The author of Jackie Oh! takes a similarly tacky stroll through the life of Liz T., with oodles of gossip (some of it fresh,...



The author of Jackie Oh! takes a similarly tacky stroll through the life of Liz T., with oodles of gossip (some of it fresh, much of it ill-documented), minimal interest in the Taylor films, and a generally bitchy tone. The first half moves along quite smartly. ""Staggeringly beautiful"" (a.k.a. ""breathtakingly exquisite"") teenager Liz eagerly allows herself to be pushed from studio to studio by mother Sara. She becomes a star with National Velvet, meets platonic soulmate Montgomery Cliff (""Both of them had hair all over their bodies""). After a broken engagement, she has her first marriage (to equally spoiled Nicky Hilton) and her first quasi-psychosomatic breakdown: ""She would escape into a hospital where she was totally removed from whatever stressful situation was tormenting her, all the while satisfying her craving for constant care and attention."" She ""shamelessly"" chases and pushes aging matinee idol Michael Wilding into marriage (""She wore a dove-gray suit. He wore an air of surprise""). She makes Raintree County. (""'I know Elizabeth and Monty had a sexual relationship . . . ,' said the assistant director."") She dumps gracious Wilding for lusty Mike Todd, just the man to match swearing, bawdy, smoking, drinking, ""lazy and self-indulgent"" Liz. But Mike is killed in that air crash, and Liz turns, more or less simultaneously, to Mike's pal Eddie Fisher--who's saving his version for a forthcoming memoir--and 57-year-old political columnist Max Lerner . . . who Tells All with pleasure. (""It was the perfect complement of The Brain and the Body,"" gushes Kelley.) With the Cleopatra scandals, however, the book starts to plod as the spottiness of Kelley's research--ah, those anonymous sources!--becomes more apparent. And the next 100 pages or so are primarily a Taylor/Burton anecdote assemblage: his drinking, her drinking, his other women (including, supposedly, Sophia L.), her rotten-motherhood (testimony from a daughter-in-law and a tutor), the brawls, the fat, the jewels, the breakups and makeups, the publicized acts of charity which ""did not always materialize."" Then--the seamy, highly unstable post-Burton period: affairs with sleazy Henry Wynberg, an ad-man from Malta, the Iranian ambassador . . . and one particularly unpleasant moment when self-absorbed, intrusive Liz climbs into bed, sobbing, with dying, near-comatose Laurence Harvey. But finally, of course, there's John Warner--who's seen here as no prize (opportunistic, racist, dull)--with Liz on the campaign trail, in The Little Foxes, and at the fat farm. ("" 'I felt so sorry for her,' said one employee. 'She looked like a big violet-eyed balloon when she rolled in here.'"") And Kelley ends her semi-hatchet-job, hypocritically, with a salute to this ""beautiful, historic, fateful woman who . . . demanded to be judged by the more spacious standards of time."" Cavalier and careless--with errors or inanity nearly every time film/theater substance is involved--but the People/gossip-column audience, which wasn't especially interested in Brenda Maddox's much more diverting Who's Afraid of Elizabeth Taylor?, will eat it all up.

Pub Date: Oct. 12, 1981


Page Count: -

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1981