn by only the Most Refined Grandmothers of the Midwest, and I certainly don’t think it’s possible to make a stank face at this commercial:
I mean, watching her toss those diamonds at that guy like the pleb he is never fails to get me every time, so sure, we can talk about it in the comments if you’d like, but White Diamonds are forever, y’all, and I’d honestly rather talk about this instead:
No, it’s not about how fabulous Elizabeth Taylor is when she accessorizes with wide-brim hats and a cocktail (though we can, because she is). I want to talk about her in the movie from which this fantastic still came:
Let’s be clear that Suddenly, Last Summer isn’t necessarily Elizabeth Taylor’s “best” performance. BUtterfield 8 (in which she’s excellent) and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (in which she’s terrifying and excellent) are the roles that rightfully so won her Oscars, and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is the Tennessee Williams role that better exhibits her nuance and subtlety. What makes Dame Taylor’s performance in Suddenly, Last Summer so special, though, is how gloriously batshit it is. Not because it’s an off performance, mind you, but because her character is in fact batshit, and wowie zowie how she commits to being committable. Seriously, it’s like it was made for me to love the most.
Sure, I recognize this isn’t the first time I’ve mentioned my ceaseless adoration for Elizabeth Taylor’s performance in Suddenly, Last Summer, but when you consider she’s going up against screen legend–and skateboard enthusiast–Katharine Hepburn (or that it’s Katharine Hepburn’s character is the one who lives in the crazy, creepy Southern Gothic mansion and makes her entrance by elevator, an ELEVATOR!), it really underlines just how bracing her performance is. She plays Catherine Holly as a tormented jumble of repressed trauma and often irrepressible hysteria, a perfect psychological storm for delivering the sort of high camp histrionics you’d write off broad or cheap (“We PROCURED FOR HIM!”) were they not so thrillingly effective in Dame Taylor’s hands. Perhaps she might have shined brighter elsewhere, but I doubt she’s ever shone harder. She’ll be deeply missed, but thank goodness her body of work will live on in celebration.
I’d add so much more, but I’d rather not inadvertently spoil anything for the uninitiated. If you haven’t seen Suddenly, Last Summer, then you absolutely must. Buy it. Rent it. Sell a kidney for it. Who cares? It’s totally worth it, especially when faced the kidney option. Her climactic monologue alone is a thing of true wonder and infinite pleasure.
And as for the rest, well, I weep for us and our loss. We’ve lost one of the last true stars in Old Hollywood’s constellation. Suddenly, Last Summer might merely be a personal favorite, but Dame Elizabeth Taylor has always been sublime, and she’ll never be forgotten and forever be loved.
May Dame Elizabeth Taylor rest in Heaven next to Richard Burton, surrounded by friends like Michael Jackson and her dear Montgomery Clift, forever reminding us that she–and nothing less–has always brought us luck.